What are the five best things to see and do in Mexico City?

The sheer number of museums, historical sites and cultural spots in Mexico City can be overwhelming, but you can’t go wrong with these five attractions. Forbes Travel Guide’s list of the best things to see and do will give you a good overview of the city’s diversity and historical depth:
 
1. Plaza de la Constitución. The city’s main square, known more popularly as the Zócalo, played an integral part in D.F.’s history. It was here where conquistador Hernán Cortés reportedly met Aztec emperor Montezuma II in 1519. The Zócalo later served as ground zero for the country’s war for independence from Spain. We recommend catching a bird’s-eye view of the Zócalo and the surrounding centro histórico from the Torre Latinoamericana’s observation deck. Add a stop at the National Palace in your tour; the entranceway courtyard’s fountain, interior garden and Diego Rivera mural recounting Mexican history make it worthy of a visit.
 
2. Templo Mayor. Rewind the clock or, better yet, the sun stone (the Aztec calendar) at Mexico City’s great temple. Excavators have discovered numerous carvings and statues at this archeological treasure trove.
 
3. Chapultepec Park. Amble past the monuments and sculptures along Paseo de la Reforma on your way to Chapultepec Park. The mammoth green spot in the middle of Mexico City is one of the biggest parks in the world. You could spend an entire day (or two) exploring its forest and lake alone. Climb the hill to see Chapultepec Castle and its natural history museum. The National Anthropology Museum deserves a separate visit entirely dedicated to its stockpile of Mesoamerican artifacts from area inhabitants through the millennia. The Museum of Modern Art also should be a priority on your Chapultepec itinerary, so you can peruse works by standouts like Frida Kahlo.
 
4. Basílica de Guadalupe. The basilica is built on the hillside where the virgin of Guadalupe fist appeared to Juan Diego. We recommend making an appearance there yourself. Mexicans crowd the church for mass or to contribute a candle to the altars. Even if you’re not the religious type, the site’s architecture and landscaping merit a pilgrimage.
 
5. Coyoacán. Come to this neighborhood to pay your respects to two of D.F.’s most famous residents: painters Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. The couple’s former home, Casa Azúl, showcases some of their works. (For further examples of their art, visit Museo Dolores Olmedo, a sprawling public estate in Xochimilco that belonged to a close friend and patron of the artists.) 

  • On December 19, 2013
    Dan Howard answered the question: Dan Howard

    What are the best off-the-beaten-path activities in Mexico City?

    Though it will not be on the top of most lists of attractions for foreigners visiting D.F., the flotillas of Xochimilco are not to be missed.  Located on canals and tiny islands at the southern edge of the city, it is a joy to float for hours along with friends as literally dozens of live mariachi performances serenade and authentic Mexican culinary specialties are prepared before your eyes on floating ‘kitchen’ boats that tie up alongside yours.  Selecting a boat and a tour guide is easy and inexpensive.  As Xochimilco is not considered a popular tourism area, it is wise not to wear any jewelry or attention-grabbing clothing.  But the opportunity to enjoy watching local families as they celebrate birthdays, weddings or just a lazy Sunday floating on the canals together is an experience never to be forgotten.  Just as a gondola ride is considered an indispensable part of any visit to Venice, this is Mexico’s more colorful, relaxed and affordable tradition.
  • On July 6, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the best off-the-beaten-path activities in Mexico City?

    Whether mano a mano or man versus bull, the best off-the-beaten-path activities in Mexico City center on survival: lucha libre (Mexican masked wrestling) and bullfighting. The first is scripted but also, as a result, considerably more lighthearted. Distrito Federal residents pack the arenas on fight nights to watch masquerading athletes slam, smack and insult their opponents into submission. With a few beers, the elaborate spectacle blends into something closer to theater than sport. Bullfighting, on the other hand, is much more serious. It’s not recommended for folks who get squeamish at the sight of blood or violent treatment of animals. If you appreciate the matadors’ art, however, Mexico City is one of the best places to be a spectator outside of Spain. To see a bout, visit the Monumental Plaza de Toros México, the largest bullring in the world.
  • On July 6, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What is the best thing to bring home from Mexico City?

    If you appreciate good liquor, the best thing to bring home from Mexico City is aged tequilas. Look for the tall, skinny bottles sporting the Corralejo label. The Don Julio and Milagro brands are two other good buys. These souvenirs are best consumed sipping or cooking into a meal for extra flavor. For those who would rather avoid agave, fine silver products are Mexico City specialties, too. The mines in nearby Taxco de Alarcón yield some of the world’s finest plata. Metalsmiths take over to shape the silver into jewelry, household items and artwork, available at most local luxury hotels. Our Forbes Travel Guide editors suggest shopping at Tane, which got its start in Mexico City. The Polanco location peddles chic silver earrings, necklaces and bracelets. You can even frame your Mexico City vacation photos in silver picture frames from Tane. 
  • On July 6, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What is the best way to see Mexico City in one day?

    The best way to see Mexico City in one day is to start at its biggest attraction, Chapultepec Park. Hike up to the Chapultepec Castle, but conserve some energy for the rest of the day. After exploring centuries of Mesoamerican civilization at the park’s excellent anthropology museum, you’ll likely be hungry. Our Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend a restaurant en route to the centro histórico, with Paseo de la Reforma being the most scenic path. Foodies might want to make a slight detour to Polanco, to dine at Mediterranean-inspired Oca and the more casual Papa Bill’s Saloon.
     
    Follow your lunch with a lap through Alameda Central park and a look at the Diego Rivera and David Siqueiros murals in the Palacio de Bellas Artes cultural center. The neighboring Postal Palace deserves a peek, too, for its striking Renaissance-revival architecture. Next, ride the elevator to the Torre Latinoamericana’s observation deck for a Mexico City panorama. If you’d rather see the city from a different perspective, head to the Aztec archeological site Templo Mayor instead.
     
    As Mexico City’s central square, the Zócalo is where some of the city’s most pivotal moments happened, including when conquistador Hernán Cortés reportedly met Aztec emperor Montezuma II. We suggest wrapping up your sightseeing there and transitioning to dinner. The historic center boasts plenty of fine dining establishments. Café de Tacuba, which has been around since 1912, is renowned for its spicy moles (sauces). Can we interest you in a nightcap? If you answered , then proceed to Plaza Garibaldi for mariachi music and tequila until sunrise. 
  • On July 6, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    Where is the best shopping in Mexico City?

    Some of the best shopping in Mexico City actually comes to you. Street vendors and bootleggers seek out tourists and set up stalls at highly trafficked sites. However, our Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend the more traditional shopping experiences, regardless of whether you long for luxury or itch for kitsch. Malls and boutiques dominate on well-known shopping strip Avenida Presidente Masaryk. Here, you’ll find high-end jewelry shops like Tiffany & Co., but we suggest picking up striking silver earrings, necklaces and more at Tane, which opened its first store in Mexico City. Meanwhile, Mexican novelty items, call for a visit to one of the city’s many craft markets. The Mercado de Artesanias de la Ciudadela specializes in goods like sombreros, hammocks and pottery. The Bazar del Sábado makes waiting until Saturday worthwhile, so you can pick up blankets, art and other handmade items.
  • On July 6, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the five best things to see and do in Mexico City?

    The sheer number of museums, historical sites and cultural spots in Mexico City can be overwhelming, but you can’t go wrong with these five attractions. Forbes Travel Guide’s list of the best things to see and do will give you a good overview of the city’s diversity and historical depth:
     
    1. Plaza de la Constitución. The city’s main square, known more popularly as the Zócalo, played an integral part in D.F.’s history. It was here where conquistador Hernán Cortés reportedly met Aztec emperor Montezuma II in 1519. The Zócalo later served as ground zero for the country’s war for independence from Spain. We recommend catching a bird’s-eye view of the Zócalo and the surrounding centro histórico from the Torre Latinoamericana’s observation deck. Add a stop at the National Palace in your tour; the entranceway courtyard’s fountain, interior garden and Diego Rivera mural recounting Mexican history make it worthy of a visit.
     
    2. Templo Mayor. Rewind the clock or, better yet, the sun stone (the Aztec calendar) at Mexico City’s great temple. Excavators have discovered numerous carvings and statues at this archeological treasure trove.
     
    3. Chapultepec Park. Amble past the monuments and sculptures along Paseo de la Reforma on your way to Chapultepec Park. The mammoth green spot in the middle of Mexico City is one of the biggest parks in the world. You could spend an entire day (or two) exploring its forest and lake alone. Climb the hill to see Chapultepec Castle and its natural history museum. The National Anthropology Museum deserves a separate visit entirely dedicated to its stockpile of Mesoamerican artifacts from area inhabitants through the millennia. The Museum of Modern Art also should be a priority on your Chapultepec itinerary, so you can peruse works by standouts like Frida Kahlo.
     
    4. Basílica de Guadalupe. The basilica is built on the hillside where the virgin of Guadalupe fist appeared to Juan Diego. We recommend making an appearance there yourself. Mexicans crowd the church for mass or to contribute a candle to the altars. Even if you’re not the religious type, the site’s architecture and landscaping merit a pilgrimage.
     
    5. Coyoacán. Come to this neighborhood to pay your respects to two of D.F.’s most famous residents: painters Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. The couple’s former home, Casa Azúl, showcases some of their works. (For further examples of their art, visit Museo Dolores Olmedo, a sprawling public estate in Xochimilco that belonged to a close friend and patron of the artists.)