The Top Non-Touristy Things to Do in Mexico City

Kiosco Morisco, Santa María la Ribera, Mexico City, Mexico
Kiosco Morisco, Santa María la Ribera, Mexico City, Mexico | Photo by Girl with red hat on Unsplash

Northern England Writer

Mexico City is a hotspot for tourism, turbofueled by business and a tough-to-beat cultural scene. That means the better-known attractions are often packed and booked up weeks ahead. But who wants to follow the crowd anyway? Here are the top non-touristy things to do in Mexico City.

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Visit the Kiosco Morisco

Alameda de Santa María La Ribera and Kiosko Morisko. Mexico City, Mexico

The landmark that sparked a 1,000 rumours – some said it came from China, others thought a sheikh gifted it. The truth is Kiosco Morisco was built in the late 1800s for a World’s Fair in New Orleans. After a stint in the Alameda Central, it was moved to its current position in the Alameda de Santa Maria La Ribera. It’s a highlight of the Santa María la Ribera neighborhood (alongside the impressive Biblioteca Vasconcelos) and one of the most underrated attractions in the city.

Check out the lesser-known museums

Museo del Juguete Antiguo Mexico

Mexico City is packed with museums (more than 150, if you’re interested) but most tourists stick to the best-known – the Museo Nacional de Antropología, Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul and the Palacio de Bellas Artes. Visit Museo Casa de León Trotsky instead, check out the mummies at Museo de El Carmen or even head to the always well-curated Museo del Juguete Antiguo.

Go north to the Planetarium

The northern neighborhoods are perhaps the most overlooked in all Mexico City. If you look a little deeper, though, you’ll find hidden gems, of which Planetario Luis Enrique Erro is definitely one. The oldest planetarium in Latin America, it has tons of exhibits and you can get up close and personal (kind of) with the night sky. It’s not just for kids.

Explore contemporary art in San Rafael

Street corner in San Rafael, a typical neighbourhood of central Mexico City, Mexico

Everyone flocks to the neighborhoods of Roma and, to a lesser extent, Condesa for their undeniably fantastic contemporary art scenes. You should head to tucked-away San Rafael instead. It’s up-and-coming and equally as quirky as Roma, but with far lower prices. You could fill entire days here, but make sure to visit the exceptional non-profit, artist-run Casa Maauad.

Taste edible insects at Mercado de San Juan

Mercado de San Juan, Mexico City, Mexico

While many travelers to Mexico City dabble in chapulines (grasshoppers) at one point or another, there is a veritable smorgasbord of edible insects to try in fancy restaurants, street-food stalls and traditional markets. One of the quintessential spots to chew on bugs is Mercado de San Juan, which dishes up escamoles (ant larvae and pupae) and gusanos de maguey (maguey worms) on the daily. Alternatively, head to Restaurante Bar Chon in the historic center to try anything from insects to crocodile.

Chill at the Audiorama and Pabellón Coreano

Bosque de Chapultepec ranks as one of the largest urban parks in Latin America. Understandably (with a spot smack bang in the heart of the city) it’s brimming with tourists. However, there are plenty of non-touristy attractions if you look hard enough. The first is the laid-back Audiorama, which streams calming music and is the ideal reading and relaxation spot. The second is the equally tranquil Pabellón Coreano, which has a replica pagoda and an isolated location.

Buy used books on Calle Donceles

If you’re a literature lover, there are many fabulous bookstores and beautiful libraries to visit… but they’re hardly under-the-radar. However, the used bookstores that run the length of Calle Donceles in the city center are a little less visited, probably because they principally appeal to a local Spanish-speaking crowd. That’s exactly why they’re worth checking out, though. Even if you haven’t cracked the lingo, there’s nothing as satisfying as rifling through a used bookstore.

Visit Casa del Árbol in Desierto de los Leones

It’s no secret there are sprawling national parks, forests and urban green spaces around Mexico City – ideal for a day (or half-day) escape from the madness of the center. But there are certain aspects of these parks that many people overlook. In Parque Nacional Desierto de Los Leones there’s a magnificent attraction known as Casa del Árbol; designed by father-son duo Guillermo and Sidartha Siliceo, it’s a 25-cabin complex built on Buddhist principles and ecofriendly concepts.

Head to the botanical garden at Biblioteca Vasconcelos

Whale skeleton inside the Vasconcelos Library in Mexico City, Mexico

In northern Mexico City is the magnificent Biblioteca Vasconcelos. But given that it’s regularly ranked as one of the most beautiful – and most architecturally impressive – library in the capital, it’s often quite touristy. Venture into the surrounding gardens, though, and you’ll stumble upon a practically deserted botanical garden. It supposedly contains more than 160 types of plant and covers a massive 26,000sqm (279,862sqft).

See the urban subcultures at El Chopo Cultural Tianguis

While you’re kicking around the Buenavista area, wander over to the nearby Cultural Tianguis. Known colloquially as El Chopo, this weekly street market is a must if you’re interested in the rockero and punk subcultures of Mexico City. A gathering place for shoppers, skaters, weed smokers and musicians alike, it brings together locals young and old but rarely tourists.

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