Vibrant. Colorful. Unmissable. Defying definitions and expectations alike, Mexico's capital city offers something interesting to see around each and every corner. With a population of over 8 million people, the city is constantly on the move and at first, the local pace of life can make you feel dizzy. Beneath its brash exterior though, this metropolis wows visitors with amazing architecture, colorful art, delicious cuisine, and above all - its warm and welcoming people.
With so much to see, where do you start? Huge cities like these can feel intimidating to a visitor, so why not take the edge off by exploring Mexico City with a local guide? To help you get inspired, here are the top 5 attractions you simply must include in your Mexico City itinerary.
Museo Nacional de Antropología
Museo Nacional de Antropología, or the National Museum of Anthropology, is Mexico's largest museum. It is also the most visited museum in the country, and it's easy to see why. The museum was first established in 1964, and today it is home to an awe-inspiring collection of some 600,000 artifacts dating back to Mexico's pre-Columbian past. Highlights of the collection include the Aztec Sun Stone (weighing around 24 tons), and figurines from the ancient Olmec civilization.
As a contrast to the ancient artifacts housed inside, the building itself is bold and modern. It was designed by Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, Jorge Campuzano, and Rafael Mijares Alcérreca, and stretches across almost 8 hectares. The museum offers fascinating insight into Mexico's rich history, but make sure you have enough time to take it all in - again, the museum and its collection is huge. To help make sense of it all, we strongly recommend booking a private tour with one of our professional guides.
Basílica de Guadalupe
The Basílica de Guadalupe, or Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, is said to be the third most visited pilgrimage site in the world. An estimated 20 million people visit this beautiful church every year, so don't be surprised if it's crowded! After the Vatican, this is the most important Catholic shrine in the world, as well as being the national shrine of Mexico.
Legend has it that this is where the Virgin Mary appeared to Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, and his cloak is still housed here to this day. There are, in fact, two basilicas here. The original was completed in 1709, while the new one was built during the 1970s. Each of them offers stunning and unique architecture to marvel at, so take your time and explore both.
Bosque de Chapultepec
Bosque de Chapultepec is a large park that is often referred to as the "Lungs of Mexico City." Indeed, the trees of Bosque de Chapultepec (bosque is Spanish for forest) serve a very important purpose as they help replenish oxygen to the notoriously polluted city. Besides literally providing breathable air to local residents, the park is also a very popular recreational area. You could easily spend a whole afternoon just enjoying the great outdoors, with plenty of walking trails crisscrossing the park area. The central lake is a popular spot for enjoying leisurely boat rides.
When you feel like spending some time indoors, there are also plenty of attractions to visit in the park area. The most famous is Castillo de Chapultepec, an 18th century palace built on a hilltop and surrounded by meticulously landscaped gardens. The castle is also home to the National Museum of History.
Mexico City is made up of some 350 neighborhoods or ‘colonias’, each with its own unique character. If you only have time to focus on one specific area, Coyoacan should be your top choice. This charming borough has been beautifully preserved throughout the years, and many of its narrow streets and lively plazas date all the way back to the 16th century. Coyoacan is a great location for enjoying some local color - literally, as the area features many stunning murals painted on the walls. You can also pick up some local souvenirs from Coyoacan Market and enjoy delicious local cuisine, from tacos to churros.
If you are an art aficionado, Coyoacan is also home to the famous Frida Kahlo Museum and the Diego Rivera-Anahuacalli Museum. Coyoacan is where this iconic couple spent much of their lives and many travel to the area precisely to experience the neighborhood which Frida Kahlo once called home.
Zocalo is a large central plaza - in fact, it is said to be one of the largest town squares in the world. This lively square, which is also known as Plaza de la Constitución, is surrounded by buildings both beautiful and important, including the Metropolitan Cathedral, the National Palace, and the Templo Mayor Museum - dedicated to the Aztec civilization.
The square itself also offers plenty of interesting sights and activities, from concerts to military parades and even ice skating. This being Mexico City, the square often gets crowded, but that's just all part of the fun. In fact, Zocalo is said to be able to hold more than 100,000 people at a time. If you still need convincing to visit this historical and political hub, you might be interested to know that Zocalo was also where the Day of the Dead-themed opening scene of the James Bond movie Spectre was filmed.
These top 5 attractions offer just a small taste of everything Mexico City has to offer. You could easily spend a week (or maybe three!) in this metropolis and still have a lot left to explore for your next visit. Whether it's the Aztec ruins, the Kahlo paintings, or the spicy tamales that draw you in, Mexico's bustling capital definitely has a way of leaving you wanting more.
If you are keen to explore everything Mexico City has to offer, get in touch with our local guides. Private guided tours will introduce you to all the major landmarks, as well as revealing hidden gems and local favorites waiting beyond the beaten track. The best part? Our tours are fully customizable, so the tour will focus on the themes and areas that interest you the most. Though Mexico City might initially feel intimidating, there's so much beauty just waiting to be discovered amidst the hustle and bustle. You just have to know where to look - or have someone in the know to show you the way.
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