The Best Free Things to Do in Mexico City

The beautiful streets of Mexico City are an art gallery that costs nothing to enter
The beautiful streets of Mexico City are an art gallery that costs nothing to enter | © Marco Haberberger / EyeEm / Getty Images
Sam Murray

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A few tacos here. A flight of mezcal there. An evening cheering heroes and booing villains at the lucha libre. And before you know it, your Mexico City trip has cost much more than you expected. If you need to watch the pesos, spend time – not money – on these top free things to do in the Mexican capital.

Eager to explore the best of Mexico City? Join Culture Trip’s expertly curated five-day adventure in the capital. Led by a Local Insider, you’ll visit Frida Kahlo’s home-studio, cruise the canals of Xochimilco and tour a local food market, and more.

1. Cycle along Paseo de la Reforma

Historical Landmark

Sunday bikers cycle down Paseo de la Reforma with the Ángel de la Independencia rising at the bottom of the street
© AGCuesta Images / Alamy Stock Photo

Join hundreds of cycling, scooting and skating Mexico City residents on a Sunday, when the grand avenue Paseo de la Reforma is closed to cars. It’s a treat to stroll along the sidewalk, watching the throng, and enjoying free rein of this major thoroughfare. But, for the best experience, head to the stall at the Glorieta de la Palma roundabout and borrow a bike for free. You’ll need to leave an ID behind and arrive early – the bikes are snapped up within a couple of hours.

2. Stroll around Bosque de Chapultepec


A statue of a human lying on the floor at the entrance of the Water Garden Museum in the Bosque de Chapultepec
© Luis Emilio Villegas Amador / Alamy Stock Photo
Escape the city thrum with a costs-nothing meander through Bosque de Chapultepec, a giant green space (about 1,300 football fields large) to the west of the trendy Condesa and Roma neighborhoods. Begin by visiting the columned Monumento a los Niños Héroes, a towering tribute in carrara marble to six cadets said to have died defending Castillo de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Castle). The castle itself is free to enter on Sundays, but only for Mexican residents. After, you should chill by Lago Mayor, the largest lake in the park, and watch loved-up couples drift around the water on pedalos.

3. See Diego Rivera murals in the Palacio Nacional


Two tourists walk down the main stairwell in the Palacio Nacional, The History of Mexico mural by Diego Rivera behind them
© Jeffrey Isaac Greenberg 11 / Alamy Stock Photo
There’s no need to splash the cash on visiting an art gallery: you can see the works of an iconic Mexican painter for free. Diego Rivera – celebrated muralist and partner of Frida Kahlo – spent six years decorating the main stairwell of the Palacio Nacional with his masterpiece The History of Mexico: From Conquest to the Future. It’s an epic work, documenting the country from pre-Hispanic times. Keep an eye out for the portrait of Kahlo sporting a hammer-and-sickle pendant – a nod to her political beliefs.

4. Visit the Museo Soumaya


Museum-goers queue at the entrance to the Museo Soumaya, a curving, shiny building that rises several storys high
© Jeffrey Isaac Greenberg 2 / Alamy Stock Photo
You’ll typically have to pay to visit a Mexico City museum, but entrance to the Museo Soumaya is free. Good news, too: this delightful gallery displays works by European masters – JMW Turner, Claude Monet and Auguste Rodin among them – plus pieces by local greats, including Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros and José Clemente Orozco. The building itself is a work of art; a curving mirrored-steel construction that’s well worth viewing from all angles.

5. Enjoy the foodie delights of Mercado Medellín

Food Kiosk, Market, Mexican

A butcher in a red apron cuts up some meat at Mercado Medellin
© Lydia Carey

It doesn’t cost anything to cut through the packed alleys of Mercado Medellín, admiring food stalls almost overflowing with goodies. Come early and you might spot a chef testing ingredients for a dinner menu. More likely, though, you’ll be watching locals do their shopping and casting an eye over foods lesser-seen in your supermarket – scorpion, for example.

6. Explore the gilded interior of the Catedral Metropolitana

Cathedral, Museum

The facade of the Catedral Metropolitana has an intricate design in a mix of styles, with a central clock in gold
© David Crossland / Alamy Stock Photo
Standing sentinel on the Zócalo – the central square in Mexico City – is the Catedral Metropolitana, a titanic Roman Catholic temple built over three centuries. Before you enter, admire the grand facade and, if you’re there at the right time, watch the Aztec dancers, known as concheros, in traditional dress. When you enter, check out the golden alters, elaborate frescoes and cavernous ceilings. If you’re running short of time, make a beeline for the Altar de los Reyes, a magnificent golden spectacle.

7. Visit the Moorish kiosk at the Alameda de Santa María

Architectural Landmark, Park

The intricately decorated, columned kiosk in the Alameda de Santa María
© Alfonso Vargas Torres / Getty Images

In the Santa María la Ribera colonia (neighborhood) is the park-plaza Alameda de Santa María. It’s a chilled place to escape the often-hectic capital; just park yourself next to one of the fountains and relax. The real attraction here though sits in the center – a grand, brightly colored Moorish kiosk built in the late 1800s for a World’s Fair.

This is an updated version of the original article by Lauren Cocking.

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