10 Underrated Spots in Mexico City
My month-long trip throughout Mexico had seen me lazing about the long beaches on the coast of Oaxaca, navigating the narrow streets and visiting the mummies of Guanajuato, but when it came to Mexico City, I felt thoroughly overwhelmed by the sheer scope of this megalopolis.
I mean, how do you decide what to see and where to go in a place that covers more than 1000 square kilometers?
If you're getting a little antsy about planning out your trip to Mexico City, I've put together this list of 10 underrated spots that are worth visiting. Some you may recognize from the guide books while others are simply places I stumbled upon during my time in the city.
In case you're looking for a more in-depth article about what to see and do, head on over to 16 Quintessential Mexico City Experiences.
1. La Merced
Only a quick walk from the Centro Histórico district, La Merced is the largest traditional food market in Mexico City. With hundreds of stalls inside the main hall, you'll find an enormous assortment of locally grown fruits and vegetables (check out the huge piles of limes and stacks of chili peppers), some household items, and food vendors selling antojitos.
Why you should go: This gargantuan market, where the chili selection alone runs into the hundreds, is the one place in the whole city where you'll be completely astounded by the food and aromas.
2. The Torre Latinoamericana Lookout
Once Mexico City’s tallest building, the Torre Latinoamerica skyscraper has a 360-degree observation deck which offers magnificent views of the world's tenth largest city. On a clear day, you can ride the elevator up to the top and see the sprawling roads, buildings, and surrounding mountains stretch out before your eyes.
What you need to know: Opening times are 9am - 10pm seven days a week. Entry is 90 pesos per adult. Once you have paid for your entry, you will receive a wristband which you can use to return again anytime on the same day. It’s worthwhile to check out the views from the top of Torre Latinoamericana during the day and at night.
3. The Chapultepec Angel Wings Statue
Located in the gigantic green space of Parque Chapultepec, you'll find a divider on the street where the park exits onto Reforma Avenue with a beautiful bronze sculpture of angel wings. Created by Mexican sculptor Jorge Marin, this lovely piece of public art is called Alas de la Ciudad, which means Wings of the City.
Why you should go: A quick stop at the sculpture makes for a cool photo opportunity, plus there are public restrooms (which cost a peso or two) right across the street. Only a short walk away you'll also find the outstanding National Museum of Anthropology.
4. Museo del Juguete Antiguo México (Museum of Antique Toys)
Mexico City contains hundreds of worthwhile museums, but the Museo del Juguete Antiguo México showcases tens of thousands of toys from dolls to luchadores to little animals to tin cars to life-sized robots. Founder Roberto Shimizu, a Mexican-born Japanese toy collector, opened the unusual museum to inspire visitors never to lose their imagination.
Important Info: This quirky museum is open Monday to Friday from 9am - 6pm, Saturdays from 9am - 4pm, and Sundays from 10am - 4pm. Admission is 75 pesos per adult.
5. La Cerveceria de Barrio Condesa
Gourmet tostadas topped with albacore tuna and a rich garlic sauce, a huge selection of Mexican beers, and a prime spot for people watching in one of Mexico City’s coolest neighborhoods – need I say more?
Location: Calle Vicente Suárez 38, Cuauhtémoc, Condesa
6. The DOWNTOWN Building
Only a couple of years old, the DOWNTOWN complex in the city's Centro Histórico includes a boutique hostel, a mezcal bar, the romantic restaurant Azul Histórico, and a collection of pricey artisan shops. From the street, you'll find the entrance marked by huge antique double doors that open inwards to reveal a completely modern interior. The restaurant, with its delicious Mexican dishes (the house made mole is a standout) and warm ambiance, is the perfect date spot.
Where to find it: Isabel la Catolica # 30, Colonia Centro / Tel. 55 5130 6830 / firstname.lastname@example.org
7. The Zócalo
One of the world’s largest city squares, the massive Plaza de la Constitución, or Zócalo, has served as the heart of Mexico City since Aztec times. Marked in the center by an enormous Mexican flag, the Zócalo is bordered by the Palacio Nacional (the presidential palace) which houses historic murals by Diego Rivera, the baroque Catedral Metropolitana, and government offices.
This vast square is often the site of concerts and protests, as well as colorful displays of altars during Dia de los Muertos celebrations in October/November and an ice skating rink with Christmas decorations in December.
Why you should go: There's almost always an event going on, but if it's raining wander into the massive Catedral Metropolitana, which is decorated with priceless stained glass, mosaics, sculptures, and paintings. Nearby is also the Templo Mayor, the ancient ruins of the Aztec capitol.
8. Chapultepec Castle
Inside Bosque de Chapultepec, you will find the exquisite Castillo Chapultepec, a Spanish-style castle which was used as the residence of Emperor Maximilian during the 19th century. It has since been converted into the Museo Nacional de Historia, which contains exhibits highlighting events from the Spanish era to the Mexican Revolution.
Visitor Information: You can explore the Castillo from 9am - 5pm Tuesday to Sunday.
9. Cafe de la Gran Ciudad
Taking in the architectural street view of the Palacio de Bellas Artes is quite an impressive experience, but gazing upon the Fine Arts Palace from an elevated viewpoint is completely mesmerizing. To enjoy this view, head across the street from the Palacio to the Sears building. Take the elevator up to the eighth floor and relax for a while in the Cafe de la Gran Ciudad with a coffee and pastry.
When you should go: This cafe is quite a popular spot so get here early to secure your table. It's also worthwhile stopping by at the end of your day to catch the last rays of sun illuminating the dome of the Palacio de Bellas Artes.
It's not all about tequila and mezcal in Mexico City. With it's open garage doors and whitewashed minimalist interior, Crisanta sure is a cool place to drink beer in Mexico City. And, it's not just any beer - Crisanta offers guests an extensive assortment of craft beers from microbreweries across the country.
Where to find it: Av. Plaza de la República, No. 51, Col. Tabacalera, Deleg. Cuauhtémoc / Tel. 55 35 63 72