Mexico City is the capital city of Mexico and one of the biggest cities in the world. An interesting fact is that the whole historic center of Mexico City is a UNESCO site. Here are a few Mexico City landmarks;
- Zocalo, Metropolitan Cathedral and National Palace
- Torre Latinoamericana
- Bellas Artes Palace
- Calle Madero
- Revolution Monument
- Angel of Independence
- Plaza Garibaldi (Mariachis)
- Frida Kahlo museum
- Azteca Stadium
- Basilica of our Lady of Guadalupe
- Day trip to Teotihuacan Pyramids
The best place for tourists to stay in Mexico City is the UNESCO historic center, west of the Zocalo. Why? Because in a city that’s not completely safe, the historic center west of the Zocalo is a safe area.
The Zocalo is a must see site in Mexico City. As a matter of fact, it’s one of the largest city squares in the world. The centerpiece of the Zocalo is a huge Mexican flag which is raised and lowered everyday as part of a ceremony. Additionally, the Zocalo is surrounded by several Mexico City landmarks as well as Spanish colonial buildings. Finally, the James Bond movie Spectre was filmed around the Zocalo during the Day of the Dead celebrations.
Rent a Car to Visit the Mexico City Landmarks
The Metropolitan Cathedral is a Baroque style cathedral built by the Spanish. They drew inspiration from the Gothic cathedrals of Spain. Over the years, the cathedral has survived several earthquakes. However, like many buildings surrounding the Zocalo, it’s no longer level. It’s possible to ascend the cathedral for panoramic views over the Zocalo.
The National Palace is a huge 200 meter long building alongside the Zocalo. An interesting event which occurs here is the annual Grito de Dolores. This is where the current president rings a bell from the main balcony on Independence Day. It signifies the first battle cry in the war of Independence from Spain. Lastly, it’s free to enter the palace and explore the interior, albeit under heavy security.
Adjacent to the Zocalo are the Tenochtitlan ruins. This archaeological site dates back to 1325. An interesting fact is that the Aztecs believed this was the center of the world.
Torre Latinoamericana is one of the tallest buildings in Mexico City. Additionally, you can take the lift to the top floor. From the top floor viewing deck are wonderful city views as well as an aerial view over Bellas Artes Palace. It’s amazing how big Mexico City is. As a matter of fact, you cannot see an end to the urban jungle!
Bellas Artes Palace
The Bellas Artes Palace photographs almost as well as the Taj Mahal in India. It’s a shame that it’s in the middle of such a big city surrounded by traffic and people. If it was in the country with a garden and lake I’m sure it’d be more famous than it currently is.
Calle Madero is a pedestrianised street full of shops, cafes, restaurants, bars and hotels. If you’re visiting Mexico City as a tourist for the first time, I recommend you choose a hotel in this area. As well as being within walking distance to several Mexico City landmarks, it’s also secured with tourist police. Furthermore, if you need to travel further afield, the Mexico City metro is close by. Lastly, one restaurant I recommend in this area is Sanborns Azulejos which is fairly priced Mexican food in a beautiful colonial building.
Xochimilco is a a series of canals built by the Aztecs. Because of its history, it was awarded UNESCO world heritage status. Today, the main purpose is tourism and you can take a boat ride through them. As a matter of fact, because of the colorful boats it has become a top Instagram spot in Mexico City. Finally, don’t be surprised if a boat full of mariachis approaches singing famous songs!
Chapultepec is one of the most popular things to do in Mexico City. It covers a huge area and here are a few things to do in Chapultepec;
- Chapultepec Castle
- National Museum of Anthropology
- Chapultepec Zoo
- Modern Art Museum
- Chapultepec Park and Lake
The castle was built on top of Chapultepec Hill. As a result it offers photographers wonderful panoramic views of the Mexico City skyscrapers. Lastly, to get to Chapultepec simply take the metro to Chapultepec Station.
Also known as the Monument to the Revolution, this is the tallest triumphal arch in the world. However, it was never intended to be a triumphal arch. As a matter of fact, it was built to be the centerpiece of a palace which was never completed. Today, it stands as a popular Instagram spot in Mexico City. For this reason, you’ll see lots of girls posing in front of it. Did you know the second tallest triumphal arch in the world is in Pyongyang, North Korea?
Angel of Independence
The Angel of Independence was built in 1910 to celebrate the first 100 years of Mexican Independence. It has since become not just one of the Mexico City landmarks but also the iconic symbol of both the city and country. An eternal flame shines in front of the monument to honor the heroes of Mexican independence. Finally, you can climb the staircase to the top of the monument. However, this is only possible on weekends and you need to organise it with authorities.
Mexico’s most famous export is probably the Mariachi. In Mexico City there is a plaza called Garibaldi which is full of Mariachis. You can sit in the plaza and enjoy a beer whilst watching the Mariachis singing. The going rate for a song is about 100 pesos, but if you act disinterested, they’ll offer a cheaper price. In addition, you’ll find the Mariachi Museum on the plaza which features a top floor bar with a panoramic plaza view. This is a good place to enjoy a few beers (or margaritas) whilst watching live mariachis. Finally, the top floor bar often features live performances by lookalikes of Mexico’s most famous mariachis.
Frida Kahlo Museum
An extremely popular place to visit is the Frida Kahlo Museum. As well as a museum it was actually the house where she lived from 1929 to 1954. She was a famous Mexican artist as well as one of the most famous Mexicans. To visit here you’ll require a metro journey and the General Anaya station is likely to be the most convenient.
The iconic Azteca stadium is the largest stadium in Mexico. It has a capacity of around 87,000 and is home to both the Mexico national team as well as Club America. Additionally, it hosted the 1970 and 1986 World Cup finals. Who remembers the Diego Maradona ‘Hand of God’ goal against England? This happened in the Azteca Stadium. Furthermore, over the years it has hosted many concerts. In 1993 Michael Jackson performed 5 times here to over half a million fans.
Basilica of our Lady of Guadalupe
The Basilica of our Lady of Guadeloupe is the most important religious sight in Mexico. Inside is a cloak containing the image of the virgin Mary. Nearby is the location where the virgin Mary appeared in front of San Juan Diego. For this reason, the cloak is often referred to as Diego’s Cloak. At the site there is both an old and a new basilica. The cloak is inside the new one. Lastly, to get to the Basilica simply take the metro to La Villa – Basilica station.
Historic Beetle Taxi – Mexico City Landmarks
When I first saw Mexico City on the TV, there were lots of green and white beetle taxis on the streets. Sadly, this iconic Mexican taxi color changed to red and gold. Today, you’ll see pink and white taxis on the streets. However, if like me, you remember the green and white taxis, there are a few of them abandoned around the city. As you travel around the city keep your eyes peeled for this iconic piece of history.
The Matador Filming Location – Camino Real Polanco
Have you seen the movie, The Matador with Pierce Brosnan? If you have, I’m sure you remember him drinking margaritas in a bar. Additionally, you’ll certainly remember the swimming pool scene. These both occurred the Camino Real hotel in Polanco. If you’re a fan of the movie, you’ll certainly enjoy this part of Mexico City.
Day Trip to Teotihuacan
Before I visited Mexico city, I had no idea these pyramids even existed. After visiting Teotihuacan however, I’ve decided that these pyramids should be on everyone’s bucket list. The temple of Quetzalcoatl, pyramid of the moon and pyramid of the sun line avenue of the dead. The above photo is a view from the Pyramid of the moon showing the pyramid of the sun in the distance.
How to get to Teotihuacan from Mexico City
It’s possible to take a direct bus to Teotihuacan from Mexico City’s north bus station. An easier and safer option would be to go on a prepaid tour which you can book online. Finally, if you’re interested going, I have a more detailed blog about a day trip to Teotihuacan.
How to get from Mexico City to Ciudad Juarez / El Paso
The overnight bus from Mexico City to Ciudad Juarez is surprisingly luxurious. In addition, each seat has a private entertainment system as well as lots of legroom. I only recommend taking the bus to the USA if you have a rule of only traveling by land like I do. At 1821 pesos, a flight would be the same price, if not cheaper!
What caught my attention the most was the Teotihuacan complex. The pyramids look incredibly interesting. I have to go see for myself now and learn about their history first-hand.
Yes I agree, a visit to Teotihuacan is much more interesting than a visit to Mexico City!
Those Mayan temples and ruins – these alone have had me yearning to travel to Mexico. But thanks for showing me that there are so much more to see and do. I will keep these in mind for future travels!
Yes, so much to do in Mexico City, it’s just a stress getting around the city!
I must say that I have putting off visiting Mexico because of how unsafe it can be. But it’s go to know that there are safer areas!
I would definitely take that trip to the pyramids. If you’re a ready, I recommend Azteca by Gary Jennings. I must have read it 10 years ago and it sure left a mark!!
Thanks, I’ll put on my list of books to read!
I visited Mexico City this past summer but really, really didn’t do it enough justice! It was mostly used as a base in and out of the country – flew there from Colombia, stayed a few days before heading into Guatemala/Belize and then looped back around to spend a few more days there before flying out to LA – but I really wish I’d given it more time!
There was an event going on in the Zócalo at the time so there was a few huge tents taking over meaning it didn’t really feel as big as it actually is! Because of the limited time I also didn’t get around to seeing 2 of the main things I wanted to, both of which you’ve mentioned – Frida Kahlo museum and the Teotihuacan pyramids. I guess I’ll just have to go back again some day 😉 Thanks for sharing, great article with some lovely pictures!
We are always worried about safety in South America as getting arms is so easy. Your post tells us where to go in Mexico City…thanks!
Teotihuacan looks awesome…its surely is on my list!
I’m heading to Mexico in August for a yoga course and was toying with the idea of seeing some other part of Mexico while I’m there. I hadn’t really thought much about Mexico Cty but this post has just changed my mind. I am such a huge fan of Frida Kahlo so visiting the museum would be great. I’m also relly interested to visit the temples. Thanks for sharing!
Lovely photos. The Teotihuacan pyramids looks stunning. Mexico has never been on my list but you may have changed my mind!
The inside of Zócalo looks beautiful! I love the staircase – it just looks so grand. And wow 24 hours – that’s a long bus ride. I love flying because I like to get from point A to point B in the fastest time possible so I’d definitely do that. Thanks for sharing this!
I have only spent a few days in Mexico but that brief taste makes me want more. Mexico City looks fascinating and how cool you stumbled on the pyramids by surprise. Glad to hear the overnight bus trip was comfortable even if it was more expensive than a flight!
Mexico City is such a beautiful city! And you’re so right! People can enjoy without being afraid! xxx
Thanks for the tips James I can see Mexico City in my near future!
I was in Mexico City for a week two years ago in December but still feel the trip is so short. I do not even notice the Torre Latinoamericana is next to the Bellas Artes palace, where I went nearly every afternoon. And I agree, Bellas Artes palace is too beautiful and I would just sit around for hours and listen to the music from across the street. I need a return visit to discover more of it.
Excellent post, James. Very informative and easy to read. The pictures are superb. The Teotihuacan complex looks amazing, I’d like to visit one day. I like the picture of you and the dude in the black hat ready to the duet together. Great pics!
I also have to admit that prior to visiting Guatemala, I did not realise the pyramids existed. I thought they were absolutely amazing. Much better than the pyramids in Cairo. I haven’t explored Mexico yet but I am really looking forward to doing so. Thank you for sharing.
This is interesting. I never understood why someone would travel by bus when flights are cheaper but you’re right; some people do have their reasons.
I really liked Mexico City, but I actually stayed over near the Frida Kahlo house, which was a really nice area. A bit out of the way but there were some nice shops and restaurants in the neighbourhood.
I enjoyed reading this.
Teotihuacan looks amazing! Thank you for sharing I always wanted in travel to Mexico and it great to learn about it. Great photos
Can’t wait to go to Mexico!! I’ve only been in Yucatan region and would love to hit up the rest of the country. Thanks for the great advice!
I’d love to visit Mexico – I’ve always been fascinated by the Mayan temples and ruins. I’d love to explore them and the Teotihuacan complex looks like a great alternative to the usual tourist sites.
When I visited Mexico I just went to the Mayan Riviera but I think I have to go back to the country as Mexico City looks amazing! Loved all the ideas you propose here but I specially liked the views from Torre Latinoamericana. My favourite plans are always related to finding great photo spots! I would also visit Teotihuacan to discover more about the history of the country.
I’ll keep this to my next trip! ;D
Mexico has so much to offer. I have been jotting down all the places we could cover on our trip and the list keeps growing every other day. The views from Torre Latinoamericana is amazing.
Teotihuacan is at the top of my bucket list. I’ve seen some ruins in other parts of Mexico, but this one has always stood out to me as kind of like the grandfather of all ruins. I would absolutely pay 100 pesos to sit outside with a beer listening to live mariachi music. That just sounds like the quintessential Mexican experience. Hope to make it to Mexico City one day.
Awesome writing about Mexico City, glad you mention the safer area to stay as this is one of my concerns.
The Zócalo is on my list now, it looks like a really impressive building. I have seen some pyramids in the Yucatan province but the onces at Teotihuacan seem a lot more interesting.