Mexico City is an energetic and vibrant place. The sensory explosion can make it feel overwhelming, with so many things to do, see, eat and visit. We created this list to assist you and recommend selecting an area and taking in all there is to see before checking out another area. This will help cut down on time wasted in Mexico City traffic.
Take A Tasty Bites Food Tour
One of the best ways to maximize your time in one of the world’s biggest cities famous for its food scene is to take one of our premium food tours in Mexico City. Taking a food tour in Mexico City will ensure you don’t get stuck eating at tourist traps. During our 3+ hours together, you will taste some of the world’s best cuisine, including some of Mexico’s most iconic dishes at off-the-beaten-path locations. Between tastings, you will walk the streets of historic neighborhoods while your local guide shares information about Mexico City’s historical, architectural and cultural gems.
Centro Histórico & Zócalo
Walking Mexico City’s Centro Histórico is an amazing way to spend the day sightseeing! The central tourist attraction is the Zócalo, which is the largest in Latin America and the world’s third largest. The area covers over 9 square km and over 668 blocks so put on your comfy shoes before you start exploring. There are approximately 1,550 buildings constructed between the 16th and 20th centuries that have been declared of historical importance. The area is divided into two zones for preservation purposes. Zone A represents the pre-Hispanic city and its expansion from the Viceroy period until Independence. Zone B covers all other constructions to the end of the 19th century that are considered necessary to the preservation of the area’s architectural and cultural heritage. The Centro Histórico contains most of the city’s historic sites as well as many museums. This has made it a World Heritage Site and a must see!
When visiting the Zócalo, next to the cathedral you will find the great Aztec temple (Templo Mayor). This temple is often overlooked but is well worth a visit and will give Mexico City’s storied history context. The Templo Mayor is thought to be on the exact spot the Aztecs saw their symbolic eagle perched on a cactus with a snake in its mouth. This is the symbol of Mexico today.
This site was the center of the Aztec universe. Inside the Museo del Templo Mayor you will see a model of Tenochtitlán (name of the Aztec empire), as well as artifacts from the Aztec civilization. Ongoing excavation continues to turn up major pieces, which means the exhibits are continually evolving so it remains interesting even for return visitors.
Palacio de Bellas Artes
This beautiful concert hall and arts center houses stunning murals commissioned by world famous Mexican artists making it a must for art lovers. On the top floor you will find the Museo Nacional de Arquitectura, which features changing exhibits on contemporary architecture. In addition, you will also find temporary art exhibits around the palace. The renovated Bellas Artes theater itself is a masterpiece (viewable only during performances), with a beautiful tiffany stained-glass curtain depicting the Valle de México. We highly recommend purchasing tickets to the Ballet Folklórico de Mexico, a spectacular show (not a ballet). You will be amazed by the stunning costumes, music, colors and dances of Mexico.
Across the street you will find the Palacio de Correos. A still functioning post office in this building that is over 100 years old and took 5 years to finish. The inside is jaw droppingly gorgeous with brass and marble imported from Italy. Parts of the James Bond movie Spectre were filmed inside. For the best view of the Bellas Artes, visit the 8th floor of Sears and visit the Cafe Don Porfirio. It is a great place to sit with a cup of coffee, soak in the view of the palace and escape the hectic buzz below.
Calle Regina (between 5 de Febrero and Isabel La Catolica in Centro Histórico)
The Mexico City street art scene is thriving. If you love big, colorful murals head over to this cool and pedestrian-only street and one of the best places in Mexico City for viewing really incredible street art. When he was mayor of CDMX back in 2000, the current president (AMLO) made Calle Regina into a pedestrian street in an effort to make Centro Histórico more tourist friendly. Today the city commissions an international group of street artists known as Station of Styles to regularly create new murals.
You will also find some hipster coffee shops in this area to stop for a rest. We recommend a mezcal at Mezcalería (Regina 48) or a bite at the funky Hostería La Bota (Regina 49).
A visit to this lush and sprawling park, one of the largest in the western hemisphere is a must. Not only is a quiet respite in the heart of CDMX, but it is a great place for a stroll or jog, or picnic at Hormiga Park. There are so many things to do here. Start your visit with a short hike up Chaupultepec Hill, on top of which sits the visually stunning Chaupultepec Castle. Here you will find this architectural stunner, complete with amazing 360 degree views of the Mexico City, on a clear day it is breathtaking. Take a stroll around the beautiful gardens and a tour of the inside, which holds the furnishings and other belongings of the past owners in one section and also houses the Museo Nacional de Historia.
If you have children along, you may also enjoy a trip to the Zoológico de Chapultepec, which is free! It is clean and a lovely walk with a variety of animals to visit. Another must with kids is the Papalote Museo del Niño (Kid’s Museum). Its a fun place to spend the afternoon taking in the many exhibits, 3D movies and outdoor space.
A visit to the well regarded Museo Nacional de Antropologia is a highlight for many visitors to Mexico City. It is the largest and most visited museum in all of Mexico. Another recommended museum is the Museo de Arte Moderno, here the space is open and includes a fabulous outdoor garden space as well (it is possible to ask for a picnic basket in the cafeteria). If you want to burn off some well earned taco calories a visit to the paddle boats on the man-made Chapultepec Lake is a fun idea.
One of the oldest neighborhoods in Mexico City, it has its own historic center. This region of the city has kept much of its original layout, with plazas and narrow cobblestone streets and well-preserved architectural structures from the 16th to 20th centuries. A recommended area to visit on weekends, when it comes alive with music, entertainment and vendors. Stop to enjoy a long lunch or an afternoon drink on the square to people watch. The artisan market is an interesting place to browse for souvenirs among a vast selection. This is also home to the wildly popular Frida Kahlo Museum. Buy your tickets here in advance to avoid the long lineups. A recommended itinerary is to visit the museum in the morning and then spend the afternoon having lunch and sightseeing in Coyoacán’s historic center.
Everyone goes to Coyoacán because of Frida but San Ángel is even more quaint and very close by. It is a good idea to visit both of these neighborhoods in the same day. There is a great Saturday art market (Bazaar Sábado) that runs from 10 AM – 7 PM with lots of art and boutique shops (Plaza San Jacinto 11, San Ángel). It is also a cool neighborhood to stroll, with lovely architecture and some very good restaurants. We recommend visiting the San Ángel Inn (Diego Rivera 50), a former monastery with a gorgeous garden at the back and outdoor courtyard seating. A great choice for breakfast, lunch or a drink (try their famous margarita) in the courtyard, it is located within walking range of the Saturday market. Next door is the house Diego and Frida lived in, which you can also explore. Be sure to also walk through the Mercado del Carmen for high quality market products.
Paseo de la Reforma
Modeled after the Champs-Élysées during the Porfirian era, this gorgeous tree-lined street has some of the city’s tallest and most architecturally stunning modern buildings. On Sundays, it is closed to car traffic from 7 AM until 2 PM and is filled with people and families walking, biking and jogging. Bikes rentals are available if you want to go for a spin. The Paseo de la Reforma section is part of a larger loop that is closed to traffic and passes through many parts of CDMX on the way to the Zócalo. There are free zumba/aerobic classes for people of all ages and fitness levels. Fun stations with activities like hula hoops are set up for kids or the “kid-in-you” to try! This is a great way to spend a morning with the family and get some exercise – so put on your sneakers and head to Reforma if you’re in town next Sunday.
Colorful gondola-like boats called trajineras take visitors on cruises among chinampas (man-made islands) on canals representing what is left of the lakes Mexico City was founded on. Along the way you can buy lunch from food vendors and there are also artisans and mariachi bands on the canals. On weekends the atmosphere is super festive. You can also visit the eerie island of the dolls, which is said to be haunted. A trajinera rents for approximately 500 pesos per hour regardless of how many people are on the boat. It is much more fun as part of a group (the boats seat 18). While there is lots of food and drink available, we recommend bringing a cooler with drinks.
An ancient Mesoamerican city located an hour’s drive from Mexico City, its biggest attraction are the pyramids. While sightseeing you will see the Avenue of the Dead (the city’s main street), which contains 3 major pyramid complexes, including the Pyramid of the Moon, the Pyramid of the Sun and the Temple of the Feathered Serpent. Climbing to the top will reward you with an amazing view. Be sure to bring your sun hat, lots of water and comfortable shoes for exploring!
To get there, you can take Uber, public transit, an organized tour, or even hire a driver. There are many options depending on your budget. We also recommend making reservations for lunch at La Gruta, just a few steps away from the Teotihuacan Pyramids. This traditional restaurant is very impressive as it is located inside a volcanic cave. They serve delicious dishes mixing local ingredients with pre-Hispanic culinary heritage.
Lucha Libre at Arena México
Mexican Wrestling is a traditional form of entertainment masquerading as a “sport”. It is energentic and very flash with an abundance of sequins, spandex and athleticism. It is a blast for all ages, but be warned it can be politically incorrect. There are masks, wrestlers, popcorn, micheladas and more. You can purchase tickets at the box office in front and the last half is the most exciting. There is a family friendly Sunday edition at 5pm.
Desierto de los Leones National Park
This National Park is a big reason why Mexico City is so green. With over 1,800 hectares of luscious green space, it represents a whopping 15% of all the green space in the Valley of Mexico. This nearby park is within a 20 minute drive on the weekends when traffic is minimal. It is home to almost 100 different bird species, as well as many types of mammals, amphibians and reptiles.
There are miles of trails for hiking enthusiasts and you can also explore the ex-convent of Desierto de los Leones, which was built by barefoot Carmelite monks in 17th Century. The convent was meant to be a retreat for meditation away from the bustling city but in 1810 the monks were forced to abandon it when the Mexican government turned it over to the military.
This is a great place to spend an afternoon as there are also lots of delicous Mexican food options. You can find food stands and fondas. The most popular menu items are quesadillas and tacos, but trout and rabbit, two local specialties, can be found at many of the eateries.