Mexico, Mexico City

10 Unique Things to Do in Mexico City

At a population of twenty-two million, Mexico City is diverse and progressive – as you’d expected from the Northern Hemisphere’s second-largest city. Clearly, you’ll need more than one trip to see the place. For starters, here are a few fun things to do in Mexico City.

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10. Visit Zona Rosa

For my LGBT readers, gay bars number in the dozens, but are bunched in Zona Rosa – Mexico City’s gay area. Boy Bar and Kinky Bar were most popular for the younger, international audience. Prices are great too – just 40 or 50 pesos for a giant styrofoam cup of beer. And if you’re hot, a Mexican drag queen will bring you up on stage to make fun of you in Spanish.

When visiting Mexico City, use common sense. Zona Rosa is heavily policed and safe if you stick to the mainstream bars.

Mexico, unfortunately, has a long-running drug war. Don’t ask for, or take, drugs on the streets. Read my full LGBT+ safety guide to gay Mexico City.

Crowds walk past vendors at Mexico City's Sunday market

9. Attend the Sunday Market

My favorite picture from Mexico is also one of my favorite places. Mexico City’s Sunday market in La Lagunilla is a major weekly event. The open-air market or tianguis happens every Sunday. This mercado de pulgas (literally, market of fleas) is the best place to go for cheap goods, ranging from clothing to mugs, to art and food.

If you need some new fashion, you cannot skip this place. And if you’re a foreigner, then you’ll spend relatively little, but probably still get ripped off by vendors. It’s all part of the experience.

Leather goods are much cheaper to buy in Mexico.

8. Eat Chorizo

This smoked, Mexican pork was my favorite food of Mexico. It’s fatty, it’s spicy, and it’s damn delicious. I recommend the La Chelestia restaurant near Paseo de la Reforma. The service leaves something to be desired, so make sure you’re not grossly overcharged for the meal. But otherwise, do it.

The impressive courtyard at Mexico City's anthropology museum

7. Visit the Anthropology Museum

Mexico City’s Museo Nacional De Antropología is worth seeing for its architecture and for what’s inside. The massive umbrella in the museum’s courtyard seems to defy physics as it’s supported by a single, stone pillar. And the museum itself is full of ancient fascinations, including the enormous Aztec Sunstone.

Most of this museum is in spanish, but the main level has some english translations.

Jam, butter, and bread at Cafe Tacuba in Mexico City

6. Eat at Café de Tacuba

You can tell that one bite was enough to warrant a photo. The 100+-year-old Café de Tacuba is the only restaurant I visited twice in Mexico City. It’s so good that a famous Mexican rock band adopted the restaurant as it’s namesake. And despite a casual dress code, you’ll find the tables and waitstaff dressed to the nines with walls decked in murals. Order your choice of coffee and eat all the bread, butter and jam you can find.

You can order from an english menu at Café de Tacuba.

Overlooking CDMX from the Basilica

5. Visit The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe

In 2010, about 22 million people visited the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe – making it one of the world’s most important pilgrimage sites. According to myth, Juan Diegotzil had an vision of the Virgin Mary on four different occasions here in 1531 – the proof of which is an image of the Virgin, emblazoned on Juan Diego’s shroud. The church here claims to have that shroud, and it’s located at the top of the hill, behind bulletproof glass.

Mexico’s population is 85% Catholic.

A sculpture made of guns at a the Museum of Memory and Tolerance in Mexico City

4. Visit The Memory and Tolerance Museum

It’s not a fun thing to do – but it’s important. Genocide is the topic at Museo de Memoria y Tolerancia. And I found the Holocaust exhibit even stronger than what’s on display in Washington D.C. Here, I was struck by one artifact in particular – a pink-triangle armband used to identify gay people.

The Holocaust gets a plurality of the museum’s attention but stands alongside six other genocides. On my way out, I was met with this eye-catching art piece. I’d suggest seeing it – and the museum.

You can get an audio guide in english.

3. Walk inside the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral

The second, and I promise final, church on the list is the metropolitan cathedral. This massive 17th century stone structure has two bell towers and sixteen chapels, which took about 250 years to build. Located on the northern side of the Plaza de la Constitución, it’s easy to find and enter free of charge.

Remove your hat and sunglasses when inside the church. I made one Señora quite angry.

An assortment of sweet bread at a Mexican bakery

2. Grab Sweets at a Mexican Bakery

There are a hundred different sweetbreads (panaderías), and they all look different. But what we’re talking about here is bread, sugar, egg, and butter. In the morning, grab a handful that catch your eye, along with a coffee or cappuccino. You’ll eventually regret it.

Sadly, sweetbread isn’t a filling breakfast. They’re light, and won’t provide enough energy for a full day – or even a few hours.

Mexico City's skyline full of things to do

1. Ride the Metro

My number one recommendation is to meet the people because Americans and Mexicans should talk more. And for this reason, I always ride the subways, buses, and streetcars when I’m visiting a new city. It’s one thing to see the high points of a place, but quite another to know how the people live.

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What about x?

CDMX is big enough to keep a traveler busy for months. And a list of “must do things in Mexico City” is never comprehensive. One big thing I left off this list is Teotihuacan – The Pyramid of the Sun. It’s worth seeing but it takes half a day. If your time is limited, and you don’t have a fascination for Aztec history, I’d suggest staying in CDMX.