After the unlikely change from a tobacco factory to a prison, this building has evolved to a library surrounded by arts, dance and handicrafts.
Now the city’s primary library, La Ciudadela has served a variety of roles over its 200 years of Mexican history. Come to this former tobacco factory to visit the library or stroll around the neighboring streets to purchase souvenirs or see local art and handicrafts.
Architect José Antonio González and engineer Miguel Constanzo built the Real Fábrica de Tabacos (Tobacco Factory) in 1807, but local residents quickly called it La Ciudadela for its citadel-like shape. Note the unadorned façades of this simple one-floor structure.
Soon after the Mexican War of Independence began in 1810, the building became a military headquarters and prison. The leader of the revolution, the Roman Catholic priest Jose María Morelos y Pavón, was held captive here before his execution. A century later, many people were executed in the building during the country’s Decena Trágica (Ten Tragic Days) ending Francisco I. Madero’s democratic government. Reflect upon this violent past as you visit the quiet library of the present.
The Biblioteca de México and the Centro de la Imagen now occupy the 200-year-old building. Do some reading or research at the library or attend a photography exhibition at the Image Center.
Outside the building find the Plaza Morelos, a square with trees, a monument to Morelos and two bronze fountains. On weekends take advantage of free dance lessons in this spot that has become known as Plaza del Danzón (Cuban Dance Square). Walk just beyond the square to the Mercado de Artesanias La Ciudadela, where you can purchase colorful souvenirs and local handicrafts from more than 300 vendors representing more than 20 Mexican states.
Find La Ciudadela in Mexico City’s historical center near Alameda Central. Take the metro and stop at Balderas. The library is open daily except holidays and the image center is open Tuesdays through Sundays. While you are in the area, visit the Palace of Fine Arts or attend a Sunday concert in Alameda Central.