The Best Things to Do in Mexico City
Collected by AFAR Editors, AFAR Staff
The old, the new, and the scarcely imagined sit side by side in Mexico City, and no one blinks an eye. The more you can be curious about that balance—and the more you can achieve it yourself—the better you'll understand and enjoy this magical city.
Mosqueta, Eje 1 Nte. S/N, Buenavista, 06350 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
A detour to the centrally located yet way-off-the-tourist-track neighborhood known as Buenavista leads to one of Mexico City’s most dazzling 21st-century landmarks, the Biblioteca Vasconcelos, a gorgeous public library. The...
Plaza de la Constitución S/N, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06000 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Mexico City’s mammoth cathedral was built across three centuries (1573–1813)—starting soon after Cortés and his allies vanquished the Aztec Empire—using stones taken from a destroyed indigenous temple. Today’s...
Calle Salvador Díaz Mirón S/N, Sta María la Ribera, 06400 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Forever on the verge of being the next big target of gentrification, the district known as Santa María la Ribera—northwest of downtown—retains its neighborhoody, down-at-the-heels charms. Its streets are home to a mix of...
Av. Juárez, Centro Histórico, Centro, 06050 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
The imposing, white-domed wedding cake now known as Palacio de Bellas Artes was originally planned as a national theater, and construction was begun in 1904. The Mexican Revolution, among other things, postponed its completion until 1934, which...
Plaza de la Constitución S/N, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06066 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Though his reputation is now arguably overshadowed by that of his former wife, painter and muralist Diego Rivera—commissioned by Mexico’s postrevolutionary governments starting in the late 1920s to adorn several national monuments in...
Calle Isabel la Catolica 21, Centro Histórico, Centro, 06000 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
The splendid neoclassical church of San Felipe Neri (commonly called “La Profesa”), whose present structure was completed in 1720, is a gem in Mexico’s bustling downtown that many visitors never see, with a balanced, harmonious...
Seminario 8, Centro Histórico, Cuauhtémoc, 06060 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
With the Spanish conquest of the Aztec empire, Iberian overlords set about imposing their customs on the subdued populace, eliminating traces of pre-Hispanic religions they deemed heretical by demolishing major temples and building churches and...
Justo Sierra 16, Centro Histórico, Centro, 06020 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
The former Colegio de San Ildefonso is a magnificent colonial structure set around several imposing, multistoried arcades with halls now decorated by some of Mexico’s most spectacular murals. Even better, it serves as one of the city’s...
Lázaro Cárdenas, Tlatelolco, 06900 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
One of Mexico City’s most historic neighborhoods—a once-independent city-state politically joined to the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan—Tlatelolco is a fascinating side trip few tourists make. At its center lies the...
Calle del Mercado 133, San Jerónimo, 16420 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
The system of canals and chinampas (cultivated artificial islands fashioned from the area’s swampy soils) that has survived in the far-south neighborhood known as Xochilmilco once stretched all the way to the Centro. To this day, the...
Historic center of Mexico City, Centro, 06000 Mexico City, CDMX, Mexico
Its massive size, centrality to daily life in the capital, and easy accessibility (a Metro station opens up right onto the plaza) makes the Zócalo an ideal place for large-scale temporary exhibits. The government hosts occasional exhibits...
Londres 247, Del Carmen, Coyoacán, 04100 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
The cobalt-blue-and-brick-red residence where now-legendary Mexican visual artist Frida Kahlo grew up—and at times lived with husband Diego Rivera—is one of the city’s most consistently packed attractions; buying tickets in...
Gral. Francisco Ramírez 12-14, Ampliación Daniel Garza, Amp Daniel Garza, 11840 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Though from Guadalajara (he never let friends forget), Pritzker Prize–winning architect Luis Barragán lived much of his life in Mexico City, where he designed and constructed this, his last residence, completed in 1948. A UNESCO World...
Gobernador Rafael Rebollar 94, San Miguel Chapultepec I Secc, 11850 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Three friends who found themselves thrown together in the New York of the 1990s—artist Gabriel Orozco, who has been featured at MoMA, the Pompidou Center, and the Tate Modern; Mónica Manzutto, who worked at the Marian Goodman Gallery;...
Gral. Francisco Ramírez 5, Ampliación Daniel Garza, Daniel Garza, 11830 Distriro Federal, CDMX, Mexico
Pamela Echeverría founded her original Avenida Ámsterdam space in 2010, after experiences at Galería OMR and the Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil. Since then, the gallery has made a name for itself by providing a forum for...
Calle Diego Rivera s/n, San Ángel Inn, 01060 Álvaro Obregón, CDMX, Mexico
A who-knows-how-happily-married Diego Rivera commissioned this three-residence compound from Mexican artist and architect Juan O’Gorman in 1931. Jarringly Bauhausian for its time (especially in comparison to the surrounding San Ángel...
Av. Hidalgo 45, Centro Histórico, Guerrero, 06300 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Museo Franz Mayer occupies a former colonial convent and is home to its namesake patron’s vast decorative-arts collection, focused on Mexico’s viceregal and early-republican epochs. Rarely crowded, the museum’s an oasis and...
Blvd. Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra 303, Granada, 11520 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Much of Mexico City’s fervid contemporary art movement—galleries and collectors abound; the scene is now a launching pad for Mexican artists looking to conquer the world—can be traced to art patron Eugenio López Alonso,...
Paseo de la Reforma & Calzada Gandhi S/N, Chapultepec Polanco, Miguel Hidalgo, 11560 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Housed in a 1964 structure whose modern lines and central fountain greatly complement what's on view, this anthropology museum is a repository of the most important pre-Hispanic treasures modern Mexico has discovered. The works are...
Blvd. Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra 303, Granada, 11529 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
The Museo Soumaya, financed by Carlos Slim, the richest man in Mexico, has the ambitions of the Guggenheim Bilbao from the outside. It's a stunning building whose sweeping, soaring curves couldn't help but make it an instant landmark near Polanco,...
Calle de Tacuba 8, Centro Histórico, Centro, 06000 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
The smallish Plaza Manuel Tolsá—at the end of Calle de Tacuba—is an all-but-perfect urban conglomeration that will thrill architecture fans. To the south lies the 18th-century Palacio de Minería (a former engineering...
Insurgentes 3000, Ciudad Universitaria, 04510 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
After centuries downtown, Mexico’s National Autonomous University's main campus was moved to the city’s (then) far south in 1954, to a gleaming, contemporary quadrant designed to symbolize the nation’s engagement with...
Córdoba 55, Cuauhtémoc, 06700 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
The close-in neighborhood called Colonia Roma was first developed at the dawn of the 20th century as a high-end suburb laid out along tree-lined boulevards and plazas. Prominent families erected elaborate residences in architectural styles ranging...
Ignacio Allende Esquina Av. Miguel Hidalgo, Coyoacán TNT, Coyoacán, 04000 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Once a separate town, the leafy colonial neighborhood known as Coyoacán has long been absorbed into the city at large, but retains a separate, old-fashioned air that’s impossible to resist. Restaurants and ice cream parlors (plus some...
Paseo de la Reforma, Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Mexico City’s answer to the Champs-Élysées, the wide, tree-and-statuary-adorned Paseo de la Reforma was first known as the Paseo de la Emperatriz, laid out as a ceremonial lane to take Their Majesties Maximilian and Carlota...
Calle Dr Mora 9, Colonia Centro, Centro, 06000 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Originally laid out during Spanish rule, the Alameda Central was Mexico City’s first municipal park, at one time reserved for the elite. Today it’s a well-manicured garden for all, especially popular with working-class crowds on...
Mexico City, CDMX, Mexico
Mexico City is often depicted—and not incorrectly—as a capital city teeming with buildings, people, and cars. It also, though, has a surprising number of green spaces and parks, the most expansive of which is Bosque de Chapultepec, right on the...
s/n, Av México, Hipódromo, 06100 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Long the heart of the Condesa district (even during the dark days following Mexico City’s devastating 1985 earthquake), today’s Parque México is the quintessential urban park. Well-manicured with ample seating and a...
Dr. Lavista 189, Doctores, 06720 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
The concierge at the hotel was skeptical. The cab driver was amused and skeptical. Lucha libre, or Mexican wrestling, is clearly an unsophisticated embarrassment, tantamount to telling a visitor to the U.S. to...
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