The first time I looked at a map of Mexico City, I felt overwhelmed to say the least. The city is big, crowded and chaotic but once you dare to step out and explore, it won’t take long to discover there is magic in the mayhem. For those planning a visit, or simply looking for that extra nudge before booking a flight, we’ve compiled a list of some of the greatest things to do in Mexico City that will help you discover the Mexican capital.
Before you set out to accomplish our list of the greatest things to do in Mexico City, remember that there’s no way to see and do everything in the city. There are hidden gems scattered far and wide all over this planet and no travel list can cover everything there is to do in a destination. The reason Wes and I love travel so much is because of what you can find in the most unexpected places and Mexico City is no exception! So, as much as we love sharing what we learn on the road, we will always encourage you to go out and follow your curiousity more than anything. We make these lists to help you discover but we look forward to hearing what you find on your own.
The main square in Mexico City is bigger than any square we’ve ever seen throughout our travels. You’ll find a giant Mexican flag right in the middle of it and there always seems to be something going on here whether it’s a protest, cultural event or concert. From here you can also visit the Metropolitan Cathedral with it’s very intricate details, both inside and out.
The National Palace
Bordering the east side of the main square is the National Palace of Mexico. Under the flag of the government building, you’ll notice a small balcony where the president makes an appearance each September for Independence Day. It is closed on Mondays, entrance is free but arrive early to avoid the lines.
Madero street is a popular pedestrian street with plenty of shops, restaurants and beautiful historic buildings. It starts right at the Zocalo and be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the Sanborns building covered in blue tiles called ‘Caza de los Azulejos’.
Palacio de Bellas Artes & Alameda Central
After strolling up Madero Street, you’ll be rewarded with the beautiful Bellas Artes building. In this palatial theatre, you can watch operas, ballets and traditional folklore dancing. For great views of this impressive building, head over to the Sears building across the street and enjoy a coffee on the 7th floor cafe. It’s outdoor patio is a great stop to capture that quality photo. Bellas Artes is also right next to a relaxing park called Alameda Central where you’ll be able to relax on a park bench and enjoy the city.
Post Office Palace
Have you ever seen a more exquisite post office? The ‘Palacio de Correo’ is located just around the corner from Bellas Artes and is free for those that want to wander and admire the beautiful details.
Also in the historic centre is one of Mexico City’s tallest buildings: the Latinoamericana tower. You’ll find an impressive observation deck but also a museum and a small shop. The restaurant on the 41st floor also has great views and weekend buffet brunch but is a bit pricey for us budget travellers.
You could easily spend an entire day exploring this giant urban park. Weekends are the busiest and if you’re looking to avoid crowds, arrive early in the morning. You can access the park from Chapultepec metro station as well as the Auditorio station. The park has everything from a zoo to a cemetery and there is fun to be had for people of all ages. Highlights include an interactive children’s museum, a carousel in the forest and an amusement park called La Feria. There is a large lake that offers great views of the city and also has paddle boats available for rent.
The castle in Chapultepec park is the only castle in North America to have housed actual sovereigns. Entrance to tour the castle grounds is $65 pesos and from there you’ll see some of the best views of Mexico City. We learned the hard way but it is closed on Mondays. So for us that just meant we had an excuse to visit the park a second time!
Paseo de la Reforma Bike Rides
Every Sunday morning, tourists and locals head out to enjoy the car-free lanes of Paseo de la Reforma. The streets are closed from 7am to 2pm for cyclists and joggers to enjoy. We were able to rent free bikes at the ‘Glorieta de la Palma’ which is the roundabout with a big palm tree in the middle (near the Angel of Independence). Even though I fell while filming, we really enjoyed our morning bike ride and would highly recommend this activity while in Mexico City!
This is likely one of the most unique and impressive libraries we have seen in our travels. Vasconcelos is right beside the Buena Vista mall and free to enter. We had a great time walking around but (just as we were leaving) we were told that cameras weren’t allowed and had to put ours away.
Ice Skating at Forum Buena Vista
We couldn’t help heading to the Buena Vista mall after browsing through the library and when we saw an ice rink, our eyes lit up. Not something most tourists would consider doing in Mexico City but we took a break from the sightseeing and did a bit of ice skating. The mall has your usual shops, lots of restaurants and a cafe in the food court offers great views of the city from their patio.
Watch a Soccer Game at Estadio Azteca
The Azteca stadium is HUGE. If you’re in the city while a soccer game is on, go for the experience. It is among the biggest football stadiums in the world and can be overwhelming when full! Tickets are available online and at the ticket office at the front of the stadium by the Azteca station.
If you haven’t experienced Mexican wrestling in Mexico yet, what are you waiting for? The energy from the audience is crazy and the wrestlers are very entertaining. There are matches Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays at Arena Mexico and it’s an atmosphere like no other! We went to lucha libre in Guadalajara and had such a memorable time.
La Merced Market
If you’re looking for a traditional Mexican market experience, head to La Merced. It is not in the most tourist friendly area so avoid bringing a fancy camera or flashy gear. La Merced is the largest traditional market in the city and has stalls spread out across a few large buildings as well as outdoor stalls.
Mercado Jamaica – Flower Market
So. Many. Flowers. The market of Jamaica is the city’s wholesale flower market and you can smell the flowers as soon as you walk into the warehouse. There are over 1,000 stalls selling fresh flowers and unique arrangements. It’s located slightly outside of the historic centre by the Jamaica metro station.
Mercado de Artensanias La Ciudadela
This market has a wide selection of crafts and pottery and is a good place to bargain without the pressure of pushy vendors. With all of the unique and colourful products, it’s hard to resist buying something here!
One of the most visited museums in Mexico is the National Museum of Anthropology. It’s in Chapultepec park and houses an extensive collection of important Mexican artifacts. The museum is closed Mondays and admission is $65 pesos.
Wes likes to refer to the Soumaya museum as a spaceship. Whatever you want to call it, the museum is definitely one of the most unique buildings in the city. Admission is FREE everyday but the lines can get long so heading there early is best.
Just across the way from Soumaya is the Jumex museum. It’s also a unique structure and houses a large collection of contemporary art. The museum hosts exhibits throughout the year, is closed Mondays, admission is $50 for non-residents and FREE on Sundays.
One of the most upscale and exclusive neighbourhoods in Mexico City is Polanco. If you’re into high-end shopping, this is where you start. As budget-savy travellers, we went just to look around and it was a fun day. Presidente Masaryk is one of the main streets in this area and has loads of fancy shops. We liked Antara Fashion Hall and it had a really neat outdoor umbrella exhibit.
Another great neighbourhood to explore is Condesa. This part of Mexico City is particularly popular with young and artsy types and is full of great restaurants, shops, bars and galleries. You might even spot one of the many funky trolleybuses in this part of the city.
The Roma neighbourhood is a bit more hipster and almost has a Bohemian feel to it. There are several pretty streets lined with trees and you almost forget about the traffic and chaos in other parts of the city. This area also has a good selection of shops and restaurants and is located on the west side of the historic centre.
There are plenty of beautiful historic buildings in the San Angel neighbourhood. Explore the streets on a Saturday for their popular outdoor bazaar. A big San Angel festival is held in July when the neighbourhood celebrates the ‘Feria de las Flores’. This festival celebrates all things flowers and has contests, concerts and even a parade.
Before heading out for this day trip, I was disheartened by some of the negative reviews I had read on TripAdvisor. Luckily, we went anyways and had a wonderful time on the canals of Xochimilco. Without knowing, we went the day of a festival and experienced tons of music, great traditions and a really Mexican experience. Note that the fair rate is $350 pesos PER BOAT per hour. Many vendors tried to charge us $350 per person so don’t be afraid to turn people away until you’re happy with the price.
One of the greatest things to do in Mexico City is to visit the pyramids at Teotihuacan. I’m not sure if a trip would be complete without seeing this historical archeological site. We wrote a whole post about our day exploring the Teotihuacan pyramids and, if you’re looking to save money, the trip is easy enough to do without a tour. Transportation and admission only cost us $12 CAD!
Monarch Butterfly Reserve
The monarchs don’t migrate in Mexico City but if your visit is between November and March, it may be worth a day trip to see the most butterflies you’ll ever see at once! We booked with a small local company after a recommendation made by a friend and had a great time exploring the reserve at Piedra Herrada. We also enjoyed a few hours at Valle del Bravo which is another great stop to explore in Mexico.
Frida Kahlo Museum
In the historic Coyoacan area of Mexico City is where you’ll find the Frida Kahlo Museum sometimes called the ‘Blue House’. The museum is actually the home where Frida was born and raised and is now dedicated to her life and work. It is closed on Mondays and tickets can be purchased online in advance to avoid the (usually long) lines.
Have you visited the Mexican capital? Share your stories below, we’d love to hear all about your greatest things to do in Mexico City!