Dakota 95, Nápoles, Benito Juárez, 03810 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
D.H. Lawrence detested it. Langston Hughes loved it. It’s probably safe to say that no one who has seen bullfighting comes away ambivalent about it. If you can stomach the blood and the inevitable death of the bull (and, perhaps, the injury of the matador), then a Sunday afternoon at Plaza México, the largest bullring in the world, is one place to experience a centuries-old tradition. The Spanish brought bullfighting to Mexico when they arrived in the New World, and though the sport has become increasingly controversial in recent years (it’s even been banned entirely in the Mexican states of Coahuila, Guerrero, and Sonora, and its prohibition has been discussed–but not yet passed– in Mexico City), it’s one of the few places where such formality, pageantry, skill, and–yes, some would say– savagery can be witnessed for the price of a few pesos.
Dr. Lavista 189, Doctores, Cuauhtémoc, 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 watch Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Attending a match, though, is a way to see a side of Mexican culture not found in museums or historic churches, but one that definitely uses some of the same mythology, iconography, and pageantry seen there. The crowd shouts, chants, and laughs through performances featuring dancing girls, inept referees, men in lavish and ridiculous costumes (a caveman with a plastic club, fur boots, and a skimpy loincloth), and some honest-to-God astounding feats of athleticism. Matches—loud and funny and thrilling—take place on Friday nights and occasionally during the week. Tickets can be bought in person at the arena, but arrive early to avoid a long line and use your time to shop the stands set up outside for handmade lucha libre wares (wrestling capes, masks, T-shirts, onesies for infants).
Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico C.U., Av de los Insurgentes Sur S/N, 04510 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
As with most structures and sites in Mexico City, the Estadio Olímpico, or Olympic Stadium, located on the grounds of the university (UNAM), has played an important role in several historic episodes. First is its role in mid-20th-century Mexican architecture. Built in 1952, it is a marvel- designed to resemble a volcano in structure. It also has some important historic design elements, namely the decorative Mexican symbolism added by Diego Rivera. Second is its role in the 1968 Olympic Games. Even the spectators and viewers at home who had not paid much attention to the Games knew that the stadium was the site where American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos gave the Black Power salute during a medal ceremony. The image of the athletes standing next to Australian silver medalist Peter Norman (who wore a badge in support of Smith and Carlos), is an iconic image of the Games. Today the stadium is the home of the Pumas soccer team, and during home games, the stadium often fills to capacity.
Av. Viaducto Rio de la Piedad S/N, Granjas México, 08400 Iztacalco, CDMX, Mexico
Foro Sol, like Auditorio Nacional, is a massive venue for big concerts, and if your favorite group hasn’t played Auditorio Nacional, it’s probably taken the stage at Foro Sol. Newer than Auditorio Nacional (it was built in 1993), Foro Sol is also an entirely different kind of venue; the Auditorio is entirely indoors, while Foro Sol is a stadium. Familiar names who have played here in recent years include Bon Jovi, Joan Baez, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Tool, among dozens of others.
Av. Industria Militar S/N, Residencial Militar, Hipódromo de las Américas, 11600 Miguel Hidalgo, CDMX, Mexico
You probably won’t head out to the Hipódromo de las Américas unless you’re a devoted horse racing fan, but if you do consider yourself a betting and racing aficionado, you’ll probably be glad you visited. Hipódromo de las Américas was established in 1943 and can accommodate 10,000 fans. The infield’s artificial turf is the largest such extension in Latin America, one of several superlatives attached to this venue. Cost is no barrier for fans, either: entry is as low as 10 pesos, depending on where you want to sit, and betting starts as low as 1 peso. Check the schedule to see if any major events are on during your visit; this venue is home to the Mexican Derby.
Cerrada de Huizaches 36, Tlalpan, Ejidos de Huipulco, Ex de San Juan de Dios, 14370 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Soccer–or fútbol–has always been popular in Mexico, of course, but street soccer–games for homeless and at-risk players– is a slightly newer concept. With Mexico City having hosted the 2012 Homeless World Cup, however, street soccer gained both visibility and popularity in the Mexican capital. In season, you can see tourneys and other exhibition events in Mexico City. Consult the local street soccer website for the current calendar of games and their respective locations.
Gral Anaya, 03340 Mexico City, CDMX, Mexico
Mexico City was host of the 1968 Olympic Games, and today, a number of the venues used during the Games remain open and accessible to the public, including the Alberca Olímpica. Renovated in 2009, the complex is best known for its Olympic-size pool, which is open to the public for a fee, though it also has spaces for a variety of other sports activities, including martial arts, yoga, tennis, speed skating, and capoeira.
Av Viaducto Rio de la Piedad y Rio Churubusco S/N, Granjas México, 08400 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Built for the 1968 Olympic Games, the Palacio de Deportes remains an architectural icon of the second half of the 20th-century. Its unusual exterior somewhat resembles the exoskeleton of an armadillo, and its texture stands out as you look at Mexico City from the air just before landing at Benito Juárez International Airport. Today, the Palacio is the site of concerts and sporting events, including motocross and American football, among others. For a full listing of current and upcoming sports events, check the venue’s website.