Best Things to Do in Mexico City
Mexico City (Ciudad de México or CDMX) is the capital of Mexico and the most populous city in North America with a population of 22.3 million people. It is located in the Valley of Mexico at an altitude of 2,240 metres (7,350 ft).
Mexico City is the city where I was born and where I have lived almost all my life, is one of the biggest cities of the world with a mix of cultures, flavors, people and I always define it as a place where you will never get bored. There is a special vibe and magic that once you get to know it will make from this city one of your favorites in the world, or even convince you to stay and live here.
When I said you will never get bored in this city is because we have many options for things to do and enjoy depending on what you prefer. From monuments, museums and historical sites, to some of the best restaurants and nightclubs in the world at very affordable prices, and of course very unique entertainment and cultural traditions.
Downtown Mexico City
The most iconic places in they city are in the downtown area, my recommendation is to start in The Zocalo, the main square in the city that was prior to the colonial period a ceremonial center in the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan. Now has become a venue for both national celebration and national protest.
There are several buildings you should visit around the Zocalo. The first one is the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral, the Spanish conquistadors decided to build this church on the site of the Templo Mayor of the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan to consolidate Spanish power over the newly conquered domain.
On one side of the Cathedral you can still find remains and the museum of Templo Mayor, the main temple of the Aztecs in their capital city of Tenochtitlan.
Also around the Zocalo you can find one of the best hotels in the world: Grand Hotel Ciudad de México. The hotel has an unique architecture and design with one of the best views of the Zocalo and a gorgeous vitral sealing made by Jacques Grüber. It has been used in several movies, the most recent one is James Bond Spectre.
After visiting the Zocalo you can walk through the street of Madero all the way to la Alameda Central. In this area you can find four important buildings you should visit.
The first one and a symbol of Mexico City skyline is La Torre Latinoamericana, this is a skyscraper (188 m or 597 ft; 44 stories) and is widely recognized internationally as an engineering and architectural landmark since it was the world's first major skyscraper successfully built on highly active seismic land. You will find the best views of the city here.
In front of La Torre Latinoamericana is La Casa de los Azulejos, a very unique building made with tiles and with a nice restaurant inside.
Walking on the same side and in the other corner is the Postal Palace, also known as Correo Mayor. It was designed by Italian architect Adamo Boari, its architectural style is highly eclectic, with the building being classed as Art Noveau.
And the last one and most amazing building in the downtown area and also on of the iconic symbols of Mexico City is the Palace of Fine Arts. It has hosted some of the most notable events in music, dance, theatre, opera and literature and has held important exhibitions of painting, sculpture and photography. The exterior of the building is primarily Neoclassical and Art Nouveau and the interior is primarily Art Deco. The building is best known for its murals by Diego Rivera, Siqueiros and others.
The next place I recommend visiting is the Monument to the Revolution, it is located in Plaza de la República. You will find here a small museum about the Monument in the top of it.
Then I recommend to take Paseo de la Reforma the most iconic avenue in Mexico City and here you will fin the symbol of Mexico City, The Angel of Independence. El Ángel was built in 1910 during the presidency of Porfirio Díaz by architect Antonio Rivas Mercado, to commemorate the centennial of the beginning of Mexico's War of Independence. In later years it was made into a mausoleum for the most important heroes of that war. It is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Mexico City, and it has become a focal point for both celebration or protest.
Museums & Historical Sites
Mexico City is home of many impressive museums, we have a very rich history and mix of cultures, and also several artists have made of this city their home.
The first one and most impressive one is the National Museum of Anthropology, located in the Chapultepec Park area near Polanco neighborhood, the museum contains significant archaeological and anthropological artifacts from Mexico's pre-Columbian heritage. You can learn about all the native cultures of all around Mexico in this museum, I recommend at least half day in this museum because is huge. The most famous piece is the Stone of the Sun (or the Aztec calendar stone).
Once you have learned about the native cultures in Mexico, I recommend you to visit Teotihuacan, an Aztec city located in the outsides of Mexico City. Here you will find the famous pyramid of the Sun and the Moon with also the impressive Avenue of the Dead. The pyramid of the Sun is one of the few you still can climb in the world and is very well preserved, you should climb it and once in the top charge yourself with the energy of the sun. While walking through the city you can sense how was life thousand of years ago and also can take home some of the art craft made in obsidian. There is a balloon tour you can take during the sunrise to have a better look of the city.
Back in Mexico City, my favorite museum with an amazing view of the city and a great place to photograph is Chapultepec Castle. It is located in the middle of Chapultepec Park in Mexico City at a height of 2,325 meters (7,628 ft) above sea level. The site of the hill was a sacred place for Aztecs, and the buildings atop it have served several purposes during its history, including that of Military Academy, Imperial residence, Presidential home, observatory, and presently, the National Museum of History. It is the only royal castle in the Americas.
The other most visited museum is Frida Kahlo Museum, also known as the Blue House (La Casa Azul). It is located in the Colonia del Carmen neighborhood of Coyoacán. The building was Kahlo's birthplace and is also the home where she grew up, lived with her husband Diego Rivera for a number of years, and, in a room on the upper floor, would die. The museum contains a collection of artwork by Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and other artists along with the couple’s Mexican folk art, pre-Hispanic artifacts, photographs, memorabilia, personal items, and more. The museum is small and the access in small groups, I highly recommend to buy your tickets online so you avoid to wait in very long lines.
If you are planning a long stay in the city, you can also try Soumaya Museum or Rufino Tamayo Museum, they have some great art collections worth it to see.
Mexican Culture: Entertainment
Mexico City has some unique entertainment options. The first and most famous one is Lucha Libre the Mexican professional wrestling. You can watch lucha libre fights at la Arena Mexico every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. Is very easy to understand it, good guys (tecnicos) VS bad guys (rudos), and also very entertaining with colorful masks, rapid sequences of holds and maneuvers, as well as "high-flying" maneuvers.
The other famous local activity is Las Trajineras in Xochimilco canals. These canals, along with artificial islands called chinampas, attract tourists and other city residents to ride on colorful gondola-like boats called “trajineras” around the 170 km (110 mi) of canals. This canal and chinampa system, as a vestige of the area’s pre-Hispanic past, has made Xochimilco a World Heritage Site. You can have a meal and drinks while listening to mariachis or other local music through the canals. Is a ver known option for party.
Another entertainment option and only for adults is to have some alcohol drinks in a Cantina. The best traditional options in Mexico City are Tenampa or La Coyoacana. In them you can have local food and a lot of tequila or any other alcohol of your preference, while listening to Mariachis. Tenampa is also located in Garibaldi Square also known as the Mariachi Square where you will find them 24 hours and also the Tequila museum with some unique bottles and the most expensive tequila in the world. La Coyoacana has some of the best food options if you are willing to try big dishes of local food.
In all Mexico there is a big passion for "futbol" or soccer, the mayor sport in the country. There are 3 teams based in Mexico City: América, Pumas and Cruz Azul. I recommend to visit Estadio Azteca, the stadium has been the official home stadium of the professional football team Club América and the official national stadium of the Mexico national football team. With an official capacity of 87,000 it is the largest stadium in Mexico and has been home of two of the best world cups in the history of soccer.
If you just want to enjoy the nature you can visit Chapultepec Park, is one of the largest city parks in the Western Hemisphere, measuring in total just over 686 hectares. Centered on a rock formation called Chapultepec Hill, one of the park's main functions is to be an ecological space in Greater Mexico City. Chapultepec is divided into three sections, with the first section being the oldest and most visited. This section contains most of the park's attractions including the castle, the Chapultepec Zoo, the Museum of Anthropology, and the Rufino Tamayo Museum, among others. It receives an estimated 15 million visitors per year.
Mexican Culture: Day of the Dead
The Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico, the first and second day of November. The multi-day holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died, and help support their spiritual journey. is a unique tradition. In Mexico City you can see the celebrations in any pantheon or graveyard, and they made in recent years a big parade in downtown to celebrate this special day.
Catholic Christianity is the dominant religion in Mexico. In Mexico City you can find The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a Roman Catholic church, basilica and National shrine of Mexico in the north of Mexico City. Pilgrimages have been made to this shrine almost uninterrupted since 1531-32, and is the most important church in México.
Mexico City has several neighborhoods worth to visit. The most important one to get to know the city is El Centro or downtown. The ones with the best restaurants and places to hangout at night are Polanco, Roma, Condesa and Coyoacán, also this are very beautiful neighborhoods to walk around. There is also Santa Fe with the newest skyscrapers and as a business neighborhood has also some nice restaurants and a huge mall. If you drive through Bosques de las Lomas you will see the richest neighborhood on the city.
There is some unique markets in Mexico City you should visit. The first one is the Ciudadela Market, a traditional style Mexican market which specializes in the sale of Mexican handcrafts and folk art, located in the southwest corner of the historic center of Mexico City. The market is the first of its kind in the country, established just before the 1968 Summer Olympics to promote this aspect of Mexico’s cultural heritage. It is home to over 350 vendors, and you will find handcrafts all all the regions in Mexico at a great price and from the best quality.
Another market you should visit in the downtown and historic center of Mexico City is The San Juan Market, a traditional Mexican market that has become the city’s only such market specializing in gourmet and exotic foods. It is known for its selection of exotic meats, including venison, crocodile, wild boar and even lion meat, as well as a wide selection of products from Europe and the Americas. Unlike other such markets in Mexico City, it caters to chefs, restaurateurs and foodies, many of whom are foreigners and have long-standing relationships with particular vendors.
The last one and also very interesting is Mercado de Sonora (Sonora Market), a city-established traditional market, located just southeast of the historic center of Mexico City in the Colonia Merced Balbuena neighborhood. This market has specialized in a variety of merchandise such as pottery, party items, and live animals — and the two which make it notable, herbal medicine and items related to magic, the occult and belief on the holy dead.
Mexican cuisine is one of the best and most famous in the world. There is different regional cuisines based on local conditions, the most important ingredients are corn, chili peppers and the spanish contribution to local recipes. But you will find on it a large number of vegetables, fruits, all kind of meats and seafood with unique flavors and wide number of recipes. The best news is that in Mexico City you can find all this regional cuisines and also top international restaurants that fusion our local ingredients.
Street food is always a good option at very affordable prices, you can find almost in every corner taco places of all kinds some of them 24 hours. And also we have some of the best restaurants in the world, many foreign friends have been impressed of how good they are, the prices that aren't high and the service. The neighborhoods I recommend to find this restaurants are Polanco, Condesa, Roma and Downtown. Some of my favorite restaurants are: Azul Historico, Pujol, Maximo Bistrot, Sonora Grill Prime, Contra Mar, Fishers, Villa María, but as I said before, any option you choose will be good. You can also find Japanese, Greek, Spanish, French, Argentinian, American and Italian restaurants all around of great quality. I also always recommend my brother's mini restaurant called La Xquisita in Guadalajara 69, Condesa-Roma, is a mix of Argentinian and Mexican food in pizzas, pasta, and empanadas.
Mexico City is a huge city and there is always something to do at night from Monday to Sunday. In la Condesa neighborhood there will always be pubs available any weekday. And from Wednesday to Saturday there are some impressive nightclubs in the city, like Joy Room, Sens, Janis, La Santa and many others. Try to hangout in Polanco, Condesa-Roma and Santa Fe to find the best clubs. And always dress to impress, Mexico City nightclub bouncers can be hard on people. Feel free to contact me for recommendations while you are here.
Moving around in the city is easy you can use the Metro or use Ubers (which are cheap), but always check times in Google Maps, in peak hours traffic can be really bad.
Another concern of many people before visiting Mexico is security. Mexico is a country that has a lot of income from tourism, is very strange something bad happens to foreigns unless they are in drug related businesses. Mexico City is far away from the north border where the bad things with narcos happen (the money of narcos is in crossing the drugs to the USA). But Mexico City is a big city, you should take care as in any other big city of pick pockets, not use fancy jewelry in public transport or streets, avoid taking out big amount of cash in ATMs, and is better to pay in cash than with a credit card to avoid getting it clone, etc. This recommendations I have made is not only for Mexico City but for any big city in the world.
I know this has been a long post, but I promise once again this is a city where you will not get bored. I love my city not only because my friends and family live here, but also because all the mix of culture, great places to eat and hang out, and maybe you will also find the magic I see here and try to stay or come by more times. When I'm not traveling, I'm usually here so any help planning your stay in Mexico City send me a message.
I say goodbye with a time lapse of this unique city.