There’s no shortage of things to do in Mexico City, a busy modern metropolis where history is right around the corner–every corner. To fully immerse yourself in its history, culture, and cuisine, from museums to cantinas, add these ten great experiences to your travel wishlist.

front view of mexico city's palacio de bellas artes with garden in front

Palacio de Bellas Artes. Photo © Dreamstime.

Museo del Templo Mayor

Mexico City’s tumultuous history is visible at the ruins of the Templo Mayor(55/4040-5600, ext. 412930, Tues.-Sun. 9am-5pm; US$5, free on Sun.; Metro: Zócalo), a great temple-pyramid that was destroyed during the 16th-century Spanish siege of Tenochtitlán. The museum showcases artifacts recovered from the archaeological site.

Palacio de Bellas Artes

With its grand marble facade and opulent art deco interior, the incomparable Palacio de Bellas Artes (55/5512-2593; Tues.-Sun. 10am-9pm; free to enter the lobby, US$4 admission to museum and mezzanine level; Metro: Bellas Artes) is one of Mexico’s most striking buildings, as well as a keynote arts institution. On the second and third floors, the Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes (55/5521-9251, Tues.-Sun. 10am-6pm) has hosted some of the most important art shows of the past decade.

Museo Nacional de Antropología

Take a grand tour of the many pre-Columbian cultures in Mexico through artifacts and art at the Museo Nacional de Antropología (55/4040-5300; Tues.-Sun. 9am-7pm; US$5; Metro: Auditorio). The most impressive rooms are dedicated to the people who lived in Teotihuacán and in what is today Mexico City.

Museo Frida Kahlo

A superbly talented painter and a beloved icon the world around, Frida Kahlo is celebrated at the lovely and intimate Museo Frida Kahlo (55/5554-5999; Tues., Thurs.-Sun. 10am-5:45pm, Wed. 11am-5:45pm; US$4.50 adults, US$2 students; Metro: Coyoacán) housed in her childhood home.

Blue wall in Frida Kahlo Museum

Museo Frida Kahlo. Photo © Dreamstime.

Teotihuacán

Admire the views from the top of two spectacular temple-pyramids at the country’s most-visited archaeological site, the Teotihuacán archaeological zone (Ecatepec Pirámides km 22 + 600, Municipio de Teotihuacán, Estado de México, 594/956-0276; daily 9am-5pm, US$5, children under 13, students, teachers, seniors, and people with disabilities free), a day trip just outside the city limits.

Cantina Culture

These relaxed neighborhood bars are quintessential to Mexico City. Spend a few hours enjoying the convivial atmosphere with a shot of good tequila in hand. Try Bar La Ópera (Av. Cinco de Mayo 10, 55/5512-8959; Mon.-Sat. 1pm-midnight, Sun. 1pm-6pm; Metro: Bellas Artes) or Centenario (“Vicente Suárez 42, 55/5553-5451; Mon.-Sat. noon-1am; no cover; Metro: Patriotismo).

Classic Cuisine

Mexico City’s tremendous food scene is reason alone to visit the city. You’ll find ace eats in every price range and in every neighborhood, from old cantinas and street-front taquerías to fine dining.

Traditional Markets

The city’s colorful and atmospheric markets are where locals shop for everything from home goods to used LPs. If you only have time to visit one, make it Mercado de la Merced (Circunvalación between General Anaya and Adolfo Gorrión, Col. Merced Balbuena, 55/5522-7250; daily 6am-6pm; Metro: La Merced).

man wearing hat in a market in mexico city

Mercado de la Merced. Photo © Julie Meade.

Pulque

This fizzy fermented beverage, made from the sap of the maguey cactus, is a capital tradition. As the younger generation discovers this drink, it’s experiencing a deserved revival. Try it at Pulquería Las Duelistas (Aranda 28, 55/1394-0958; Mon.-Sat. 10am-9pm; no cover; Metro: San Juan Letrán), one of the oldest traditional pulquerías in Mexico City.

Contemporary Art

With the opening of new museums and the continued excellence of many long-running galleries, there’s never been a better time to be an art lover. The Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo (Insurgentes Sur 3000, 55/5622-6972; Wed., Fri., and Sun. 10am-6pm, Thurs. and Sat. 10am-8pm; Wed. and Sun. US$1.50, Thurs.-Sat. US$3.50, children under 12 free; Metro: Universidad, Metrobús: CCU) in the heart of the UNAM campus has consistently been one of the best places to see contemporary art in Mexico City since it opened in 2008.


Excerpted from the Sixth Edition of Moon Mexico City.