Must-Visit Attractions in Mexico City

The stunning Palacio de Bellas Artes is one of Mexico City's can't-miss attractions
The stunning Palacio de Bellas Artes is one of Mexico City's can't-miss attractions | © Frank Nowikowski / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Lauren Cocking
Northern England Writer10 September 2021

Mexico City is a place you could get lost in. Whether you’re here for 48 hours or several months – soaking up the vibrant atmosphere of the cosmopolitan capital – you’ll never run short of things to do and see. Here’s our selection of the top sights, attractions and points of interest you shouldn’t miss.

Looking for a more personalized experience? Then book Culture Trip’s five-day Mexico City tour where you’ll get to enjoy the highlights of this wonderful city while being guided by one of our expert Local Insiders.

Stroll through Parque México

A fountain in Parque Mexico with a statue in it of a woman carrying water jugs
© Stephen Lloyd Mexico / Alamy Stock Photo
In the upscale Condesa neighborhood, Parque México has been an icon of both the zone and the city for decades, and is easily one of the loveliest urban green spaces in the capital. As well as being surrounded on all sides by art deco buildings, the park is also home to some similarly impressive stand-out pieces, most notably the sleek blue-and-white clock tower.

Marvel at the Palacio de Bellas Artes

A woman sitting on a bench in the Palacio de Bellas Artes admires a Diego Rivera mural full of human, cartoony characters
© agefotostock / Alamy Stock Photo
One of the most well-known landmarks in the city, 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.

Peek inside the Catedral Metropolitana

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
Sitting at the heart of the historic center, the sinking Catedral Metropolitana is an unmissable Mexico City sight – both literally and figuratively, given the towering shadow it leaves over the Zocalo. The oldest cathedral in Latin America, the Catedral Metropolitana is made from the stone of a Mesoamerican pyramid and took three centuries to build.

Explore the neighborhood of Coyoacán

Food Kiosk, Mexican
A beautiful yellow house in Coyoacán with wooden doors and lots of greenery outside
© Lucas Vallecillos / Alamy Stock Photo
Not a sight as such, but the southern neighborhood 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 (neighborhood) is an essential visit. Don’t miss the coffee from Café El Jarocho, or people watching in the central plaza, Plaza Hidalgo.

Ponder art inside 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
Named after founder Carlos Slim’s late wife, Soumaya Domit, the Museo Soumaya (Plaza Carso) is a glittering architectural treat amidst unremarkable business blocks in the center of Polanco. Rising from the ground like a silver geometric dream, it’s filled with plenty of artwork from the European Old Masters and even has some 20th-century Mexican pieces, too.

Buy fresh produce at the Mercado de la Merced

A vendor in an apron scoops out spices from a green bag at his stall in Mercado de la Merced
© Lucas Vallecillos / Alamy Stock Photo
If you’re looking for fresh food, or even just want to soak up the sights, sounds and smells of a traditional Mexican market, Mercado de la Merced is a must. Here, you’ll find piles of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as plenty of food puestos – top tip: eat at the busier ones. However, keep your wits about you, as it can be disorienting and getting lost is easy.

Spot the Monumento a la Revolución

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark
The Monumento a la Revolución in Mexico City with a golden dome on top of a grand arch
© agefotostock / Alamy Stock Photo
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.

Take a look around the Ciudad Universitaria

The Central Library at UNAM is covered in an intricate mosaic by artist Juan O'Gorman
© Cathyrose Melloan / Alamy Stock Photo
Mexico City’s UNAM (Universidad Autónoma de México) is so sprawling that its southern campus is practically a mini city in its own right. In fact, it’s actually known as University City and plays host to not just university buildings, but also an epic, Instagram-friendly sculpture park, the MUAC art gallery and the Biblioteca Central. Recognized as a Unesco World Heritage Site, spend a day wandering around this top attraction.

Watch the world go by at the Kiosco Morisco

The dome of the Kiosco Morisco pokes through trees in Santa María la Ribera neighborhood
© Eman Kazemi / Alamy Stock Photo
A rather more underrated and out-of-the-way attraction, 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 as well as mother and baby dance classes take place there on a daily basis. Plus, it’s just around the corner from the Biblioteca Vasconcelos.

Visit the Basílica de Guadalupe

The gold-domed old Basilica de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe sits in front of the green slope of the new basilica
© Jerónimo Alba / Alamy Stock Photo
The third most-visited religious site in the world, and the top Catholic destination in the country, the emblematic and culturally important Basílica de Guadalupe can’t be missed from any Mexico City itinerary. Legend states this is where the Virgen de Guadalupe appeared to Cuauhtlatoatzin in the 16th century. Even if that’s not the case, both the old and new basilicas are still architecturally impressive.

Stop by Frida Kahlo's Casa Azul

The elaborate entrance of Casa Azul, which has a green door and sign above reading "welcome to the home of Frida"
© Brian Overcast / Alamy Stock Photo
Frida Kahlo is the inescapable representation of Mexico’s artistic heritage on a global level. Although her house is somewhat of a tourist trap, with long queues and pricey entrance fees, it’s also one attraction that can’t be skipped over. It houses many of her personal possessions, artworks and relics – the gardens are especially tranquil and the decor of her rooms is particularly intriguing.

Explore the Castillo and Bosque de Chapultepec

A hallway in the Castillo de Chapultepec has chequerboard floors and a long, floor-to-ceiling run of stained-glass windows
© Jon Arnold Images Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo
Bosque de Chapultepec, also known as 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.

Tour the Museo Nacional de Antropología

The Chac Mool statue in the Museo Nacional de Antropologia of a stone human figure lying down
© agefotostock / Alamy Stock Photo
Although the Museo Nacional de Antropología is also located in the aforementioned Bosque de Chapultepec, it more than deserves an entry of its own – given that it’s Mexico’s most-visited tourist attraction. Housing a truly jaw-dropping number of artifacts, relics and temporary exhibits related to the Mesoamerican history of Mexico, everyone from history buffs to the casual observer will leave impressed.

Take a ride on a traijinera in Xochimilco

Architectural Landmark, Natural Feature
Three colorful trajineras - punt-style boats - with yellow seats and a bench down the middle
© Jesse Kraft / Alamy Stock Photo
While there is far more to Xochimilco than the colorful 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 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.

Wander around the Roma and Condesa neighborhoods

Architectural Landmark
Two tourists walk past the colourful shops and homes in Calle Colima in the Roma neighborhood
© Cathyrose Melloan / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Admire the view from Torre Latinoamericana

The many buildings of Mexico City, as seen from the observation deck of the Torre Latinoamericana
© Elijah Lovkoff / Alamy Stock Photo
Heading to the Torre Latinoamericana for dinner or drinks is never a bad idea. Towering over the Palacio de Bellas Artes, it offers a bird’s eye view of the popular, family-friendly Parque Alameda, as well as the city as a whole. The best time to go is right before sunset, so you can see the capital in all its daytime glory before catching Mexico City transform into its glittering, night-time best.

Learn about Mexico's history at the Plaza de las Tres Culturas

A woman stands in front of the brick ruins of a church in Plaza de las Tres Culturas
© F1online digitale Bildagentur GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo
Rather sadly known for the student massacres of the last century, Plaza de las Tres Culturas in Tlatelolco is still a worthy entry on our guide to the top attractions in Mexico City. It brings together the three distinct cultural heritages that make up modern Mexico. Pyramids mark the Mesoamerican past, while the colonial Templo de Santiago symbolizes the Spanish Conquistador influence on the culture, and the Torre de Tlatelolco marks the present day.

Discover movie history at Cineteca Nacional

Cinema, Movie Theater, Theater
Film-goers gather under the tall, latticed roof of Cineteca Nacional
© Jon Arnold Images Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo
In Colonia Xoco, you’ll find one of the most outstanding but overlooked attractions in Mexico City – the Cineteca Nacional. Almost sculptural in design, its sleek, white outer shell conceals numerous relics of the Mexican cinema scene, as well as a handful of screens that regularly host indie films and beautifully curated film cycles. While going to cinema might seem like a mere rainy-day exercise, at the Cineteca it’s anything but.

Watch a wrestling match at Arena México

A Lucha Libre wrestler shows the cross on his necklace as he performs in Arena Mexico
© Chico Sanchez / Alamy Stock Photo
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.

Climb the Pirámides de Teotihuacán

Stairs lead up one of the ancient pyramids at Teotihuacán, while mountains rise behind
© Starcevic / Getty Images
Our final must-visit Mexico City attraction is actually just outside the city, in the State of Mexico. However, the ysterious Pirámides de Teotihuacán are accessible and impressive. Climb the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon, then marvel over the lengthy Avenue of the Dead – but don’t forget to take water and sunblock.

Looking for somewhere to stay? Book into one of the hotels in Mexico City that you’ll be talking about forever, or treat yourself to a luxury boutique hotel stay. For more options, discover our guide on where to stay in Mexico City like a local. Inspire your itinerary with the most iconic landmarks for first-time visitors. And don’t forget to soak in the skyline of Mexico’s capital with a drink at its best rooftop bars.

These recommendations were updated on September 10, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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