The Zócalo, its surrounding Centro Histórico (historic center), and Alameda Central were the heart of both the Aztec and Spanish cities. There's a palpable European influence in this area, which is undergoing ongoing refurbishment, leaving the streets cleaner and many buildings, particularly around the Zócalo, more pleasant. Seven hundred years of history lie beneath its jagged thoroughfares. The sidewalks hum with street vendors, hurried office workers, and tourists blinking in wonder. Every block seems energized with perpetual noise and motion. Two major streets, Regina and Francisco I. Madero, are now permanently closed to traffic, and several of the streets near the central plaza are also closed to cars on weekends, so the streets are free for bicyclists and pedestrians.
During the day the downtown area is vibrant with activity. As in any capital, watch out for pickpockets, especially in crowds, and avoid deserted streets at night. Shops open around 10 am on weekends, so go earlier if you prefer to enjoy the area at its quietest. Alameda Park is quieter during the week; on weekends it's jumping with children and their parents.