Mexico City: It’s one of the biggest and oldest cities in the Americas—and nearly four-times safer than Washington D.C. Add to that a unique fusion of ancient Aztec civilizations, romantic art nouveau architecture, rich cultural heritage, and a swoon-worthy food scene, and it’s no wonder why travelers quickly fall in love with Mexico’s capital city.
There are virtually a million things to do in Mexico City, but if you’re pressed for time, don’t miss these top 10 attractions and activities:
1. Palacio de Bellas Artes
The Palacio de Bellas Artes is the cultural center of Mexico City. With art nouveau design, jaw-dropping interior murals and a splendid Tiffany glass curtain, you won’t want to miss this beautiful building. For a particularly unique experience, try to time your visit with a Folkloric Ballet performance.
2. The Zocolo and Metropolitan Cathedral
Once the main center of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan, the large city square of Zocolo is very much considered to be the heart of both Mexico and the capital city’s historic center. Just north of the Zocolo you’ll find the Metropolitan Cathedral, Mexico’s national cathedral, and the oldest and largest cathedral in the Americas.
3. Templo Mayor
Perhaps most famous for its Pyramid of Huitzilopochtli, Templo Mayor was once the major spiritual temple of the Aztecs. A visit today is an absolute must to understand both the variety and splendor the Aztec empire and the history of Mexico City.
4. La Casa Azul
One of Mexico’s most famous artists, Frida Kahlo is internationally renowned for her surrealist self-portraits and still-lifes. Visit La Casa Azul, Frida’s house turned museum, to view where the artist spent her final days, as well as a collection of artwork from Frida herself, her husband Diego Riviera and more.
This southern neighborhood and UNESCO World Heritage Site takes a bit of time to arrive at, but patient travelers are rewarded with long stretches of canals, floating gardens and wildlife preserves. Be sure to hop on a trajinera, or colorful boat, for a trip down one of the canals.
6. Drink Pulque
Pulque is a milky 2,000-year-old Aztec drink made from fermented sap. Not everyone has a palate for the unique beverage, but there are multiple interpretations of the traditional drink to be found throughout the city. Try the Piña Colada Pulque at the Pulquería La Nuclear for a slightly more tropical version.
7. La Ciudadela
Shoppers delight at this expansive artisanal market covering over 16,000 square meters and boasting over 200 stalls. You’ll find all the normal touristy kitsch here, as well as a large selection of hand-painted Mexican ceramics and other arts and crafts.
8. Eat Tacos al Pastor
You can’t go to Mexico City and pass up on the street tacos, often going for only $1. Mexico City is famed for its tacos al pastor, a unique fusion of shawarma (grilled, marinated meat on a revolving spit) and tacos. If you’re looking for more of the best places to eat street food in Mexico City, don’t miss this guide by the Guardian.
9. Watch Lucha Libre
A little bit of wrestling and a lot a bit of entertainment, Lucha Libre is an experience like no other. The luchadores wear colorful masks as they taunt each other, perform aerial movements, and generally try to put on a good wrestling show all for the enjoyment of the audience. In most cases the results are predetermined, but that doesn’t seem to detract from the jesting and heckling from the audience.
10. Take a Cycling Tour
While there are many things to love about Mexico City, the capital’s traffic is not one of them. Locals and tourists alike are discovering just how preferable it is to get around by bike. The increased popularity in cycling is largely due to new bike lanes and over 4,000 red Ecobiki sharing bikes, or short-term rental bikes. Rentals start at just $7 dollars a day and can be found all around the city.
What would you add to our list of Mexico City to -do’s?