I recently visited Mexico City for the first time and absolutely fell in love. In addition to its stunning beauty, it’s a place with so much rich history and culture.
History.com states that, “during the Aztec period, Mexico City was initially built over a lake, the Lago de Texcoco. Aztecs built an artificial island by dumping soil into the lagoon. Later, the Spaniards erected a second Mexico City atop the ruins of Tenochtitlán.” And now, around 700 years later it is the largest city in Mexico and the Western Hemisphere’s most populous metropolitan area.
I spent about 10 days there and loved every minute of it. But, no matter how much time you plan to spend in this incredible city, there are always going to be more things to do, art to see, and tacos to eat. This guide at least gets you started. These were 6 of my favorite things to do in Mexico City (known as Ciudad de México or CDMX):
1. Visit the Museums
Mexico City is in the top 10 biggest cities in the world by population size. Even with its sprawling layout and almost 22.3 million people, it still is known for being the city with the highest number of museums per capita in the world (with more than 150 to count)! Some museums I suggest to visit are:
Luis Barragán House and Studio. CN Traveler described it perfectly: “The former home and studio of Pritzker-Prize-winning architect Luis Barragán has been transformed into a museum in Mexico City’s Hidalgo District. Architecture and design lovers frequent the estate to study the artist’s ingenious use of color, light, shadow, form, and texture. From the street, you’d never guess the personality that lies inside: The stark-gray façade humbly blends in with neighboring homes, but walk to the interior of the estate and you’ll find striking walls in a kaleidoscope of bright colors, fountains, and pools.”
Also, consider visiting Museo Jumex. This museum is a contemporary art museum with works from the likes of Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst. Next door is Museo Soumaya, a private collection with over 66,000 works. On top of that it has an absolutely stunning exterior, making it one of the most iconic museums in the city.
Lastly, the Modern Art Museum features works by the world renowned Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera which are always worth a see. And at the Museum of Anthropology, you could get lost spending a whole day admiring the world’s largest collection of ancient Mexican art and watching dancers perform.
2. Stroll Around the Numerous Parks
Mexico City is situated high in the mountains, with an average overall elevation of over 8,000 feet. That’s higher than Denver, Colorado (Denver is known as the mile high city, with an elevation of 5,280 feet above sea level)!
Much of pre-colonial Mexico City used to be lakes and forests, so in modern times, there are still many remnants of that topographical history. CDMX has a host of beautiful parks to choose from, the biggest and most well-known being Chapultapec Park.
According to Lonely Planet, “for more than seven centuries Chapultepec (Náhuatl for “Hill of Grasshoppers”) has served as a refuge for Aztec nobles, a residence for foreign emperors and Mexican presidents and, of course, as a popular getaway from the grind of modern-day Mexico City. Approached from the east entrance, the stately Chapultepec Castle rises above the park as a visual reminder of Mexico’s bygone aristocracy. With nine museums, a pair of cultural centers and several large lakes spread out over 1,700 acres of wooded grounds, it could easily take days to visit all the sights.”
If you like hiking and a good view, head south to the cool forestlands of Ajusco, where you can climb Mexico City’s highest peak at Parque Nacional Cumbres del Ajusco.
My friends and I stayed in Condesa at one point during our trip, so if you’re ever in that area Parque México is another gorgeous, tree-lined park that’s perfect for a weekend stroll.
3. Ride the Trajineras
Trajineras are gondolas where you can bring your own food and drink and have the time of your life in the rivers of Xochimilco! On the river there are pit stops you can make to get drinks and snacks, admire the chinampas (manmade garden plots invented by the Aztecs), or even stop and visit a conservatory to check out the Mexican endangered species, the axolotl. Due to Xochimilco’s deep historical relevance to the origins of Mexico City and its cultural importance, UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site in 1987.
4. Restaurants and Night Life
The food in Mexico City is to die for! Of course you’ll find amazing tacos and the freshest ingredients, but the city is also known for how many incredible world renowned chefs make their imprint in town.
My favorite spots to eat were Pujol (a 3 Michelin Star restaurant with around an 8 course menu), Masala y Maiz (which invents its own cuisine from the intersections of Mexican and Indian cooking), and Maximo Bistrot (a sustainable kitchen where everything is handmade with seasonal national ingredients).
There’s also so many spots to go out at night and party. One night we went club hopping and ended up at this EDM club. EDM is not my favorite music genre but I gotta say, I had so much fun! The DJ was world-renowned and he’s even played Coachella headline shows multiple times before! (I’m embarrassed that I don’t remember his name, but cut me some slack, I’m so out of the EDM loop.) The best areas to find good clubs are in Zona Rosa, Roma and Condesa.
5. Hot Air Balloons
My group decided to take a hot air balloon tour at sunrise. We found the tour through Airbnb and most of us had never done it before, so we were immediately excited to try this new experience!
We got in an Uber and drove about an hour and a half from where we were staying to head to the UNESCO World Heritage site, the Teotihuacán valley. When we arrived, they provided coffee and a snack for us while we waited for them to finish setting up the balloons. Once the balloons were ready, we split up into our groups and took a few pictures before we hopped into the baskets and got ready for flight.
As we slowly ascended, we could see all of the other balloons across the valley beginning their ascent as well. There were maybe 40+ other balloons all around us. We watched this happen all while the sun began to peek over the mountain range in the distance. Watching the sun rise from almost 3,000 feet in the air while we soar over Aztec pyramids is simply a breathtaking experience.
Afterwards, they provided us with lunch and we got to take a tour of the archeological sites. It was an experience I will never forget!
In Mexico City, Presidente Masaryk Avenue is to Polanco what Rodeo Drive is to Beverly Hills. Many luxury designers have beautiful flagship stores there along with some amazing Mexican designers. Another great shopping location is Plaza Moliere, considered to be one of the country’s best shopping malls.
I also wanted to make sure I stopped in at least one thrift or vintage store during my stay. My friend and I were walking to get coffee one morning and stumbled upon this vintage store, so I said we should check it out. It ended up having a really cool assortment of coffee table books from Porsche and more. They also had a lot of silver goods and outerwear, even some furs! I tried on a couple of jackets and found this incredible leather jacket with roses crafted into the shoulders and a cinched waist. I tried it on and it fit perfectly so I had to take it with me. It’s probably my greatest find from the trip.
One thing I love about shopping internationally is that you can find things that you wouldn’t normally find at home. It helps you tap into your personal style in ways that might not have been accessible otherwise. Additionally, it’s just downright cool to say you got your clothes on a trip to another country!
Overall, my trip to Mexico City quickly became one of my favorite vacations to date. The incredible food, walkability of the neighborhoods, architectural design, art everywhere you turn… everything stole my heart! I look forward to visiting again soon.
I know I’ll have to make another trip back and I look forward to seeing more of the country. Already on my list of cities to visit are Oaxaca, Tulum, and Guadalajara. If any of you have visited CDMX before, what would you add to this list? If you’ve never been and are planning to go, book that flight! You won’t regret it!