Is Mexico City worth visiting? Absolutely. Similar to many areas of Mexico, the capital’s not-so-great reputation of drugs and crime is being replaced by thriving culinary scenes and revamped cultural districts.
Mexico City is one of the top museum cities in the world and home to over 150 museums. Or, how does a park bigger than New York’s iconic Central Park sound? Or, perhaps it’s traditional Mexican festivals and the best of Mexican cuisine you’re after? Well, Mexico City has all this and more.
But not yet fully convinced? No problem. We’ve compiled 9 reasons we believe we may just tip the balance in favor of a Mexico City vacation this year. So, pull up a chair, settle in, and let us shine the spotlight on this often overlooked Latin American destination.
The historic center
The historic center of the city is definitely one of the top reasons Mexico City is worth visiting. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to many of the city’s top landmarks. Walking around this extraordinary part of the city is a bit like entering a time machine. The stunning architectural landscape will transport you through seven centuries of Mexican history. One of the most intriguing sights is Templo Mayor. These ruins are what was once the main temple of the Aztecs and the museum here is the perfect place to learn all about their civilization.
And from ruins to an architectural masterpiece – the Metropolitan Cathedral. Prepare to be blown away by the stunning blend of Renaissance, Baroque, and Neoclassical styles that make up this dominating structure. Another top sight on the historic center tour is the Palacio de Bellas Artes. This remarkable white marble palace is home to an art gallery, as well as the city’s top performance hall.
When all that exploration has taken its toll, the main square (known as the Zocalo) has a range of eateries to grab a bite to eat while you watch the world go by.
An artistic hotspot
Home to art icon, Frida Kahlo, it’s no surprise Mexico City is bursting with creativity. And what better way to get connected with its art scene than to visit her childhood home, now known as The Frida Kahlo Museum. This bright blue house is dedicated to her exceptional life and work.
But that’s only the beginning. There are plenty more extraordinary works of art in the renowned Roma district, home to one of the city’s most established contemporary art galleries, Galleria OMR. Or you can head to the historic quarter and pay a visit to The National Art Museum. Here you’ll find exceptional pieces from the country’s top artists.
However, artistry can be felt throughout the entire city in the exquisite architecture, experimental graffiti murals and even in their way with food.
The Floating Gardens of Xochimilco
Whatever the Venetians can do, the Mexicans can do better (or they can at least try). Yep, The Floating Gardens of Xochimilco is Mexico’s answer to Venice. Located 40 minutes south of the city center, this extensive lake and canal system was the main connecter between settlements in the area’s pre-Hispanic past.
So, hop on a trajinera (colorfully painted wooden boat) and settle in for the ultimate boat trip. And be sure to grab some Mexican street corn and a cup of pulque (Mexico’s oldest alcoholic drink) from the floating vendors.
A unique (or slightly terrifying) sight to see en route is the Isla de las Muñecas (Island of the Dolls). With many plastic dolls hanging from the trees, supposedly in memory of a young girl who drowned in the canals, this may just be the stuff of nightmares for some. But pair that with seeing the fascinating chinampas (floating gardens the Aztecs used to grow crops) and you’ve got yourself an overall heavenly day trip.
And of course, this UNESCO World Heritage Site makes for some photographic gems. So, get out the camera and be prepared to snap away.
If there’s ever a time to overindulge, a vacation is definitely that time. And Mexico City is absolutely worth visiting for its food scene alone. You may be tempted to gorge on tacos, burritos, and enchiladas (and we wouldn’t blame you), however, authentic Mexican food is so much more. With a blend of Mayan and Spanish influences, their cuisine is an explosion of exotic flavors.
Home to some of the best street food vendors and countless incredible restaurants, there is no shortage of places to scour for tasty treats here. If you’re looking for a place to truly experience the city’s innovative culinary creations, look no further than Pujol. This world-renowned restaurant is the epitome of fine dining, with the mole madre (celebrated chef, Enrique Olvera’s famous creation) being a highlight of the menu.
But you simply shouldn’t be allowed to leave Mexico City until you’ve sampled a few of their street food delights. And pambazo is the place to start. This chili dipped bread, stuffed with chorizo and potato is truly scrumptious. Others to try are torta de tamal (soft roll filled with a corn-based dough mixture stuffed with various fillings) and Camote Enmielado (candied sweet potatoes).
And for dessert, grab yourself a paleta from one of the several paleta shops throughout the city. This frozen treat, usually made with milk or fruit, comes in a range of flavors, from kiwi to mango with chili.
Tequila shots, mariachi bands, traditional cantinas … does it get more Mexican than that? Well, perhaps donning a sombrero, but you may not want to go that far. Yep, a night out in Mexico City is the perfect place to experience Mexico at its finest. With atmospheric cantinas (traditional Latin American bars) as well as more modern bars and clubs, the Mexican capital is the perfect blend of authenticity and contemporary comforts.
With such a varied nightlife, from the LGBT hub of the Zona Rosa neighborhood to the swanky clubs of the Roma district, as well as the many mescalarias (bars dedicated to the Mexican spirt, mescal) you’re sure to find just the spot to let your hair down. Or you may want to take up a bit of salsa dancing in one of their many epic salsa clubs. And why not top it off with a trip to Zinco Jazz Club to experience their incredible jazz scene.
But whatever takes your fancy for those vacation nights, Mexico City is definitely worth visiting for its plethora of choice.
Epic Day of the Dead festivities
Okay, so you might have to wait a bit longer in the year for the Mexico City vacation but trust us, it’s worth it. The Day of the Dead festivities here are truly an explosion of color and merriment. For those not familiar with this Mexican holiday, here is a bit of background. Day of the Dead takes place every November and is a joyful celebration of the lives of loved ones lost. While pretty much all of Mexico celebrates the holiday, some places do it just that little bit better and Mexico City is one such place.
Get ready for nighttime boat rides, parades sparking joy on the streets and the biggest amount of skeleton costumes and painted faces you’ll ever see. It is truly a bucket list experience and well worth a November vacation.
Perfect base for day trips
Although Mexico City is worth visiting purely for this destination alone, it doesn’t hurt to have several enticing locations nearby. And here are just a few that we think are worth that extra travel time:
Teotihuacán – At just under an hour and half from Mexico City, this ancient city is one of the largest and oldest known archaeological sites in Mexico. With a landscape consisting of temples, pyramids and a main street known as Avenue of the Dead, this one is an absolute must see. And you can opt for a hot air balloon over it for that extra magical addition.
Cholula – This city, in the metropolitan area of Puebla, is home to the world’s largest pyramid, Tepanapa, as well as numerous stunning churches.
Grutas de Cacahuamilpa National Park – Home to one of the largest cave systems in the world, this one, roughly two hours from the city, is definitely worth a visit. You can take a guided tour through the caves or kayak in the underground rivers if you’re feeling adventurous.
Taxco – Located in the southern state of Guerrero and with a slightly longer journey time of around 3 hours, the city of Taxco is still well worth a visit. Famed for its silver jewelry production, the city boasts charming narrow and winding streets, the landmark 18th century church, Santa Prisca Church, and stunning architecture throughout.
With the hustle and bustle of city life, sometimes you’ve just got to get a piece of tranquility now and again. Well, luckily one of our reasons Mexico City is worth visiting is its gorgeous expanses of greenery and idyllic locations.
Bosque de Chapultepec is by far the best. This 1600 plus acres of parkland is more than double the size of Central Park in New York. And it is also one of the oldest urban parks in the world. Split into three sections, it includes a castle, lakes, a zoo, museums, and plenty of food stalls. So, no chance of getting bored around here.
However, the likes of Parque Mexico (lined with art deco buildings on all sides) and Parque Alameda (dominated by walkways and popular with families and skaters) are also definitely worth checking out.
And our final reason that makes Mexico City worth visiting is its plethora of vibrant and buzzing marketplaces. First stop on market day has to be The Ciudadela Market, located in the historic center. With a maze of stalls, you can easily spend hours searching through the abundance of Mexican handicrafts on offer in hopes of finding that perfect souvenir.
But don’t worry if nothing screams ‘buy me’ here, there are plenty other markets to explore. If you’re looking for some handcrafted jewelry, woodwork, and textiles, we recommend heading to Bazaar Sábado. Or if antiques are what take your fancy, you’ll find them in bucket loads at La Lagunilla market.
You can also discover the witchy side of Mexico City with a trip to Mercado de Sonora market, home to several magic potions and voodoo dolls.