Mexico City is one of Central and South America’s greatest cities. And it’s in the limelight again for tourists, thanks to the filming of the latest James Bond flick, Spectre. Travelling to Mexico’s grand capital on a budget? Here’s our top picks of the best free things to do in Mexico City.
1. Wander the Centro Historico
Every trip to Mexico City should start in the city’s historic centre. Zocalo is the main city square and it’s a big one (one of the biggest in the world!). The south east corner of this square is supposedly the spot where Hernan Cortes met Montezuma, the Aztec Emperor in 1519. Templo Mayor, Mexico City’s main Aztec temple is also nearby, but is only a glimpse at what the sacred centre of Tenochtitlan, the Aztec city that came before Mexico City, was like. As you wander the streets, hopping from one monument to the next, appreciate the beautiful colonial architecture.
2. Chapultepec Park
If you’re tired of the crowded streets and the noise of the city centre, it’s best to escape to the city’s most popular green area: Chapultepec Park. Enjoy a picnic on one of the grassy green lawns or rent a paddle boat for going around the lake (unfortunately not free). There are also a few museums inside the park and an amusement park. The park’s main attraction however is the zoo, with 252 species of animals. The best part is, admission to the zoo is free!
3. Mexico City’s churches
There’s no way you could ever visit all of Mexico City’s churches but there are a few that are really impressive in terms of architecture and colonial period art, which are worth checking out while you’re exploring the city’s historic centre. The two that should be missed are the Basilica de Guadelupe and the Catedral Metropolitana, the oldest cathedral in the Americas. The Basilica is one of the most visited in the world for catholic pilgrims, for its 16th century Our Lady of Guadelupe image.
4. Mexico City’s Murals
Mexico City has a lot of public art and there’s no better place to appreciate the country’s tradition of murals than in the capital. Diego Rivera’s “The Epic of the Mexican People” in the National Palace is one of the most popular. There are over 200 murals by Rivera and other artists at the Secretary of Public Education. Jose Clemente Orozco has four murals in the Supreme Court building and you’ll find another Rivera mural, called “The History of Threatre” on the facade of the Insurgentes Theatre.
5. UNAM Campus
Mexico’s National Autonomous University is one of the country’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It’s worth a visit, with plenty to see and do. Start at the mosaic mural by Juan O’Gorman on the university library building and then check out the mural by David Alfaro Siqueiros on the Rectoria building. The sculptural space and the botanical garden are also worth visiting.
6. Street performers
Mexico City is a colourful and vibrant city and you’ll most definitely stumble upon some incredible live public performances in Mexico City’s streets. Check out the Aztec dancers in costume perform in Zocalo. You can find the Voladores performing several times a day outside the National Museum of Anthropology and for Mariachi bands, head to Plaza Garibaldi. It’s free to watch them perform for other people, but it’s pricey to hire them to play for you, so watch out!
7. Free museums
Most of Mexico City’s museums charge admission, although it’s usually quite nominal, but there are a few museums that are free to enjoy.
- Museo de la Ciudad de Mexico: learn about the history of Mexico City through exhibits, concerts, theatrical performances, workshops and conferences. This museum is located at Pino Suarez, no. 30.
- Museo de la Charreria: entry to exhibits about the charro tradition are free, which show traditional costumes and items used by Pancho Villa.
- Museo Palacio Cultural Banamex: the art collection at this museum includes pieces by Diego Riviera, José Clemente Orozco, Frida Kahlo and Joaquín Clausal.
Other Mexico City museums are free on select days only, like the Museo Dolores Olmedo on Tuesdays and the Museo Nacional de Arte on Sundays.
Have any other free attractions and museums in Mexico City to add to our list? Tell us about them in the comments!