Mexico City is often described in foreign media as unsafe and dirty.
However, we found this unsavory reputation to be completely unwarranted.
Just like any major city around the world, there are areas that should be avoided, but you’ll quickly see that there is much more to Mexico City than the rumors will have you believe.
CDMX, or Ciudad de México, is full of unbeatable food, charming tree-shaded streets, world-class museums, friendly locals, beautiful architecture, and a surprising amount of green space.
In this Mexico City guide we’re sharing more than just the best things to do in Mexico City.
We’re also dishing out where to find the best food, top Mexico City travel tips, and important info for getting around.
Whether you have 3 days in Mexico City or an entire week, we’ve got you covered with everything you need to know to plan an unforgettable trip to CDMX!
Things to do in Mexico City
Take a Free Walking Tour
Looking for free things to do in Mexico City?
We typically do a free walking tour on our first day in a new place so we get acquainted with the city.
Not only will you see some of the top Mexico City attractions, but you’ll also hear inside stories and tips from locals.
And it’s a great time to ask your tour guide their recommendations for food and places to see.
This city is the largest city in Mexico, and there’s no way one walking tour could cover all the major sights.
But there are a handful of different free walking tours you can take like the Historic Downtown, Coyoacan neighborhood, and one that claims to show you the “real Mexico City”.
Read through all the free walking tour descriptions and find one that suits you.
Free walking tours are accessible to travelers on all budgets, but the guides make their living on tips. So if you enjoyed your tour, be sure to tip your guide.
Wander the Markets
Visiting local markets is one of the best ways to get a glimpse into the culture no matter where in the world you’re traveling.
You’ll see what ingredients are used in the country’s cuisine and you’ll see locals running errands, getting a peek into their everyday lives.
Plus, markets are often one of the best places to sample street food!
Lucky for you, Mexico has a huge array of markets – ranging from those selling souvenirs to those only locals frequent.
Here are some of the best markets to check out when visiting Mexico City:
- Mercado de San Juan: With everything from locally-grown produce to imported European meats, the Mercado de San Juan is a treat for all the sense. Wander past stalls selling fresh fish from the coasts and those selling exotic meats like crocodile, scorpion and iguana. This centrally located market also has food vendors, so you can sample the local flavors.
- Coyoacan Market: with produce and food vendors, this market is a good stop to grab a fresh juice and taste the namesake Tostadas de Coyoacan to fuel up while exploring this beautiful neighborhood.
- Mercado de Artesanal Mexicano: If you want to bring home some souvenirs, this market will deliver an assortment of handicrafts, pottery, clothing and textiles. Just make sure you walk through once to see all the vendors before buying anything.
- Sonora Market: Sometimes referred to as the “witch market”, you’ll find an interesting assortment of crystals, incense, tarot cards, and idols, as well as tons of cheap plastic toys and party decorations. While exploring this maze of a market, you’ll realize the patrons are almost all locals and there’s hardly a gringo in sight.
Rent a Bicycle
CDMX is the largest city in Mexico but a very bike-friendly city.
With affordable rental stations on just about every block in the city’s center as well as dedicated bike lanes on the major roads, getting around by bicycle is not only easy and cheap, but one of the fun things to do in Mexico City.
You’ll get some exercise in, see parts of the city you might otherwise miss, and you’ll be surrounded by locals riding their bikes to work and around town.
If you happen to be here on a Sunday, be sure to ride your bike over to Paseo de la Reforma.
This is typically one of the most congested streets in CDMX, but it is closed to all motorized vehicles every Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
You’ll see hundreds, if not thousands, of locals and tourists alike taking over the street on bikes, rollerblades, and on foot.
This government-backed initiative is meant to encourage residents to lead a more active lifestyle.
Bike around Chapultepec Park
Just shy of 1,700 acres, the famed Chapultepec Park is one of the largest parks in the Western Hemisphere.
Yes, that means it’s bigger than New York City’s Central Park!
Renting a bicycle is the best way to explore this outdoor space that encompasses a lake, forest, 3 Mexico City museums, and even a zoo.
Meander past street vendors selling snacks and balloons, and find a peaceful spot near the water to take a break and see families spending time together outside.
Explore Chapultepec Castle
While you’re in Chapultepec Park, don’t miss a visit to the famous castle on the grounds.
Chapultepec is the only royal castle in North America, and it was even the home to several Mexican presidents.
Tickets are 70 MXN (about $3.60 USD) to enter, and once you pass through the gate you’ll swear you’ve been transported from Mexico to Europe.
Much of the existing décor can be attributed to Emperor Maximilian I, who wanted it to embody the neoclassic style that was popular in Europe at the time of his reign.
Peek inside rooms that will transport you back in time, and wander through the onsite museum that houses more weapons than you’ll be able to wrap your head around.
And don’t forget to explore the gardens, one of the prettiest things to see in Mexico City.
Bonus: On the castle grounds, you’ll find one of the best views over the city!
When planning your visit, keep in mind that like many museums in Mexico City, the Chapultepec Castle is closed on Mondays.
Learn about Mexico’s history at the Anthropology Museum
Here’s one of the cool Mexico City facts – did you know that this city takes the title for the most museums of any city in the world?
We didn’t know either!
With an overwhelming amount of museums, it can be hard to know where to start. So why not just go with the one that’s known as the best museums in Mexico City?
Touted as the best of the city’s 150+ museums, Museo Nacional de Antropología is well worth a visit even if you’re not a history buff.
You could easily spend an entire day exploring the 11 permanent exhibits devoted to the history and anthropology of Mexico’s 31 states.
But if you don’t have lots of time to spare, join one of the free tours that take place several times on most days.
They are led in English and break down some of the most important takeaways the museum has to offer. We found this to be particularly informative, since not all of the displays have English text.
Good to know:
One important thing to know is many museums are closed on Monday in CDMX, including the Museo Nacional de Antropología.
Learn about Frida Kahlo at La Casa Azul
This iconic artist is a feminist symbol around the world, and Mexicans are very proud to call her one of their own.
A visit to the Frida Kahlo Museum will surely be a highlight of your trip as it is one of the top things to do in Mexico City.
This museum is set up in the home Frida spent her childhood and later years of life, called La Casa Azul (the blue house).
You’ll see many pieces of her original artwork, as well as personal belongings and places she spent lots of time.
We’d definitely recommend opting for the audio guide, which is an additional 80 pesos (on top of the 200 peso entrance fee), but is completely worth it.
In addition to guiding you through the house, it also shows pictures and shares stories you’d never hear by just reading the signs.
Wander the Coyoacan Neighborhood
Located 10 kilometers south of the Zocalo (or city center), the Coyoacán neighborhood is one of the oldest boroughs.
With small plazas, quaint cobblestone streets, and colonial mansions, Coyoacán is full of history and is undeniably charming as well.
After experiencing the Frida Kahlo museum, one of this neighborhood’s most famous Mexico attractions, be sure to designate some time for exploring the rest of Coyoacán.
People watch in the main public square, Plaza Hidalgo, and stop into one of the many fantastic coffee shops in this neighborhood for a pick me up.
When your stomach starts to rumble, sample as much street food as you can (see #12 for tips), and don’t leave this area without a stop at the Coyoacán Market.
If you want to be sure to hit all the highlights of this neighborhood, consider joining the Coyocán Free Walking Tour.
Visit Teotihuacan Ruins
The ruins of Teotihuacán lie just 40 kilometers (25 miles) outside of the city, and are all that’s left of what was once a thriving Mesoamerican metropolis.
Pronounced “tay-oh-tee-wah-KAHN”, these ancient Aztec ruins are one of the best Mexico City day trips.
While there are plenty of companies that run guided tours of Teotihuacán, it is also possible to visit on your own using public transportation and purchasing a general admission ticket for just 70 pesos ($3.60 USD).
Advice for visiting:
Try to arrive as early as possible to avoid the crowds (the site opens at 9 a.m.). Don’t forget to pack plenty of water and wear sunscreen, as there isn’t much protection from the sun at this archeological site.
Go on a Food Tour
If you’re a fan of Mexican food, there is no better place in the world to get your fix than CDMX!
From tacos sold on the street to refined dining experiences, this international capital city truly has it all.
The best way to sample it all is on a food tour, where a guide will bring you to local hotspots and hidden gems that you likely wouldn’t find on your own.
There are plenty of food tours in Mexico City – from those that are highly acclaimed (and have a price tag to match!) to those that are very affordable.
Take a Cooking Class
If you want to take your knowledge of Mexican cuisine to a whole new level, one of the cool things to do in Mexico City is taking a cooking class.
Your foodie heart will delight as you learn the local secrets for making handmade tortillas, marinated meats, and freshly prepared mole.
Not only will you have the best meal of your time in Mexico, but you’ll also learn a ton.
We always find that a country’s culture has strong ties to its food, and cooking classes are one of the best (and tastiest!) ways to get a deeper understanding of a country’s past, present and future.
Sample the Street Food
Even if your budget doesn’t allow you to take a food tour or cooking class, you’ll still have plenty of opportunity to taste incredible dishes in this foodie heaven!
Street food in Mexico City is king.
Sure, you’ll have no problem finding fine dining in this metropolis, but do not leave CDMX without trying at least one (or 17!) items bought from a stall or street vendor.
You will not be disappointed!
Here are some dishes to try in Mexico City that you’ll find street vendors selling all around the city:
- Quesadillas: For something that you’ll only find in Mexico, order a huitlacoche quesadilla. This local delicacy is made from the fungus on corn, and while it doesn’t sound appetizing, it really is delicious. Just trust us! FYI: Quesadillas aren’t always served with cheese in Mexico, so they might be different from what you’re used to.
- Horchata: This creamy drink, made of rice, milk, cinnamon and vanilla is popular all around Latin America. After one taste, you’ll understand why!
- Tacos al Pastor: This type of taco is unique to central Mexico, and is made by carving pork from a shawarma spit. Lebanese immigrants brought the spit-grilling technique to Mexico, and locals added their take with spices and serving it with grilled pineapple and fresh salsas. The blend of cultures in this dish is oh so delicious!
- Elote (aka Mexican street corn): You’ve never had corn on the cob like this! Once the corn is grilled to perfection, it is topped with cotija cheese, mayo, sour cream, chile powder, and lime for a taste explosion that will have you rethinking your go-to butter, salt, and pepper toppings.
- Tostadas: This popular dish is a layered creation starting with a crispy, deep-fried tortilla, topped with generous portions of meat or seafood, veggies and salsas. The best place to try tostadas in Mexico City is in the Coyoacán Market.
- Aguas Frescas: Mexicans love their fresh juices, and you should definitely give them a try on your trip. From classic flavors to exotic fruits you’ve likely never heard of, sample as many as you can! You won’t have to look far to find a fresh juices or licuados (milk-based smoothies).
- Tortas: You’ll find stands selling tortas, or Mexican sandwiches, on just about every block. Typically, they’re served on a crusty white roll and are grilled, but the topping combinations are practically endless. Often times, tortas have the flavors of a taco, but when the fillings are sandwiched between bread, it creates a whole new taste bud experience!
If you want a decent selection of all types of street food, the small Antojitos Mexicanos Market will deliver.
When we visited, we were the only foreigners in sight, and there were tons of dishes to choose from.
Taste Mezcal, not just tequila
Tequila is often referred to as Mexico’s national liquor, but don’t be fooled! Mezcal is the local spirit of choice.
So what’s the difference?
While both types of alcohol are made from the agave plant, tequila is made from a specific type (Blue Agave), while mezcal can be made from more than 30 kinds of the plant.
Plus, they are produced in different regions and the actual distilling process is a bit different.
Mezcal is not served with salt and lime, like its cousin tequila.
Instead, you’ll receive a dish of orange slices and a small amount of red powder, in which you’re supposed to dip your orange wedge. It has a distinct salty and almost smoky flavor.
So what is this mystery powder?
Sal de Gusano, which translates to “worm salt”. It’s a blend of ground mezcal worms (aka moth larva that live in the mezcal plant), rock salt and dried chili.
It has a unique flavor and Mexico is the best place to give it a try (unless you’re a vegetarian, of course!).
While most mezcal comes from the Mexican state of Oaxaca, there are plenty of venues where you can taste this spirit in Mexico City.
Where to drink mezcal in Mexico City:
La Nacional offers a huge assortment of mezcal, and the menu describes the different flavors so you can pinpoint one that is bold and smoky or one that’s smooth and sweet, depending on your mood.
Speaking of beverages, another must-try drink is pulque.
This is Mexico’s oldest alcoholic beverage and is created by lightly fermenting the sap of the agave plant.
Pulque dates back to Mesoamerican times and was used for medicinal purposes and rituals.
This somewhat thick, frothy beverage is milky in color and has a tangy, yet yeasty flavor, reminiscent of kombucha and sour beer.
Pulque spoils easily and therefore cannot be exported, so it is quite difficult (if not impossible) to find this elixir outside of Mexico. So why not give it a taste?!
Explore the Zocalo
The Historic Center, colloquially known as “Centro”, is the most visited area in CDMX for good reason.
It is here you’ll find some of the city’s most important buildings as well as street performers, excellent food, and locals going about everyday life.
The central feature of this area is the Metropolitan Mexico City Cathedral, which is the largest in Latin America.
Not far from the church lie the ruins of Templo Mayor, which was the centerpiece Tenochtitlán, the ancient Aztec capital.
Constructed in 1325, what remains of this temple is preserved for all to see.
Eat Churros & Hot Chocolate
If you find yourself craving a sweet treat while exploring the Zócalo, give in and indulge with the best churros and hot chocolate in town.
Churrería El Moro has been a CDMX staple since 1935 and has both tourists and locals licking their cinnamon-sugar coated fingers in delight!
Located in the historic city center and open 24 hours a day, you have no excuse for not making it to this delicious stop on your trip – put this on your places to visit in Mexico City!
Glimpse the Palacio de Bellas Artes
A Mexico City must see and arguably the most iconic piece of architecture in the city, so be sure to at least take a stroll past this stunning museum.
If you’re a patron of the arts and have time, you might want to actually go inside the Palace of the Fine Arts and see for yourself murals painted by famous artists like Diego Rivera.
But even just glimpsing this building from the outside is worth a place on your tour of downtown CDMX.
You’ll find a great view overlooking this stunning building at the Sears across the street (and yes, there is a Sears in Mexico City).
Go up to the coffee shop on the 8th floor and don’t forget your camera!
Sneak a Peek inside the Golden Post Office
If you’re an architecture buff, be sure to take a peek inside the city’s Main Post Office, also called Palacio Postal or Correo Mayor.
Situated in the City Center, this building boasts turn-of-the-century architecture and oozes opulence.
Nearly every surface you see is golden, making it arguably the most beautiful post office in the world.
And when you step inside you’ll notice that it’s not just a historically beautiful interior, but it is still very much functioning as a post office.
Snap a Selfie in front of the House of Tiles
Instagrammers will love snapping selfies in front of this blue-tiled wall known as Casa de los Azulejos, or “The House of Tiles”, which is just around the corner from the Post Office.
It’s become one of the popular Mexico City tourist attractions for photos!
Find Peace in the San Angel Neighborhood
If you need an escape from the chaos of the city, make the short trip to the San Angel neighborhood, one of the Mexico City hidden gems.
With cobblestone streets, colonial architecture, and flowering trees, there’s no arguing the San Angel neighborhood is perhaps one of the most peaceful and charming areas in all of Mexico City.
Wander through the gardens in front of the centuries old Iglesia de San Jacinto (Church of San Jacinto), people-watch in the main plaza, stop into one of the many art galleries, and refuel at a cute café.
You can even visit the house Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera shared towards the end of their lives.
And if you happen to be in the city on a weekend, don’t miss the San Angel Saturday Bazaar, where vendors fill the plaza, selling handicrafts and works of art.
See a Lucha Libre Match
Watching a Lucha Libre match is an unforgettable way to spend an evening, and is one of the top things to do in Mexico City at night.
Think of it as somewhat similar to WWE Wrestling, which is a blend of theatrics, humor and, well, wrestling. Let’s just say it’s more of a performance than a true sport, but it is entertaining nonetheless!
The wrestlers wear the token Lucha Libre masks and perform a variety of stunts.
The crowd, at least when we were there, seemed to be mostly locals with pockets of visitors mixed in. We saw families, groups of friends, couples and tour groups, all of which seemed to be having a great time.
While you can book an organized tour, we’ve put together an article that walks you through how to go to a Lucha Libre match on your own.
Be sure to get a taco – or five! – from the stand just outside the arena (you can’t miss it!). It was one of the best tacos in Mexico we had during our entire time.
Take a boat ride in Xochimilco
Some love it and others hate it, but no matter where you stand, there’s no arguing this UNESCO World Heritage Site is unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
This colorful canal area is one of the most touristy Mexico City sightseeing spots, yes, but it’s also a popular place for locals to celebrate special occasions, like birthdays and quinceañeras.
The waterway is filled with brightly colored boats, called trajineras, which you can rent by the hour and ride through the canal way, past mariachi bands and food vendors.
Located 30 kilometers south of Mexico City, visiting Xochimilco requires a good portion of a day, but it is easy to get there on public transportation.
Final thoughts about Mexico City
This city is a vibrant metropolis full of color, culture, and plenty of things to do for all types of travelers.
Whether you’re backpacking through Mexico and Central America on a budget, traveling with kids in tow, or you’re seeking the finest foodie and cultural experiences money can buy, visiting Mexico City is sure to blow away your expectations.
If you’re anything like us, one visit to this exciting city simply won’t be enough.
After a taste of what CDMX has to offer, you’ll find yourself wishing to come back for more!
Planning Your Trip to Mexico City
Where to Stay in Mexico City
For Mexico City hotels or resorts, check out the options through our hotel partner, Booking.com.
We find that Booking.com have the widest range of properties. You get free cancellation on most rooms, a best price guarantee, and they have verified reviews from guests who have actually stayed at the property!
Popular Hotels in Mexico City include:
- Best Seller: Camino Real Aeropuerto (6,000+ reviews and one of the best places to stay in Mexico City)
- Location: Best Western Majestic ( in the historical center of Mexico City, this hotel offers stunning views of the Zocalo)
- Top Reviewed: Hotel Historico Central (1,400+ reviews)
If you fancy a home and living like a local, or have a large family or traveling with a group of friends, consider Airbnb. They can be a better option than booking several hotel rooms.
Tours of Mexico City
Our partner, the Get Your Guide tour company offers many Mexico City tours and attractions. They have lowest prices, guaranteed — no booking fees or hidden charges.
You can pre-book tickets and skip the line at top attractions and cancel up to 24 hours before.
Mexico Small Group Tours
G Adventures offers small-group adventure tours, safaris, and expeditions in Central America, including Mexico.
You’ll experience authentic adventures in a responsible and sustainable manner.
Flights to Mexico City
Skyscanner is a comparison website that searches millions of flights. Once you find your best deal, book directly through the airline (no extra fees).
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Not having travel insurance on an overseas trip (or domestic) is not worth the risk. Anything can, will, and sometimes goes wrong.
What happens if:
- You need to cancel your trip unexpectedly
- You get sick or injured on your trip
- Your luggage is lost or stolen
- There is a terrorist event
- You lose your passport
- A hurricane damages your destination
Travel insurance is designed to cover unexpected medical emergencies and events such as trip cancellation, your personal effects, lost, stolen or damaged luggage by an airline, and other related losses incurred while traveling.
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