12 Reasons to Visit Mexico City. #9 is a Hoot.

mexico city

“Mexico City? Why would you want to go there? It’s dirty and dangerous.” I hear that every time I tell some unknowing person where I’m going. I’ve traveled solo to Mexico City and have never found either of those issues to be true.

Oh, Mexico City! How do I love thee? Let me count the ways….

First, you already know you need to eat the scrumptious Mexican food, drink the tequila, and bargain for both artisan treasure and tacky souvenirs. But Mexico City is so much more than that.

mexico city

Home to 26 million people, the Mexico City metropolis is one of the largest cities in the world. It was built on the dried out bed of Lake Texcoco and is encircled on three sides by mountains and volcanoes.

The downtown area is bustling with pre-Hispanic history and culture. You can feel the frenetic energy at every corner, from the striking colonial architecture, the vibrant street art, the traditional cantinas, the eclectic markets and the world-class museums. Cosmopolitan folklore, bohemian, or kitschy, this exciting city has it all.

With tourists flocking to Mexico’s two coasts, Mexico City is something of a special secret to those of us who love it. Here’s a list of my must-do’s for people visiting one of my favorite cities.

1.  Zócalo

mexico city

The Zócalo (“base”) is the popular name for Plaza de la Constitucion, the central and most important square in Mexico City. During Aztec rule, it was the main ceremonial center. It’s one of the largest city squares in the world, and is the heart of Mexico City. This is my favorite place to stroll or chill out in the city. It’s always filled with people milling around the square or the shops across the street. On holidays and festival days, the square plays host to all manner of ritual dancers and performers.

2.  Frida Kahlo Museum

mexico city

Always a fan of Mexican folk art, I became enamored with Frida Kahlo’s incredible story of overcoming horrendous injuries and anguish from a bus crash after surviving my own similar ordeal. Her home, known as Casa Azul (Blue House), is filled with her life – her paintings, furnishings, mementos, jewelry, and an entire wing dedicated to her exquisite clothing. The woman had style and spirit.

3.  Xochimilco

mexico city

The canals and floating gardens of Xochimilco is one of the historic treasures of Mexico and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located on an outlying borough of Mexico City, the brightly painted trajineras – wooden pole boats – are Mexico’s version of Venice. The boats are slowly guided through the flower-laden canals and man-made islands, sometimes passing boats with mariachis or vendors selling food, blankets, or tchotchkes. The canals are one of the last vestiges of the extensive network of ancient waterways remaining in the sprawling megalopolis.

4.  Palacio de Bellas Artes

mexico city

The beautiful white marble Art Deco Palacio de Bellas Artes is the cultural focus of Mexico City. It hosts some of the most notable exhibitions of paintings, sculptures and photography. It’s also the site for artistic events in dance, theatre and music. The popular Ballet Folklórico de México, a two-hour extravaganza of costumes, music and dance originating from all over the country is regularly performed here.

5.  Chapultepec

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/81864976@N00/34485000496">Chapultepec</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">(license)</a>

Photo credit: Cbonsig/Creative Commons

Chapultepec, or the “Bosque de Chapultepec” is one of the largest city parks in the Western Hemisphere. It’s the premier ecological space in the sprawling urban Mexico City and is considered to be the first of the city’s “lungs” because of its trees that replenish oxygen to the region. The park area was once a retreat for Aztec rulers. On the grounds is Chapultepec Castle, which was at one time the imperial palace and now hosts the National History Museum. Performances in the park include the traditional papantla flyers – four flamboyantly dressed men who launched into the air tied to a 66 foot-high pole.

6.  Templo Mayor

mexico city

The UNESCO architectural site is part of the Historic Center of Mexico City just to the northeast of the Zocalo. It was one of the main temples of the Aztecs in their capital city of Tenochtitlan (Mexico City). The excavations are ongoing, and there is a museum on site.

7.  Basílica de Guadalupe

mexico city

Dedicated to the Virgin Mary – the patron saint of Mexico City – this sanctuary plays an important part in Mexico’s religious past and is the second most-visited Catholic shrine in the world, behind the Vatican in Rome. The history of the shrine is shrouded in mystery and miracles. Since my first visit, I’ve been fascinated by the pilgrimages of the devout, often crawling on their knees across the vast cobbled square to pray to the Virgin, whom they believe can cure any sickness.

8.  Red Tree House

mexico city

This fun, quirky, unique boutique hotel is my favorite place to stay in Mexico City! In fact, I will stay nowhere else. Located on a quiet side street in the trendy Condesa neighborhood, an area filled with parks, cafes, and restaurants, you will not find a friendlier, more helpful staff anywhere in Mexico. Maybe the world. That’s how much I love it! The décor is splendidly colorful and whimsical, yet tastefully applied. I’ve stayed in three different types of rooms. One was a standard, attractively decorated room in the main building; the second was in an expansive contemporary room in their guest house, just across the street.

But it’s the third that captured my heart. It’s actually called “The Treehouse.” It’s compact but perfect for a solo traveler. The penthouse room has double French doors leading on to a sunny private terrace overlooking a stunningly colorful courtyard.

Staying at the Red Tree House is like staying with friends. Guests gather together for breakfast at communal tables, and the B&B hosts a nightly wine hour for guests to relax, mingle, and exchange travel tips before heading out for dinner.

9.  Lucha Libre

mexico city

Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, Undertaker…. move aside. The Arena México is where it’s at for stunts, drama and every kind of free-style wrestling trick. The participants’ ostentatious personalities are displayed by their equally flamboyant masks, and rippling muscles are openly displayed in their colorful spandex costumes. Masks of every type are sold outside the arena and a few guests (that would be moi) even don them as they cheer at the raucous pop culture spectacle. Like American wresting, the matches are obviously choreographed, but that doesn’t take away from the fun and encourages audience participation.


10.  Teotihuacan

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/34071882@N00/32877870014">1973-02_A217_Teotihuacan-Zona Arqueologica de Teotihuacan</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">(license)</a>

Photo credit: Prinzipal/Creative Commons

Teotihuacan (“place where gods were born”) is ancient Mesoamerican city located 30 miles northeast in the Valley of Mexico. Construction of this important archeological site began around 300 BC and it was the largest Pre-Columbian city in the Americas, reaching a total population of 150,000 in its heyday. It’s known for the Aztec practice of human sacrifice.

The Pyramid of the Sun, located on the east side of the Avenue of the Dead, is the third-largest pyramid in the world and offers a stunning view of the Pyramid of the Moon at the summit. I first climbed the Pyramid of the Sun when I was 24 years old….in heels, no less! That’s where I first heard and became familiar with the word “loco” as numerous Spanish speaking climbers passed me, some staring, some pointing me out. I wasn’t totally loco, though; I did take the shoes off to descend the pyramid. Ah, to be young and invincible foolish.

mexico city

An exciting way to see the pyramids and entire site on a hot air balloon — see link at the bottom of this article.

11.  Puebla

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/90955804@N04/25302275744">2016 - Mexico - Puebla - Palacio Municipal</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">(license)</a>

Photo credit: Ted’s photos – Returns Mid May/Creative Commons

Mexico’s 4th largest and one of its oldest cities is a two-hour drive from Mexico City. The city square is dominated by a massive two-tower cathedral with a tiled dome roof inspired by St. Peter’s Basilica. The square is surrounded by attractive colonial-era churches, pastel buildings with flowers spilling over second floor balconies, outdoor cafes, and vibrant artisan markets. Puebla’s gastronomy is arguably considered to be the best in Mexico, with dishes like mole poblano, s rich, thick, chili-chocolate flavor sauce, originating here. The city’s relaxed, friendly atmosphere attracts visitors from both Mexico and abroad.

12.  Cholula

mexico city

Six miles from Puebla is the tiny town of Cholula, best known for containing Pyramide Tepanapa. The pyramid was built in the second century B.C., and is the world’s largest pyramid by volume – a third larger than the Great Pyramid at Giza. Take a deep breath and climb the seemingly endless stairs to get to the top where you will be rewarded for your efforts with a panoramic view of the entire region. The town also claims to have 365 churches, one for each day of the year.

Note:  I visited many of the places above with my favorite tour provider, Viator Tours, and so can you!

Find and book Mexico City tours and activities on Viator.com. Book ahead to save time and money!


mexico city

Disclosure: We’ve included a Viator link to tours in Mexico for your convenience.  Luggage and Lipstick receives a small portion of the sale at no additional cost to you.


  1. My first visit to Mexico City was at age 9 in 1963. We visited many of the places on your list, but they hadn’t yet discovered the ruins of the Temple Mayor next to the main cathedral on the Zócalo. My last visit was in 2012. I expect to be visiting Mexico City more often as our peripatetic younger son has pretty much moved there and even bought a condo. I think our Thanksgiving dinner is going to be in La Ciudad de México, D.F. this year.

    • luggageandlipstick says:

      Lucky you! I do try to get to Mexico every year, but it’s not always Mexico City.

  2. You’ve done a great job of summarizing the wealth of fabulous experiences in Mexico City. I too loved Xochimilco!
    michele h peterson recently posted…Enjoy a Resort Day Pass at Secrets The Vine CancunMy Profile

  3. I’ve not been to Mexico City and used to think of it as big, dirty and dangerous. I’ve read a few things lately to dispel that image and now I am quite interested in visiting, You’ve given lots of good reasons to go. And I’d like to stay at the Red Tree House when I finally do make it there! Sounds like a charming and comfortable place.

  4. Mexico is on my bucket list but I hadn’t thought of going to Mexico City, believing it to be hot, dirty and crowded! You’ve managed to persuade me it isn’t like that – I’d particularly like to visit the floating gardens and the Frida Kahlo Museum.
    Karen Warren recently posted…Street Art of Nachlaot and the Machane Yehuda MarketMy Profile

    • luggageandlipstick says:

      Mexico City is one of my favorite cities in the world! It can be hot, as is most of Mexico, but it’s not dirty and you can avoid crowds depending on what time of year you travel. It’s a TON of fun!

  5. I’d like to go to Mexico City just for the Frida Kahlo museum and Teotihuacan!
    Rachel Heller recently posted…Visiting Bethlehem for a DayMy Profile

  6. Love it! Great list!
    Cacinda Maloney recently posted…A Night at Hacienda San Antonio El Puente, Cuernavaca, MexicoMy Profile

  7. With a city as large as Mexico City, I wouldn’t even know where to start, so thank you for making trip planning a little easier with this list!

    • luggageandlipstick says:

      So glad I could help! Of course, there’s so much more to see in Mexico City, but I wanted to at least give the highlights.

  8. Ooooh you make me eager to return! Perhaps the Red Tree House for our next visit…
    Anne recently posted…Gardens from Cannes to GrasseMy Profile

  9. Wow! I didn’t visit Mexico in my life. After reading your blog, I am gonna make my trip for Mexico too.Great place and useful information share by you.

    Great Read! Love to visit at Teotihuacan and Xochimilco. Your list is going to help me a lot.

    Nitin Khanna recently posted…Challenges When I Travel AbroadMy Profile

    • luggageandlipstick says:

      Glad the list helped! Mexico City is a treasure trove of exciting things to do and see.

  10. OK, I admit it, I have never been to Mexico City…but after reading your post, I am adding it to my Bucket List!!! Thank you for the great advice!
    Marilyn Jones recently posted…Finding the right packing accessories to fit your next AdventureMy Profile

    • luggageandlipstick says:

      I highly recommend it, Marilyn! I know you’ll find many, many exciting things to do and write about!

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