This blog post was updated on September 27, 2020.

When you think of traveling to Mexico, you are likely charmed by the white sandy beaches of Cabo San Lucas, ancient Mayan ruins in the Yucatan, or the active nightlife in Riviera Maya. But, the capital of our neighbor south of the border has a unique, vibrant culture that often goes undiscovered by leisure travelers.

Sure, there’s tacos, tequila, and mariachi, but Mexico City has enough museums, artist galleries, award-winning chefs, and unique boutiques to stimulate the cultural aficionado in you! So go ahead — dive right into these great experiences when in town.

People-Watch in One of the World’s Largest City Squares

art mural in mexico city
Image via Sucheta Rawal

Any first visit to Mexico City begins in the La Condesa neighborhood, which has charming buildings and a colorful nightlife. In the evening, Zocalo (central plaza) in the historic city center, bustles with organ players and street vendors, with the Metropolitan Cathedral (the largest in the Americas), National Palace, Federal District buildings, Templo Mayor, and the omnipresent Mexican flag in the background. At 57,000 square meters, this is the third-largest city square in the world. On weekends, the locals gather on the streets in Zocalo to listen to live music, dance, eat street food, and chat with friends.

Enjoy the Works of Legendary Mexican Artists

Frida museum and shrine in mexico city
Image via Sucheta Rawal

A visit to Mexico City would be incomplete without admiring paintings of the famous artistic couple – Frida and Diego. The largest private collection of works by Diego Rivera is housed at Museo Dolores Olmedo Patino. You can also visit Frido Kahlo’s historic private home, Casa Azul (Blue House), which is now a museum and her shrine.

Walk Through Over a Hundred Museums

Golden mask in museum of Tenochtitlan.

Mexico City has more museums than any other city in the world (at least 150) where you can find artifacts dedicated to pre-Columbian, colonial, and contemporary art; Mexico’s rich cultural, social, political and economic heritage; as well as quirky themes like cartoons, shoes, pens, chilies, and tequilas. You can easily spend months exploring them all! The most famous national museums are the Anthropology and History Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Modern Art Museum, the San Ildefonso Museum, and the Templo Mayor Museum.

Note that museums are closed on Mondays, so plan your visit accordingly.

RELATED: Mexican Independence Day: Facts, Traditions, and Events to Celebrate “El Grito”

Listen to Everything from Opera to Mariachi

opera, mexico city
Image via Sucheta Rawal

The Palacio De Bellas Artes is an architectural marvel on its own with white marble and Tiffany stained-glass curtains designed by Italian architect Adamo Boari. Appreciate paintings created by celebrated Mexican artists, including Rufino Tamayo, Rivera, Orozco, and Siqueiros, and get tickets to watch a colorful Mexican folklore ballet performance. You will be dazzled by the costumes and dances representing different parts of Mexico.

To get a flavor of the Mexican mariachi music scene, head to Plaza Garibaldi. Dressed in embroidered charro outfits and wide-brim sombrero hats, musicians can be rented by the hour to play guitars, trumpets and violins, as well as sing romantic ballads.

Get a Taste of a Mini Europe

coloni roma neighborhood mexico city
Image via Sucheta Rawal

The Colonia Roma neighborhood of Mexico City is architecturally influenced by France, Italy, and Spain. Built by Mexican aristocrats who frequently traveled to Europe in the 1800s, you will see homes and buildings that will transport you to neighborhoods in Paris. Strolling through Colonia Roma’s Plaza Río de Janeiro Street, you’ll find plenty of find French bistros, charming cafes, bookstores, and art galleries.

Party in the Mexican Venice

Image via Sucheta Rawal

Just outside the city is Xochimilco, a World Heritage Site best known for its 110 miles of canals filled with colorful gondola-like boats called trajineras. Mexican families and tourists can rent private gondolas for a day, many of which include lunch and mariachi music.

Dig into Budget-Friendly Gourmet

selection of tacos, mexico city
Image by Sucheta Rawal

The neighborhoods of Condesa and Roma are filled with trendy restaurants, pubs, and shops. The international influences on Mexico City can also found in its culinary scene. At El Fogoncito, taste the original el pastor (meat grilled on a rotisserie) that hailed from the Middle East. Challenge yourself to a wine-paired 11-course taco menu at Pujol, rated one of the 50 best restaurants in the world. For contemporary Mexican flavors head to Dulce Patria, where the dishes are inspired by books, opera, and the visual arts. Wherever you choose to dine in Mexico City, you’ll find plenty of affordable options from street food to casual and high-end restaurants.

From ultramodern lounges, 100-year-old dance halls, to street performances, and craft markets, Mexico City is the perfect culture-rich destination that’s conveniently located just a short flight away from most major cities in the US. Keep it on your travel bucket list for that quick long weekend getaway!

The author of this post has either a relationship with or received other compensation from the product or service providers that are featured in this writing.

Know of other cultural experiences in Mexico City? Share them with us in the comments.

About The Author

Sucheta is an award winning food and travel writer who has traveled to 70+ countries and is on a mission to see the entire world. She is also the founder of the nonprofit organization, Go Eat Give, which promotes cultural awareness through food, travel and volunteering. Sucheta is the author of a series of children's books on travel, "Beato Goes To" that teach kids about different countries and cultures.