Planning your Mexico City trip? How exciting! There’s no shortage of amazing things to do in Mexico City — the largest city in North America — which has something for all types of travelers.
In fact, with no end to the cool things to see, planning a trip to Mexico City (CDMX for short), might intimidate you. As with all big cities, you could spend a year in CDMX and still discover new things to do. If you keep in mind that you’ll never see it all in one trip, that helps make planning a bit less stressful.
You can, however, make it a priority to see all the things on your own bucket list, so you have the best Mexico City trip possible. This list covers all the highlights in this huge metropolis, and all the places that most travelers will enjoy to get to know Mexico City.
Best Things to do in Mexico City
Ready to discover the Top 10 things to do in Mexico City? Let’s get to the list, starting with the one place that’s outside of Mexico City limits, but a must-visit — the Teotihuacan Pyramids.
1. Climb Teotihuacan Ruins
The pyramids at Teotihuacan (pronounced tay-oh-tee-wok-on) are among the oldest and most important of all Mexico archeological sites. It is one of the 35 Mexico UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and sees about two million visitors each year — which ties with Chichen Itza Ruins.
With such an important place, you will want a guide to show you around, and explain the history and symbolism all around you. There are plenty of great Mexico City to Teotihuacan tours, and all the best ones include transportation so you don’t have to worry about how to get to Teotihuacan.
Though located only 35 miles (50km) away, the drive or bus ride to Teotihuacan from Mexico City can take more than two hours in bad traffic; it’s normally about 75 minutes. The way to keep travel time to a minimum is to leave Mexico City by 7:30am, and arrive at 9am when they open.
This strategy will serve you in two ways. Most ruins in Mexico, including Teotihuacan, don’t have much shade. As historians and archeologists conduct research at the site often, the trees have been cleared for their ease of study, meaning visitors don’t have many shady areas.
When you arrive at Teotihuacan early, you beat both the traffic and the heat. If you want to climb all three Teotihuacan pyramids (Pyramid of the Sun, Pyramid of the Moon and Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl), it’s best to do so before the midday sun starts beating down.
After 3-5 hours exploring the entire Teotihuacan site, Sculpture Garden and Teotihuacan Museum, head to the nearby La Gruta restaurant. La Gruta, meaning “the cave,” is in fact located underground in a cave!
2. Visit Frida Kahlo Museum
The most famous Mexican artist of all time, Frida Kahlo lived until her last day in the Coyoacan neighborhood of Mexico City. Coyoacan is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, with buildings dating back to the 16th Century.
There are many things to do in this part of the city, but none is more popular than visiting the Casa Azul, or Blue House. The Casa Azul was actually Frida’s bright blue home, where she lived with her family until her death in 1954.
The Frida Kahlo Museum has been well-preserved, and you can see both Frida’s art and the surroundings that inspired her — as she was bedridden during the years she painted. For die-hard Frida fans, there’s also the Diego & Frida Studio House and Dolores Olmedo Museum, which has the city’s largest collection of her art.
Casa Azul is non-traditional in that it’s her home and not a proper museum. While it is definitely a large house, it has a capacity restriction most museums don’t. As one of the top sites in Mexico City, it sells out most days, so purchase tickets in advance to make sure you get in.
Before leaving Coyoacan, head to the Mercado de Coyoacán (Coyoacan Market), for some tostadas. This colorful and lively locals’ Mercado is great for photos, and many say it has the best tostadas in Mexico City.
3. See the Underground Templo Mayor
One of the most fascinating sites in Mexico City is actually partially buried underground! The Templo Mayor (Main Temple) was once the seat of the Aztec Empire during King Montezuma’s reign — when the city was still known as Tenochtitlan.
During the Spanish conquest, they buried the temple underground to show their dominance over the Aztecs. They also used some of the bricks to construct the Catedral Metropolitana, the massive Mexico City cathedral located only steps away.
In 1978, some Mexico City electrical workers came across the temple by accident while digging near it. This began a decade-long excavation project to unearth the temple. Today, you can tour the temple remnants and visit the Templo Mayor Museum to see artifacts discovered during the excavations.
4. Explore Centro Historico and Zocalo
The Templo Mayor is one of the coolest places in Centro Historico (Historic Downtown), but it’s not the only one. Downtown Mexico City and the Zocalo (Main Square) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with plenty of history, monuments and museums to warrant spending a full day there. Here are some highlights of things to do in Mexico City’s Centro Historico.
Palacio Bellas Artes
If you’ve seen any photos of Mexico City, there’s a good chance you’ve seen the Palacio Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts). This classical European building is itself a work of art, but make sure to head inside and see the impressive art deco interior.
The giant Catedral Metropolitana (Metropolitan Cathedral) is one of the 30 largest churches in the world, with a capacity of about 6,750 people. Of all of Mexico City’s gorgeous churches, and there are many, this is the grandest. When inside, don’t miss the largest pipe organs on the Americas Continent.
The 650-foot-long (200m) Palacio Nacional, or National Palace, spans one entire city block! It is located next to the cathedral in the Zocalo, or Main Square. Inside, there are most of the federal government offices, though many people visit to see the four murals by Mexican artist, Diego Rivera, which depict the four phases of Mexico’s history.
Barrio Chino (Chinatown)
In most of the world’s big cities, you’ll find a Chinatown — and Mexico City’s no different. Though Chinatown in Mexico City isn’t huge, you can enjoy a nice walk through the area to take some photos of the colorful paper lanterns that hang above the streets, and the large, red arch at the neighborhood’s entrance.
Torre Latinoamericana (Latin American Tower)
The 44-story Latin American Tower is one of the most iconic buildings in Mexico City’s skyline. Take the elevator up to the Mirador (Observation Deck) on a clear day for some of the best city views. It costs $200 pesos ($10USD) to access the Mirador, so don’t bother on cloudy or foggy days, as you won’t see much.
5. Xochimilco Boat Ride
The Floating Gardens of Xochimilco (pronounced so-chee-mill-co), is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The canal system here was hand-dug by the Aztecs centuries ago. The plots of land throughout the canals, called chinampas, were used for farming. When people needed to buy food, they’d canoe through the canals to each farm.
Today, Mexico City locals and visitors alike flock to Xochimilco to ride on the brightly-colored trajineras (gondolas). The large trajinera boats can accommodate about 15 people each, so many head to Xochimilco with large groups and for parties.
Besides the trajinera boats that carry Xochimilco visitors, other boats will float by yours with vendors selling tacos, snacks and beer. You’ll also see mariachi boats with full bands on board, which will serenade you for about $250 pesos ($12.50USD).
You can hire a boat for as long as you’d like, but standard Xochimilco tour cruises last 2-3 hours and cost about $1,000 pesos ($50USD). The boats operate both day and night, as locals party late into the night at Xochimilco, especially on weekends and holidays.
6. Stroll Reforma Avenue
Tree-lined Avenida Reforma (Reforma Avenue) is one of the main roads in Mexico City. All along this street, you’ll see street art and statues, including the Golden Angel de la Independencia (Angel of Independence), a Mexico City landmark. If you walk all the way west down Reforma, you’ll wind up in Chapultepec Park.
7. Visit Chapultepec Park & Castle
Bosque de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Forest, or Chapultepec Park) is one of the most-visited urban parks on Earth. It is also massive, at about 1,700 acres (7 square km)! Given its size and number of attractions, you could spend a week here and not see everything.
Within Chapultepec Park, you have the Castillo de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Castle), nine museums, two lakes, prehispanic ruins, the Chapultepec Zoo, and more — so you have to be selective with your time. For most visitors, Chapultepec Castle is a must see in the park.
This is North America’s only true castle, as it’s the only one on the continent that at once housed members of the royal family. The former home of Emperor Maximilian I and Empress Carlota is now one of the top attractions in Mexico City.
8. Marvel at the Anthropology Museum
The Museo Nacional de Antropología (National Museum of Anthropology) is located inside Chapultepec Park. Though that park has nine museums in total, this is its most popular museum. In fact, the massive Anthropology Museum is the most visited museum in Mexico City.
Inside, you’ll journey back in time through Mexico’s record history, starting with the ancient Olmec civilization which lived about 4,500 years ago! You can see one of the giant Olmec head sculptures in the museum, as well as the Aztec Sun Stone, Coatlicue Sculpture, and more.
9. Wander Roma & La Condesa
Roma and Condesa are two of the best neighborhoods in Mexico City, with some of the top restaurants and bars in the city. These are mostly residential areas, but there are some great shopping, tree-lined streets, beautiful parks, nice homes, cool street art, and hip sidewalk cafes in both neighborhoods.
Located right next to one another, you can spend some time strolling them both. For architecture lovers, you’ll see buildings in design esthetics ranging from colonial to mid-century modern and art deco — each one more charming than the next.
When you need a break from walking, head to Parque Mexico or Parque España, two of the nicest parks in Mexico City. There are also some great brunch cafes in the area, like Panaderia Rosetta, Lalo and Maque, or for a lunch meal, head to Contramar, Lardo and Pujol el Molino.
10. Eat Mexico City Tacos
The last, and perhaps most important of all things to do in Mexico City, is eat tacos! In this city, each street has a few options for both restaurants and street food tacos, and it’s actually hard to eat back tacos in Mexico City.
Now, some places are definitely better than others, but don’t be afraid to try anywhere that catches your attention, especially if there’s a long line (a very good sign). If you want to check out the city’s best, head to Taquería Orinoco, El Hidalguense, and Por Siempre Vegana Taquería for vegan tacos.
Final Thoughts: Things to Do in Mexico City
We’ve reached the end of the list — though it barely scratches the surface of Mexico City things to do. For first-time CDMX visitors, however, these are the must-sees. After visiting the places on this list, you’ll have a better idea of the lay of the land, and on your next trip, you’ll want to venture off the beaten path.