Top things to do and places to see in Mexico City
It’s one of the most vibrant capitals on earth, packed full with colour, culture and charismatic party spots. Mexico City is a delight to all who enter her domain, tempting visitors in with an eclectic mix of hip creative vibes and a rich historical legacy.
Here lies a place where you can gaze upon Aztec wonders one minute and salsa ’til dawn in a speakeasy bar the next. With an artistic spirit as vivid as Frida Kahlo herself, you can hardly move for late-night exhibitions and alfresco cinema; not to mention twilight picnics, Art Deco parks and cutting edge-contemporary dance.
So, come shake a tail and get stuck in with our pick of the best things to see and do in marvellous Mexico City:
Visit Frida Kahlo’s ‘Casa Azul’ in Coyoacán
The legacy of Mexico’s foremost female artist lives and breathes in Casa Azul, the studio home she once shared with her lover (and fellow artist) Diego Rivera. Now a museum experience, you can marvel at some of Kahlo’s iconic artworks dotted throughout the vividly painted rooms.
Even more captivating is the insight it give into the person behind the paintings, with a look at the colourful Tehuana garments, hand-painted corsets and more that imbued her unique style and vision of female power.
Afterwards, take a wander around the bohemian neighbourhood of Coyoacán – one of Kahlo’s favourite places – with its thriving bars, galleries and markets.
Hop on-board for floating cinema in Chapultepec forest
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The oldest urban park in the Americas is a great place to visit at any time; but especially so on the first Saturday of every month, where boat cinema offers the chance to catch alfresco screenings as you float on the lake. Arrive early for the best chance to bag a vessel (available for two, four or six people), and follow up the following week with a night-time picnic in the park’s Botanic Garden.
Chapultepec park is also home to some of Mexico’s most celebrated museums, including The National Museum of Anthropology and the Museum of Modern Art (visits here on Sundays are free). There’s also a zoo, street food stalls and a hammock zone. Make time, too, for the Fuente de Tláloc, a fountain honouring the Mexican god of rain that was designed and built by Diego Rivera.
Soak in the city’s architecture with an EcoBici ride
Romantic tree-lined squares, decadent Art Deco bars and vast geometric structures: Mexico City is a place of staggering architectural ambition. And one of the best ways to appreciate this landscape is by EcoBici, the capital’s public bike-sharing system.
Hire a set of wheels for the day and pedal your way through the artistic hubs of Roma and Condesa, with their hidden squares, parks and myriad of visual influences. Don’t miss The Palacio Postal, a baroque-style beauty in Mexico City’s historic downtown centre, along with Gran Hotel Ciudad de México, a landmark that’s steeped in Art Nouveau splendour (including an antique elevator). For something more minimalist and modern, pop by the studio of Mexican architect Luis Barragán – available by appointment only.
Feast on a wealth of foodie delights
One thing’s for sure; you won’t go hungry in Mexico City. The capital conjures up incredible tastes on every street corner, from fresh fruit ice pops in the kiosks surrounding Coyoacán park to artisanal pizza cooked in a 1920s Art Deco stone oven.
Load up on salsa verde tostadas at the Mercado Coyoacán, treat yourself to the twilight tradition of churros and hot chocolate at El Moro, one of the capital’s most famous churrerías, or eat your body weight in tacos, which come in all manner of weird and wonderful flavour combinations. At Mercado San Juan on Zócalo Square, you’ll find spicy shrimp fajitas, grilled pork baguettes and chipotle chillies, while the upmarket Mercado Roma is your stop-off for gourmet Mexican cheeses, fine dining tapas and rooftop beers.
Rove some the world’s best museums by night
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Disfrutamos #EstaTarde la última función de la Gala de #DanzaContemporánea que presentó la @cndanzamx como parte de su #TemporadaDePrimavera en la #SalaPrincipal del @palaciooficial. Nos deleitaron con las coreografías "Casta diva" de Yazmín Barragán y Alan Marín, "Ebony Concerto" de Demis Volpi, "Palladio" de Stanislav Feco y "Por vos muero" de Nacho Duato. Fotografías de @arcosalcaraz
Like other cities around the world, Mexico City hosts a late-night opening every last Wednesday of the month, with a chance to explore some of the capital’s finest museums from a slightly different perspective. Workshops, screenings and free entrance often feature as part of the experience.
This is a great opportunity to visit the Museo Nacional de Antropología, the country’s largest and most-visited attraction, with an avant garde exterior that belies a trove of ancient Mesoamerican and Mayan wonders within. For modern art, bask in iconic murals at Palacio de Bellas Artes, also home to opera and dance performances (above), along with the Tamayo Museum of Contemporary Art. The free Museo Suomaya, meanwhile, showcases over 66,000 pieces of classical and modern works, and is worth visiting for the striking aluminium exterior alone (it’s been hailed as “a modern Taj Mahal”).
Watch a Lucha Libre wrestling show
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Mexico’s pop culture spectacular is an experience not to be missed, whether or not you count yourself as a wrestling fan. Watch a series of flamboyantly masked superheroes go head-to-head in this epic battle of good versus evil. The mythical performance is as much to do with pomp and showmanship as it is athletic ability, and the capital is *the* place to be to see the free-fight tradition come alive.
Dive headfirst into the show by getting a ringside seat on the Friday or Sunday night shows at Arena México (complete with beer and nachos on the side). Shout on your favourite Luchador with the best of ‘em, as the Spandex-clad wrestlers opt for evermore dramatic tactics in a bid to win hearts and minds.
Drink and dance in tucked-away bars
Mexico City is one of the world’s party capitals – if you’re not letting your hair down on a Saturday night here, you’re doing it all wrong. Part of the appeal lies in an on-radar speakeasy bar culture that requires a little footwork in order to unearth its sweetest treats.
Take the Rockmore Club de Música, an intimate recording studio-turned-bar with the air of a 20s drinking den. Or Hanky Panky Cocktail Bar, a gilded retreat hidden behind a restaurant closet that throws it back to a decadent era of cocktails and undiluted glamour. Speaking of retro, you’ll find old-school merengue and salsa at the delightful Salón San Luis, while La Ópera restaurant offers a traditional tequila service in a richly ornate setting that dates back to the mid-1800s. Make a beeline for the three-storey Pulqueria los Insurgentes to try pulque, Mexico’s ancient spirit that’s all set for a renaissance.
Take in awesome city views from Torre Latinoamericana
Craving the best views in the city? Zip on up to the 44th floor observation deck at Torre Latinoamericana, once the tallest building in the capital and an icon of its skyline. This lovely vantage point offers up a 360-degree snapshot of Mexico City that stretches from the Plaza del Zócalo to the Palacio de Bellas Artes and beyond. You can even glimpse mountains on the city outskirts on a clear day, and there’s a great restaurant for sky-high dining one floor down.
Other landmarks well worth your step count include the Ángel de la Independencia (also known simply as “El Ángel”) and Monumento a la Revolución Mexicana, which you can ascend via an original 1930s elevator to watch the sun rise and set.
Find hidden treasures in La Lagunilla and Tetetlán
La Lagunilla is an iconic Sunday market that can be traced to a pre-Hispanic era. Arrive early to rifle through a maze of open-air stalls laden with vintage records, homeware, antique jewellery and more, in a tradition that’s closely tied to the identity of Mexico City.
Hip cultural centre Tetetlán is also good for some weekend browsing, with a library, wellness centre and fair trade market competing for nourishment of the soul. Literary types will delight in downtown El Laberinto bookstore, where used and antique novels, including English language titles, abound. And La Ciudadela market is your go-to for traditional Mexican crafts and folk art.
Sail the colourful canals of Xochimilco
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Xochimilco lies on the outskirts of Mexico City, and is home to the remnants of a complex lake and canal system built by the Aztecs. A World Heritage Site, it’s populated by vibrant, Gondola-style boats called trajineras.
Hop on-board these brightly decorated vessels to glide between the neighbourhood’s labyrinth of mysterious islands, amid floating gardens and curtains of trees. Other boats with food vendors and roving mariachi bands add to the sense of occasion, making it a Mexico City must-see. Stop off to see the creepy island of dolls, or the more uplifting iris flower markets that flourish in the region.
Want to visit Mexico? Check out Flash Pack’s daring and delicious itineraries in the area to kickstart your next adventure.
Images: Shutterstock, Mexico Tourism