One of Mexico City’s most beautiful and iconic buildings, the Palacio de Bellas Artes is an architectural extravaganza that is sure to delight the visual sense of even the most demanding aesthete. A wonderful example of art nouveau on the outside, while decorated in strict art deco on the inside, the palace was commissioned by renowned art nouveau enthusiast, and president of Mexico, Porfirio Diaz in 1904. The building was completed 30 years later, well after the death of President Diaz.
“Bellas Artes” as its simply known to locals, is nowadays the main cultural hub of the country, hosting a wide variety of cultural events throughout the year such as art exhibitions, concerts, ballet recitals, conferences, and literary conventions. There’s always something interesting going on when visiting this site. Bellas Artes also hosts the National Dance Company, the National Symphonic Orchestra, the National Opera Company, and the Folkloric Ballet of Mexico. International companies and artists also offer presentations at the venue throughout the year.
Walking through the echo filled corridors of the palace is like walking through the cultural history of the country at the same time, there are murals by Diego Rivera decorating the place and the main stage curtain is a beautiful 24-ton design manufactured by Tiffany & Co., you might notice that the building has sunk a little bit under street level, but that’s nothing compared to the 1.80 meters the construction had sunk in 1921, thanks to the differences between the original architect, Italian Adamo Boari, and foundations specialist Gonzalo Garita (Garita left the project). Reparations to the foundations were made and the building recovered some of its height.
The surrounding gardens are something to be admired on their own, known as the Alameda Central, its floors are made of white and gray Santo Tomás marble, with beautiful fountains complementing the view. The Alameda Central used to be a hotspot for local vendors till they were displaced some 20 years ago and the corridors went back to being THE place for a leisurely stroll. Even the local metro station, aptly named “Bellas Artes”, helps keep up appearances by reenacting a Paris Métro station entrance in the purest art nouveau style.
The Palacio de Bellas Artes is mesmerizing in the cultural content it hosts, and in and of itself as an architectural masterpiece. Originally conceived as the National Theatre, the palace still features its 4 muses, holding hands, at the top of the main dome, they represent Drama, Literary Drama, Comedy, and Tragedy. Just looking at the off-white Carrara marble facade from the main plaza feels like a miracle 30 years in the making.