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 inï»¿ Mexico City.
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
3. Explore Mexico City's Parks
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
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. Admission to the zoo is free, but you are not allowed to enter with food or large parcels, which will need to be left at the paqueteria desk at the entrance (which has a cost of 5 pesos). Keep in mind that the exit is on the opposite side of the zoo, and you will have to trek back to pick up your belongings.
Chapultepec Zoo Web Site (in Spanish)
5. Appreciate Murals
6. Browse the Markets
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
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
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
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 MuseumsMost 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.