Selecting the best things to do in Mexico City is not an easy task, considering the fact that it is the second-largest city across the globe. So, in this post, I have selected the most iconic places to visit in Mexico City to help you narrow down your search and include in your Mexico City Itinerary the top unmissable places to see and things to do when you will be visiting CDMX.
Mexico City is a paradise for art lovers and culture seekers. In the 15 sq km of the Centro Histórico (historical center) only, you can admire over 1,400 significant buildings dating back from the 16th to 19th centuries, besides museums and the ancient prehispanic city of Tenochtitlan. Not surprisingly the area itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The pre-Columbian architecture of the city keeps reminding of its past. While the Spanish conquerors constructed their new city over the ruins of the Aztec metropolis of Tenochtitlán, several Baroque palaces and churches from the colonial era still survive. Despite having a maligned past, the city is busy cleaning up now. Public places are revamped, a cultural renaissance is exploding, and the culinary scene is flourishing. Managing a safe distance from the drug war, Mexico City still remains a safe place of sorts, with the necessary precautions and common sense, though.
If you are wondering what to do in Mexico City in this post I have tried to put together the highlights of the city and the unmissable places to visit and the city landmarks.
- The Best Neighborhoods in Mexico City?
- Amazing Things to do in Mexico City
- Iconic Tourist Attractions
- Best Museums in Mexico City
- Best Guided Tours In Mexico City
- 18. Hot Air Balloon Flight over Teotihuacan, from Mexico City
- 19. Coyoacan and Xochimilco
- 20. Teotihuacan, Tlatelolco, Guadalupe Shrine and Tequila Tasting Tour
- 21. Experience Mexico City: Cantinas, Lucha Libre and Mariachi in Garibaldi Square
- 22. Mexico City Highlights E-Bike Tour With Foodie Stops
- 23. Traditional Mexican Cooking Class in a Beautiful Home
- How Many Days to Spend in Mexico City?
- Mexico city Insider Tips
The Best Neighborhoods in Mexico City?
In Mexico city you can identify different distinct areas some of which are definitely worth visiting and others are the most ideal to find a nice hotel where to stay in Mexico City, for which I also got you covered.
Roma is a fancy neighborhood of Mexico City that is lined with a wide variety of cafes, art galleries, and nightclubs. Safe and trendy, it is a cool barrio where you can take a stroll and observe the people in their everyday activities.
Located in the Cuauhtémoc Borough around 4-5 km west of Zocalo, Condesa is an architecturally significant community of Mexico City. Most popular among pet lovers, students, and young entrepreneurs, you will find numerous nightclubs, bars, and restaurants here.
Polcano is one of the most upscale places to visit in Mexico City. It is a high-class neighborhood with a rich cultural and historical significance. Apart from dining and shopping, you will also find some of the best places to stay in Mexico City here. Avenida Presidente Masaryk is a lavish market to do some luxurious shopping.
Coyoacan is one of the oldest neighborhoods of Mexico City lined with numerous old churches, plazas, and colonial-style mansions. The famous Frida Kahlo Museum is situated here only. Make sure you dedicate a full day in Coyoacan and explore all its incredible attractions. Usually organized tours combine Frida Kahlo museum with Xochimilco or other historical landmarks.
While the zocalo is a UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE site with so many interesting historical landmarks, it’s not my favorite place to hang out. I totally loved to explore it with a knowledgeable guide who would point out the most interesting sites and historical buildings. But when it comes to where to stay in Mexico City there are definitely better areas. Just something to keep in mind.
Amazing Things to do in Mexico City
There is an inexhaustible list of attractions in Mexico City, including parks, museums, galleries, cantinas, and landmarks.
Being one of the oldest metropolitan areas of the United States, Mexico City has a rich history. Consequently, you will come across almost everything in this city, ranging from pre-hispanic ruins to heterogeneous architectural gems. Visiting Mexico City involves night visits to the city museums, Mexico City tours to watch the sunrise from an altitude, and an open-air cinema.
While it’s not possible to cover all the Mexico City places to visit in a single trip, the best trick would be to stick to one neighborhood in one day. Dare yourself to start exploring Mexico City and discover some of these unmissable experiences while there.
Iconic Tourist Attractions
1. The National Museum of Anthropology
Lying by the Chapultepec Park, this museum is a striking example of contemporary architecture, magnificent old prehispanic art displays, and the Central Patio. It is one of the most prominent museums in Mexico City. The building is as spectacular as its huge collection of archaeological finds. Highlights include the National Library of Anthropology that contains over 300,000 rare volumes. I have been two this museum twice and I never get enough. Consider spending the entire day with a lunch break if you really want to see it all.
2. Chapultepec Castle
Chapultepec Castle is the only palace in the continent that sits over 7,000 feet above sea level. Situated in Chapultepec Park, it has been a home to royalty, served as an observatory once, and also became a military academy.
3. Frida Kahlo Museum
Frida Kahlo Museum is a major attraction in Coyoacan, which is one of the oldest neighborhoods of Mexico City. Also called the Blue House due to its cobalt blue structure, the museum is where the famous Mexican artists Frida Kahlo, was born, lived, and died. It is a carefully preserved home that is maintained as it was in Kahlo’s time. You will find a display of Frida’s furniture and her special unique dresses, besides some of her paintings.
4. Chapultepec Park
This is the largest and principal park in Mexico City spread across 4 sq. km. of area. Popular for its museums, lakes, and botanic garden, the National Museum of Anthropology and the National History Museum are situated here only. You may also witness several fun events, theatrical performances, and concerts here.
5. Palacio De Bellas Artes
I cannot believe I have waited so long to visit the Palacio de Bellas Artes. It’s the epitome of impressive architecture and enormous artworks featuring masterpieces of Mexican muralism. Here, you will admire murals from various artists, including Manuel Rodríguez Lozano, Diego Rivera, Rufino Tamayo, David Alfaro Siqueiros, José Clemente Orozco, and Roberto Montenegro. However, the building itself is a piece of art and you can admire it best from the rooftop cafe at Sears store, right in front.
6. Torre Latino Americana
Constructed in 1965, it is a 44-story skyscraper renowned to be the tallest building of Centro Historico. It has successfully withstood the massive earthquakes of 1985 and 2017, proving it to be a masterpiece of engineering. The observation deck on the top floor gives 360° views of the city.
7. Basilica De Guadalupe
Opened in 1531, this basilica attracts millions of worshipers and visitors every year. It is constructed adjacent to a hill where Virgin Mary is believed to have appeared. The complex of buildings included in the site overlooks a huge public square featuring various interesting sculptures, including a concrete cross with a special chime and clock. Highlights include a modern curved appearance, a splendid altarpiece, and the new Basilica de Guadalupe constructed in 1976 to be able to accommodate all the faithful participants to the mass.
The Majestic pre-Colombian city of Teotihuacan was the biggest city of America before the Hispanic invasion and UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is believed that during the 1st millennium AD, there were 125,000 people in the city, which included multi-ethnic groups of Zapotec, Otomi, Maya, Nahua, and Mixtec. This is totally a must-see and one of the most incredible places to visit in Mexico, but make sure you have an entire day.
There are many ways to explore Teotihuacan, and many amazing tours that offer incredible experiences. Here below I have selected some for you.
40 minutes drive south of Mexico City, Xochimilco features an impressive canal system and an extensive lake which, in the pre-Hispanic times connected most of the valley’s settlements. Board a trajinera, a gondola-like boat, at Embarcadero Belem and explore the artificial islands and waterways along the way. Together with the historical center of Mexico City, Xochimilco is among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Mexico.
Did you know that the name Xochimilco comes from Nahuatl (the language of the Aztecs) and means “flower garden? Read more
In a hurry? Check out these tours
10. Templo Mayor
Templo Mayor is a historic site that has been unearthed and displayed in recent years. It contains ruins of the Tenochtitlan Temple. The finely sculpted first relic is a round discover 3m in diameter and 8.5 tons in weight. Take a walk along with the ruins of residences embellished with colorful reliefs and original paintwork. The Museum of the Templo Mayor with artifacts and relics is worth visiting. There are free walking tours where a knowledgeable guide will take you around the area. It’s free but they obviously expect a tip. They are totally worth it.
11. Metropolitan Cathedral
One of the biggest and oldest cathedrals in the Western Hemisphere, this church dominates the Zocalo square built with grey sandstone and basalt. Standout features include bell towers, statues of Faith, Hope, & Charity, Altar of the Kings, Assumption painting, and the remains of Mexican Emperor Agustin de Iturbide.
12. Palacio Nacional
Situated on the east side of Zocalo, the Palacio Nacional has a 200m long façade and serves as the President’s official residence. It’s built of red tezontle stone over an Aztec palace, which was once the Spanish viceroy’s seat. Over the years, it has been modified and enlarged. One of the finest and oldest buildings in Mexico City, its most notable feature is the Freedom Bell. The palace has 14 courtyards with several rooms, some of which are open for the visitors to enter. Don’t miss Diego Rivera’s “The History of Mexico” mural at the grand staircase.
13. UNAM University
UNAM is the largest and most significant public university of Mexico, known worldwide for its range and quality of programs and research. Besides academics, the university also serves as a cultural hub and its campus is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is open for visitors where you can witness a huge variety of concerts and performances. The campus is also a lovely place to exercise and hang out among the lush and manicured garden. Major attractions include the Murals, the Sculpture Space, Botanic Garden, Azul y Oro (a restaurant), the MUAC (a museum of contemporary art), and the Olympic Stadium.
Best Museums in Mexico City
14. Museo De Arte Moderno
Known to house a massive collection of 20th and 21st-century artworks, this museum displays around 3,000 sculptures, paintings, drawings, prints, and photographs by Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo.
15. Museum Jumex
This is one of the biggest private art collections of Latin America, including works of Damien Hirst, Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly, and Martin Kippenberger. You will find a wide variety to explore here, ranging from drawings and paintings to video and light displays. David Chipperfield, a British architect, designed this 15,000 sq. ft. white-concrete building featuring a sawtooth top.
16. Soumaya Museum
Soumaya Museum is a futuristic museum founded by one of the richest men in the world, Carlos Slim. Soumaya was his deceased wife. You will find 66,000 art pieces spanning over 3,000 years. Its silver reflective building is 170,000 square feet in size with a unique shape. From the 15th to 20th centuries, the museum has the biggest collection of Auguste Rodin’s sculpture casts other than France.
17. Trotsky Museum
Trotsky Museum is a famous monument in Coyoacan that honors Leon Trotsky, a well-known revolutionary from Russia. He fled to Mexico with his family in 1939 after receiving a death warrant issued for him. He spent his last days in this house-turned-museum and even survived one attempt to assassinate him. He succumbed to death in the second attempt though. Bullet holes are still present on the museum’s walls. The museum has a house, a guard tower, outer walls, and a garden area.
Best Guided Tours In Mexico City
Disclaimer needed here. I normally love to do things on my own, but with age I realized that joining guided tours are sometimes the smartest thing to do for many different reasons:
- You save time
- You are with a knowledgeable guide who will give you precious information that you wouldn’t know if you visited by yourself
- You save the hassle of local transport
- You have the chance to meet interesting people both locals and like-minded travelers
That’s why I have selected the below tours for you to check out.
18. Hot Air Balloon Flight over Teotihuacan, from Mexico City
Enjoy this 45 minutes shared flight on an air baloon over the Teotihuacan ancient city.
19. Coyoacan and Xochimilco
This is a guided 5-hour tour of Mexico City that takes you into Coyoacan through the gorgeous 16th-century mansions, cobblestone streets and San Juan Bautista church, and of course, Frida Kahlo home, the Blue House. You will then relax aboard a ‘trajinera’ boat for a tranquil journey along Xochimilco’s canals and learn about their incredibly efficient use during the Aztec times.
20. Teotihuacan, Tlatelolco, Guadalupe Shrine and Tequila Tasting Tour
Enjoy historical attractions in one unique full-day guided tour from Mexico City:
- Tlatelolco, where the main market of the Aztec empire once stood
- The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, one of the most popular Catholic pilgrimage sites in the world
- The archaeological ruins of Teotihuacan, known as the City of the Gods
21. Experience Mexico City: Cantinas, Lucha Libre and Mariachi in Garibaldi Square
A local guide takes you around the city via public transport, allowing you to experience the city like a local. First, dine at a traditional cantina before enjoying a Lucha Libre match, a very heart-felt Mexican tradition. In Garibaldi Square, you can dance to mariachi band music and wrap it up at a pub in the Zocalo.
22. Mexico City Highlights E-Bike Tour With Foodie Stops
An easy effort-free ride around Chapultepec Park Forest through amazing historical landmarks and monuments learning about the local history all the way to the historic center through the iconic Paseo de la Reforma.
23. Traditional Mexican Cooking Class in a Beautiful Home
All the foodies will love this private tour in the home of a Mexican Family. Margarita will teach you in her own kitchen how to make 2-3 traditional Mexican dishes from her family recipes. You will also enjoy the meal together in the beautiful home and Garden of your teacher.
How Many Days to Spend in Mexico City?
With so many things to do in Mexico City, you can easily spend an entire month here and still have plenty of things left to see. However, if you are on a tight schedule, then 3-4 days would be enough to get the feel, although, you will leave with a sense of having missed something out. Here below I will share a Mexico city 3 and 4-day itinerary to help you figure out what to see and what to leave out… maybe for the next time.
Mexico city itineraries
Mexico city itinerary 3 days
If I could spend three days in Mexico City here is what I would do.
Day 1 – Take a free guided tour to in the Zocalo, and continue to explore the historical center including:
- Bellas Artes (make sure you get a coffee from the Sear Terazza with amazing views over Bellas Artes)
- the old Postal Office
- Torre America Latina
- Have lunch or an early dinner on the rooftop terrace restaurant of the iconic Grand Hotel Ciudad de Mexico with stunning view over the Zocalo and the Cathedral.
Day 2 – Spend the day in Coyoacan where you can take a free walking tour or pay for a full day tour that combines Frida Kahlo Casa Museo with Xochimilco. If you don’t have much time it would be great otherwise you can do it on your own.
Day 3 – Visit the archeological site of Teotihuacan – you can go on your own and hire a guide once there or you can book a tour and combine different other activities including an air baloon ride over the temples, hiking tour, tequila tasting or a bike ride. Here below I am including some of those tours for you to explore.
Mexico city itinerary 4 days
Follow the above Mentioned Mexico city itinerary 3 days plus:
Day 4 – explore Chapultepec park including the Castle and the Anthropological Museum. Mind that the Museum has rooms for a full day tour but you may want to save some time and energy to explore the castle and the park or head over the nearby Polanco for some fancy shopping or a nice world class restaurant.
Mexico city Insider Tips
Apart from knowing where to go in Mexico City, you must also know what is there to do in Mexico. Here are a few insider tips on the top 10 things to do in Mexico City that no one would tell you.
- Try Cocktails at Fifty Mils: Fifty Mils at Four Seasons is one of the best bars where you can test Mica Rousseau’s mixology and a buffet by chef Tanatiuh Cuevas de Zanaya. Whether you are craving tacos, grill, or seafood, enjoy them with emblematic cocktails including gin, carrot, melon, and champagne.
- Enjoy Magic and Medieval Nights at Meson del Cid: Founded in 1972, it is a castle-themed restaurant embellished with color-stained glass windows, armor, and dark varnishes. Enjoy traditional Spanish cuisine here featuring pig, cheese, homemade bread, and mushrooms. Fridays are magic events overseen by El Mago Hir, and Saturdays are medieval nights starting at 8.30 pm.
- Take a Night Tour of the City’s Museums: It is held every month on the last Wednesday. During this tour, in which you come across different museums offering guided tours to concerts, workshops, and other night activities.
- Buy Antiques from La Lagunilla: This is one of the most popular open-air markets in the city. Setup every Sunday from 6 am, you can buy all types of items here, including vintage furniture, clothes, paintings, games, and others.
- Love Books? Visit El Laberinto: Looking for an old book that is out of print? Want the first edition of your favorite novel? Planning to make your own book collection on a budget? El Laberinto is a bookstore just a few steps from Teatro de la Ciudad Esperanza Iris. They have a varied and extensive list of stock ranging from cookbooks and entertainment handbooks to novels by Agatha Christie and Vladimir Nobokov.
- Admire Sunrise from an Altitude of 65m: Revolution Monument has the highest point from where you can watch the sunrise and have a 360° view of Mexico City. The experience lasts around 2 hours. So, wear comfortable shoes and bring a coat.
- Watch a Movie at the Cineteca Nacional: Opened in 1974, this cinematographic center was redeveloped in 2012 and is now one of the best places to enjoy movies in Mexico City. You may enjoy everything from arthouse films and alternative cinema to cinema cycles and commercial films.
- Have a Romantic Night at Lanchacinema: Every month on the first Saturday, a cinema screening is organized in the Chapultepec Forest Lake that you can enjoy from a boat. This is a great way to spend some romantic time with your partner.
- Visit Cafetería Terraza Sears Centro Histórico: This café is located just in front of the Museums of Bellas Artes, from where you can get amazing views and take the best pictures of the museum.
- Take a Daily trip from Mexico City: If you want to take a break from the city chaos, there are many daily trips available that take you on incredible adventures at a couple of hours from the city, both to historical places and cute cities but also to incredible walks in nature, on top of soaring vulcanos or exploring waterfalls and rivers. I will talk about it in a separate post, but I will include here below a few options.
I hope this article was useful, please if you have any questions do not hesitate to ask in the comments below