Brimming with art galleries, museums, pre-Hispanic ruins, and so much history, Mexico City is a feast for arts and culture junkies. From some of the best-known attractions to little-known gems, here’s how to get the most bang for your peso in just one weekend around the Mexican capital.
Start with a visit to Kurimanzutto, Mexico City’s most influential contemporary art gallery, which represents more than 30 international artists including celebrated Mexican painter Gabriel Orozco. Follow that with a walk in the nearby Bosque de Chapultepec, Mexico City’s answer to New York City’s Central Park. Here, history buffs can learn about Mexico’s indigenous cultures at the National Museum of Anthropology or about the tumultuous path to independence in the 19th century at the stunning Chapultepec Castle.
Perched on a hilltop overlooking the park, the castle served as the residence of several Mexican presidents as well as the Habsburg emperor Maximilian I and his wife, Carlota. Since 1944, it has housed the National History Museum, as well as eye-popping murals by José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros.
Insider tip: The National Museum of Anthropology offers free guided tours Tuesdays through Saturdays; the last one starts at 5 p.m.
Pack comfortable walking shoes and sunscreen — you’re headed to the Pyramids at Teotihuacán. Founded around 200 B.C. by a civilization historians still don’t know much about, this complex located about 30 miles northeast of the city center was once one of the largest cities in the world. Today you can stroll the central Avenue of the Dead and scale the Temple of the Sun, the largest structure in the complex.
Take it easy with a casual stroll through downtown, including a visit to the Metropolitan Cathedral, which was built over the course of 250 years atop a sacred Aztec site. Don’t miss the bell tower tour: at 20 pesos per person, it’s a great value and offers a stunning rooftop vantage point from which to take epic, Instagram-worthy selfies with Mexico City’s dramatic Zócalo (central square) as the backdrop. After nightfall, stop to marvel at the majestic Neoclassical/Art Deco Palacio de Bellas Artes when it’s all lit up.
Insider tip: Its sunset-colored domes look extra cool from the 8th-floor cafe inside the Sears department store across the street.
Start your day with a visit to the quirky Museo del Juguete Antiguo, which boasts the world’s largest collection of antique toys. Founder Roberto Shimizu started collecting toys as a child in the 1950s and now claims to have more than one million items — only a fraction of which are on display here. The museum’s holdings include a whole section of lucha libre figurines, plus Barbies, robots, model airplanes, and more.
Arguably Mexico City’s biggest artistic rock stars, painters Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, carried out their tumultuous romance at Casa Azul, their famous blue home in the Coyoacán neighborhood, which was turned into a museum in 1958. Inside the home you’ll find some of Frida’s most important paintings (including Viva la Vida and Frida y la cesárea) as well as her original bedroom furniture and the wheelchair she was confined to after a trolley accident left her disfigured. The museum is now one of the city’s biggest draws, and it has the long admission lines to prove it. Visits are limited to 250 people per hour in order to maintain the intimacy of the experience.
Insider tip: Be sure to buy your ticket online in advance to avoid the line. Or, for an equally personal experience with smaller crowds, visit the lesser-known Leon Trotsky House Museum just a few blocks away.
You’ve got a lot to learn on your long weekend. Plan your trip to Mexico City today, or find other arts and culture destinations.