From time to time I get questions about where to go in Mexico City, where to stay, are there any restaurant recommendations, etc. Questions also often come about the safety of Mexico, about which I have already made a comprehensive post ”Dare to travel to Mexico?” (in Finnish though). The capital is considered one of the safest destinations in Mexico, and there is guaranteed to be something for everyone.
This post discusses the sights of Mexico City and my own favorites that are worth stopping by. The destinations have been compiled on the basis that they can be reached relatively easily by subway, but some are also within walking distance of each other. At the end of the post, there is a small guide on how to use CMDX’s metro system smoothly.
As a general tip, you should note that most museums and other well-known attractions are closed on Mondays. Sunday, on the other hand, is the most crowded day, because then Mexicans and expats living in the country have free entry to museums etc.
If you are a student, use the ISIC card. With it, you can enter many museums for free and get a discount on the entrance to Torre Latino, for example.
By clicking on the map, you can browse destinations in Google Maps.
1. Zócalo (Plaza de la Constitución)
Metro line: blue 2, station Zócalo
Most visitors to Mexico City first head to the center of the old city, the Centro Histórico, or the 500-year-old Zócalo. Almost 60,000 m2 market can accommodate more than 100,000 people, so it is already an impressive sight itself.
Beautiful old architecture and administrative buildings can be found around the square. A great giant Mexican flag flies in the Zócalo. The square is the center of many events and demonstrations. Heavy police patrolling is normal, so don’t be scared.
2. Church of the Resurrection of Mary (Catedral Metropolitana)
Metro line: blue 2, station Zócalo
Located on the edge of the Zócalo, the main church built between 1573 and 1813 is worth a visit. There is no entrance fee to the church, but sometimes the oldest part is open and there is a separate, as I recall, 50 peso entrance fee. You can visit there to admire the wonderful ceiling frescoes.
The church has a recommended detour; entrance is through the door on the Zócalo side and exit is through the left side door. The church is open every day from 8 am to 8 pm. Schedules of Catholic Masses on the website.
3. Templo Mayor of the Aztec Empire
Metro line: blue 2, nearest station Zócalo
In the northeastern corner of the Zócalo, you can find the ruins of the ancient main temple of the Aztecs, or Templo Mayor, which have been partially excavated from under the old town. The temple ruins are located inside a fenced area, so there is an entrance fee of 70 pesos.
For the same fee, you can enter the multi-story Templo Mayor museum after the outdoor tour. You should have plenty of time there, because there is a lot to see. The sacred site of the Aztecs is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9 am to 5 pm.
In front of the temple there are often, but especially on Sundays, Mexican dance groups, who, dressed in feather headdresses and animal loins, dance and drum for hours in the scorching sun. Ancient purification ceremonies are also available, the recommended fee for participating is 20 pesos, or about one euro.
4. Palacio de Bellas Artes
Metro lines: blue 2 and green 8, station Bellas Artes
Built in the early 20th century, Mexico City’s cultural center offers e.g. literary events and dance and music performances. Bellas Artes means beautiful arts. In addition to cultural performances, you can admire e.g. murals by Diego Rivera.
The building is also beautiful from the outside, and it is located next to the Alameda park, quite close to the Zócalo. The entrance fee to Bellas Artes is 75 pesos, there is an additional fee of 30 pesos for taking photos with anything other than a phone. Open from Tuesday to Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm.
5. Torre Latinoamericana
Metro lines: blue 2 and green 8, station Bellas Artes
Located in the Centro Historico, the roughly 140-meter high skyscraper was the tallest building in Latin America when it was completed in the 1950s. The tower has a height of 139 meters (with the antenna 181 m). There are 44 floors, and you can take an elevator up to the observation deck. The tower has a wonderful view over the whole city, and only from there (besides the plane) you realize how huge CDMX really is.
There are often long queues at Torre Latino, and you have to wait more than half an hour to get in. You also have to wait in line to get off when there are elevators available. There is also a museum and a couple of cafes in Torre.
The tower can be found at the end of Avenida Francisco I. Madero, the shopping street from the Zócalo. The viewing platform is open from Monday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and from Friday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. The entrance fee to the viewing platform and the museum is 170 pesos.
6. Casa de los Azulejos
Metro line: blue 2 and green 8, nearest station: Bellas Artes
Walking distance from the Zócalo, next to the Torre Latino lies one of the jewels of the Centro Historicos oldest buildings, the ”tile house”. This baroque palace dates back to the 18th century and was built by a count of the Orizaba Valley.
Casa de los Azulejos is decorated with countless blue and white decorative tiles that come from the state of Puebla. In general, azulejo tiles came to Mexico with the Spanish. The tiles arrived in Spain and Portugal with the Arab conquerors.
Today, a popular restaurant operates on the premises, with a large peacock mural on the wall of the hall. Open every day from 7 am to 1 am.
7. Alameda Central and Benito Juárez Monument
Metro lines: blue 2 and green 8, station Bellas Artes
In addition to the Zócalo, the Alameda park can be considered the heart of the city center. Alameda is CDMX’s oldest public park and a popular hangout. Alameda Central was already established in the 16th century, but until the beginning of the 19th century it was only open to the nobility.
Today, you can see the whole spectrum of human life in the park, from families with children to the elderly playing chess. The park is also popular with sexual minorities because of its relaxed atmosphere. In Alameda you can find e.g. purple blooming jacaranda trees and fountains.
There is also a Benito Juárez monument on the edge of the park. As a sapotecan, Juárez was the first and so far the only indigenous president. The CDMX airport is also named after him.
The park is within walking distance from the Zócalo, but you can also get there by metro.
8. Chinatown (Barrio Chino)
Metro lines: blue 2, nearest station Bellas Artes or green 8, nearest stations Bellas Artes and San Juan de Letrán
In any big city today you would find a Chinatown – Mexico City is no exception. The Chinese originally came to Mexico at the end of the 19th century, mainly to work on buildings, but today a whole Chinese community lives in the city.
In Barrio Chino, which starts next to Bellas Artes, you can find mostly Chinese restaurants as well as general stores and lucky charm stores, but Mexican influences have also made their way into the area.
The building stock does not differ much from the Mexican one, and the only proper Chinese symbol is the large Chinese gate at the beginning of the Dolores shopping street. When you turn right from Dolores, you will find another paifang, which was erected a few years ago as a mere tourist attraction.
At its most descriptive, Barrio Chino is illuminated with paper lanterns in the evenings.
9. Museum Mural Diego Rivera
Metro lines: blue 2 and olive green 3, nearest station Hidalgo
This is not really a museum in its true sense, but a mural painted by the Mexican Diego Rivera is on display, presenting the history of Mexico. The mural is undeniably impressive and there is enough to explore for a longer time. In the middle of the mural, Rivera has painted himself as a child dreaming of his future wife, Frida Kahlo.
There are props in the mural hall that you can dress up in for photos. The museum is located between the Alameda Park and the city’s main street, Paseo de la Reforma.
Entrance fee to see the mural is 35 pesos + 5 pesos photography fee. Open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
10. Craft Market (Mercado de Artesanías La Ciudadela)
Metro line: olive green 3, nearest station Juárez
For lovers of craft and art shopping, the city’s artisan market is a treasure trove. The market, consisting of several stalls, offers beautiful embroideries, clothes, shoes, tableware, bags, tablecloths, jewelry, etc. that show the handprint of the Mexican handicraft tradition.
The market can be reached by subway, but on the other hand, the it is within walking distance from the center. For example, it is a couple of kilometers from Zócalo and less than a kilometer from Alameda. The craft market is open every day from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
11. Union of Electrical Workers (Sindicato Mexicano de Electricistas)
Metro line: blue 2, the nearest station is Revolucion
The Mexican Union of Electrical Workers is not a widely known attraction, but for those interested in murals and history, it is a perfect place to stop. Inside the SME, there is a large mural by José David Alfaro Siqueiros called ”Portrait of the Bourgeoisie”, whose gloomy imprint reveals many interesting details.
The theme is especially the Second World War and its effects in Europe, which Siqueiros himself witnessed in the early stages of the war. Another main theme is technological development, which made it possible not only to do good things, but also to build weapons of mass destruction.
Open from Monday to Saturday from 8 am to 6 pm.
12. Mercado La Merced and other markets
Mercado La Merced and Mercado Sonora – Metro line: pink 1, station La Merced
Mercado Torre Anexo – Metro line: olive green 3, nearest station Guerrero
Mercado de San Juan – Metro line: green 8, nearest station San Juan de Letrán
If you want to experience the authentic Mexican market buzz, you should head to one of the city’s many markets. Market places are usually covered with tarps and other shack arrangements, but there are also steady-built covered market halls. However, some of them are so big that you can easily get lost in them.
The La Merced market is the largest. There are more than 5,500 stalls in the 88,000 square meter area. Most of the stalls are located in a covered hall, which is divided into different themes such as shoes, vegetables, meats, sweets, toys, etc.
Upon arrival, the mouth of the subway opens directly to the market, but it is challenging to find your way back there, because you quickly lose your sense of direction in the stalls. You should ask the sellers for advice, they usually point in roughly the right direction to get out. Below the La Merced crazy mill, there is also Mercado Sonora as an option.
However, I recommend smaller markets, which are easier to get out of, for those who are afraid of confined spaces. Such are, for example, Mi Mercado Martínez de la Torre Anexo. Next to Torre Anexo is a large covered hall with countless Mexican street kitchens.
Most markets are open every day from 6 am to 6 pm.
13. Graffiti of CDMX
Metro line: green-gray B, station Buenavista
The district of Guerrero is considered to have a bad reputation, but it’s perfectly fine to walk around there during the day. Guerrero is home to some of Mexico City’s most spectacular graffiti, and for street art lovers, it’s the perfect place to shoot.
Sure, you can find graffiti and murals in other parts of the city, but the Corredor de Arte Urbano is especially worth seeing. The project started in 2017 brought 43 different graffiti artists to the street, who painted 11 large murals on the walls of buildings. I think there have been even more paintings since then.
Other memorable murals are, for example, the insanely large mural of the Edificio Jeanne D’Arc in the Cuauhtémoc district, presenting the culture and history of Mexico, and Frida Kahlo on the wall of the restaurant Comedor Lucerna.
14. Paseo de la Reforma and the Angel of Independence (El Ángel de la Independencia)
Metro line: pink 1, Nearest stations Cuauhtemoc and Sevilla
Another of CDMX’s main streets, Paseo de la Reforma is an attraction in itself. Along it you can find e.g. the Angel of Independence, which is one of the most famous symbols of the city.
The angel statue is located in a roundabout which, believe it or not, is a popular hangout spot. There are no crosswalks in the traffic circle, but people walk to the statue through busy lanes. Especially on weekends, it can get rowdy, and there are often police cars in the park around the statue.
There is a statue of an Aztec warrior on one of the traffic dividers, which is also beautiful in the evening lighting. There is also a photo exhibition near the Chapultepec park, which presents e.g. unique natural sites around the world.
15. Monument to the Revolution (Monumento a la Revolución)
Metro line: blue 2, the nearest station is Revolucion
Completed in the 1930s, the 67-meter-high monument to the revolution is another symbol of Mexico City. The building’s mausoleum houses the remains of many of the main figures who died in the Mexican Revolutionary War, such as Venustiano Carranza and ”Pancho” Villa.
The observation deck of the monument can be reached by elevator, and around it, events are sometimes organized, e.g. cultural events, for example Aztec New Year celebrations.
Open from Monday to Thursday from 12 to 20, from Friday to Saturday from 12 to 21 and on Sundays from 11 to 20. Entrance fee 120 pesos.
Metro line: blue 2 and olive green 3, nearest station Hidalgo
Among the numerous monuments and statues that glorify Mexico City’s history, so-called anti-monuments have also begun to appear, the purpose of which is to remind us of the saddest incidents in the country’s history.
Walking down Paseo de la Reforma you can see a few. One can be found near Torre Caballito, and it reminds us of the 43 student teachers who disappeared in 2014, whose fate is still unknown.
The second one is in front of the Fiesta Americana Reforma Hotel, where for some reason the statue of Columbus used to be. Finally, in the fall of 2021, Mexicans threatened to topple the statue, so it was removed. After this, a group of feminists took over the roundabout and raised a small female figure in place of the statue. On the fences, they wrote the names of women who have died as victims of violence or while defending women’s rights. In recent months, there has been a debate in Mexico about which statue will replace it. However, Columbus will not go up there again.
17. Casa Azul
Metro line: olive green 3, nearest station Coyoacán
Frida Kahlo’s house, which is now a museum, Casa Azul, or blue house, is one of the most popular attractions in Mexico City, and there are almost always insanely long queues there. The building located in the southern part of the city is worth a visit if you are interested in Kahlo’s art and life.
There are several entrance fees to Caza Azul, an adult ticket costs 230 pesos on weekdays and 270 pesos on weekends. Filming fee is 30 pesos (video recording prohibited). The ticket also includes access to Diego Rivera’s Anahuacalli Museum.
Casa Azul is open on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., on Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and from Thursday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fairly strict visiting rules can be found on the website.
18. Chapultepec Park (Bosque de Chapultepec)
Sector I – Metro lines: pink 1, station Chapultepec or orange 7, station Auditorio
Sector II – Metro line: orange 7, nearest station Constituyentes
Sector III – Metro line: pink 1, nearest station Observatorio (the walking distance will be several kilometers)
The park area of several hundred hectares is actually an urban forest. Chapultepec is divided into different sections with different offerings and habitat types.
In the first and probably the most popular part are e.g. the National Anthropological Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Zoo, the Botanical Garden, the aqueducts built by the Aztecs, and the Castle of Chapultepec, which houses the Museum of National History. The castle is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm, entrance fee 80 pesos. In part I, you can also find the Chapultepec lake, where you can row pedal boats.
The second part is well suited for families, because there you can find natural history museum, children’s museum, restaurants and skate park. There are also a couple of lakes. The Museum of Natural History is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm, the entrance fee is 30 pesos.
The third sector, on the other hand, consists of a protected wooded area, where there are hardly any real amusements. Between the second and third sections is the large Panteón de Dolores cemetery, where for example there is a grave of Tina Modotti, an Italian photographer, model and civic activist who had an impact in Mexico. The cemetery is open daily from 8 am to 5 pm.
19. Anthropological Museum (Museo Nacional de Antropología)
Metro lines: pink 1, nearest station Chapultepec or orange 7, nearest station Auditorio
The National Anthropological Museum can be found at the foot of Chapultepec Park. As you can guess from the name, the museum has a comprehensive collection of historical treasures of Mexico, which presents e.g. art and life of Native American peoples. The Anthropological Museum has the world’s largest collection of pre-Columbian art, and some of it has also visited the Finnish National Museum.
Entrance fee 80 pesos, open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm.
20. Basilica of Guadalupe
Metro line: red 6, nearest station Villa-Basilika
There are two Basilicas of Guadalupe on the northern edge of Mexico City. The original one was built on the site where a poor indigenous man is said to have seen the Virgin Mary. An image of the Virgin Mary also appeared on the man’s cloak. The original basilica was closed for years, during which a newer version was built next to it in the 1970s.
Millions of people come every year to worship the place of the Virgin’s apparition and the holy garment, which can be seen behind armored glass in the new basilica. The basilica is open daily from 7 am to 7 pm. More precise times, e.g. for the masses on the website.
If you have more time, I recommend visiting the Teotihuacán pyramids. The two-thousand-year-old archaeological area consists of the pyramids of the Sun and the Moon, the temples of the Feathered Serpent and the Feathered Seashell, as well as numerous smaller remains. The Pyramid of the Sun is much bigger than, for example, the Mayan pyramids found in the Yucatan.
The Aztecs, who arrived later, considered Teotihuacán to be the city of the gods. I have been to the area several times and wrote an extensive post full of information on the subject, Teotihuacán: The Glory and Destruction of the City of Gods (still only in Finnish).
There are day trips to Teotihuacán, but you can also get there on your own. There are several buses a day, and tickets for them can be bought at the Autobuses del Norte bus terminal. You can get to the bus station with the yellow metro line no. 5. You have to make a couple of changes if you depart from the center.
A return bus ticket costs 104 pesos (€4.50 – cash only). The departure is for the specified bus route, but the return is open. Buses return to Mexico City from Gate 2 of Teotihuacán, at the Pyramid of the Sun. The buses are pretty old and dirty, but you can’t help it 😀
Teotihuacán is currently open every day from 9 am to 3 pm. The 80 peso entrance fee to the archeological site is paid at the gate, and (in normal times) it also allows access to the fascinating museum. The museum is closed for the time being, and you can no longer climb the pyramids. I think it’s due to COVID, and can change anytime.
22. Mexico City Metro
Many metro stations have beautiful art related to Mexican history and other things to marvel at. That’s why I recommend skipping the taxi and hopping among the locals.
For example, at Panteones station at the end of the blue line, there are stone pases and sculptures related to Native American cultures, such as the stone head of the Olmecs. Tacubaya station on the orange line has wonderful murals. At the Pino Suárez station, at the intersection of the blue and pink lines, you can find the altar of Ehecatl, Aztec god of the wind, excavated from under the city.
My favorite would be the yellow line station La Raza, which you have to pass through if you go to the bus station. La Raza is a long underground science tunnel that presents e.g. the birth of the universe. Even in the dark, a starry sky has been painted on the ceiling of one of the corridors.
How to use the subway smoothly
- Save the subway map to your phone. Here is an up-to-date picture.
- The ticket is bought at the box where it says Taquilla. The ticket costs 5 pesos. Before I bought a CDMX travel card, I used buy 10 tickets at once (in cash).
- Insert the ticket into the slot at the gate to enter the tunnel/platforms.
- At crossing stations, the corridors are shared by two or three lines. The subway lines are color-coded, so you can see from the signs that you are going in the right direction.
- Look on the map for the end station of the line and navigate accordingly. For example, if you leave Bellas Artes and want to go to Revolucion, you follow the blue line signs and head in the direction of ”Direccion Cuatro Caminos”. On the other hand, if you go south, you will follow the ”Direccion Tasqueña” sign.
Metro signs are only in Spanish:
- Area exclusiva para Mujeres y niños – there is a separate waiting area for women and children at either end of the platform.
- Correspondencia – gateway. Head here if you need to change metro lines. You don’t need a new ticket as long as you stay inside the tunnel. Under the yellow Correspondencia sign, it says which subway corridors connect there.
- Salida – exit
- Entrada – entrance
- No pase – prohibited direction
- Taquilla – ticket office
- Andenes – platforms
The busiest times are in the morning and early evening. Around 17-19, the platforms are full to the brim and you have to wait for several lines to get on the subway. Take care of the bag. If you suffer from panic attacks, avoid the crowded subway. During the busiest times there’s no room to even raise your hand. The only way out of the hot crowd is to wait calmly.
Despite everything, the metro is the best way to move freely in the city. But since the subway is mostly used by ordinary people who live outside the center in the east and south, the subway stations are not very dense in the western part of Mexico City, where there are so-called better residential areas.
I personally prefer Uber next to the subway. Rides in the city, including the airport, usually cost 80-200 pesos (about 3-9 €).
Feel free to ask if something else comes to mind! You can also find me on Instagram @cillamaria8