Best Things To Do in Mexico City
Even the most ambitious travelers have difficulty exploring all of Mexico City, so you should carefully plan your days (or consider tagging along on one of the best Mexico City tours). Popular activities include exploring the famous Metropolitan Cathedral and the Frida Kahlo Museum. Favorite cultural institutions are the National Palace presidential residence and the Palace of Fine Arts. Also, be sure to stroll the Central University City Campus, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s famous for its 20th-century architecture.
1. Museo Nacional de Antropología
Located within the famous Chapultepec Forest, the Museo Nacional de Antropología (National Museum of Anthropology) holds artifacts from Mexico’s pre-Columbian era, dating from about 100 B.C. to A.D. 1521. The facility houses artifacts, including the famous Aztec Calendar Stone, known as Piedra del Sol, as well as the famed 16th-century statue of Xochipilli, the Aztec god of art, games, beauty, dance and maize (among others). The museum offers a look at how tradition, culture and life were formed in all regions of Mexico.The museum is so extensive that many travelers claim you can spend a whole day exploring the many collections and exhibits and recommend giving yourself plenty of time to explore. As one of the largest and most visited museums in Mexico, the grounds are also home to a gift shop, a cafeteria, a locker room and the National Library of Anthropology and History.
2. Basílica de Santa María de Guadalupe
The Basílica de Santa María de Guadalupe (Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe) is an important religious site in Mexico City. The first shrine built to honor the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe was erected in 1531 on Tepeyac hill, but the first basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary was not built until 1695. However, nearly 300 years’ worth of construction and environmental damage threatened the integrity of the basilica, so a new basilica was built on the same plaza in the 1970s.Today, the complex has many features including the basilica, the ancient church, a gift shop filled with religious items, a museum and a library. Visitors extolled the basilica, saying that it is a must-see whether you are Catholic or not. Though Mass is held frequently, reviewers noted that the layout of the buildings helps visitors avoid interrupting worship. In addition, past travelers said a variety of tours were available from Mexico City (some of which included Teotihuacan) and said it was a great way to have a fully-informed experience. The basilica is also often featured as a stop on hop-on, hop-off bus tours.
3. Palacio de Bellas Artes
Considered the cultural center of Mexico City, the Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts) is a must-visit. The exterior of the palace showcases art nouveau and art deco-style architecture, while the inside features marble floors and vaulted glass windows. In addition to its architectural grandeur, the building hosts cultural events in the national theater, including music, dance, theater, opera and literary performances. The museum at the palace also holds several famous murals, including the work of the famous Mexican muralist Rufino Tamayo. On the top floor, you’ll find the National Museum of Architecture, which showcases the work and lives of famous Mexican architects, and multiple art museums and galleries.Travelers say that the palace is sure to be one of the most beautiful sights you’ll see in Mexico City and add that if you get the chance, take in a performance in the world-class theater.
4. Templo Mayor
Before Spanish colonization, Templo Mayor served as the religious center for the Aztec people. When Spanish conquistadors arrived in the late 14th century, the temple was among many that were destroyed and built over. It wasn’t until 1978 that the temple dedicated to the Aztec gods Huitzilopochtli and Tláloc (gods of war and water) was unearthed in the heart of Mexico City. Today, the area remains an active archeological site and the adjoining museum houses more than 7,000 artifacts from the site.Recent visitors said it’s fascinating to see the ancient ruins that are tucked away in the center of the city. Many said it’s worth spending time in the museum as well, but the site and scale can’t match up to the massive Museo Nacional de Antropología. Still, the whole complex has been deemed a UNESCO World Heritage site and is one of Mexico City’s most popular attractions.
One of many UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Mexico City region, Teotihuacán (teh-oh-tee-wa-can) contains some of the largest pre-Columbian pyramids in all of Mexico. The site contains many popular constructions, including the Palace of the Plumed Butterfly, which showcases various columns of winged creatures, and the awesome Pyramid of the Sun, which sits at the heart of the small city. The nearby museum, Museo de la Sitio, also holds many artifacts from the period.While many travelers were amazed by the daunting monuments, some had a few tips to make your trip easier: The souvenirs are pricey, but some haggling in Spanish will help you score a better deal. Visitors also recommend bringing along your own bottled water, wearing sensible shoes and applying sunscreen as the site provides very little shade. Also, if you’re able, visitors suggest climbing the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon for a bird’s-eye view of the massive complex. Recent travelers also recommend booking a guide and transportation ahead of time to fully enjoy the experience, noting that it helps not having to stress about getting to the site. Check with your hotel to see if they can recommend a preferred vendor. Several of the best Mexico City tours also make daytrips to the site.