The landmarks, places, and top things to do in Mexico 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. What is Mexico City famous for? Many people come 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. If you’re looking for the best things to do in Mexico City, this list was made for you.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT MEXICO CITY?Mexico City’s temperate climate makes it a great location to visit throughout the year, but be wary that during the rainy season (May to September) it rains daily around 6 p.m., and can last minutes or hours.
Before you visit Mexico City, make sure to read the latest COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions here.
RELATED: Is Mexico City Safe?
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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), 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 Mayan ruin. Zócalo is in the heart of Centro Historico, home to most of Mexico City’s historic sites.
INSIDER TIPFor a great view of the Zócalo, grab a meal on a local terrace, like El Mayor.
Eat Like a Local
Eat Like Local is a locally owned and operated all-female tour company that promotes responsible tourism while introducing you to incredible 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.
Museo Frida Kahlo
One of the most famous 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 provide more context about Kahlo’s life.
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 barges. The trajineras (barges) turn into party boats every day. The canals come to life with the sounds of families and friends, mariachi bands, and food vendors. You can rent a barge for an hour or two and have your own party.
INSIDER TIPBring food and drinks with you, or you can 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 many other markets in the city–it’s generally more expensive, but with written menus, it’s a good choice for diners with food sensitivities.
About twenty-five 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 visiting some of the local markets. The variety of mercados provide 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.
Highlighting local ingredients, the ever-changing menu at Maximo Bistrot definitely deserves the praise showered on it. Regularly making the list of the Top 50 Restaurants in Latin America, the options are outstanding from the entrees all the way to the desserts. Do not skip the goat cheese ice cream with olive oil, or the madeleines with homemade Nutella.
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.
INSIDER TIPTry to visit during the week, as the weekends draw large crowds and long lines.
Make your reservation as soon as possible, and do not miss Quintonil. Bring your appetite because the tasting menu (which changes monthly) is the star of the show. If à la carte is your preference and the stone crab is on the menu, get the stone crab. You won’t be disappointed.
INSIDER TIPIf available, reserve a seat at the kitchen bar where you can watch the chef make the magic happen.
Basílica de Guadalupe
Basilica de Guadalupe is an active Catholic Church, the national shrine of Mexico, and a pilgrimage site of Catholicism. The Basilica houses an image of the Virgin Guadalupe on a cloak dating back to the 1500s. Even if you’re not on a pilgrimage, visiting the Basilica and experiencing the uniquely built church, including the moving sidewalk in front of the cloak (so a crowd can’t gather), 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 visiting 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 bit of 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 art museum in town, this is the one. Bellas Artes is notably as beautiful on the outside as it is on the inside. To grab a great picture of the building, visit the coffee shop on the 8th 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 an excellent opportunity to see the melding of Chinese and Mexican cultures. Barrio Chino 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 sizable Chinese population before the expulsion of the 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 wandering around, but your best bet is to make a list of what you want to see the most and head directly to those spots.
Masala y Maiz
In the mood for Indian food? Check out Masala y Maiz for a fusion of Indian and Mexican cuisine. The rooftop terrace is a gorgeous location to scarf down their vindaloo chicken wings or delicious donuts. Masala y Maiz takes traditional Indian and Mexican foods like esquites or samosas, and adds unexpected flavors that you’ll be thinking about for days after. Natural wines are featured here, and since many are from wine regions in Mexico, they are definitely worth trying.
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 see the most famous monument in the city, the Angel of Independence. If your visit has you in town on a Sunday, this street is shut down for vehicles and opened up for cyclists, rollerbladers, and runners 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. This is a worthy stop even if you’re not a history buff. 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 do.
INSIDER TIPTime your visit to the observation deck for sunset for the best experience.
If you’re looking for the luxurious side of Mexico City, staying at the St. Regis hotel is a perfect choice. Between the plush bedding, the exquisite service in their 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 de la Reforma and towering over the fountain of Diana, the St. Regis is the perfect place to start your exploration of the city.
INSIDER TIPFor a great view of Chapultepec Castle, eat on the balcony of St. Regis’ Diana Restaurant.
After a day of sightseeing in Mexico City, the perfect dessert waits for you in the Juarez neighborhood at Joe Gelato. With 16 rotating artisanal flavors of gelato a day, you can visit multiple times and still not try it all. Offering fresh, creative flavors like olive oil, and golden milk, Joe Gelato is the place for you when you want something familiar, but perhaps just slightly outside of your comfort zone.
Founded in 1952, Ballet Folklorico de Mexico is one of the premier cultural events in Mexico. This company of dancers travels around the country, while also performing regularly at Palacio de Bellas Artes. Performances are scheduled most Sundays and Wednesdays at Bellas Artes. If you’re going to be in the city during the holidays, check out their performance of Christmas In Mexico at Chapultepec Castle.
Due to the density of the city, getting a great view isn’t always easy. The best way to see what the city has to offer is to check out a rooftop bar. There are popular ones in each neighborhood, but some favorites are El Mayor and Balcon del Zocalo (in the Historic Center), Balmori (in Roma Norte), and Cityzen at the Sofitel and Samos at the Ritz Carlton (both on Reforma Ave).
Located in Chapultepec Park, the National Museum of Anthropology contains archeological and anthropological artifacts from throughout Mexico’s history. The most visited museum in Mexico, it’s a must-visit for anyone coming to town. Be prepared to skip certain rooms, or make more than one visit to the museum. Planning to see all the artifacts in one day can be overwhelming and close to impossible. Pace yourself, make a plan using the maps provided by the museum, and know that there’s more history around every corner.
Biblioteca Vasconcelos is not just a library, but one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. Dimly lit, with glass sides, a sculpture of a whale on the first floor, and hanging bookshelves, this is a library worth seeing. Nicknamed the Megabiblioteca (megalibrary), it’s truly a massive and picturesque collection that you can easily lose time in.
INSIDER TIPIf you’ve forgotten to pack anything, Biblioteca Vasconcelos is across the street from one of the city’s larger malls, Forum Buenavista.
Half functioning post office, half museum, this ornate building tells the story of mail in Mexico. Built in 1907, modified in the 1950s, and repaired in the 1990s after significant damage from the 1985 earthquake, it’s aprime example of Porfiriato-era architecture. Like many of the buildings here, it has many names used interchangeably, including Quinta Casa de Correos (The Fifth House of Mail), Palacio de Correos de México (The Mail Palace of Mexico), and Correo Mayor (the Main Post Office). But that’s a lot of information you really don’t need. All you need to know is it’s gorgeous, directly across the street from Bellas Artes, and entry to the museum is free.