I recently spent 9 days in Mexico City and had the luxury of taking my time to explore the city. I narrowed down the experience to these 10 must do items! Use this Mexico City Must Do Checklist to enjoy all this city has to offer! If you think I’ve missed anything, please let me know in the comments. I have a full size version of this check list at the bottom of this page so feel free to print it out and bring it with you on your trip.
#1- Day Tour to Teotihuacan Pyramids
One of the highlights of my trip was visiting the Teotihuacan pyramids. It is one of the most important Mesoamerican pyramids and the complex contains several pyramids, temples, and even murals from 2,000 years ago! It is located about an hour’s drive away from Mexico City (40 kms) and very worth your time! Although I’m not a history bluff, I am in awe of how these structures stood up to the test of time. Apparently, some of the monuments took 350 years to build!
Since you’ll be doing a lot of walking between the pyramids, I’d recommend hiring a driver or taking a tour instead of public transportation! The entrance fee is 70 pesos per person ($4.50 CAD) and 45 pesos for a vehicle. The main walkway called the Avenue of the Dead is 2.4km long and links all the “apartment” compounds with the pyramids. You can climb on top of the Pyramid of the Sun which rises 66m above ground. The second pyramid is called the Pyramid of the Moon and is slightly smaller.
#2- Fine Dining at Pujol
Mexico City has 3 of the World’s Best 100 Restaurants and if you love food, definitely try out fine dining at Pujol! This will be a splurge meal but it’s an icon of Mexico City and still a deal compared to similar restaurants in cities like Paris or New York. Pujol is ranked #13 in 2018 in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Enrique Olvera uses rustic Mexican ingredients and flavours to present creative and innovative modern plates.
You can choose from their classic tasting menu or the taco tasting menu. The classic tasting menu is 1998 pesos each. Unlike most tasting menus, Pujol gives you a choice for 3 of the courses. I don’t want to ruin the surprise of the menu but some of the standouts were their smoked baby carrot, soft shell crab taco that you make yourself, and a delicious tamarind ginger palate cleanser before dessert.
Other elements that really elevated this dinner experience include the beautiful tree inside the restaurant, and a wax sealed dated menu that you can keep as a souvenir.
#3 – Rare Animals at Zoologica de Chapultepec (it’s free!)
I don’t know why the Chapultepec Zoo is not on every travel guide! I love animals and try to visit zoos whenever I can. Some of my favorites include the San Diego Zoo and Symbio Wildlife Park in Australia. Most tourists will visit Chapultepec, and I’d highly recommend setting aside a few hours to walk through the Chapultepec Zoo. Top reasons you should visit? There’s two pandas and it’s free!
I got in around 1030am and it was very quiet. Although the animals are in smaller living compartments than I like to see, they are some of the most active I’ve ever seen. Additionally, I saw lots of park rangers taking detailed notes about the animals and it’s the first zoo outside of China to successfully breed pandas! In most zoos, I find the animals are hiding in the back but at Chapultepec Zoo, they came to play. I saw black jaguar, leopard, lions, and Benegal tigers up close!
#4 – Enjoy the opulence of Castillo de Chapultepec
Within the Bosque de Chapultepec, the Chapultepec Castle is another must. It is a magnificently kept castle with a manicured lawn and the perfect look out into the city. It is 70 pesos to enter and you can roam around the grounds freely. There will also be tour guides available should you hire them. The castle is high above the city so you get a great view into the city. This is the only royal castle in the Americas!
Some beautiful areas to visit are the gardens right near the entrance, the grand staircases, and of course the famous terrace looking out into Mexico City. Plan to spend an hour or more if you are interested in historic artifacts and paintings. I love that the castle is so affordable and not crowded in comparison to castles I’ve visited in Europe.
#5 – Take a Free Walking Tour
I’m not a big history bluff but taking a walking tour really expands your horizon. There are a few free walking tour companies to choose from and I signed up with Strawberry Tours as it worked the best for my timing. It was really easy to find the group at the Benito Juarez Monument in Alameda Park. We didn’t actually walk very far but was able to learn about many of the important structures within Centro Historico.
The most interesting fact I learned was about the monuments around Mexico City featuring famous soldiers on horses. If one of the horse’s front leg is curled, that means they died from betrayal. If both legs are up, that means they died in a fights. But if both legs are grounded, it means they died from natural causes. Apparently 80% of the monuments show that the person died due to betrayal. These are some fun facts I would have never known! I did a walking tour in Berlin as well and it taught me so many interesting facts about the history and architecture.
#6 – Eat at least One Taco a Day
I visited more than 10 taco joints! There are so many varieties on the type of meat and tacos are available at all price ranges. The cheapest but still highly rated taco joint is Taqueria Los Cocuyos for 16 pesos (~$1.10 CAD). But the majority of tacos are around 30-40 pesos. For seafood tacos, I liked La Guerrerense, Tres Galones, and El Pescadito. For meat tacos, try Taqueria El Greco, Taqueria Hola, Taqueria Orinoco. I’ll likely do a full taco post featuring all the places I visited!
#7 – Drink Fresh Juices
I love fresh pressed juices but often it is very pricey at home. With the sunny weather in Mexico, tropical fruits are much cheaper and tastes great! My two favorite places were Ojo de Agua and Frutos Prohibtos. You can either get a single fruit or there are many premade combos available. The small sizes are around 45 pesos (~3 CAD) which is a steal for fresh juice! I also found this is a great way to get your Vitamins while eating a carb heavy diet in Mexico City.
#8 – Try Mezcal
Tequila might bring you painful memories of university parties. But Mezcal is Tequila’s cool cousin. The most popular flavor of mezcal gives off a smoky smell and taste but you can also find other flavors like floral, grassy, or fruity. Tequila is a type of mezcal distilled from using blue agave, whereas Mezcal can be distilled from any species of agave plants. You can purchase a bottle at their liquor stores called La Europa.
It was so fun to try out different brands and mezcal from different regions although most are still too strong for my liking. Instead of taking it as a shot like Tequila, Mezcal should be sipped like whisky. Even if you don’t buy a bottle, definitely try a mezcal cocktail. My favorite bars were Licorera Limantour and Baltra Bar. The cocktails are around $8-10 CAD including tax and are some of the top rated bars in Latin America!
#9 – Invest in Quality Souvenir at Onora
There are lots of places you can buy souvenir but I’d recommend spending a bit more and investing in a quality piece at Onora. Onora stocks beautiful home decor pieces all made in Mexico! I picked two ceramic mezcal glasses that costed 240 pesos ($17 CAD). The store definitely has more expensive items like certain textiles, but I did see a lot of reasonably priced items too. It’ll be a much better souvenir than a random trinket that you might throw away during spring cleaning.
I also like that the purchase came with a card explaining how the ceramic was made and also how it contributes to artists in the State of Mexico.
#10 – Appreciate Contemporary Art
When I travel, visiting art museums is usually low on my priority list. But Mexico City is so known for museums, art, and design that I decided to give it a shot! The good thing is that the museums are very affordable so it’s not a big loss if you weren’t able to appreciate it. I’d recommend going to Museo Jumex (60 pesos admission) if you are in the Polanco area. Or Galeria OMR if you are in the Roma area.
I found it pretty interesting and the museums make good back drops for photos too. Museo Jumex is pretty small so plan for an hour. There were signs in Spanish and English which is nice to try and get an understanding behind the artist and the inspiration.
What did you think of this top 10 list? I thought these items really exemplified the city and provided fun and unique experiences. Check the photo below for a printable Mexico City Must Do Checklist! Hope you enjoy Mexico City 🙂