Here’s a list of the 15 best things to do in Mexico City (Mexico) along with famous landmarks, museums, and other points of interest.
Mexico City is the capital of Mexico and one of the most densely populated cities in the world with more than 21,3 million people living in the metropolitan area.
It’s located in Valle de México in the central part of the country at an altitude of 2,240 meters (7,350 ft). Mexico City is also the largest Spanish-speaking city in the world and the oldest capital city in the Americas.
In this article, I’m sharing some of the best places to visit in Mexico City as well as interesting facts and attractions that shouldn’t be missed while visiting.
Basilica de Santa Maria de Guadalupe
The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe is one of Mexico City’s most important religious sites. The devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe goes very far back in Mexican culture, back to when the first shrine to her was built in 1531.
While this building has a very old history, it didn’t last and was rebuilt totally in the 1970s. It holds one of the most important Catholic relics, the Tilma, making it an important site within Christianity in Mexico.
This cloak contains the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which has miraculously lasted hundreds of years without suffering any decay in condition, despite the sun, bombings, and other poor conditions..
Most castles in North America are castles only in the sense of their name. However, in Mexico City, Chapultepec Castle was actually home to royalty.
Originally built in 1725 by the Spanish Viceroy Bernardo de Gálvez, the building was left to the whims of Mexico’s ups and downs during the fight for independence.
However, in the mid-1800s, the castle served as the residence of Emperor Maximilian I, who was an Austrian prince. Today, the ornate building is a Museum of Cultures, a function it has served since 1939.
Mercado de Sonora
Mercado de Sonora is an open-air market dedicated to the occult. Established in the 1950s in the Colonia Merced Balbuena area, the market features everything from pottery to herbal remedies, live animals to magic items.
Mysticism runs high, and you can find everything from a holy water spray to love potions in this market. There is evidence of Voodoo to Brujería, practices which still exist in Mexico, sometimes simultaneously with Catholicism.
La Isla de las Muñecas (Island of the Dolls)
For sheer strangeness, the Island of the Dolls (La Isla de las Muñecas) wins the title of one of the most peculiar places to visit in Mexico City.
A man named Don Julian Santana moved to this island on the Teshuilo lake and transformed it into something that looks like a horror-movie-scene, featuring hanging dolls by the hundreds.
He would seek out dolls, from the garbage, from donors, from shops, anywhere he could find them, taking them back to the island to swing from the trees. It’s about 17 miles south of Mexico City, but it’s worth the visit.
Palacio de Bellas Artes
The Palace of Fine Arts is one of the most beautiful buildings in Mexico City. It took an inordinately long time to build, due to unrest and political problems, until it was finally inaugurated in 1934.
Principally Art Nouveau and Art Deco, it hosts events and exhibitions of everyone from Frida Kahlo to Luciano Pavarotti and serves as the center of culture for the city.
This massive church is the headquarters of the Catholic Archdiocese of Mexico and sits atop Aztec sacred sites on the Plaza de la Constitución.
It was designed by Claudio de Arciniega, a Spanish architect, but it took nearly 250 years to build. That’s one of the reasons you can find evidence of Gothic, Baroque and Neoclassical influences in its structure.
Catedral Metropolitana is a grand religious structure with two bell towers and five altars, as well as sixteen chapels, each dedicated to different saints.
The Soumaya Museum is an initiative of one of the world’s richest men, Carlos Slim. As such, it is quite an impressive building, both inside and out.
The collection is over 66,000 pieces of fine art, mostly from Central American and Europe, including the largest collection of sculptures by Auguste Rodin outside of France.
Its most valuable item is Madonna of the Yarnwinder by a member of Leonardo da Vinci’s circle. Slim’s foundation footed the bill, which was a whopping $70 million for the gorgeous, modern building, designed by his son-in-law Fernando Romero and made of 16,000 hexagonal aluminum tiles.
Casa Azul, or Blue House, is Frieda Kahlo’s childhood home. Located in the Coyoacan district, the bright blue building is where Kahlo recuperated after her famed bus accident, and therefore, where she learned to paint.
The home has been converted to a museum, and visitors can see pieces of history from the lives of Kahlo and her famous husband, Diego Rivera. Their artwork is also on display.
Cineteca Nacional is a culture complex totally dedicated to the world of film. The building was opened in 1974, and it was inaugurated with a screening of El Compadre Mendoza, a film by Mexican director Fernando de Fuentes.
This institution is dedicated to Mexican film history’s preservation and promotion. The building holds theaters, a film archive, and a library. The current building replaced the one that burned down in 1984 and holds more than 15,000 films and 330,000 pieces of film history.
The Mexico Arena is an indoor arena with a seating capacity of 16,500. Built in 1956, the arena is mostly used for one event: Lucha libre. Its devotion to this unique sport has earned it the title of the Cathedral of Lucha Libre.
Today, you can watch Lucha Libre matches twice weekly at the arena. The matches are loud, boisterous, and exciting events, with colorful iconography and tongue-in-cheek cultural references.
For a classic cultural experience, watching a Lucha Libre game at Arena México is definitely one of the best things to do in Mexico City.
National Palace (Palacio Nacional)
The colonial palace is Mexico’s version of the White House, a grandiose building notable not only for its political importance but also for its amazing art collection.
It is a must-visit just to see the mural by Diego Rivera, “The History of Mexico”, which is a depiction of Mexican civilization from the very beginning. The building occupies the spot of Moctezuma II’s palace from the 1500s.
Check out the 14 courtyards and the balcony from which Mexico’s president performs the Independence Day tradition of the Grito de Dolores or Shout of Pain.
Pirámides de Teotihuacán
Teotihuacan is a holy city in Mayan tradition, sitting 50 kilometers north of Mexico City and dating back to 1 AD. It holds some of the largest Mayan monuments, including the Temple of Quetzalcoatl and the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon.
It is the best place to see the way of life in Mexico before modern civilization as it’s considered one of the earliest models of urbanization in the Americas. The population was estimated at 125,000, evinced by the impressive buildings and scale of the city.
Museo de Arte Popular
This museum in Mexico City’s center is dedicated to regional folk art. Located in an old fire station, it is an excellent opportunity to see the beautiful traditions and cultural roots of Mexican culture, expressed through art by native Mexicans.
The art deco building houses over 3,000 works, which include everything from toys to pottery to textiles. The art is a fascinating fusion of Spanish influence and indigenous culture, much like Mexico itself. Check out the museum’s offering of workshops, too.
While you might not think of a library as a place to visit as a tourist, the Biblioteca Vasconcelos is something else. The ultra-modern mega library, which opened in 2006, is located in the Buenavista neighborhood of Mexico City.
Named after philosopher José Vasconcelos, it is a 38,000 square meter collection that features modern stacks that look almost skeletal, floating over a grand hall. The library also holds Mexican art, like the Ballena from Gabriel Orozco.
Day of the Dead parade
Day of the Dead (Dia de Muertos), November 2, is celebrated widely and extensively throughout all of Mexico. There are many ways to celebrate: partying, dressing up, quiet ceremonies in cemeteries, family meals with locals to remember dead ancestors.
One of the newest ways is the Day of the Dead parade, which began in 2016. It puts on display some of the most beautiful traditions, such as the altars, skeletons, alebrijes, traditional dancers, and more.
Join the hundreds of thousands that gather downtown to watch it come through. The parade is quite a spectacle to observe and a majority of the city’s residents will be out celebrating on the streets.
Want more recommendations on things to do in Mexico City in Mexico? Leave a comment below!