Are you about to go to Mexico City or, as the locals would say, Ciudad de Mexico? Let me show you some of our favorite places in this huge cosmopolitan city. These are the 12 things to do in and around Mexico City, we really enjoyed.
Why should you visit Mexico City?
For many travelers, Mexico City is just a destination to fly in when they’re about to explore the rest of Mexico or catch a flight to Guatemala. There is much more to see in this mega city than you might think! And you can get to Guatemala by bus later. We did it. Twice.
Mexico City is full of culture, amazing (vegan!) food, nice architecture, and museums. So far, it was our favorite city in Latin America after almost one and a half years of traveling around. Make sure not to miss these activities in CDMX.
Where to stay in Mexico City
First things first. You need to find a place to stay. CDMX is huge, so choosing the perfect location might be intimidating. You might also ask if Mexico City is safe. Well, some parts are safe. Some are not.
We actually got a map of dangerous areas in Mexico City from Filip’s tattoo artist. And I’ll share it with you now!
- The green zones: Are supposed to be safe
- The yellow zones: Are still safe, but be aware of pickpockets
- The orange zones: You might go there during the day, but be very cautious
- The red zones: Are no-go zones
Of course, the city is evolving and some zones might be getting better, some worse. You might be okay in some of the ”bad areas” and be mugged in the good ones. Just try to skip the more dangerous parts, don’t walk alone at night, and listen to your gut.
Once, I accidentally walked through Doctores. It was before we got this map and during the day. I realized something is off, so I didn’t listen to music, nor was I waving my phone around, and was very attentive. Nothing happened, but I wouldn’t go there again.
The historic center of Mexico City
This area is great if you only have a couple of nights in Mexico City and want to explore mostly the historical center. The downside is that all the good restaurants and bars are far away.
We stayed in Selina CDMX, which is located on the edge of downtown. It isn’t the nicest area, to be honest. But it was on the subway, so getting to Roma or Condesa was easy and morning runs in the city center were nice as well.
Roma is a beautiful hip district of Mexico City. If we wouldn’t already pay the colive package in Selina, we would definitely stay in Roma. It’s got a really nice vibe, the architecture is gorgeous and there are parks and trees everywhere.
There are actually two parts – Roma Norte and Roma Sur. Both are safe, but Roma Norte is a bit trendier and filled with all the good restaurants, bakeries, specialty coffee cafés, and independent stores.
Tip: You’ll get the idea about how the neighborhood looks from the Oscar movie Roma by Alfonso Cuarón.
Condesa is another popular neighborhood in Mexico City. It’s also lovely, but a little posh for my taste. There are many nice restaurants in the area though and it’s on the edge of Chapultepec park.
Coyoacán is a charming local neighborhood of Mexico City. You’ll probably visit it if you’re a fan of Frida Kahlo since it’s where you’ll find Casa Azul.
There are still some restaurants, shops, and markets, but it’s not as lively as Condesa or Roma. I think it would be a nice option for families.
This might not be a popular opinion, but I think, Polanco is not the place to stay in CDMX. It’s sort of an exclusive neighborhood. This means a lot of fancy-pancy restaurants, no public transport, and high prices. It’s just not our vibe.
How to get around Mexico City
One of the best things about Mexico City is that there is pretty good public transportation around the city. You’ll find subway(!), metrobuses, trolleybuses, buses and also colectivos. It’s cheap, sort of reliable, and (mostly) safe.
The Mexico City Metro
The subway in Mexico City is the quickest, cheapest, and maybe safest way to get around. What I really appreciate is that there are separate compartments only for women. Sure, it’s not the perfect solution, it would be better if women wouldn’t need to be scared alone… But we’re not there yet, definitely not in Latin America.
One ride costs you only 5 MX$. You can either use single tickets, which you’ll buy at taquilla, the ticket window at the station. An easier option, if you plan to travel more often, is to buy a rechargeable card.
The card for public transport in Mexico City is valid for the subway, metrobus, and trolleybus. You can buy it at the ticket window for 15 MX$ and recharge it at the same spot.
Metrobús in Mexico City
Metrobús is another reliable service of public transport in Mexico City. It’s a long bus, which stops at designated stations – you need to pay before you enter the station. In this case, you can’t use the paper ticket, you need to buy the rechargeable card. One ride is (in 2022) 6 MX$.
Trolleybuses in Mexico City
Just like in Metrobús, you can only use the rechargeable card on the trolleybuses in Mexico City. Although this time, you use it when you get on the bus, not at the station. It still only stops at the official stations, just not closed ones.
Buses in Mexico City
Buses are my least favorite way of transport in CDMX. You can only pay cash and you need to have the exact amount. What is confusing is that every bus cost is different. It can be anything between 4 and 8 MX$ and you’ll only find out when getting on the bus.
The plus of the bus is that you can get on or off the bus pretty much anywhere. Even though they have official stops, it’s not a problem to make another elsewhere. On the other hand, you never know if the bus will come to the official one.
Colectivos in Mexico City
Honestly, I’ve never used colectivo in Mexico City. I saw some in Polanco though. It’s the classic van, which follows a fixed route and stops anywhere you need.
Uber in Mexico City
Of course, there is also Uber in Mexico City. If I remember correctly, we’ve never used it though. But! If you’re in a hurry during the peak hours (≈6 AM to 9 AM and 6 PM to 9 PM), it might be a good idea to call one. We almost missed our bus to San Cristobal, because the subway was sooooo crowded.
12 TOP things to do in Mexico City
As you might know, we’re not the kind of travelers who need to do and see everything. Therefore, this might not be the most comprehensive guide for Mexico City you’ll find. But it’s a selection of really fun and interesting things to do.
1. Stroll through the downtown
Do I even need to mention this? The downtown of Mexico City is really beautiful. Make sure not to miss the main square. The official name is Plaza de la Constitucion, but everybody calls it Zocalo.
It’s not just the main square of Mexico City, but also the second biggest square in the world. You’ll find the beautiful metropolitan cathedral here, the national palace, and some governmental and commercial buildings.
You should also check out the blue-tiled house Casa de Los Azujelos and Palacio de Bellas Artes, or Museo Nacional de Arte (more about the latest two soon).
2. Museo Nacional de Antropología
Everybody told us we can’t miss the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. It’s the most visited museum in Mexico, where you’ll find the most extensive collection of ancient Mexican art and archeological and anthropological objects from the Precolumbian times.
Well, they were right. It’s so beautiful and full of information about the history of Mexico and its people. It’s massive, so make sure to have enough time and energy for the visit.
3. Bosque de Chapultepec
Chapultepec forest is one of the most beautiful city parks I’ve ever been to. It’s pretty huge and you’ll have no problem spending the whole day. Moreover, it’s not just about strolling the park, but also about visiting one of the 9 museums (for instance the National Museum of Anthropology), a castle, lakes, or even a zoo.
4. Ciclovia Paseo de la Reforma on Sunday
Paseo de la Reforma is best on Sundays – there are no cars! It’s actually a very Latin American thing. In the big cities, some of the main streets are closed on Sundays for runners, walkers, and cyclists. It’s called ciclovia and I wish we’d start to do this in Europe as well!
5. Angel of Independence
The Angel of Independence is a victory column on a roundabout on the Paseo de la Reforma, so make sure not to miss it while you enjoy your Sunday run. It was under construction while we stayed in Mexico City, but still, it was worth the visit – the whole modern neighborhood is pretty cool.
6. Museo Nacional de Arte
Filip visited this museum while I was getting a new tattoo in CDMX (btw. if you’re up to getting a new tattoo in traditional style, Gises is the one to go to!).
Anyhow, the museum is located in a beautiful building and you’ll find a collection of Mexican art. Mostly from the time between the second half of 19. and the first half of 20. century, including some pieces of Diego Rivera.
7. Palacio de Bellas Artes
The Palace of Fine Arts is beautiful from the outside and very interesting from the inside. Again, you can admire the murals of Diego Rivera and other famous muralists of his time. Also, the entrance is free on Sundays.
Tip: Make sure to stroll the Alameda park and grab roasted corn with lemon and chili.
8. Soumaya Museum
Another place that is just as interesting inside as outside. The modern mirrored building is super cool and when you get inside, you can admire an extensive collection of Rodin sculptures and paintings by Van Gogh, Matisse, and Monet.
In the end, there is one good reason to go to Polanco!
9. The house of Frida Kahlo aka Casa Azul
If you’re a fan of Frida Kahlo, you probably want to visit the beautiful Casa Azul. There are not many of her paintings, most of the rooms focus on artifacts from her home, her personal life, and her relationship with Diego Rivera.
Maybe visit it even if you’re not a fan of her since the house and its garden are beautiful for anybody! Definitely reserve your tickets ahead of time, since the time slots tend to sell out.
10. Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo
Another place for Frida and Diego fans would be their house and studio. There is not so much to see inside. However, the architecture of the building is pretty cool. If you’ve seen the Frida movie with Salma Hayek, you don’t want to miss it.
11. Day trip to Teotihuacan
Teotihuacan is an ancient Mesoamerican city about 40 km from Mexico City. The Pyramid of the Moon is over 43 m tall and the Pyramid of the Sun is even taller – over 70 m! The best part is that you can visit Teotihuacan without a tour. You’ll find the full guide on how to do it in a separate article.
12. Eat authentic vegan tacos in CDMX
This is, no doubt, my favorite thing to do in Mexico City. I ate SO many amazing vegan tacos over there and kept thinking about those even after more than a year.
If you’re vegan or vegetarian and you always thought you won’t be able to taste the famous tacos al pastor, Mexico City will prove you wrong. This article is getting too long, so I’ll bring a separate Mexico City vegetarian guide soon. Stay tuned!
Enjoy your travels and let us know what your favorite activity in Mexico City was!