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Top 10 Free Things to Do in Mexico City

Mexico City Free Sights and Attractions

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Mexico City is an ideal destination for travelers on a budget. There are excellent options for cheap accommodation, delicious economical food is plentiful, and there is lots to see and do without spending a peso. On this page you'll find a list of the best things to do for free in Mexico City.

Top Ten Mexico City Sights | Mexico City Walking Tour

1. Walk the Centro Historico

Mexico City Zocalo
Photo by Antony Stanley

A good place to begin any visit to Mexico City is the historical center, el centro historico. Here you can stroll through the Zocalo (the main square), gaze at the Templo Mayor, the main Aztec temple, and appreciate the beautiful architecture from Mexico's colonial period. This walking tour of Mexico City will lead you through the main sights to see in this area.

2. Admire the Churches

Mexico City Cathedral Altarpiece
© Suzanne Barbezat

There are a multitude of churches to visit in Mexico City and many have impressive colonial period art and architecture. Two churches that you shouldn't miss are the world's second most visited church, the Basilica de Guadalupe, and the oldest cathedral in the Americas, the Catedral Metropolitana.

3. Explore Mexico City's Parks

Chapultepec Park Lake
© Suzanne Barbezat

Mexico City may be known for its crowds, buildings and traffic, but it also has many pleasant green areas to explore. Parque Mexico in the Condesa neighborhood (Chilpancingo metro station), has well-maintained paths, plentiful vegetation and art-deco benches and decorations. You can even enjoy a free tango class in Parque Mexico on Sundays starting at 5 pm. Chapultepec Park (Chapultepec or Auditorio metro station) is another popular park that is well worth a visit. It offers green spaces and natural areas as well as a lake with paddle-boats for rent, museums and amusement parks.

4. See the Animals at Chapultepec Zoo

Chapultepec Zoo
Photo by phil websurfer, licensed under Creative Commons

One of the main attractions at Chapultepec Park is the zoo, which is home to 252 species of animals, 130 of which are native to Mexico. The zoo is open Tuesday to Sunday from 9 am to 4:30 pm, closed on Mondays. This zoo contains seven different biome areas and nearly 250 species of animals from Mexico and around the world. Admission to the zoo is free.

More info about the Chapultepec Zoo

5. Appreciate Murals

© Benito Hernández
There's no better place to appreciate Mexican muralism than in Mexico City. Begin with Diego Rivera's "The Epic of the Mexican People" in the National Palace, then move on to the Secretary of Public Education at Republica de Argentina #28, where there are over 200 Rivera murals, as well as those of other artists. There are four Jose Clemente Orozco murals in the Supreme Court building at Pino Suarez #2, on the second floor, as well as murals by George Biddle, and Hector Cruz García. Rivera's "The History of Theater" is on the facade of the Insurgentes theater on Insurgentes Sur #1587. The Universidad metro station has a mural by Arturo Garcia Bustos, and Jesus Nazareno church located at Pino Suarez #34 contains a fresco by Jose Clemente Orozco.

6. Browse the Markets

Bazar Sabado in San Angel
Photo by Carlos Mejía Greene, licensed under Creative Commons

Mexico City has many huge and fascinating markets that you could spend days exploring. You don't have to buy anything to enjoy these markets. The Mercado de la Ciudadela (Balderas metro station) has a wide variety of crafts from all over the country. On Saturdays head to the Bazar Sabado in San Angel to see high quality handicrafts for sale. The more adventurous may like to check out the sprawling Mercado La Lagunilla (Lagunilla metro station), where anything from clothes to electronics to antiques are sold - Sunday is the best day. For produce and other food products, check out the Mercado de la Merced, or the adjoining Sonora market for creepy santeria and witchcraft paraphernalia.

Remember to leave your valuables behind when exploring Mexico City's markets - and take sensible safety precautions.

7. Discover the UNAM campus

UNAM Library Mosaic
Photo by Ivan Hernández, licensed under Creative Commons

One of Mexico's UNESCO world heritage sites, the campus of Mexico's National Autonomous University is well worth a visit, and has plenty for the visitor to see and do. See the mosaic mural by Juan O'Gorman on the university library building and the mural by David Alfaro Siqueiros on the Rectoria building, then explore the campus. Don't miss the espacio escultorico (sculptural space), or the botanical garden.

8. See Street Performances

Aztec Dancers
© Suzanne Barbezat

You will most certainly come across public performances during your explorations of Mexico City. Aztec dancers in costume perform traditional ceremonies and dances in the Zocalo or nearby. The Voladores perform several times a day outside the National Museum of Anthropology. In the evening, you can head to Plaza Garibaldi (Garibaldi metro station) to hear the Mariachi play (hiring them to sing for you specifically is pricey, but you can listen to them play for others for free).

9. Visit the Plaza de las Tres Culturas

Tlatelolco - Plaza de las Tres Culturas
© Suzanne Barbezat

An archaeological site, a colonial-period church and modern-era apartment buildings converge on this site, representing the three different cultures which have occupied Mexico City. This is also the site where one of Mexico's modern tragedies took place - on October 2nd, 1968, Mexican army and police massacred some 300 students who had gathered here to protest the repressive government of president Diaz Ordaz.

10. Go to Museums

Most of Mexico City's museums charge for admission, but there are some museums which are completely free to visit. Here are a few:
  • The Museo de la Ciudad de Mexico, at Pino Suarez #30, contains exhibits which chronicle the history of Mexico City, and also hosts temporary exhibits, concerts, theatrical performances, conferences and workshops.
  • Museo de la Charreria at Isabel la Catolica #108 offers free admission to its exhibits relating to the charro tradition, including costumes and items used by Pancho Villa.
  • The Museo Palacio Cultural Banamex at Madero #17 (2nd floor), has a rich collection of art, including paintings by Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, Dr. Atl, Frida Kahlo and Joaquín Clausell, as well as a large collection of photographs of Manuel Alvarez Bravo.
You can also take advantage of one free day during the week offered at some Mexico City museums, for example the Museo Dolores Olmedo offers free admission on Tuesday and the Museo Nacional de Arte is free on Sunday.
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