With all the activities and sights to see in Mexico City, we found it incredibly difficult to decide what to spend our time on. We tried to balance our time between our food and drinks interests and our desire to see impressive sights like the ancient pyramids.
In the end, we narrowed the list down to our 8 favorite things to do in Mexico City.
If you’ve been wondering if Mexico City would make a good travel destination, let me help you out. Mexico City is a vibrant city alive with culture, fantastic food and incredible things to do and see.
If you’re worried about the sheer size of this enormous city, or the safety concerns you hear about in the news, I can assure you that once you’ve settled in to the city it’s no different from any other big city, like Paris or Madrid. We loved it and can’t wait to get back. I wouldn’t hesitate to travel there (with the usual level of precaution we take on any trip).
Here are our top recommendations for activities and sights to see in Mexico City. While there’s more than enough things to do to fill weeks, you should be able to see these top sites if you have at least 3 days in Mexico City.
Teotihuacan Archaeological Area
Located about 30 miles from Mexico City, Teotihuacan was one of the largest Mesoamerican cities in Mexico. The pyramids that were built there are a major tourist attraction in the area, and for good reason. Contained on the grounds are the Pyramid of the Sun, the Pyramid of the Moon, the Temple of Quetzalpapalotl, the Avenue of the Dead and various other ruins from the once great city. You can walk around the grounds, hike up the pyramids for an incredible view from the top, and spend hours checking out the shops and restaurants surrounding the area. We stopped for a Mezcal tasting and a fantastic lunch and had a great view of the Pyramids as we ate. (Read more about Teotihuacan.)
Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Every city has Cathedrals and Basilicas to explore and Mexico City is no different. The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a Roman Catholic church built at the base of a mountain where Our Lady of Guadalupe is said to have appeared to a local saint, Juan Diego, thus making the grounds sacred. There are other churches and buildings in the area to see, including the New Basilica, where the cloak of Juan Diego now resides. You’ll have to visit to learn the significance of the cloak and to see it for yourself. Most tours from Mexico city visit both the pyramids and the Basilica.
Sample the Mezcal
You cannot go to Mexico without sampling the Mezcal. In Mexico City, you’ll find plenty of places to do just that. There are many Mezcalerias in the city, but our favorites are located right next to each other in the La Condesa neighborhood: La Botica (Campeche 396, labotica.com.mx) and La Nacional (Nuevo León 120, http://www.lanacional.net/). Between the two, you’ll be able to choose from dozens of Mezcals, plus many other spirits from Mexico. We found that Mezcal is fantastic mixed into cocktails and adds a special twist to a drink normally served with tequila. Mezcal is also great for sipping, and should always be served with orange slices and chili salt.
Visit the Zócalo
Located right in the city of the city, it’s hard to miss Zócalo, the main square. It’s enormous – easy to see why it was once used as the main ceremonial center for the ancient Aztec city. If anything major is going on, like New Years Eve, the square is decorated and busy with festivals and celebrations. Very close by are many top things to do, and it is from here that the city starts to unravel its treasures, so it’s a great place to base yourself. You can catch any of the Hop on Hop off bus lines here too, or explore the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral.
Wander Around a Street Market
We visited Mexico City during the holidays and there were street markets everywhere, but even during slower times in the city there are markets to be found. It’s fun to wander through the maze of vendors selling all manner of things, from trinkets and toys to cell phone accessories, to every kind of Mexican street food imaginable. We tried half a dozen new-to-us street snacks that we’d never eaten before at a market that was only a block wide. If you can’t find a street market, there are a good number of established markets around the city where you can spend a couple hours checking out the local fare.
Definitely worth a visit is the impressive Chapeltepec Castle, which is currently being used as the National Museum of History. The castle was once used to house royalty, but has also seem many other uses throughout its history. It was even used as a filming location for William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet with Leonardo DiCaprio. It’s a beautiful building to walk around, especially if you’re into architecture and art. The castle is located in the middle of Chapeltepec Park, the largest city park in Latin America, which is also a great destination for visitors to hang out on a sunny day.
Wander Around Mercado Roma
This is one of my favorite food markets that we’ve ever visited. If you’re a gourmet or a foodie, you have to stop by this market, and preferably with an empty stomach. The Mercado Roma building contains three stories worth of food vendors, restaurants and purveyors. You can buy spices at one stall, pick up a bottle of wine for later, eat a chalupa, grab some dessert and sip on some local Mezcal all with in a few steps of each other. On the rooftop there’s a beergarten serving local beers, cocktails and brats. We spent hours there, wandering around tasting everything. I would suggest going for lunch and on a weekday, if possible, to avoid the crowds.
Eat at a Top Restaurant
One of my favorite things to do in a city is eat at a top-rated restaurant. Usually I choose the place based on things I’ve read before, and sometimes I base it on what Anthony Bourdain recommends. In Mexico City, we did both. Pujol is a restaurant I’ve heard a lot about over the years and have always wanted to go to, because of their use of indigenous ingredients that many have never tried before. Maximo Bistrot was an Anthony Bourdain recommendation. The chef there is, Eduardo Garcia, is one of the best chefs in Mexico City. Both restaurants were fantastic. The food is very different at each restaurant, so I advise checking out both! Why not?
Hopefully you’ll have more than 3 days in Mexico City, because there’s so much to there, but this list is a pretty good start! Have you been to Mexico City? What were your favorite things to do there? Share your experiences in the comments section. We love to hear from you!