From an iconic park to an iconic building, the image of the sparkling orange-roofed, bright white Palacio de Bellas Artes is one you may already know. A staple feature on any Mexico City guide and promotional material, this Art Nouveau/ Art Deco building is best known for its impressive collection of murals, shimmering tiled roof and Tiffany glass curtain.
Not a sight as such, the southern neighbourhood of Coyoacán is worth at least a day of your time to fully explore. Whether you’re a fan of Frida Kahlo, art in general or even just bustling plazas, this quirky, artistic barrio is an essential visit. Don’t miss the coffee from Café El Jarocho, or people watching in the central plaza, Plaza Hidalgo.
If you wander down Paseo de la Reforma at any point in your Mexico City visit, which you should, you’re bound to stumble across the Monumento a la Revolución. This towering triumphal arch (the largest in the world) houses the remains of Mexican Revolutionaries Pancho Villa and Lázaro Cárdenas, as well as a viewpoint and excellently curated museum.
A rather more underrated and out of the way attraction than those already mentioned, Santa María la Ribera’s elaborate Kiosco Morisco seems somewhat out of place in the heart of Mexico City, given that it’s more or less an oversized, Islamic-inspired bandstand. Impromptu martial arts lessons and mother and baby dance classes take place there on a daily basis. Plus, it’s just around the corner from the Biblioteca Vasconcelos.
The world’s third most visited religious site, and the top Catholic destination, the emblematic and culturally important Basílica de Guadalupe can’t be dropped from any Mexico City itinerary. Legend states that this is where the Virgen de Guadalupe appeared to Cuauhtlatoatzin in the 16th century, but even if that’s not the case, both the old and new basilicas are still architecturally impressive.
Bosque de Chapultepec, a.k.a. the lungs of Mexico City, is another sight you shouldn’t omit from your Mexico City itinerary, as actively exploring this vast forest is highly encouraged. Filled to the brim with top museums, the Castillo de Chapultepec is a particular highlight; once the backdrop for scenes in Romeo + Juliet, it is now a humble Museo Nacional de Historia and former Royal residence.
While there is far more to Xochimilco than the colorful, iconic trajineras (canal type boats), which float up and down the many chinampas (canals) of the region on a daily basis, you can’t really afford to miss a half-day visit to this top tourist attraction. Either buy food and pulque from the floating vendors or pack some beers and sandwiches, but be sure not to get scammed on the price.
Is it cheating to add in two whole neighborhoods as one entry? We don’t think so, especially as Roma and Condesa both have so much to offer the passing or even long-term traveler in Mexico City. Right in the heart of the capital, these hipster hangouts are overflowing with quirky bars, restaurants and art galleries, as well as some of the city’s top street artworks. Don’t go with a plan of attack, just explore at your own pace.
Towering over the Palacio de Bellas Artes and offering bird’s eye views of the popular, family-friendly Parque Alameda, as well as the city as a whole, heading to the Torre Latinoamericana for dinner or drinks is never a bad idea. The best time to go is right before sunset, so you can see the capital in all its daytime glory before catching the capital transform into its glittering, night-time best.
Torre Latinoamericana, Eje Central 2, Centro, Ciudad de México, México, +52 55 5518 7423
Rather sadly known best for the student massacres of the last century, Tlatelolco’s Plaza de las Tres Culturas is still a worthy entry on our guide to Mexico City’s top attractions, bringing together as it does the three distinct cultural heritages that make up modern Mexico. Pyramids mark the Mesoamerican past, whilst the colonial Templo de Santiago symbolises the Spanish Conquistador’s influence on the culture, and the Torre de Tlatelolco marks present day modernity.
You don’t go to Arena México in Colonia Doctores for the sake of it, but rather you go to catch one of the iconic lucha libres that are hosted year-round in the country and are especially popular in the Mexican capital. Mildly homoerotic, the entertaining if slightly ridiculous luchas are one of those cultural events that you can’t pass up the opportunity to watch.
Arena México, Dr. Lavista No. 197, Doctores, Ciudad de México, México, +52 55 5588 1561