The Best Things to do in Mexico City
I have spent three years living in Mexico City and I go back often since my husband is from there. Mexico City is famous for its museums, food, parks, and more. There’s always a new art installation to see or a show to attend. I’ve often felt that I can visit the same parts of town repeatedly and see something new each time. The city is bustling, constantly changing, colorful, and full of a unique mix of modern design and archaeological sites.
Mexico City is home to over 8 million people, the tastiest tacos ever, and tons of cultural history. There is literally always something happening and always something to do here in Mexico City. Just walking through the streets can be an adventure because you will get to hear live music, see street performers, and of course grab some tacos. Despite what your parents or grandparents may have warned you about, Mexico City is also quite safe. Here are some of the best things to do in Mexico City, plus tons of extra travel tips for your Mexico City trip.
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MEXICO CITY BASICS
Getting There: FLIGHTS & BUSES
Getting There: AIRPORT TRANSFERS
Accommodation: HOTELS & HOSTELS
Things to Do: TOURS & ACTIVITIES
Getting Around: RENTAL CARS
Safety & Health: TRAVEL INSURANCE
How to Get to Mexico City
When coming from another country, you can find cheap flights to Mexico City here.
If you’re already in the country you can come by flight, or you can book a bus. If you’re quite far, many buses also run overnight so you can just sleep on the bus before arriving to the city in the morning.
How to Get Around Mexico City
Mexico City has a metro system that services many parts of the city. There is also a metro car at the far end of each metro that is for women only. However, please keep in mind to be aware of your belongings when using the metro as theft is a common problem. Also, part of the metro did collapse in 2021 because a section of it was not created properly. That plus Mexico City’s recurring earthquakes caused the collapse. This isn’t to say that you should or shouldn’t take the metro, I just want you to have all the facts before you decide how to navigate the city.
There are plenty of taxis in Mexico City too, but Ubers and Lyfts tend to be quite a bit cheaper.
You can also rent a car in Mexico City.
Where to Stay in Mexico City
Since my husband, Arturo, is from Mexico City, we always stay with family when we visit. We also lived there for three years, but have yet to stay anywhere else that isn’t with family.
There are lots of fun hostels in Mexico City too. Staying in hostels is a great way to save money and to make lots of friends.
Interesting Facts about Mexico City
- The city was built on old lake beds. Due to the unstable nature of its foundation, the city is constantly sinking.
- Before the city was built, people got around by boat on the lakes and would visit different man-made islands. You can still experience this by visiting Xochimilco and booking a tour to ride a trajinera.
- Mexico City started off quite small, but it grew very rapidly. Each neighborhood is so different from the next because many of them used to be completely separate towns before the city expanded so much.
- Locals often refer to the capital as CDMX (pronounced seh-deh-mix) which stands for ‘Ciudad de Mexico’.
- People who are from Mexico City, like my husband Arturo, are called ‘chilangos’. It’s basically the equivalent of calling someone a ‘city boy’ or ‘city girl’ from what I understand.
- Mexico City is home to over 180 museums, making it the city with the second-highest number of museums in the world.
- Mexico City’s Chapultepec Park is much larger than New York’s Central Park, and is the largest urban park in Latin America.
Speaking Spanish in Mexico
Just like all English-speaking countries have variations in the English language, every Spanish-speaking country has different idioms, slang, and accents. While you can get around most parts of Mexico City without speaking the language, it’s a good idea to try to learn some basics before you visit. Make sure you read this complete guide on speaking Spanish in Mexico complete with Mexican slang before your Mexico City trip.
Food in Mexico City
Delicious Street Tacos
There are seriously so many street stalls to choose from to get your taco fix in Mexico City. If you love meat, make sure you try tacos al pastor (pork and sometimes beef with special seasoning), suadero (ribs), longaniza (similar to chorizo), bistec (steak) and if you’re feeling adventurous, tripa (tripe). You can see some of the best places to eat meaty street tacos here.
If you’re a vegan or vegetarian like me, don’t worry, there are options for you too. You can often order tacos de nopal (cactus) or tacos de champiñones, setas or hongos (all of these are different kinds of mushrooms). There is also a vegan street taco stall that I absolutely love, called Por Siempre Vegana. You can also read this article on how to explain that you’re vegan, vegetarian or have food allergies in Spanish.
Related activity: Aura: The Vegan Cooking Class in Mexico City You Need to Try
Eat Churros at El Moro
El Moro Churrería is the most popular place to get churros in Mexico City and it’s been in operation since 1935. There are locations all over Mexico City, but I would suggest visiting the location in the Centro Historico, as it’s the very first location that ever opened. Keep in mind that the Centro Historico location will be extra busy due to its history though.
You can order the most delicious, warm, and sugary churros at El Moro. Plus El Moro has tons of different kinds of hot chocolates, lattes, and even chocolate and vanilla dips to enjoy your churros with.
Try Some Mezcal
Mezcal comes from the agave plant and is a type of hard liquor. It has a smokey flavor and is a bit different than its cousin, Tequila. While Tequila only comes from one type of agave plant, Mezcal comes from multiple types of agave. They are also distilled differently and produced in different regions of Mexico. Some bottles of Mezcal come with a larva (basically a small worm) inside the bottle, but that doesn’t necessarily indicate that the Mezcal is better than others. Check out this article to see where some of the best Mezcal bars are in Mexico City.
Related activity: Mexico City: Tacos & Mezcal Night Food Tour
Museums & Art
Visit the Museo Nacional de Antropología
I have visited the National Anthropology Museum quite a few times now and I still haven’t seen everything it has to offer. The museum is huge and there is just so much to see. I asked my boyfriend, Arturo, which collections he thinks visitors to Mexico City should make time to see and he said to make sure you see the Mexicas, Mayas, Culturas de Oaxaca (Oaxaca Cultures), Los Toltecas y el Epiclásico (The Toltecs and the Epiclassic), and Teotihuacán collections.
Keep in mind that the museum is closed every Monday and hours of operation are Tuesday to Saturday from 9am to 7pm year round. Admission is $75 pesos or about $3.80 USD. You can explore the museum yourself or you can go on a guided tour. For more information click here.
Visit the Museo Soumaya
The architecture of the Museo Soumaya building is absolutely incredible. Inside the museum, you will find collections of Mesoamerican art, photography, Impressionism, a collection of art from Gibran Kahlil Gibran and so much more. You can learn more about the various collections and exhibitions here.
Visit Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul in Coyoacán
Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul, or Blue House, is now a beautiful museum located in Coyoacán. The house has a beautiful courtyard garden in the center that you can wander around, and inside Frida’s house, you can see many of the different outfits she used to wear, along with where she made many of her paintings and more.
There are also lots of pieces of artwork made by Frida Kahlo throughout the house. You can even see the kinds of medical devices she used to support her body’s injuries.
Look for Street Art in La Roma
I once wrote a blog post all about Street Art in La Romita, which is a colorful area inside La Roma. Unfortunately, a lot of the street art that used to be in La Romita has been painted over.
Don’t worry though, because you can still find plenty of gorgeous murals throughout the rest of La Roma, and the buildings with art that have been painted over in La Romita are still very colorful and beautiful and artists may begin to add more art to them very soon.
Usually, I just happen upon the art while wandering through the area, but you can also take street art tours. To learn how to find some of the best street art in La Roma, click here.
Wander Through the Zocalo
The Zocalo, or Mexico City’s City Center is massive and breathtaking. Among the main things to see in the Zocalo are the Plaza de la Constitución, the Catedral Metropolitana de la Asuncion de la Santisima Virgen Maria a los Cielos, the Templo Mayor, Torre Latinoamericano and the Palacio Postal.
There is tons more to see in the Zocalo as well. It’s a great place to really see some of the City’s history and culture, plus there are restaurants and cafes all over the place as well as many places to go shopping.
Hike up to Chapultepec Castle & Explore Chapultepec Park
Chapultepec Castle is another beautiful Mexico City sight to see filled with history. Located in Mexico City’s largest park, the Castle is located on a large hilltop giving you incredible views of the surrounding city once you make it to the top. Construction on the famous Castle started in the late 1700s and was purchased by the City’s government in 1806. This Castle is the site in which the Niños Héroes died defending the castle in 1847. It was also home to Emperor Maxmilian I and Empress Carlota in 1864. You can read more of the Castle’s history here.
Related article: Parks in Mexico City that You Need to Visit
Ride the Trajineras of Xochimilco
The trajineras of Xochimilco are beautiful, colorful boats that take you floating through the canals. Smaller boats often come by selling tacos, beer, sodas, and even souvenirs like blankets. Some boats will even come by with full mariachi bands to serenade you.
You can choose to hop off the trajineras to visit the many plant shops and greenhouses along the way, or if you’re feeling brave, take the route that leads to the Isla de las Muñecas, also known as Doll Island.
Legend has it that a dead girl was found on Doll Island by a man named Julian. He then found a doll floating down the canal and hung it in a tree, thinking it belonged to the girl. However, he soon become convinced that the girl was haunting him and he started hanging more creepy dolls throughout the island to please her.
You can find out how to get to Xochimilco here.
Take a Day Trip to See the Pyramids of Teotihuacán
The Pyramids of Teotihuacán are well worth a day trip to see. Make sure you bring a lot of water and sunscreen as it gets quite hot at the pyramids. Make sure you remember that Mexico City is located at a fairly high altitude, so try to visit the pyramids on your third or fourth day, so you can acclimatize to the altitude before climbing the pyramids. Not only can you explore the incredible pyramids, but you can also visit the Teotihuacán museum which teaches the history of the pyramids as well.
I would highly suggest that you visit the pyramids on a weekday if you can as Saturdays and Sundays tend to be extremely busy. To get to the Pyramids, you can take the Blue Bus which departs from the Angel de Independencía every morning and leaves the Pyramids every afternoon. Click here to see the full Blue Bus schedule. You can also Uber, metro, or bus to the Autobuses del Norte station and then get a ticket to take you to the Pyramids from there. The other option is to rent a car from the city and take that to see the Pyramids.
Related activity: From Mexico City: Teotihuacán Air Balloon Flight & Breakfast
Visit the Ex Convento del Desierto de los Leones
The Ex Convento in the Desierto de Los Leones, or Desert of the Lions, is absolutely beautiful. The grounds are filled with beautiful gardens to quietly wander through. Plus you can also hike in the Desert of the Lions, which is actually more of a forest than a desert. It’s located to the southwest of the city and can be reached most easily by car, Uber, or Lyft.
Related article: Ex Convento Del Desierto de Los Leones: A Day Trip from Mexico City
Shows & Events
Attend the Folklore Ballet at the Palacio de Bellas Artes
Even if you can’t attend the Folklore Ballet, I would highly suggest visiting the Palacio de Bellas Artes anyway. It’s an incredibly beautiful building anyway. The Palacio is home to a museum where different exhibits can be seen, and you can view the many murals painted on the palace walls by Mexican muralists. There are many kinds of shows you can see such as live music, dance, theatre and more.
However, my favorite thing to do at the Palacio is to see the Folklore Ballet. The Folklore Ballet features live musicians and incredible dancers. During the performance, you will get to witness music and dances from all over Mexico. Some of the dances portray historical periods in Mexico and others show pieces of culture from the many different Mexican states. The Folklore Ballet is performed every Wednesday and Sunday and you can get your tickets here.
See la Lucha Libre
Lucha Libre, or Mexican wrestling, is intense, to say the least. Men and sometimes women compete in wrestling matches that tend to involve wild flips, high kicks, and body slams. Usually, the wrestling starts within the ring and then moves outside the ring, with wrestlers throwing each other onto the floor. It’s a crazy thing to witness and so much fun to see. While there you can get snacks and beer at the concession stand and go a little wild yourself. Spectators are known to cheer on their favorite champions and boo those they want to lose. Read this article to see how you can attend a Lucha Libre show.
Other Things to Do
Shop at El Bazaar Sábado in San Angel
The Bazaar Sábado is a beautiful and lively market that happens every Saturday in the gorgeous neighborhood of San Angel. You can find handicrafts and art made by talented artisans from all over Mexico at the bazaar. There are beautiful pieces of jewelry, ceramics, textiles, and woodwork for sale each week. It’s the perfect place to go to find souvenirs and gifts for family back home.
Take a Day Trip to Valle de Bravo
If you have a longer stay in Mexico City, a day trip to Valle de Bravo could be an excellent addition to your trip. Valle de Bravo is a beautiful little oasis located about 2.5 hours away from Mexico City by car. You can find out how to get to Valle de Bravo from the city here.
Valle de Bravo is home to a large man-made lake, where you can go on many different kind of boat tours, such as speedboats and kayaks. You can also hike up to the Velo de Novia waterfall (Veil of the Bride) in Avandaro, explore the town or witness the Monarch Butterfly migration at the Piedra Herrada Sanctuary.
Related article: 6 Incredible Things to do in Valle de Bravo
Celebrations & Holidays
Day of the Dead in Mexico City
Day of the Dead, or Día de Los Muertos, is a very important cultural celebration in Mexico. It occurs on November 1 and 2 every year. There are so many incredible things to do during Day of the Dead in Mexico City. There’s a parade, decorations all throughout the Zocalo, and special events happening such as the La Llorona night show in Xochimilco. It’s honestly my favorite time of year because there are Mexican marigolds everywhere, you can see the Monarch butterfly migration in the mountains, and there are just so many wonderful festive activities to take part in.
Related article: 7 Things to do During Day of the Dead in Mexico City
Christmas in Mexico City
Did you know that piñatas were originally created to celebrate Christmas? The original designs feature a star like the glowing white and blue piñata in the photo above. The Zocalo gets completely decked out in giant Christmas decorations every year. Mascots from all kinds of animated movies also roam the streets to take pictures with children. There are nativity scenes, festive foods to eat from vendors, and even ponche which is kind of like apple cider but with other fruits.
Related article: Christmas in Mexico City: The Best Things to Do
Other posts you might like:
- Pueblos Magicos in Mexico to Add to Your Itinerary
- 6 Hiking Day Trips from Mexico City
- What I Learned Celebrating Day of the Dead in Mexico for the First Time
- The Best Mexican Books to Read Before You Visit Mexico