As one of the most exciting and vibrant metropolises on earth, it’s no surprise that there’s an abundance of unmissable things to do in Mexico City.
Whether you’re a culture vulture, a fervent foodie, a history buff, a bar fly, or a bit of all of the above, you’ll definitely be captivated by Mexico’s bustling capital.
Here are 10 of the best things to do in Mexico City.
Though Teotihuacan is technically not in Mexico City, as one of the most important historical sites in the country and only a couple of hours by bus away, there’s no way it couldn’t make the list. This vast city dates back well over 2,000 years, and was once reportedly the largest in the whole of the Western Hemisphere with over 150,000 residents.
You don’t have to be an avid history buff to appreciate just how magnificent Teotihuacan is. And the onsite museum will give you a great insight into how it came into existence and what it was like to live there. The main attractions are the huge Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon which are nothing short of awe inspiring.
Eat All the Street Food
If you get turned on by trying new and exciting foods and feel at home sitting on a plastic stool in the road, then you’ll definitely get on well in Mexico City. It’s got a huge street food tradition.
And there are literally thousands of stalls lining the roadsides wherever you are in the capital. Each serving up tasty renditions of the country’s varied and mouthwatering cuisine.
Tacos, tlacoyas, gorditas, huaraches, flautas and many, many more varieties of masa based (corn dough), tortilla-style skins are the foundation of much of the street food. They exist solely to be stuffed with succulent fillings like barbacoa (goat), suadero (steak), or chicharron (pork belly), and then liberally covered in guacamole, salsa, and sprinkled with onions and coriander.
Other things not to miss are elotes (cheese smothered, bbq corn on the cob), tamales (steamed corn dough stuffed with stewed meat wrapped in banana leaves), and sugar and cinnamon coated churros for those with a sweet tooth.
Hit the Palacio de Bellas Artes
The Palacio de Bellas Artes is arguably the most iconic modern building in Mexico City. And certainly one of its most visually stunning. The white brick, art nouveau structure is topped with a series of striking, yellow and orange domes. And flanked by the attractive formal gardens of Alameda Central Park.
Not only is it impressive to look at from the outside, but it’s also a grand and important cultural hub inside. The Palacio de Bellas Artes is home to a number of significant political murals by revered artists including Diego Rivera.
It also holds regular temporary exhibitions and productions featuring both Mexican and internationally renowned artists and performers.
Watch the Sunset over the Centro Historico
Centro Historico has a number of rooftop bars, the best of which you’ll find around the Templo Mayor museum. Though they’re only a few floors up, they provide brilliant views of the surrounding area and overlook the ruins of the Templo Mayor itself.
Watching the sunset over the centre of Mexico City from high up is a real treat, and there are rooftop bars to suit every budget.
Grab a drink, soak in the surroundings, and watch the neverending stream of planes coming in to land at the city airport in the distance. It’s a magical place to relax and take in the last light of the day.
Go to a Traditional Cantina
Cantinas are said to be dying out throughout Mexico and are rapidly disappearing in Mexico City. Which is a shame because they used to be a big part of the cultural framework.
They’re the Mexican equivalent of a pub or a bar, where friends go to chew the fat, eat, drink, and maybe listen to a little live music.
There are still a few authentic cantinas around, and spending an afternoon in one is a must in Mexico City. The way they work is that with each round of drinks you buy, you get a “free” dish of food to accompany it.
You have to stay for at least 4 drinks to qualify usually and the drinks are quite expensive to compensate. But the food is delicious and the atmosphere isn’t to be missed.
Check Out Some Museums
Mexico City lays claim to having the highest volume of museums of any city in the world. Though it’s a disputed title, rivalled by London, one thing that’s not up for debate is that there are a shed load of fantastic museums on offer.
Among the 150 plus museums in Mexico City you’ll find the National Museum of Anthropology which takes a fascinating look at the formation of Mexico from ancient times to modern day.
If you’re a fan of Frida Kahlo then you can’t pass on the opportunity to visit her former home which has been transformed into an enthralling museum. You’ll also come across museums dedicated to art, history, and all manner of other curiosities.
Enjoy a View From Above
When you’re in Mexico City you won’t fail to notice the astonishing amount of choppers that are constantly buzzing around the skies, but we’re not suggesting a helicopter ride.
Instead, there are a number of other impressive spots to get a view of Mexico City from above while remaining on terra firma.
The Sears building opposite the Palacio de Bellas Artes has a cafe on the 8th floor. And for the price of a coffee you get to see the roof of this building in all its splendour.
Another spectacular view point is the Monument de la Revolucion. It’s glitzy museum takes you right into the heart of the building and has fantastic 360 degree bird’s eye view across more of the city.
Spend Some Time in Coyoacan
Coyoacan, which translates as “place of the coyotes”, is one of the more historic boroughs in Mexico City and has a quaint colonial charm. It’s so different to the rest of the city that it almost feels like you’ve left CDMX altogether, with its pretty cobbled streets and single story buildings.
Much of the action takes place around its two central squares, which you’ll find surrounded by lots of bars and restaurants, as well as some great street vendors selling tasty snacks.
There are a couple of exceptional markets here too peddling everything from traditional Mexican handcrafts to local the local delicacy of Coyoacan Tostadas.
Get to Know the Neighbourhoods
Mexico City is made up up many neighbourhoods, each with their own thing going on and individual reasons to visit them. The Centro Historico can’t be overlooked. It’s the central district where you’ll find beautiful colonial architecture and many of the city’s most famous sites.
Roma Norte is known as the “hip” part of town with its craft beer bars and serious coffee drinker cafes. Polanco is the upmarket home of the financial district, but also where you’ll find the sprawling Chapultepec Park. La Condesa has leafy, restaurant and bar lined avenues, spreading out from its main green space, Parque Mexico.
Take a Cruise in Xochimilco
Xochimilco is one of those places that tends to divide opinion, with some people falling for its brash, outgoing nature, and others viewing it as an overhyped tourist trap. Whichever camp you eventually fall into, you’ll only know once you’ve actually been.
So what is it? Well Xochimilco is Mexico City’s answer to Venice, a series of ancient canals filled with brightly decorated boats called trajineras.
Hire one for a couple of hours and as you cruise up the waterways you’ll be serenaded by floating mariachi bands. Whilst being able to enjoy freshly prepared food and drinks from the kitchens they share the water with.
More Mexico City Tips
No Hablo Espanyol?
It may come a surprise given the size of the place, that outside of the international hotels, many people in Mexico City don’t speak English. Even at some of the major tourist attractions it’s rare. And as for taxi drivers and market stall holders, forget it.
You can of course usually get by, but since we started learning Spanish we found that it has hugely enhanced our travel experiences. Not to mention enabled us to travel around Spanish speaking countries more confidently.
Which is why we’d like to recommend this Travel Spanish Confidence course we took recently. It enabled us move beyond a basic level to being able to communicate effectively in Spanish.
If you don’t know a word of Spanish however, this won’t be for you yet. Better to get started with Duolingo or some basic language classes first.
Mexico Travel Insurance
As with any trip abroad, make sure you have a good quality travel insurance in place. Our go to travel insurance provider is World Nomads. They have a no bullshit approach to policy wording & are perfect for adventurous travellers like us. Get a no obligation quote here:
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Travel lover, professional writer and football (soccer) obsessive, James loves nothing more than getting outside and exploring little known corners of the globe. He’s also very partial to a drop of Guinness.