12 Incredible Free Things to do in Mexico City
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As one of the largest cities in the world, Mexico City is known for its bustling streets and authentic culture. Most who come here tend to flock to the ruins of Teotihuacán and the other popular tourist sites without knowing that there are tons of great free things to do in Mexico City.
If you’re on a budget, these gems are perfect to add to your itinerary when here in the capital!
12 Best Free Things to do in Mexico City
Below we will cover 12 of the best free things to do in Mexico City, why you should visit as well as some inside tips for each of these gems.
The first on our list, Chapultepec Park, is one of the best experiences for getting lost in nature when in Mexico City. This giant park serves as the lungs for the hectic capital, and with 1700 acres, is the largest man-made park in Latin America.
It’s a great place to get away from all the noise, where it can sometimes get quite overwhelming. As well as wandering through massive green spaces and tall trees, you can also visit the Chapultepec Castle, which is perched on top of a hill and gives great views over the central areas of Mexico City.
Here you can also visit the picturesque lake, which is great for photos and enjoying the relaxing vibes that surround you.
The National Palace of Mexico City is one of the top sights to visit when in the capital. Serving as the federal executive branch of the Mexican government, this large complex features many beautiful gardens with fountains located throughout.
The very best things to see here are the paintings created by Diego Rivera, who was one of Mexico’s most important painters, best known for his large fresco artworks. The murals he designed can be found inside the palace, and depicts the birth and different stages of Mexico’s illustrious history, from its old pre-Colombian times up until the current days.
One of the most popular areas to visit in Mexico City, the historic center is a dream for those who love to explore urban gems and take photos.
The Zócalo is one of the most renowned areas to visit here in the historic center, where you can see the giant Mexican flag, with the metropolitan cathedral and other important buildings setting the backdrop.
Here you can also visit the Aztec ruins of Templo Mayor, which was one of the most important of the ancient city of Tenochtitlán, and at 180ft, was the overall tallest pyramid.
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Now here’s one for art lovers and those who in general love crazy designs and sculptures. Located in the UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) campus, this sculpture park is free to visit on Sundays.
From its lush gardens to these incredible sculptures, it’s a great visit, which is technically located outside of the city. It’s quite a safe place with its own police, transportation, and even government, and is a great place to get away from the overbearing bustle of the city.
If you’re lucky, you may even get to see a spontaneous violin performance from the numerous music students who stroll the campus.
One of the best, authentic Mexican markets around, Ciudadela is located in the historic center of the capital. Originally (and uniquely) created to promote Mexican heritage before the 1968 Summer Olympics, this market is now home to around 400 vendors.
Anyone who is backpacking Mexico will find this market one of the best places to buy traditional Mexican handicrafts. Its vendors travel from all over the country to sell here (you find sought-after products from popular areas like Chihuahua and Chiapas).
So if you’re into textiles, ceramics, wool blankets, or just fancy a browse, then this market is the one for you.
Mariachi in Plaza Garibaldi
Located in the Cuauhtémoc district, Plaza Garibaldi is one of the most authentic Mexican plazas in the city. There’s usually lots going on here daily, and with no entry cost, this plaza firmly cements its place on our list.
As seen with its mariachi statue inside the plaza, this is one of the best places to see a mariachi performance. Whilst best seen in their native Jalisco, this area is also a great place to spectate this special and authentic Mexican music.
There are many local bars around that have performances, but in the streets of the plaza, you’ll find spontaneous performances by local mariachi bands.
Aztec Dances in the Zócalo
The Aztec culture was extremely important during Mexico’s past, and centuries on is still celebrated daily in the streets.
Head to the Zócalo in the city center, where you’ll see many Concheros dressed in traditional Aztec outfits with feathers and shackles on their ankles. During their dances, which last for hours and can be seen daily, they perform rituals that include calling upon nature and reaching out to their ancestors.
Accompanying the dances are songs played with traditional Aztec instruments which include ocarinas, teponaztli, and other pre-Hispanic whistles.
The oldest (and also overall biggest) cathedral in Latin America, the Catedral Metropolitana easily makes our list of free things to see in Mexico City.
With construction taking over three centuries, here you can see a hotpot of architectural designs including Baroque, Neo-Classic, and Neo-Renaissance. It’s also one of the most adorned, with an abundance of gold seen pretty much everywhere inside the cathedral.
This church is also home to an impressive 25 bells, with the largest of Santa Maria de Guadalupe weighing in at a whopping 13,000 kilos! It’s open for free visits most of the week, only becoming unavailable when masses and other important religious events take place.
Explore Condesa Neighbourhood
La Condesa is perhaps the most trendy and safe neighborhood in all of Mexico City. With lots of beautiful streets and colonial architecture, it rightfully makes our list of the best free things to do in the capital.
Here you can visit Parque España, which is a cute, small park with a monument and lake. You can also go “building-spotting”, with the Palacio de Bellas Artes and the Templo Mayor museum sporting good views from the outside
This district is also one of the best for seeing street art, where you can see some famous murals near the Rio de Janeiro Plaza. Head to Calle Tepeji to see a rainbow-colored trumpet player painted on the houses along the street.
El Ángel de la Independencia
The Angel of Independence is one of Mexico’s most important monuments, which was finally finished in 1910. Serving as a victory column, this symbolic statue represents Mexico’s independence, which is celebrated on the 16th of September annually.
It was later converted into a mausoleum that celebrates some of the most important heroes of the war. You can even climb the 200 steps to the top of the monument, which has some breathtaking views over Mexico City.
However, to do so you’ll need a special permit from the Mexican Government in order to be able to have access to the monument, which involves writing a letter explaining your visit and having a time organized for you (I think it’s worth it just for the uniqueness alone!).
Free Walking Tours of Mexico City
Whilst you can easily visit everything on this list independently, going on a free walking tour with a local has to be one of the very best.
The tour guide is usually a local or has lots of experience in the city, and you’ll visit some of the most iconic sites, as well as many hidden gems in the streets of this magnificent capital.
Pretty much all guides speak English, Spanish, and sometimes other languages, but as one of the most visited cities in Latin America, you’ll find it easy to find a guide that speaks your native tongue. These are organized daily and you can find information from your hostel or accommodation for the pick-up points and schedules.
BONUS: Celebrate Día de los Muertos 📷
One of the most important cultural events in Mexico, Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrates ancestry that has already left this world, with families building shrines to pay their respects and connect with those in the afterlife.
Despite its intimate purposes, this day is one of the biggest celebrations in the country, and usually has many parties and festivals taking place.
Mexico City is a great place to be in when this festival occurs (which takes place on the 1st and 2nd of November). Whilst private venues may cost to enter, there are always parades and festivities that spill out into the streets, which you can join in at zero cost!
Best Places to Stay in Mexico City
Wondering where to stay so you can experience all these great free activities? Here’s a map of Mexico City hotels.
Meet the Guest Authors:
Dan and George are two seasoned backpackers with extensive knowledge of Latin America who write no nonsense backpacking guides for people looking to travel deeper when exploring Central and South America. Follow along with their adventures at Backpacking Latin America and on Instagram!
If you’re planning a trip to Mexico, be sure to check out our collection of posts about the country below.