If you're going to Mexico City for a couple of days, this is the ultimate express guide for you to see the most important sites.
Mexico City ranks in the top ten of cities with most museums and galleries in the world, not to mention tons of other important and interesting spots to delve into Mexican culture, which makes it a great destination that appeals to all tastes. If you don’t want to throw your money away, and you’re looking for cool spots to visit on your short stay, here are ten things you can do for a quick yet complete tour of Mexico City.
We have to start with what is perhaps the most important place in the city, the famous Zocalo Square. With the beautiful flag waving in the middle of the square, surrounded by the imposing Metropolitan Cathedral, Templo Mayor (the uncovered archaeological ruins of the great Tenochtitlan, land of the Aztecs), and the mighty Palacio Nacional (the government’s office, and museum), it’s definitely a must for every visitor. You can also have a drink or coffee at the terrace of the Gran Hotel with a beautiful view of the square and an impressive stained glass roof. And there are also many museums in the surrounding streets you might find interesting.
Palacio de Bellas Artes
Within walking distance from Zocalo Square, you can find the gorgeous Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts), an impressive Neoclassical and Art Nouveau building with Art Deco interiors that holds important music, dance, theatre, and opera events. Right in front of the palace, you can find the Alameda Central park that dates back to 1592, making it the oldest public park in the Americas. If you’re walking from Zocalo to Bellas Artes (or vice-versa) make sure to stop by the Palacio de Correos de Mexico (Postal Palace of Mexico City), in my opinion, one of the most gorgeous buildings in the world.
Lucha Libre Show
After a long day of sightseeing, you can end the day with an awesome performance of Lucha Libre, an iconic type of wrestling event that’s a lot of fun at an affordable price. There are two main venues, the Arena Mexico or the Arena Coliseo, with shows from Friday to Sunday (take a look at each venue for the exact time and date). Get yourself a colorful luchador mask outside the arena, and get ready to experience something you’ve never seen before.
Another iconic spot in Mexico City is Xochimilco, the remaining part of what was originally Lake Texcoco, where the Aztecs founded Tenochtitlán. Today, you can rent a trajinera (a colorful wooden boat with a roof) that goes through the canals, giving you a unique and impressive view of the chinampas (plots of land built on the water). Xochimilco is also home to the famous axolotl, an endemic amphibious species. On the ride, you can listen to folkloric music from bands playing on their own trajineras, eat traditional food, and have some drinks. Afterwards, you can visit the Dolores Olmedo Museum, which has the biggest collection of Diego Rivera’s (Frida Kahlo’s husband) work, their amazing Day of the Dead altars, and their cute Xoloitzcuintli dogs.
Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera Tour
You can actually start the Frida and Diego Tour with the Dolores Olmedo Museum we just mentioned. If you’re here for the weekend, I highly recommend taking the FridaBus, a service that takes you from Frida Kahlo Museum, best known as the Casa Azul, to the Anahuacalli Museum, Diego Rivera’s museum with an impressive collection of 60,000 prehispanic pieces he gathered during his lifetime. The ticket also includes the fees to get into both museums. You can also visit Leon Trotsky’s house, Diego Rivera’s personal studio, with a big collection of his work, or see his famous murals all over the city (his most famous one is located inside Palacio Nacional at Zocalo Square).
Teotihuacan is the most visited archaeological site in the world, and with good reason: it’s really breathtaking. This one’s also a must, if you’re in Mexico, so I strongly recommend visiting on Monday, when all museums are closed. Besides that, most people visit on the weekend, which can get a bit crowded, especially when climbing the pyramids, which is best to do at your own pace. The pyramids are about an hour and a half away from the city, and while you can get there on public transportation, I highly recommend booking a tour. This is one of the most well-preserved sites, and I can assure you that you won’t be disappointed.
With about 670 hectares, Chapultepec Park is one of the largest city parks in America with so many things to do in one condensed space. The most important spot is Chapultepec Castle, the only royal castle in America, which was once the residence of Emperor Maximilien of Habsburg and his wife Empress Carlota. It’s also famous for being one of the crucial battle spots during the American Invasion, which you can learn all about at the National Museum of History. Besides being a beautiful building full of history, its location at the top of Chapultepec Hill offers a unique view of the city. You can also walk through the park and contemplate its beautiful lake or go to the National Museum of Anthropology, where the famous Aztec Calendar is exhibited.
If you’re feeling like partying with a shot of tequila and dancing to the authentic sounds of Mariachi music, there’s no better place to do so than Garibaldi Square. With many restaurants and bars, it’s one of the best spots to enjoy Mexican folklore. At night the whole square gets filled with mariachis playing for visitors. And did I mention that you can also visit the Museum of Tequila and Mezcal?
This might sound like a lot if you only have a couple of days, but believe me, it’s absolutely doable, since many spots are actually quite close. Besides, it’s a great way to learn a lot about Mexican culture in a quick trip. The best part is, going to all these spots isn’t that expensive, so you can really do it all.
Cover photo: Santiago Arau
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