Back when I started traveling to Mexico City frequently over a decade ago, some of my friends wondered why. What is there to do in Mexico City, anyway?, they said.
Well, as the travel media seems to finally be realizing, there are loads of interesting things to do in Mexico City! Ciudad de Mexico (or CDMX), as the locals call it, is one of the largest and most cosmopolitan cities in the world.
I’ve been to over 70 countries, and most of the world’s major tourist attractions. I would put Mexico City up there with London, Paris, Tokyo, and New York in the category of the world’s most impressive mega cities.
With so much to do in Mexico City, it can be hard to sort through it all though. That’s why I’m here!
I’ve visited a dozen times over the past decade, so after my latest trip to Mexico City I compiled this ultimate guide to the best of Mexico City, as well as my guide to the best hotels in Mexico City. I hope you love CDMX, Mexico City, Distrito Federal, D.F. – or whichever of its many names you choose to use – as I much as I do!
Oh, and before we dive into all the things to do in Mexico City, be sure to bookmark our guide to what to pack for Mexico. I bet you’re forgetting something you’ll regret later!
Best Things to Do in Mexico City
Disclosure: Travel Lemming is an independent reader-supported blog. You can support us by purchasing via the affiliate links on this page, which may earn us commissions. Thank you!
Palacio de Bellas Artes
Few architectural structures in the Western Hemisphere can rival the grandeur of Mexico City’s Palacio de Bellas Artes, or Palace of Fine Arts, which you can find next to the leafy green Alameda Park in the city center.
Construction on the building started in 1904, with the aim of having an opulent National Theater of Mexico ready for inauguration during the 1910 centennial celebration of the Mexican Revolution against the Spanish. Well, as construction projects in Mexico tend to go, the project took three decades to complete in the end. Today the Palacio Bellas Artes plays host not just theatre, but opera, dance, and art exhibitions of nearly every type. The best thing to do, however, is to simply admire the fantastic exterior.
👉 Pro Tip: For the best views of the Palacio Bellas Artes, go up to the 8th floor of the Sears department store. You’ll find a terrace café where you can grab a cup of joe and drool-worthy Instagram shots. It’s definitely an insider travel tip for Mexico!
📍 Google Maps | Open daily 9 am to 5 pm | Entrance fee 80 pesos adults, free for children under 13
If you only have time for one day trip from Mexico City, make it a trip to see the unbelievable ancient ruins at Teotihuacan. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most popular places to see in Mexico, Teotihuacan was one of the most important cities and cultural centers in pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica.
Dating back almost 2,000 years, the enormous ruins of the city are remarkably well preserved and today are one of the best things to do in Mexico. The highlight are the gigantic pyramids, such as the Temple of Quetzalcoatl and the Pyramids of the Moon and the Sun (you can even climb several of them). Many tours will also take you to the the 16th century Basilica de Guadalupe, one of the most visited Catholic religious destinations in the world, along the way.
👉 How to Get There: You can visit Teotihuacan by hiring a driver in Mexico City, taking a public bus from the Autobuses del Norte station, or joining a group tour (here’s a list of popular tours, including some led by archaeologists!). If you’re looking for once-in-a-lifetime experiences, the best thing to do in Teotihuacan is to book a hot air balloon ride over the ruins.
Floating Gardens of Xochimilco
📍 Google Maps | Open 8 am to 9:30 pm daily
If you love getting drunk on colorful boats, you’re sure to love this Mexico City activity. Located about 45 minutes outside of the city center, Xochimilco is a borough of Mexico City that is most famous with travelers for its so-called Floating Gardens, which were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
Built over a water transport system used by the Aztecs, today the Floating Gardens of Xochimilco are basically a river where you can rent out colorful gondola-style boats to go on 2-3 hour cruises. It’s a popular thing to do in Mexico City, so there will be many other boats around you, including vendors selling street food, drinks, and all sorts of wares. The views are honestly nothing special, but it’s a unique experience and a fun social activity for tourists and locals alike.
👉 How to Get There: It’s best to go as the locals do, with a group of friends who rent a boat together. If that’s not an option for you, going via a tour, like these ones, is the next best thing.
📍 Google Maps | Open 5 am to 6 PM, CLOSED MONDAYS
If you thought New York’s Central Park was cool, just wait until you see Mexico City’s 686 hectare Chapultepec Park, or the Bosques de Chapultepec. Dating back to ancient Aztec times, when the park served as a royal retreat, the trees of the Chapultepec forest are often referred to as the city’s lungs.
Inside the park you’ll find walking, running, and biking trails, the Chapultepec Zoo, and several popular Mexico City museums, like the Museum of Anthropology and the Rufino Tamayo Museum.
You can also explore the Chapultepec Castle, which has its own entry below on this list of Mexico City things to do. On weekends the park fills with local families, vendors of all kind, and performers. Just don’t come on a Monday, when the park is closed (a mistake I’ve personally made several times over the years!).
National Anthropology Museum
On the north end of the Bosques de Chapultepec, you’ll find another important point of interest: the incredible Museo Nacional de Antropología, or National Anthropology Museum. The museum is home to the most important ethnographic collections in Mexico, and a great place to go to learn about the history of the country you are visiting. The angular modern building itself is an architectural wonder too, and worth a visit just to see.
❓ Want Local Help Planning Your CDMX Trip? Check out Go Ask a Local trip planning service. They hire locals to help you with individualized trip planning services and guides tours!
Plaza del Zócalo
No Mexico City itinerary is complete without a checking out the city’s main square, the Plaza del Zócalo. Today the square is a common gathering point for festivals, protests, and events, but the area has been a center of Mexican history for at least 700 years.
The Zócalo is home to the country’s Supreme Court, the National Palace, and the famous Mexican City Metropolitan Cathedral, the latter of which is the focal point for some of the most iconic photos of Mexico City. Plus, just one block north of it you’ll find the Aztec ruins at Templo Mayo, another item on our list of Mexico City attractions.
👉 Pro Tip: For spectacular views of the Zócalo, grab a drink at my favorite secret spot: The Balcón de Zócalo (pictured above). It’s the terrace at one of my favorite CDMX hotels – but you don’t need to stay at the hotel to grab a drink and enjoy the views.
Museo Nacional De Arte (MUNAL)
Of all the incredible museums in Mexico City, this one seems to fly under the radar with many tourists to Mexico City. It shouldn’t, as Mexico’s National Art Museum is a real treasure. You walk into this museum and are greeted by a grand staircase worthy of a royal, and the architecture and design in every room somehow feels more ornate than the last.
Be sure to look up at the gorgeous murals, or simply find a quiet bench and relax and enjoy the tranquil courtyard. I’ve been to this museum several times, and somehow it always seems relatively empty compared to other local museums, so it makes a great thing to do for social distancing in Mexico City.
Take a Food Tour
As the capital and largest city in Mexico, Mexico City is the best place to try food from different regions of Mexico – and regions all over the world. There are many reputable food tours to choose from in town, from street food to high end restaurants, but the best all around I’ve found is this highly rated Polanco tour. There is also a popular one in the historic center, if that’s more convenient. Just be sure to show up hungry!
Take a Free Walking Tour
This one is a great way to check off several Mexico City attractions in just a few hours:
Join one of the many various free walking tours offered by GuruWalk. The Mexico City’s historic district is very popular, as is the one in Coyocan. They also offer free walking tours of Chapultepec Park, a taco tour, and a street food tour!. These are really great “free” thing to do, but please note two things: 1) the guides work on tips, and 2) you must have an advance reservation.
Mexico City Tourist Attractions
The Aztecs believed that their Templo Mayor was the literal center of the universe, and the Spanish destroyed it to make way for their cathedral. That tells you a lot about the dark side of Mexico’s history, but you can learn even more by visiting the ruins of this important historical site in Mexico City, which is just a few steps from the Zócalo.
In 1987 the site was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list, and today the Templo Mayor has been converted into a museum that is one part indoor museum and one part outdoor excavation site. The museum is still closed due to the health crisis, but you can view the ancient Aztec ruins at the excavation site simply by walking by.
A must see site in Mexico City is the Chapultepec Castle, which lords over the Bosques de Chapultepec from its perch on a hill in the middle of the park. It’s one of only two royal palaces in North America (the other, Palace of Iturbide, is also in Mexico City).
It was built in 1785 upon the orders of the Spanish Viceroy, and has undergone significant changes over the years (at one point in the 19th century, it even served as an observatory). Today the palace’s vast grounds are open to the public, and you can explore the ornate interior inside and the gorgeous gardens outside. Wear good walking shoes for the walk up the hill!
Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
Remember that cathedral I said the Spanish built after they destroyed the center of the Aztec universe? Yeah, that’s Mexico City’s Metropolitan Cathedral, the largest Catholic Church in the Western Hemisphere. Checkered history aside, there’s no denying the beauty of the structure, which took almost 250 years to build.
You can take a shot of the outside from the Zocalo, but the intricate interior is worth a visit. Be sure to check out the two giants organs. Note that, while you can enter then, photography is not permitted during masses.
🌴 Headed to Puerto Vallarta after Mexico City? Be sure to check out our list of Puerto Vallarta’s best things to do!
The Angel of Independence
Given that it’s located in the middle of a traffic circle, this is not exactly the most exciting thing to do in Mexico City. But the famous Independence Angel is definitely an important point of interest in the city, and well worth planning into your trip while passing along the Paseo de la Reforma street. Built in 1910, it’s an important symbol and one of the most recognizable landmarks in Mexico City. If you’re a photographer, come at night to get some spectacular shots of the Independence Angel lit up.
Technically there are three Soumaya Museums in Mexico City, and they are all worth a visit. But the flagship location is the modern curving building located in Polanco. The collection is pretty expansive and varies from historic relics to modern art and sculpture.
Plan at least a couple hours to be able to comfortably explore the many floors, and be sure not to miss The Gates of Hell, an important sculpture depicting a scene from Dante’s Inferno. Oh, and there is no entrance cost, so this is one of the best free things to do in Mexico City!
Frida Kahlo Museum
You’re probably familiar with Frida Kahlo by this point and, if not, you’re likely to see paintings of her in destinations all around Mexico. But you may not know about her complicated personal history, including her behind-the-scenes battle with the crippling effects of polio.
The Frida Kahlo Museum, nicknamed “Casa Azul” for blue exterior, is located in her former house and offers a shrine to her life. There are a handful of her pieces of art, but most of the rooms focus on artifacts from her home, her personal life, and her relationship with Diego Rivera. The section featuring her dresses, which had to be specially made to accommodate her fail figure, is especially interesting.
👉 Pro Tip: The museum is a popular attraction in Mexico City, so you need to buy your timed-entry tickets several days in advance (you can do that here).
Mirador Torre Latinoamerica
Mexico City has a lot to take in, and one of the best places to get spectacular views of the city is from the observation area of the Torre Latinoamerica skyscraper, located just a few blocks from the Palacio de Bellas Artes.
There are a few museum exhibits included in the cost of admission, but the star attraction is the breathtaking vistas over Mexico City. If you’re really on a budget and don’t want to spend the 90 peso entrance fee, there is a small café two floors below the observation deck which also sports the same incredible views.
Although at the time of this writing it is temporarily closed due to the health crisis, the Trotsky Museum is otherwise a popular thing to do in Mexico City for history lovers. The museum is located in the former home of its namesake, Leon Trotsky, the Marxist revolutionary and political theorist who was assassinated in Mexico City in 1940 by Soviet agents.
Located in the Coyoacan neighborhood, but far less crowded than the Frida Kahlo museum, the Trotsky Museum is a good place to get a glimpse into the life of this communist figure.
Fun & Unique Things to Do in Mexico City
📍 Google Maps | Phone: +52 55 5512 0091 | Open 8 am to 7:30 pm weekdays, 10 am to 4 pm Saturdays, 10 am to 2 pm Sundays
Perhaps the best photo spot in Mexico City – if you can catch it at a time when there aren’t crowds – is the ornate staircases at the Palacio Postal. The building is very much still a functioning post office, so swing by if you have any packages to mail and then take a few minutes to admire the intricate artistry that adorns the interior of the Palacio Postal. It’s a great free thing to do in Mexico City!
If you’re a fan of wrestling, or just of spectacularly over-the-top shows, you’ll love attending a lucha libre wrestling match. The performers really go out of their way to make it a unique experience, and the crowds go absolutely wild.
You can find matches in many venues around town, but one of the bigger locations is the Arena Mexico. You can buy your own tickets online, or you can go as part of this popular group tour for foreigners if you prefer the security of having someone else lead you through the fanatic crowd.
📍 Google Maps | Phone: +52 55 5264 4122
Mexico City has a booming cocktail scene. For some of the best cocktails in the city, head to the Roma Norte bar Licorería Limantour any night of the week.
The bar tenders are some of the most skilled at their trade that I’ve seen in all my travels of Mexico, and this is one bar that is guaranteed to have a high energy vibe no matter the night of the week. If Polanco is where you are staying in Mexico City, Licorería Limantour has a smaller outpost there too. Advance reservations are recommended.
Best Areas to Visit in Mexico City
One of Mexico City’s most popular neighborhoods with visitors is the hip and cultural Roma Norte area. Centered around the expansive and green Avenida Álvaro Obregón, this neighborhood is home to some of the best places to eat in Mexico City — including everything from high-end restaurants to taco stalls.
It features some of the best bars in CDMX, and on weekends is the place where Mexico City’s young professionals go to relax. If I had to pick one neighborhood to stay in Mexico City, I’d pick here as it’s probably the most centrally located neighborhood in Mexico City, plus it’s always busy even at night.
If you’re a fan of New York City’s West Village, you’ll love meandering down the leafy tree-lined streets of the Condesa neighborhood. Even if you’re not staying here, it’s a great place to come for a walk (try the beautiful Parque Mexico) or to try the brunch offerings at one of Condesa’s many cafes (my personal favorite: Que Seria de Mi).
👉 Need a place to stay? Search hotels in Condesa on Booking.com here.
A popular upscale neighborhood just north of Chapultepec Park, Polanco was the neighborhood I stayed in on my most recent visit to Mexico City. I think it’s perfect to spend your nights if you’re coming for longer stays, as its definitely a quieter part of town, plus its home to some of the best luxury hotels in Mexico City. It’s also home to excellent restaurants, places to shop, and several museums like the Soumaya Museum.
👉 Need a place to stay? Search hotels in Polanco on Booking.com here.
Home to the famous Frida Kahlo and Trotsky Museums, Coyoacán is almost like a city within a city in Mexico City. It has its own historic center, whose cobble stone streets feature artisan markets, art galleries, restaurants, street food stalls, and cultural performances. It’s a bit far from the city center, but if you’ve been to Mexico City before and want to experience it from a different angle, consider basing yourself in Coyoacán.
👉 Need a place to stay? Search hotels in Coyoacán on Booking.com here.
Zona Rosa is a high energy neighborhood that is home to loads of LGBT bars and nightclubs, which keep the music pumping until the late hours on the weekends. During the day it’s home to a large shopping district, and is popular with travelers given its location next to the historic center.
👉 Need a place to stay? Search hotels in Zona Rosa on Booking.com here.
Free and Cheap Things to Do in Mexico City
Churrería El Moro
No visit to Mexico is complete without a taste of at least one churro, the fried doughy treat that is covered in sugar and dipped in various chocolate sauces. And the best place to grab a churro in Mexico City is at Churrería El Moro, a popular chain that has several locations around town.
Sure, this is one of those touristy things to do in Mexico City, but it’s a fun must see! There are signs scattered around Mexico City, including in popular locations like the Zocalo, that simply say “CDMX” – which stands for Ciudad de Mexico. If you see one, snap a photo because, otherwise, did you even really travel to Mexico City?
The House of Tiles (“Casa de los Azulejos”)
📍 Google Maps | Phone: +52 55 5512 1331 | Open 7 am to 1 am daily
Situated in the downtown historic district, the Casa de los Azulejos – or House of Tiles – is a 18th century Baroque palace that today is home to several restaurants and shops. The courtyard interior is worth a visit, but the real attraction are the Instagram-perfect blue and white tiles that adorn the exterior. The House of Tiles is located very close to the Palacio de Bellas Artes just off Avenida 5 de Mayo, so it’s easy to hit along with those other attractions in Mexico City.
Mercado de Artesanías La Ciudadela
If you’re looking to shop for local handicrafts or folk art, or just a colorful souvenir to take home from Mexico, definitely check out the market at the Mercado de Artesanías La Ciudadela, close to the historic center.
At this market, you’ll find stalls of artists and vendors lined up along the street and hawking their art and wares to locals and travelers alike. Many of the market vendors accept credit cards, but if you’re paying in cash pesos you may be able to haggle prices down a bit.
Oh, and if you want to explore some other hidden gem markets, check out Sky’s pretty epic list of the 11 best Mexico City markets. It includes all the top markets, but also several that are off the beaten path.
📍 Google Maps | Open 24 hours
Plaza Garibaldi is the place to visit in Mexico City to see mariachi bands, check out a few bars, get in shopping, or just soak in the vibrancy of Mexico City. Come during the day to grab lunch and listen to the mariachi bands, or come around sunset for to spend some time sipping drinks and, you guessed it, listening to mariachi!
👉 Read Next: Tulum Beach – Ultimate Travel Guide
Avenida 5 de Mayo
Avenida 5 de Mayo is just one of Mexico City’s pedestrian streets, but it’s perhaps the most important one. Along or near the streets you’ll find several of the museums, points of interest, and important things to do in Mexico City on this list. You’ll also find tons of shops, from giant retailers like H&M to smaller local vendors, hawking their wares to the passing visitors.
Central Library at the National Autonomous University of Mexico
The Central Library at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (“UNAM”) is one of the many underrated things to do in Mexico City’s Coyoacán neighborhood. The main draw are the dramatic colorful murals adoring the outside of the library. The mosaic art murals are supposed to represent different periods in Mexico’s history. One represents the pre-Hispanic period, one the colonial period, one the modern era, and one the history of the university. The architecture is pretty interesting too, so this is definitely a fun thing to do in Mexico City on a budget!
Museo Sumaya-Casa Guillermo Tovar de Teresa
This lesser known location of the Museo Sumaya family of museums, nestled between Condesa and Roma, is a small but beautiful house museum. Its owner, Guillermo Tovar de Teresa, lived a lavish lifestyle and strolling the ornate interior and admiring the art, furniture, and architecture is a quick but enjoyable free thing to do in Mexico City.
👉 Read Next: The 13 Top Hotels in Mexico City
That’s it for this guide to the best of Mexico City – now you know what to do in Mexico City! Scroll down and leave me a comment with what you are most excited to do in Mexico City.
I hope I helped you find some fun things to do in Mexico City!
Help us help you travel better!
Your feedback really helps ...
What did you like about this post? Or how can we improve it to help you travel better?