Planning your trip to Mexico City? How sexy! There is no shortage of amazing things to do in Mexico City – North America’s largest city – that have something for all kinds of travelers.
In fact, with no end to the great things to see, planning a trip to Mexico City (CDMX for short), might scare you. As with all major cities, you can spend a year at CDMX and still discover new things to do. If you keep in mind that you will never see it all in one trip, it helps to make planning less stressful.
However, you can make seeing all the things on your things list a priority, so you have the best trip possible in Mexico City. This list covers all the highlights of this huge city, and all the places that most travelers would enjoy getting to know Mexico City.
Best things to do in Mexico City
Are you ready to discover the top 10 things to do in Mexico City? Let’s get to the list, starting with the only place outside the borders of Mexico City, but a must-visit – the pyramids of Teotihuacan.
1. Climb Teotihuacan Ruins
The pyramids at Teotihuacan (pronounced Tai-Oh-Te-Wok On) are among the oldest and most important archaeological sites in Mexico. It is one of the 35 UNESCO World Heritage sites in Mexico, and receives about two million visitors each year – which are associated with the ruins of Chichen Itza.
With such an important place, you will need a guide who will show you around and explain the history and symbolism around you. There are plenty of great tours from Mexico City to Teotihuacan, and the best ones include transportation, so you don’t have to worry about how to get to Teotihuacan.
Although it is only 35 miles (50 km) away, a drive or bus trip to Teotihuacan from Mexico City can take more than two hours in poor traffic; Usually it is about 75 minutes. The way to minimize travel time is to leave Mexico City by 7:30 AM and arrive at 9 AM when they open their doors.
This strategy will serve you in two ways. Most monuments in Mexico, including Teotihuacan, do not have much shade. Since historians and archaeologists often conduct research at the site, the trees have been removed for ease of study, meaning visitors don’t have many shaded areas.
When you get to Teotihuacan early, you beat both the traffic and the heat. If you want to climb the three Teotihuacan pyramids (Pyramid of the Sun, Pyramid of the Moon and Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl), it is best to do it before the midday sun begins to set.
After 3-5 hours of exploring the entire Teotihuacan site, the Sculpture Garden, and the Teotihuacan Museum, head to the nearby restaurant, La Gruta. La Gruta, which means “cave”, is actually located underground in a cave!
2. Visit the Frida Kahlo Museum
Frida Kahlo, the most famous Mexican artist of all time, lived until her last day in the Coyoacan neighborhood of Mexico City. Coyoacan is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, with buildings dating back to the sixteenth century.
There are many things to do in this part of town, but none is more popular than visiting Casa Azul or the Blue House. Casa Azul was actually Frida’s bright blue home, where she lived with her family until her death in 1954.
The Frida Kahlo Museum is well preserved, and you can see both Frida’s art and the surroundings that inspired her – as she was bedridden during the years she was painted. For die-hard Frida fans, there’s also the Diego and Frida Studio House and the Dolores Olmedo Museum, which houses the city’s largest art collection.
Casa Azul is funky in that it is her home and not a proper museum. While it is certainly a large house, it does have capacity restrictions that are not available in most museums. As one of the top spots in Mexico City, it sells out most days, so buy tickets in advance to make sure you get in.
Before leaving Coyoacan, head to the Mercado de Coyoacán (Coyoacan Market), for some tostadas. A lively and vibrant local, Mercado is a great place for pictures, and many say it has the best tostada in Mexico City.
3. See Mayor Templo Underground
One of the most amazing sites in Mexico City is partially buried underground! Templo Mayor (the main temple) was once the seat of the Aztec Empire during the reign of King Montezuma – when the city was still known as Tenochtitlan.
During the Spanish conquest, they buried the temple underground to show their dominance over the Aztecs. They also used some bricks to build the Catedral Metropolitana, Mexico City’s massive cathedral just steps away.
In 1978, some Mexico City electricians came across the temple by chance while digging near it. This began a decade-long excavation project to unearth the temple. Today, you can tour the remains of the temple and visit the Templo Mayor Museum to see the artifacts unearthed during the excavations.
4. Explore Centro Historico and Zocalo
Templo Mayor is one of the coolest places in the Centro Historico (historic city center), but it’s not the only one. Downtown Mexico City and the Zocalo (the main square) are a UNESCO World Heritage Site with plenty of history, antiquities, and museums to guarantee you can spend a full day there. Here are some notable things to do at Centro Historico in Mexico City.
Palace of Fine Arts
If you’ve seen any photos of Mexico City, there’s a good chance you’ve seen the Palacio Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts). This classic European building is itself a work of art, but be sure to head inside and see the gorgeous Art Deco interior.
The giant Metropolitan Cathedral is one of the 30 largest churches in the world, with a capacity of approximately 6,750 people. Of all the wonderful churches in Mexico City, and there are many of them, this is the most wonderful. When you’re indoors, don’t miss the largest tube rigs on the American continent.
The Palacio Nacional, or National Palace, is 650 feet (200 meters) tall, spanning an entire apartment block in the city! It is located next to the cathedral in the Zocalo or the main square. Inside, most of the federal government offices are located, although many people visit to see the four frescoes by Mexican artist, Diego Rivera, which depict the four phases of Mexico’s history.
In most major cities in the world, you’ll find Chinatown – and Mexico City is no different. Although Mexico City’s Chinatown isn’t huge, you can take a nice stroll in the area to take some pictures of the colorful paper lanterns hanging above the streets, and the Great Red Arch at the neighborhood’s entrance.
Torre Latinoamericana (Latin American Tower)
The 44-story Latin American Tower is one of the most iconic structures on the Mexico City skyline. Take the lift to the Mirador (observation deck) on a clear day to enjoy some of the best views of the city. It costs $200 to get to the Mirador (US$10), so don’t bother on cloudy or foggy days, because you won’t see much.
5. Xochimilco . boat ride
The Floating Gardens, Xochimilco (pronounced so-chee-mill-co), is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The canal system here was manually excavated by the Aztecs centuries ago. Plots of land around the canals, called chinampas, were used for farming. When people need to buy food, they roam through the canals to each farm.
Today, Mexico City residents and visitors alike flock to Xochimilco to ride on brightly colored trajineras (gondolas). Large trajinera boats can seat about 15 people each, so many head to Xochimilco with large groups and to party.
Besides the trajinera boats carrying visitors to Xochimilco, other boats will float by your side with vendors selling tacos, snacks, and beer. You’ll also see mariachi boats with full bands on board, which will cost you about 250 pesos ($12.50 USD).
You can rent a boat for as long as you like, but standard cruises on Xochimilco take 2-3 hours and cost around $1000 pesos ($50 USD). The boats run day and night, as locals celebrate late at night in Xochimilco, especially on weekends and public holidays.
6. Reforma Street Stroll
The tree-lined Avenida Reforma (Reforma Avenue) is one of Mexico City’s main thoroughfares. Along this street, you’ll see street art and statues, including the Golden Angel de la Independencia (Angel of Independence), a Mexico City landmark. If you walk all the way west down Reforma, you’ll end up in Chapultepec Park.
7. Visit Chapultepec Castle and Park
Bosque de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Forest, or Chapultepec Park) is one of the most visited urban parks on Earth. It is also huge with an area of 1,700 acres (7 square kilometers)! Due to its size and number of attractions, you can spend a week here without seeing everything.
Within Chapultepec Park, you have the Castillo de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Castle), nine museums, two lakes, prehistoric ruins, the Chapultepec Zoo and more – so you have to be eclectic with your time. For most visitors, Chapultepec Castle in the park is a must-see.
This is the only real castle in North America, as it is the only one on the continent that has members of the royal family. The former home of Emperor Maximilian I and Empress Carlota is now one of Mexico City’s top attractions.
8. Marvel at the Museum of Anthropology
Museo Nacional de Antropología (National Museum of Anthropology) is located within Chapultepec Park. Although this park has nine museums in total, this is the most popular one. In fact, the huge Museum of Anthropology is the most visited museum in Mexico City.
Inside, you’ll travel back in time through Mexico’s record-breaking history, starting with the ancient Olmec civilization that lived about 4,500 years ago! You can see one of the giant Olmec head sculptures in the museum, as well as the Aztec Sun Stone, Coatlicue Sculpture, and more.
9. Wonder Roma and La Condesa
Rome and Condesa are two of the best neighborhoods in Mexico City, with some of the city’s best restaurants and bars. These are mostly residential areas, but there is some great shopping, tree-lined streets, lovely parks, lovely homes, great street art, and sidewalk cafes in both neighborhoods.
Located next to each other, you can spend time strolling between them. For architecture lovers, you’ll see buildings in design aesthetics ranging from colonial to mid-century modern and art deco – each one more charming than the next.
When you need a break from walking, head to Parque Mexico or Parque España, two of the most beautiful parks in Mexico City. There are also some great cafés in the area, such as Panaderia Rosetta, Lalo, and Maque, or for lunch, head to Contramar, Lardo, and Pujol el Molino.
10. Eat Mexico City Tacos
The last thing, and probably the most important thing to do in Mexico City, is eat tacos! In this city, every street has quite a few options for both restaurants and street tacos, and it’s really hard to eat tacos in Mexico City.
Now, some places are definitely better than others, but don’t be afraid to try any place that catches your eye, especially if there’s a long line (a very good sign). If you want to get to know the best of the city, head to Taquería Orinoco, El Hidalguense, and Por Siempre Vegana Taquería for vegetarian tacos.
Final Thoughts: Things to do in Mexico City
We’ve come to the end of the list – although it barely scratches the surface of Mexico City. However, for first-time visitors to CDMX, these are the things to see. After visiting the places on this list, you’ll have a better idea of the land area, and on your next trip, you’ll want to get off the beaten track.
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