Free Things To Do in Mexico City
- #2View all Photos#2 in Mexico City5.3 miles to city centerFree, Churches/Religious SitesTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND5.3 miles to city centerFree, Churches/Religious SitesTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
The Basílica de Santa María de Guadalupe (Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe) is an important religious site in Mexico City. The first shrine built to honor the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe was erected in 1531 on Tepeyac hill, but the first basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary was not built until 1695. However, nearly 300 years' worth of construction and environmental damage threatened the integrity of the basilica, so a new basilica was built on the same plaza in the 1970s.
Today, the complex has many features including the basilica, the ancient church, a gift shop filled with religious items, a museum and a library. Visitors extolled the basilica, saying that it is a must-see whether you are Catholic or not. Though Mass is held frequently, reviewers noted that the layout of the buildings helps visitors avoid interrupting worship. In addition, past travelers said a variety of tours were available from Mexico City (some of which included Teotihuacan) and said it was a great way to have a fully-informed experience. The basilica is also often featured as a stop on hop-on, hop-off bus tours.
- #3View all Photos
Considered the cultural center of Mexico City, the Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts) is a must-visit. The exterior of the palace showcases art nouveau and art deco-style architecture, while the inside features marble floors and vaulted glass windows.
In addition to its architectural grandeur, the building hosts cultural events in the national theater, including music, dance, theater, opera and literary performances. The museum at the palace also holds several famous murals, including the work of the famous Mexican muralist Rufino Tamayo. On the top floor, you'll find the National Museum of Architecture, which showcases the work and lives of famous Mexican architects, and multiple art museums and galleries.
- #6View all Photos
Officially known as Plaza de la Constitución, El Zócalo is the main public square and one of the most recognizable places in Mexico City. It contains a giant Mexican flag at its center and has been the centerpiece of public gatherings since the days of the Aztecs. The site also hosts annual, widely attended religious events during Holy Week and for Corpus Christi. Several historic buildings also border the square, including the city's national cathedral, the National Palace and federal buildings.
You could spend a couple hours looking around the Zócalo, and some travelers suggest you start your visit at sunset. Mexican soldiers march out into the square at sunset to take down the flag, offering a great photo opportunity. Some travelers even recommend heading to the square more than once.
- #7View all Photos#7 in Mexico City4.6 miles to city centerFree, Neighborhood/Area, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND4.6 miles to city centerFree, Neighborhood/Area, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
The main park in Mexico City, Bosque de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Forest) was once the temporary home of the Aztec empire after its citizens migrated to modern-day Mexico City in the 13th century. Today, the 1,600-acre Chapultepec is Mexico City's largest and most popular park, and a gathering place for families seeking respite from the busy and crowded city.
Divided into three sections, the park is home to many cultural interests, such as the presidential residence, the former presidential palace, a zoo and several museums (including the highly recommended Museo Nacional de Antropología). The park also hosts numerous military monuments and effigies of Aztec kings, as well as restaurants and an amusement park, plus lots of green space for stretching. What's more, the park features a large lake, where visitors and locals alike can rent paddleboats or rowboats to putter around the water (a particular highlight for kids). On the weekends, local vendors fill the park and sell everything from souvenirs to art to snacks.
- #8View all Photos
Mexico's national cathedral – the vaulting, austere, ornate church on the Zócalo's north end – was once the site of an ancient Aztec precinct, so it has housed the city's spiritual core for centuries. The cathedral was built between 1573 and 1813 after the Spanish conquest of Tenochtitlan and is considered one of Mexico City's many must-see attractions. Highlights of the cathedral include five naves, 14 chapels, underground catacombs and a painting by famed Spanish artist Bartolome Esteban Murillo.
Depending on your interest in Mexican history and architecture, you could spend anywhere from an hour to a half a day at the cathedral. Recent visitors said the massive structure is stunning to behold, and even if you don't want to take the time to explore the inside, it's worth the photo op of the exterior. The cathedral is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and admission is free. Note that the bell tower is closed for structural safety issues. For more information, including Mass times, visit the cathedral's website (in Spanish).
- #10View all Photos#10 in Mexico City6.9 miles to city centerMuseums, Free, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND6.9 miles to city centerMuseums, Free, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
The Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico (Central University City Campus of the National University of Mexico) includes 40 academic institutions, the Mexican Olympic stadium, a Mexican cultural center, a nature preserve and the city's Central Library. The entire campus is now designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The city's famous muralists have made their mark on the campus, and travelers recommend you check out the work of famous painter David Alfaro Siqueiros at the Rectorate Tower or the work of Juan O'Gorman at the Central Library. The campus also holds the University Museum of Contemporary Art, an excellent spot for viewing Mexico's more recent cultural offerings.
- #12View all Photos
The National Palace holds the federal executive branch of the Mexican government and sits along Mexico City's main public square, El Zócalo. The palace itself is a massive, ornate building that contains several gardens, murals and fountains. Its highlights are the Diego Rivera murals painted in panoramic style across the palace's walls, which visitors say are a must-see. These murals depict the stages of Mexican history, from pre-Columbian days to the current age.
Admission is free and travelers say that a typical stop should last about one to two hours. Be sure to bring your passport or other identification to gain admittance. The palace is open Tuesday through Sunday (closed Mondays) from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. More information can be found on the government's website.
- #13View all Photos#13 in Mexico City10.1 miles to city centerFree, Monuments and Memorials, SightseeingTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND10.1 miles to city centerFree, Monuments and Memorials, SightseeingTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
Flanking the Paseo de la Reforma in downtown Mexico City, El Ángel de la Independencia is a column monument topped by a bronze depiction of the Greek goddess Victory, one of the most beloved symbols of the city.
Originally built to commemorate Mexico's war with Spain for independence, the structure has also evolved into a mausoleum for war heroes. Recent visitors said it is an impressive sight.
Explore More of Mexico City
If you make a purchase from our site, we may earn a commission. This does not affect the quality or independence of our editorial content.