Having been to the beaches of Mexico many times, I mistakenly overlooked visiting the capital. But last year on a whim, I booked a last minute flight to Mexico City. I expected to stay 2 days tops, and then would move on to see other towns in the area. 10 days later, I couldn’t get enough of this city.
Why was I so mesmerized? Mexico City is simply amazing! I found this cosmopolitan city just bubbling with art, culture, history, and charm. Between the art galleries, boutiques, and snazzy coffee bars and restaurants, Mexico City offers as much culture and charm as any large European city. To help you with your trip, I’ve put together 22 things to do in Mexico City, enjoy!
But before I go much further, let’s talk safety since I know this is the first thing on people’s minds.
Given the bad rep Mexico as a whole has received due to the corruption and crime, there’s good reason to have an element of caution and fear when visiting Mexico. But generally speaking, the south of Mexico is actually quite safe. Without a doubt there are areas to be avoided, but the most dangerous parts of Mexico are actually the north, close to the US border.
Before booking ANY trip, it is always recommended to look at the State Department’s travel advisory website HERE for updates on any safety rules and recommendations. Besides that, some safety rules of thumb I always follow are:
- Never walk around at night alone
- Never get intoxicated either alone, or in the company of people I just met
- Wear a zip-able purse and cross it over my shoulders
- Use caution in the metro, especially when it gets super crowded
- Stay in the tourist areas where there are lots of people around
Okay, now that we’re done with that, let’s get to the fun stuff!
22 Things to do in Mexico City
1. Go for Drinks on the Rooftop of La Terraza
This restaurant is on the top floor of Mexico City’s luxurious Gran Hotel. It has THE best rooftop view of the zocalo and cathedral, and its just dreamy at sunset.
2. Try Pulque
Meet pulque, Mexico’s oldest alcoholic beverage that has come back with a bang! This drink dates back to about 1000 AD, is called the Aztec drink of the gods. It was used in ceremonies and rituals, and is actually quite rich in vitamins and minerals. The taste is a bit tarty, but I personally loved it! It can also come in a variety of flavors such as celery, nut, oat, and guava. Basically, just try it. 🙂
For more info on other Mexican cocktails check out this post on Authentic Mexican Drinks!
3. Visit the Frida Kahlo Museum – The Blue House
With over 150 museums in Mexico City, there is no shortage whatsoever during your stay. What’s your preference? Art, history, culture…take your pick. There’s bound to be something that will spark your fancy and you could easily spend your entire trip just shuffling from one museum to the next.
For me, visiting the museum and previous home of the world-renowned Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo, was a must see on my itinerary! Just hanging out in the gardens was lovely!
Pro Tip: Purchase tickets ahead of time online! The Frida Kahlo Museum one the most visited museums in Mexico City, and you will most likely wait in line for a few hours if you don’t book ahead of time.
For a full list of available museums, check out THIS link.
Remember museums are closed on Monday.
4. Explore Roma and La Condesa
Take a peek inside Mexico City’s finest. These neighborhoods, or colonias, are where the fashionistas of Latin America come out to play. While wandering through the streets, you might be confused that you’re actually still in Mexico.
Nestled away from the hustle and bustle of the historic center, these colonias were established in the late 19th century and early 20th as a haven for the wealthy leaving the city center. Nowadays these neighborhoods have a few things in common, they are the essence of Mexico City’s avant-garde scene, with a splash of bourgeoisie meets bohemian charm. Just take a stroll through the tree-lined streets and soak in the beautiful architecture.
Check out this post on Mexico City’s trendiest neighborhoods!
5. Take a Hot Air Balloon Tour of the Teotihuacan Pyramids
Didn’t know there were ancient ruins just outside of Mexico City? Well don’t worry, that’s what I’m here for. These beauties are estimated to be dated around 100 BC, and are one of the largest in Mesoamerica.
They are a treat by themselves, but I would highly recommend a sunrise hot air balloon ride over the pyramids, paired with a guided tour of the ruins. Bookings can be made easily online, through your hotel/hostel staff, or through the tourist locations around the city center.
For more info check out this post on my Hot Air Balloon Tour of the Teotihuacan Pyramids!
6. Sample Mexico’s Delicious Street Food
I was quite amazed at just how delicious the street food is in Mexico. I loved it so much that I actually preferred sampling foods from different vendors than sitting down at an actual restaurant and ordering a meal.
Some must tries are tacos, tortas, pambazos, sopes, and tostadas…just to name a few. But definitely get the mango preparado!
For more tasty Mexican street food, read my post on Authentic Mexican Street Food!
7. Wander through the Markets
Wandering through the markets of Mexico City is like taking a peek into the daily life and fabric of Mexican culture. The markets are all a bit different, and with over 300 to choose from it can be overwhelming to decide where to go. Honestly, you’re more likely to just stumble upon one than plan to go. But to help you decide, below are some of my favorites:
- Mercado La Merced (Mexico City’s largest Market)
- Mercado de Jamaica (Flower market)
- La Ciudadela (Mexican crafts and folk art)
- El Mercado de Ampudia (Traditional Mexican candy)
8. Discover Mexico’s Famous Street Art
The dynamic street art scene in Mexico City has received headlines globally, and it’s not surprising why. Local and international artists alike have made this beautiful capital their canvas, and it’s so exciting to stumble upon them! For some help with exactly where to go, check out HERE and HERE for some spots.
9. Explore Mexico’s Historic Center and Zocalo
Just strolling through this historic 500-year-old neighborhood is a treat. It is here you’ll find the Zocalo, or main plaza, which is the largest plaza in Latin America. And of course you could never miss the crown jewel of the Zocalo, the Catedral Metropolitana (Metropolitan Cathedral). Adding to the charm are the street musicians and vendors. The Palacio Nacional (National Palace) and Templo Mayor (Main Temple) – just to name a few – are also within close proximity.
In the Historic Center you’ll find there is plenty to see and do!
10. Take in a Concert at the Palacio de Bellas Artes
The Palacio de Bellas Artes (or Palace of Fine Arts) is the cultural heartbeat of Mexico City. It welcomes some of the most notable events including music, dance, theatre, opera, literature and even art and photography exhibits.
Even if you don’t obtain tickets to one of the shows, just going to admire the architecture of the building wouldn’t leave you disappointed.
11. Go for a Gondola Ride at Xochimilco
A bit of a drive away from the historic center, Xochimilco attracts tourists because of its canals. Take a ride on the colorful gondolas or “trajineras” and take in the sights, mariachi music, and some drinks. I found the whole experience to be a bit touristy, but relaxing and enjoyable at the same time.
12. Sip some Mezcal
Alas, everyone might know about tequila, but what about it’s cousin mezcal? The smoky mezcal is a beverage that’s slowly but surely getting its name out there. For more info on mezcal check out my post, The Mexican Drink You Might Not Have Heard About. I was pretty surprised to find out that many Mexicans (young and old) simply prefer straight tequila or mezcal. It’s their drink of choice! In America I doubt anyone drinks a straight liquor unless then simply plan on having a really fun night.
But in Mexico it’s different. Mexicans prefer to relax and sip their tequila, enjoying the flavor of the liquor.
13. Visit Chapultepec Castle
Located in the middle of Chapultepec Park, you’ll find Chapultepec Castle. Chapultepec is the only castle in North America that actually housed a royal, Mexican Emperor Maximilian I and his consort Empress Carlota. However currently this castle turned museum now hosts the ever-popular National Museum of History.
The park is beautiful, and simply wandering the rooms and gardens is a treat for the eyes. The palace also has spectacular views over the city!
14. Enjoy a Coffee and Book at El Péndulo
El Péndulo is a popular bookstore and chain in Mexico City. There are multiple locations to choose from in the neighborhoods of Zona Rosa, Roma Norte, La Condesa, and Polanco.
Relax, have a coffee and enjoy the bookworm vibes of El Péndulo.
15. Indulge in the Bakeries
It was to my absolute delight to find bakeries sprinkled all around Mexico City. You can wander around and just stumble upon some gems, but some of my favorites were La Puerta Abierta and La Bohême in Roma and Esperanza near the Zocalo in the historic center.
The coffee and baked goods definitely had me returning every morning!
16. Sample the Food at the Mercado Roma
Located in the ever-trendy neighborhood of Roma Norte is Mercado Roma. This is a hipster’s dream in a public market. The stands range from restaurants to shops and offer everything from organic foods, specialty chocolates, gourmet coffee, tapas, fine wines, and artistic spins on traditional dishes such as a sushi burrito.
17. Take a Food Tour
Mexican cuisine has more to offer beyond drinking tequila and the famous tacos and guacamole (although being a Southern California girl, there is nothing wrong with tacos and guac!) Not only is Mexico as a whole famed for its gastronomy, the city’s vibrant and innovative chefs have placed its restaurants on the culinary map!
From street food, to hole in the wall digs, to fancy restaurants, Mexico City has something for everyone.
18. Visit the Coyoacán Neighborhood
This trendy neighborhood was also the home to the famous Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo. Rated as one of the top neighborhoods to live in, this neighborhood has a lot to see and do. It gives off a quaint and charming feel with its cobblestone streets, large plazas, fountains, and plethora of restaurants to choose from.
During the evening it gave off almost a carnival feel as many of the street food stalls and entertainers came out. It’s a great spot to stroll around and try different types of street foods.
19. Sample Every Flavor of Agua Fresca
You can find agua fresca just about anywhere you go in Mexico. These drinks are flavored waters, similar to juices, and they are all delicious! I recommend sampling every single one. They’re usually only a few pesos if purchased off the street.
Some of the most common flavors include horchata, Jamaica (cold hibiscus tea), fruit flavors such as pineapple and melon, lime and chia seeds (similar to a lemonade), and tamarindo. But if you see other flavors, try them too…why not?!
For more info, check out my post on authentic non-alcoholic Mexican drinks!
20. Eat Mole Poblano
Mole is one of the most important dishes in Mexico. Because it’s such a complex and time-consuming dish it tends to be eaten at special occasions such as Christmas, Easter, Day of the Dead, birthdays, etc. The mole sauce contains up to 20 ingredients including a fruit, chili pepper, nut, and chocolate.
Some of the best mole in Mexico can be found in the states of Puebla and Oaxaca. Since I didn’t venture too far outside of Mexico City, I was recommended to try mole at Azul Condesa restaurant in La Condesa, and it was delicious!
21. Marvel at the Metropolitan Cathedral
The full name of this cathedral is a mouthful, The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven, or in Spanish Catedral Metropolitana de la Asunción de la Santísima Virgen María a los cielos. It is the largest cathedral in the Americas and is just a beauty!
It is free to go inside, however I would recommend dressing appropriately.
22. Shop along Calle Isabel la Católica 24
Located right off the Zocalo is a pedestrian street with shops and restaurants. Here you’ll find chain stores such as Zara, Pull and Bear, Bershka, and Stradivarius as well as a Starbucks and other well-known companies. You can also find some fun boutiques, bakeries and cafés to explore.
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What’s your favorite thing to do in Mexico City? Let me now in the comments below!