Mexico City is one of the largest cities in the world, with a population of over 20 million. I’ve lived in London and Hangzhou, both cities with 8 or 9 million people, so I thought I would be prepared. However, Mexico City is one of a kind. As it’s such a huge city, you’ll want to prioritize what to see while you’re there. So here is my list of the best things to do in Mexico City.
1. Metropolitan Cathedral
Wowzers! You can’t miss this place in the Zócalo. Near some of the best hostels in Mexico City, the impressive cathedral takes centre stage in the Zócalo and has been an integral part of the square for hundreds of years. The internal architecture is just as grand as the external architecture, and you can enter for free as long as mass isn’t in progress.
2. National Palace
Next to the impressive Cathedral is the National Palace. You’ll need your passport to enter. As you can imagine, the palace is very grand, with a fountain in one of the main courtyards and some great murals by Diego Rivera. Some of the palace is off limits (as it’s still a functioning government building), but you can still take a stroll around and there is usually an exhibition going on.
3. Latin-American Tower
For one of the best views in the city, the Latin-American Tower (Torre Latino) tops the list of the best things to do in Mexico City. While the viewpoint can offer stunning views for a fee, if you head up to the bar, you don’t need to pay the fee. You’ll only need to pay for a drink — which is pretty reasonably priced. Note that you can only get window seats if you’re eating, but you still get a great view without a window seat and are free to walk around and take lots of photos.
4. National Museum of Anthropology
Mexico City is full of museums and if you only have time for one, I would recommend the National Museum of Anthropology. This is one of the best museums I’ve ever visited. The first thing to note is that it is huge, so give yourself 2-3 hours to explore. Starting from the evolution of man, the museum has different rooms for different eras. With English translations, thousands of artifacts and plenty of space to walk around, it shouldn’t be missed.
5. Palacio de Bella Artes
The yellow-topped building will catch your eye and draw you in. You need a ticket to enter the museum, and can only visit the theatre if you watch a performance. However, the murals inside are the real draw here and you can learn a lot of history just looking at the intricate details of the artwork.
6. Templo Mayor & Plaza de las Tres Culturas
If history is your thing, be sure to check out the pre-Hispanic ruins that the city has to offer. Teotihuacan is a great day trip, but if you’re looking for stuff to do in the city these are the best ruins.
Insider Tip: In my opinion Teotihuacan is a must-visit. If you have time for a day trip make sure to book a tour with a local guide to get the most out of these amazing ancient ruins. Make sure to also take a look a this article for even more day trip ideas from Mexico City.
Templo Mayor is just outside of the Zócalo. There, you will see an ancient settlement which has been built upon seven times across various eras. Ongoing excavation is still happening and you can see the work-in-progress. An excellent museum is included in the entrance fee.
If you want some more history and want somewhere quieter but equally as interesting, then head to Plaza de la Tres Culturas. It’s not high on the tourist go-to list in Mexico City, but here the ruins are free and you can look at the remains of Aztec temples in a quieter surrounding. If you’re into history, it’s definitely one of the best things to do in Mexico City. For those who are interested in more recent history, there is a small monument to the Mexico City massacre nearby.
7. Chapultepec Castle
Arrive early at this popular attraction because all tourists know it’s one of the best things to do in Mexico City. Building of the castle started in 1785, but it was not completed until much later. There are a variety of rooms to visit with amazing artifacts and murals on the wall. The gardens are bright and colorful, and you can get a great view across Mexico City from the surrounding balcony.
8. Coyoacán & Frida Kahlo Museum
You can easily spend a day in the area of Coyoacán. There’s an array of cafes, restaurants, and a lovely church. If you need a break from the Mexico City madness, a day in Coyoacán is ideal.
One of the main draws of the area is the Frida Kahlo Museum. As somebody who didn’t know much about her and her artwork, I learned a lot. If you travel around Mexico you will see her face and her artwork on everything from T-shirts to keyrings. It gets super busy (especially on weekends), so be sure to arrive early. If you do go on a weekend, you might find yourself walking around at a snail’s pace, as there are huge crowds and a lot to take in.
9. Watch Lucha Libre
Even if you’re not into wrestling, Lucha Libre should not be missed on any trip to Mexico. Mexico City is an ideal place to watch it as there are numerous arenas and events. As somebody who likes theatre, I enjoyed the theatrics of the bad guy (an American Donald Trump look-a-like) and the good guy (an attractive, fit Mexican). It was lots of fun and there was a great atmosphere. You can book tickets to a Lucha Libre show here.
10. Monument to the Revolution
The monument overlooks much of the city and for a small fee you can go up to the top and/or look around the museum. You get some great views of the city (not as good as the Latin-American Tower), but it’s still certainly worth a visit.
There are fountains in the square outside of the monument and, on a hot weekend, you’ll find children and adults cooling off and splashing around in the fountains.
Where to Stay in Mexico City
Here are our top recommendations of hostels and hotels in Mexico City. All are centrally located, highly rated and have excellent facilities.
- Best Hostel: Suites DF Hostel
- Best Budget Hotel: Hotel CostAzul
- Best Mid-Range Hotel: Hotel Plaza Revolución
- Best Luxury Hotel: Hotel Histórico Central
Don’t forget to also take a look at Airbnb for a wide range of beautiful apartments rentals, many of which are cheaper than your average hotel. For recommendations check out our roundup of the best Mexico City Airbnbs.
There you have it. I hope my list of the best things to do in Mexico City is helpful in planning your trip to Mexico City and that you will enjoy your trip as much I have. Don’t forget to also look at this Mexico City itinerary for even more info on what to do, where to stay, and how to get around.