Things to Do in Central Mexico
Known as the City of the Gods, Teotihuacán was the metropolis of a mysterious Mesoamerican civilization that reached its zenith around AD 100. Once the largest city in the region but abandoned centuries before the arrival of the Aztecs, Teotihuacán boasts towering pyramids and stone temples with detailed statues and intricate murals.
Known as the Blue House (La Casa Azul) for its bold blue façade, the Frida Kahlo Museum (Museo Frida Kahlo) was the birthplace and childhood home of the well-known Mexican artist. Inside, the fascinating collection of personal items, furnishings, sketches, and paintings offer insight into both the life and art of Frida Kahlo.
With its brightly paintedtrajineras (flat-bottomed boats), traditionalchinampas (floating gardens), and network of flower-perfumed canals, Xochimilco—the “Flower Garden”—is the kind of place that will have you reaching for your camera at every turn.
Coyoacán, one of Mexico City’s oldest districts, is alive with color and culture. Centered around twin plazas perfect for people watching—Plaza Hidalgo and Jardín Centenario—Coyoacán is characterized by museums, quaint cobblestone streets, and roadside churro vendors.
Among the most visited Catholic pilgrimage sites in the world, the Shrine of Guadalupe atop Tepeyac Hill in Mexico City honors the legendary 16th-century appearance of the Virgin Mary to Juan Diego, a local peasant. The shrine, also known as the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe), is devoted to the patron saint of Mexico.
Mexico City’s Plaza de la Constitución, better known as the Zocalo, is the cultural and historic heart of the city. This large open-air square in the Centro Historico is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to the city's top attractions, including Metropolitan Cathedral, National Palace, and Great Temple archaeological site and museum.
Considered one of the world’s most comprehensive natural history museums, the National Museum of Anthropology (Museo Nacional de Antropología) is Mexico City’s most visited museum. Its collection includes notable historical items such as the Aztec Stone of the Sun, the giant carved heads of the Olmec people, and the Aztec Xochipilli statue.
Built on the site of the ancient Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán, the Centro Histórico is both the historical heart and the modern epicenter of Mexico City. Centered on the grand Zócalo—Plaza de la Constitución—the sprawling district is preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is full of historic monuments, museums, parks, and hotels.
As Mexico City’s major cultural center, the Palace of Fine Arts hosts art exhibitions and a range of live events, including music, dance, theater, and opera. The building is a mix of art nouveau, art deco, and baroque architectural styles referred to as Porfiriano, after Mexican President Porfirio Diaz who commissioned the project.
The National Palace (Palacio Nacional) has served as the seat of the Mexican federal government since the age of the Aztecs. Although it’s a working building with many offices that are off limits to visitors, there’s still plenty to explore and admire, including Diego Rivera’s famous panoramic mural, The History of Mexico.
More Things to Do in Central Mexico
The only palace on the continent, Chapultepec Castle sits more than 7,000 feet (2,133 meters) above sea level in Mexico City’s Chapultepec Park. It has housed royalty, served as a military academy, and was even an observatory. In 1996, the castle was transformed into Capulet Mansion for the movieWilliam Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
Built on Aztec temple ruins, no building better exemplifies the history of Mexico City than the Metropolitan Cathedral (Catedral Metropolitana). The vast stone edifice blends architectural styles and building innovations across four centuries. Highlights include the gilded Altar of Forgiveness and the painted canvases lining the sacristy.
What remains of the Aztecs’ Great Temple (Templo Mayor) sits right in the middle of Mexico City, but many tourists miss it. In 1978, a massive, 8-ton (7,000-kilogram) stone depicting Coyolxauhqui (the Aztec goddess of the moon) was unearthed, marking the location of the temple, a gathering place sacred for the Aztecs during the 1300s and 1400s.
Soccer—orfútbol as it’s called in Spanish—is an integral part of Mexican culture. For the country’s people, Azteca Stadium (Estadio Azteca), which is the largest stadium in Mexico, is the heart of the sport. Home to the professional soccer team Club América and the Mexican national team, the 84,000-seat stadium is the first venue to host two FIFA World Cup finals, and it will welcome a third in 2026.
Leafy pedestrian walkways, historical monuments, and numerous open-air art and photography exhibitions characterize Paseo de la Reforma, one of Mexico City’s busiest thoroughfares which splices Chapultepec Park and connects it with the historic center. Lined by towering skyscrapers and luxury hotels, Paseo de la Reforma is also home to Mexico City landmarks like the Ángel de la Independencia.
Chapultepec Park, named for the Aztec word chapoltepec (at the grasshopper’s hill), is one of the world's largest city parks. The green space spans 1,695 acres (686 hectares) and is dissected by walking paths connecting quiet ponds, monumental buildings, and museums, including the Museum of Anthropology and the Rufino Tamayo Museum.
It’s easy to see why Xalapa, the capital city of the state of Veracruz, is fondly referred to as the San Francisco of Mexico. This colorful urban center has the same laid back charm and electric night life, with an equally youthful vibe. College students buzz through Xalapa’s hilly city streets aboard quick moving scooters, while well-heeled business men and women make their way to work through the bustling business district.
Dozens of popular cafes that line the streets of Xalapa, where, students, travelers and the city’s cultural elite brush elbows over steaming cups of strong brew. The country’s second-largest archaeological collection is housed in the city’s Museo de Antropologia and travelers say the grounds of this unique landmark are worth a visit. The collection of exhibits, which outlines the traditions and artwork of the Totonac and Huastec people, provide a comprehensive history for first-time visitors. Nearby Parque Ecologico Macuiltepetl, a tranquil 40-hectare park, is home to plenty of running trials and offers impressive views of the Xalapa skyline from atop an extinct volcano.
Architecture, art, and pre-Hispanic culture combine at the pyramid-shaped Anahuacalli Museum, conceptualized by Mexican artist Diego Rivera and Juan O’Gorman and built from black volcanic rock. Opened in 1964, this singular museum houses Rivera’s collection of about 2,000 pre-Hispanic artifacts, murals, mosaics, and more.
With fewer visitors than other butterfly reserves and handy proximity to Mexico City, the Piedra Herrada Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary is one of the best spots to admire the orange-and-black creatures. Hike or ride a horse through the forest to reach the butterflies, which coat the fir trees before bursting into flight and fluttering among the treetops.
The so-called "Coffee Capital of Mexico," Coatepec is one of Veracruz’s most alluring pueblos mágicos (magic towns) where coffee, culture, and cloud forests combine. Situated at the foothills of the Cofre de Perote, Coatepec—once a sacred Aztec site now strewn with cafés and an impressive orchid garden—offers a quieter alternative to nearby Xalapa.
Just north of Mexico City’s Chapultepec Park (Bosque de Chapultepec), the upscale district of Polanco is home to some of the country’s wealthiest families. In addition to high-end real estate, the city’s most luxurious hotels and priciest restaurants line the streets of the district’s five neighborhoods. At the center of it all is the welcoming green space of Parque Lincoln.
Historic Plaza Garibaldi is the go-to spot for live local music in Mexico City. To get the full experience, cozy up to the bar at one of the square's numerous tequila joints, watch a folkloric show, or settle in to an outdoor table and enjoy the hustle of urban life as mariachi bands weave among patrons while playing traditional tunes.
Once the tallest building in Latin America, the Latin-American Tower (Torre Latinoamericana) was originally built in 1956 and remains a major landmark of downtown Mexico City as well as remarkably earthquake resistant. Here, visitors can marvel over panoramic views from the 44th floor observation deck, sip cocktails at the 41st floor bar, and stop by the two on-site museums.
Created by a volcanic eruption millennia ago, Lake Catemaco (Laguna Catemaco) is best known for its non-native population of Stumptail Macaque monkeys. Take a boat to Monkey Island or get spiritual during the annual Witchcraft Festival, before using the lake as a jumping-off point for exploration of the Los Tuxtlas Biosphere Reserve.
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