A lot of people will tell you to just skip Central American capital cities. They have a reputation of being dangerous, with not that much to do.
This couldn’t be more wrong when it comes to Mexico City. There’s a massive preconception that surrounds Mexico’s capital. If you have a negative preconceived idea about Mexico City then scrap it, put it straight in the bin!
Mexico City is a stunning city filled with some of the best street food in the world, more than 150 museums to explore and lush green parks nestled within the busy city.
Most people’s reactions after visiting the capital city is how surprised they were and just how magnificent it is. Their second reaction will be a new addiction to Mexican street food, particularly Al Pastor Tacos that can be found on almost every street.
You can spend days on end wandering around and admiring the city’s incredible architecture. Being one of the biggest cities in the world, Mexico City has become an enthralling mish-mash of different architecture and culture. Some parts will have you convinced that you’ve got lost and ventured into Italy or even London.
#1 Get to know the historic centre of Mexico City with the free walking tour
One of the best ways to get to know a new city is by joining a walking tour. Even better when they’re free!
You get to see the city in a few hours, learn about its history and get recommendations for the best places to go and eat. One of the organisations we recommend for Mexico City is Strawberry Tours.
Strawberry Tours offers a free walking tour around Mexico City’s historical centre. Throughout the 2 hours exploring the city you’ll get to admire and learn about landmarks such as the National Palace, Postal Palace and the House of Tiles.
It’s the perfect way to start your stay in Mexico City in just 2 hours!
The tours run every Saturday at 10:30am. The meeting point is at Alameda Central.
#2 Visit the Zocalo, the heart of Mexico City
If you opt to join the free walking tour, you’ll be able to tick this one off the list.
If not, where better to start your exploration of Mexico City than at its beating core. The Zocalo, also known as the Plaza de la Constitución, is where it all started!
The Zocalo is home to some of the most architecturally stunning buildings in Mexico City. Here you’ll find the National Palace, Metropolitan Cathedral and several other historical buildings.
These buildings are steeped in history. For example, the Metropolitan Cathedral was built over the ruins of the Aztec Templo Mayor and some of the stones were actually used to construct the church.
It’s the best place to get an initial feeling for Mexico City as there’s always something going on in the Zocalo whether it be a concert, market or political demonstration.
Grab a taco from one of the nearby stalls, take a seat and enjoy watching the city go about its day. This is also where you can get the iconic shot with the CDMX sign.
#3 Visit some of Mexico City’s 150 museums
If you’re a museum-lover then Mexico City is your paradise. With over 150 museums to explore, the city is up there for having the highest number of museums.
Now most of us aren’t going to have enough time to explore all of them, though we welcome anyone that wants to take on that challenge!
Obviously the museums you pick will depend on what interests you the most. The museums range from art galleries to the remains of Aztec temples to chocolate museums.
Make sure to do some research into what museums are available!
With so many to explore, we’ve put together some of the best museums to visit that will give you a good insight into Mexico:
This museum is a great introduction to Mexico as it excellently explains Mexico’s City’s history throughout it’s 24 exhibition rooms. The museum takes you on a journey of Mayan and Aztec history before entering the Spanish colonial era and then to the modern era.
Entrance costs 80 MXN ($4).
Museo Soumaya is a piece of art in itself. The silver building is unbelievably stunning and striking, made up of thousands of metal hexagons.
The museum is non-profit meaning that entrance is free. Museo Soumaya was created by the billionaire Carlos Slim in honour of his late wife.
The amazement continues inside as the museum displays artwork that covers a large proportion of Mexico’s history. Some of the pieces date back to the early Mayan period.
Frida Kahlo Museum
There are plenty of Frida Kahlo Museums across the world, but the museum in Mexico City is one of the best to visit.
The museum is inside the former home of the famous Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo. The Frida Kahlo Museum showcases her life between 1907 and 1954. Not only does it display some of her best pieces, but also some of her personal belongings, so you can get a better feel of the person Frida Kahlo was.
The house can be easily distinguished and recognised on the outside by its bright blue walls, and usually a queue outside due to it being one of the most popular museums in Mexico City.
Tickets cost 230 MXN ($11.50) during weekdays and 270 MXN ($13.50) on the weekend.
TIP: We’ve written this compact Mexico City guide to show you the best areas to stay, restaurants you don’t want to miss and many more tips for your visit to Mexico City!
#4 Explore Mexico city with your self organized taco tour
Mexico City is famous for its street food. Why? Well because it’s simply delicious, ridiculously cheap and it can be found on pretty much any street.
One of the first foods that come to mind when you think of Mexico is of course tacos and there’s no better place to do a taco tour than in Mexico City.
As well as stuffing yourself with mouth-wateringly good food, doing a taco tour gives you the opportunity to explore the city at the same time. Potentially discovering places you otherwise would have missed.
How to start your taco tour
The best way to do it is to just stop at any places that look good, but here are a few stops to get you started.
To give you an idea of the prices of tacos. They can start as low as 7 MXN ($0.35) per taco and range to around 50 MXN ($2.50) depending on the filling.
#5 Take a boat tour to explore the canals of Xochimilco
Depending on what you’re looking for, you can have two very different experiences when visiting Xochimilco. It can be a few hours of relaxation or partying, it’s your choice.
Xochimilco is a UNESCO World Heritage site consisting of a large system of ancient canals. It’s become a very popular activity to board one of the traditional brightly coloured trajinera boats and glide through the canals.
The canals are bursting with energy! All around you’ll find mariachi bands, smaller boats selling goods like bbq meats, drinks and souvenirs, plus local businesses lining the banks. The Island of Dead Dolls is also a site to see!
Renting a boat on the Xochimilco canals
A popular way to enjoy Xochimilco is to turn it into a party. Bring a big group of you, you can fit about 15 people on a boat, and your own alcohol and you’ll be set for the day.
You can also decide how long you want to hire the boat for. Depending on your haggling skills, prices start at around 450-500 MXN ($23-25) per hour. A good length of time is 2-3 hours.
How to get to Xochimilco?
Xochimilco is actually situated just outside Mexico City. The easiest way to get there is by Uber. This will take around 45- 1 hour depending on traffic and cost around 200 MXN ($10).
If you’re on a budget, then it’s also possible to reach Xochimilco by public transport. This will take between an hour to 90 minutes, but will only cost you 8 MXN ($0.40). Use Google Maps to plan this journey for you.
It does use a combination of the Metro and light rail so you’ll need to have a reloadable transport card in order to use the light rail.
You could also join a day tour which will organise all your transportation for you. This Xochimilco tour costs $35 and also includes a visit to the colonial district of Coyoacan and the Frida Kahlo museum.
A must do thing when visiting Mexico City is to take a day trip to Teotihuacán ruins.
Teotihuacan ruins, located 50km northeast of Mexico City, are the most visited site in Mexico. The vast settlement made up of towering pyramids, temples and platforms was built between the 1st and 7th centuries AD.
A massive draw of the Teotihuican complex is that you’re able to climb some of the pyramids. This allows you to get an idea of what it would have been like to look out across the city when it was once filled with 25,000 people.
Entrance into the pyramids costs 80 MXN ($4) and the best time to visit is at 9am as soon as the site opens. This means you can enjoy the site before it gets too busy.
How to visit Teotihuacán
You can visit Teotihuacán both independently or as a tour. You can hop on a bus from Mexico City’s north bus terminal heading to San Juan Teotihuacán for just 52 MXN ($2.60) each way, which takes around an hour. You could also opt for an Uber for around 600 MXN ($30) each way.
Alternatively you could join a tour that arranges everything for you, allowing you to relax and just enjoy the day. This day tour to Teotihuacán includes transport but also a visit to Our Lady of Guadalupe Basilica and Tlatelolco. You can get all this for just $44.
Another way to gain a whole new perspective of Teotihuacán is to take a sunrise hot air balloon ride.
It’s a chance to tick something off your bucket list and do something you’ll never forget! It has similar vibes to that of Cappadocia in Turkey, where you take to the skies alongside other hot air balloons. This creates the most spectacular views.
As the sun rises, so do you! Gracefully taking off from the ground you then glide over the ruins of Teotihuacán. At some points you’re only a few metres above some of the pyramids, it’s as if they’re close enough to touch.
After you’ve admired the magnificent views, most tours include a glass of champagne to celebrate a successful flight (8 am isn’t too early for champagne is it?) and breakfast.
You can book a hot air balloon tour which includes everything mentioned above from $125. And seeing as you’re already there, you can then spend the day exploring the ruins by foot.
#8 Visit Pasteleria Ideal, the most incredible bakery in Mexico City
Stepping into Pasteleria Ideal is like stepping into pastry heaven. Everywhere you look there are hundreds of pastries, cakes and other delicious goods piled up on tables or stacked on shelves.
Forget about the food for one second (we know it’s hard), the visit to the bakery alone is an experience in itself. It’s like a well-oiled machine. You simply pick up a large metal tray, select your goods before getting them wrapped at one station and then moving onto the final station to pay for your purchases.
You’ll instantly begin salivating after one glimpse at the muffins, donuts, french pastries and artfully decorated cakes.
The food is also super cheap, with some starting at 5 MXN ($0.25). This just means you can buy and sample even more food!
#9 Hike one of Mexico’s highest volcanic peaks
Iztaccíhuatl volcano is the 3rd highest mountain in Mexico and is in its final stages of infrequent activity. Its last activity was just under 11,000 years ago.
Iztaccíhuatl also sits next to its famous neighbour Popocatépetl volcano, one of Mexico’s most active volcanoes. The hike offers great views of Popocatépetl.
The hike to the summit is 13.4km long and takes approximately 6 hours to reach the top and then another 4 hours to descend the volcano. This is a relatively long and hard hike, so it’s probably not for the faint hearted.
A stress-free way to hike this volcano is to join a hiking tour of Iztaccíhuatl which includes transport and a bilingual guide who can show you the way as well as provide information about your surroundings. This tour starts at $53 per person.
How to get to Iztaccihuatl without a tour
If you want to take on the adventure by yourself then you can catch a bus for 40 MXN ($2) from Mexico City’s TAPO bus station heading to Amencameca. This bus can take between 1-1.5 hours.
From there you’ll need to take a 1 hour taxi costing between 200 and 300 MXN to La Joya. There’s no direct way of getting there unless you pay for a taxi the whole way, which can make a tour the easier option.
Once you arrive you can use the route mapped out on All Trails to make sure you don’t get lost!
Where better to watch a Lucha Libre fight than in the capital city of Mexico. If you don’t know what Lucha Libre is, it’s essentially Mexican style wrestling.
The fights are staged, but this just makes them even more dramatic and wild. Each luchador (wrestler) hides his face with a brilliantly decorated mask and together their characters tell a thrilling story through wrestling.
The crowd gets involved too, cheering or booing their chosen fighter! The atmosphere inside the arena is electric.
Getting to see a Lucha Libre fight in Mexico City is easy. There are shows several nights a week at Arena Mexico and tickets can be bought on the day. Ticket prices start at 240 MXN ($12) and increase depending on where you’re sat in the arena.
#11 Spend the day surrounded by greenery in Chapultepec Park
Chapultepec Park is a breath of fresh air within the dense concrete jungle that is Mexico City. It’s like a green oasis within the city.
The park is huge! It covers over 1,600 acres and houses Chapultepec Zoo, a number of museums and an artificial lake for boating.
Essentially there are plenty of things to do in Chapultepec Park, or you can simply wander around it just taking in the greenery and hustle of daily life.
#12 See some amazing animals at Chapultepec Zoo
Occupying 17 hectares of the first section of Chapultepec Park you’ll find Chapultepec Zoo. It’s the most visited zoo in Mexico and receives over 5 million visitors each year. Its popularity may potentially be due to the fact that admission is free!
The zoo is split between animals living in tropical forests and those from the savanna regions. The wide variety of nearly 2000 animals includes jaguars, gorillas, lions, giraffes and rhinos.
You’ll also be able to catch a glimpse of a panda, an animal that most zoos don’t have.
A butterfly zoo can also be found within the zoo, but you’ll need to pay 50 MXN ($2.50) to visit this. It’s well worth it though!
The zoo is open Tuesday to Sunday from 9am-4pm. Make sure to not turn up on a Monday as the zoo is not open on this day.
#13 Buy some antique goodies at the Sunday Lagunilla Flea Market
As the name suggests, the Lagunilla Flea Market is only open on a Sunday so make sure to plan your visit to Mexico City accordingly if you want to score some antique bargains.
Here you’ll find all sorts from antique furniture, vintage clothes, records, original paintings, jewellery, plus much more!
Even if you’re not looking to buy anything, the market is worth a wander through as the air is filled with roaring music, each one competing to be heard.
The market is open from 8am-6pm. Whilst walking around the stalls, make sure to keep a close eye on your belongings as it’s known to be a hotspot for pickpocketing.
#14 Get a view of the city from Monument to the Revolution
The Monument to the Revolution situated in Downtown Mexico City is a structurally stunning building from not just the outside, but also inside.
After paying an entrance fee of 90 MXN ($4.50), you soar up into the sky in an all-glass elevator to the first floor. From here you’ll need to walk the rest of the way up through the core of the building, surrounded with a jungle of exposed steel beams and trusses.
At 220 feet tall it’s the tallest triumphal arch in the world and offers spectacular views of the city, provided it’s not too foggy which is often the case in Mexico City due to the pollution.
Apart from the great viewpoint, the building also acts as a mausoleum to some of the most famous revolutionary figures in modern Mexican history. You’ll find their tombs in the bases of each of the four main pillars.
Staying at Casa Emilia will make you feel like you’re staying in a cozy jungle retreat, rather than in a massive metropolitan city. All of the spaces around the hotel are designed for ultimate comfort and luxury, which it definitely achieves. You can relax in either the terrace, access hall or in the hotel’s sun room.
The luxury doesn’t stop at just the interior, the service the staff provide is top-notch. They’re more than happy to help with anything.
Two of the most raved about experiences at the hotel are both the delicious breakfast and huge, comfy beds offering a great night's sleep. If you’re looking to treat yourself, this is the place to do it.
Located in the neighbourhood of Condesa, Casa Pancha mirrors the atmosphere of the area it sits in. The hotel's culture is certainly one of it’s selling points, offering simplicity, originality, community and connection.
With a mixture of dorms and private rooms, it’s an easy place to meet people whilst maintaining privacy.
The hotel is bright and natural throughout, with both a backyard and balcony area to relax in. Once you step inside the clean and fresh hotel, you’ll forget all about the hustle and bustle of Mexico City. The staff are super friendly here and their love for the hotel quickly spreads through the space.
If there’s any neighbourhood that you want to stay in Mexico City, La Roma is definitely up there. And that’s where Stanza Hotel is located. It puts you close to the tree-lined streets that are brimming with hip cafes and bars.
The hotel rooms are clean and modern, offering everything that you could ask for. The beds are also huge and super comfy. If you don’t fancy leaving the hotel one night for dinner, the onsite restaurant serves delicious Mediterranean-Mexican fusion food.