20 Ultimate Things to Do in Mexico City
The top things to do, see, and eat in Mexico’s capital city.
An underrated destination, Mexico City should be added to your bucket list. While many people solely think about Mexico through the sepia filter used in ‘90s movies about the country, Mexico City is a modern wonder and it’s time to see it filter-free. Many people come to Mexico City for the food and they are not wrong—the dining in the city is divine, and from street food to five-star dining, you’ll find everything you want here. Note: Attractions (like the Anthropology Museum) that are currently closed without an expected opening date are not included in this guide.
Zócalo , the largest plaza in Latin America, is filled on an average day, with vendors, street entertainers, and protestors. Bordered on one side by the National Palace (where the President of Mexico lives), the Zócalo is the location of many large public gatherings in town. Even without an event, it’s worth a visit to see the gilded Metropolitan Cathedral and Templo Mayor, a museum on the site of a Mexican ruin. The Zócalo is in the heart of Centro Historico, home to most of Mexico City’s historic sites.
Eat Like a Local
Eat Like a Local is a locally owned and operated, all-female tour company that promotes responsible tourism while introducing you to the most amazing street food in the city. The Mexican Food 101 Tour is an opportunity to visit local markets and learn not only about the food, and the history of the markets but also about the families who work there and live in the surrounding neighborhoods. Delicious food, Mexico City history, and a company that supports the local community—it’s a win-win-win. If a food tour isn’t for you, consider their mezcal tour.
Courtesy of Eat Like a Local
Museo Frida Kahlo
One of the most popular museums in the city, Frida Kahlo’s family home, also known as Casa Azul, is a must-see in Mexico City. The museum highlights the home as it was when she lived there with her husband, Diego Rivera, and temporary exhibits to provide more context about Kahlo’s life. Of note, a ticket to Museo Frida Kahlo also includes free entrance to Anahuacalli Museum, designed by Diego Rivera for his pre-Hispanic art collection.
The Floating Gardens of Xochimilco are not to be missed. South of the city, it consists of a maze of canals among plant nurseries filled with brightly painted floating trajineras (barges) that turn into party boats every day of the week. The canals come to life with the sound of families and friends, mariachi bands, and food vendors. You can rent a barge for an hour or two and have your own party. Bring food and drinks with you, buy them on the docks, or from the floating vendors on the water.
Mercado Roma is a great dinner stop when you’re with a group that’s hard to please. With dozens of restaurant (and bar) stalls, you can find something for every picky eater in the group. Want to try grasshoppers? In the mood for a charcuterie board? Want a great burger or pizza? You’re in the right place. This dining hall is not like a lot of other markets in the city as it’s generally more expensive, but with written menus it’s a good choice for diners with food sensitivities. When you’re ready for dessert, stop by the Bendita Paleta stall for some of the best frozen treats in the city.
About 25 miles outside of Mexico City sit the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon on a site known as Teotihuacan. These Mesoamerican pyramids are the most significant historic sites in the area. Make sure that your visit to Mexico City includes a day dedicated to walking down the Avenue of the Dead, visiting the pyramids, and stopping in the onsite museum. Try to get there early, as the sun seems to pay special attention to the pyramid bearing its name, and there is no shade on site.
A visit to Mexico City requires a visit to some of the local markets. The variety of mercados will give something for everyone. There are permanent markets like Jamaica, the flower market, or La Merced and Medellin which have mostly groceries, home goods, and restaurant stalls. There are also weekly markets, like Bazaar Sabado, a craft market open every Saturday, and most neighborhoods have local weekly markets with food and other home necessities. You should also check out pop-up craft markets like Bazar Resiliente or Zona Zero for handmade goodies to tuck in your luggage before you head home.
Mexico City is full of mind-blowing Mexican food, but you can also find many influences from throughout South America and the Caribbean. La Xaymaca is a home restaurant serving up all things Jamaican and delicious. Oxtail, jerk lamb, brown stew chicken, it’s yours. Chef Theresa Meza provides a different menu weekly, but they are all delicious. To get food from La Xaymaca you get on the chef’s email list from the link above, and she’ll send out a weekly menu of what’s available.
Courtesy of La Xaymaca
Museo Soumaya is one of the most photographed buildings in the city. On the outside, Soumaya is a must-capture for Instagrammers in the city. On the inside, it’s filled with must-see European and Mexican art. The Soumaya collection is actually a museum in multiple buildings in different parts of the city, but the location in Plaza Carso is the newest and most visited. Entrance is free thanks to the billionaire creator of the museum, and the exhibits are always worth a visit.
Make your reservation as soon as possible and do not miss Quintonil. Bring your appetite when you come, because the tasting menu (which changes monthly) is the star of the show. If a la carte is your preference, and the stone crab is on the menu, get the stone crab. You won’t be disappointed.
Fernando Gomez Carbajal
Basílica de Guadalupe
Basilica de Guadalupe is an active Catholic church, the national shrine of Mexico, and a pilgrimage site. The Basilica houses a 16th-century cloak on which the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe that is said to have been miraculously materialized as proof that she had appeared to Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin at the site. Even if you’re not on a pilgrimage visiting the Basilica and experiencing the uniquely designed church (including a moving sidewalk in front of the cloak that keeps crowds from gathering), it is an experience worth having. The Basilica is a bit out of the city, so stopping on the way back from Teotihuacan is a great way to see both in one day.
El Moro Churreria
No visit to Mexico City would be complete without a visit to El Moro Churreria. Churros with dips created from different types of chocolate are their specialty. El Morro is a Mexico City chain churreria, and with the crisp blue and white tiles, and clean decor, most of the locations look like a chain. But if you’re up for a little adventure, skip the newer El Moros and find your way to the Historic Center and visit the original churreria, housed in the same location since 1935.
Palacio de Bellas Artes, the palace of fine arts, is a museum and exhibition space a short walk from both Centro Historico and Mexico City’s Chinatown. With walls lined with Diego Rivera and Siqueiros murals, if you only have time to visit one museum in town, this is the one. Bellas Artes is as beautiful on the outside as it is on the inside, and to grab a great picture of the building, visit the coffee shop on the eighth floor of the Sears directly across Avenue Juarez.
Mexico City’s Chinatown is small but notable. Directly across the street from the Benito Juarez monument (another must-see), and only a block away from Bellas Artes, a walk down Dolores Street gives you a great opportunity to see the melding of Chinese and Mexican cultures. This is the cultural home of the Mexican-Chinese population of the city, full of Chinese restaurants and stores that import Chinese goods. Dolores Street is significant as it was home to a large Chinese population before the expulsion of Chinese from Mexico in the 1930s.
Bosque de Chapultepec
Bosque de Chapultepec (commonly called Chapultepec Park) is considered the lungs of Mexico City. It houses a castle, a zoo, a cultural center, multiple lakes, vendors, museums, presidential palaces, and pretty much anything you could want in a city. At 1,695 acres, you can spend days here wandering around, but your best bet is to make a list of what you want to see the most and head to those spots.
Francisco Gomez Sosa/Shutterstock
Avenida Paseo de la Reforma
Lined by trees, statutes, and some of Mexico’s tallest buildings, Avenida Paseo de la Reforma is one of the most scenic places for an afternoon stroll in the city. If you start your walk at the gates of Chapultepec park and head east, you’ll soon pass the fountain of Diana the Huntress. Go a little further and you’ll see the most famous monument in the city, the Angel of Independence. If your visit has you in the city on a Sunday, this street is shut down for vehicles and opened up for bicycles to take over the lanes.
The Monument of the Revolution
Originally intended as a legislative building, the Monument to the Revolution houses the Museum of the Revolution and a mausoleum housing heroes of the Mexican Revolution. Even if you’re not a history buff, this is a worthy stop. The 360-degree view of the city from the top of the monument (the tallest triumphal arch in the world ) is an opportunity to see Mexico City as few get to.
If you’re looking for the luxurious side of the city, staying at the St. Regis hotel is the perfect choice. Between the plush bedding, the exquisite service in their new Bloom restaurant, and beautifully appointed rooms, you may want to spend more time staying in than sightseeing. But if you do get out, the location of the St. Regis is another plus. On Avenida Paseo del la Reforma and towering over the fountain of Diana, the St. Regis is the perfect place to start your exploration of the city.