The largest city in North America by population, Mexico City has enough activities and sights to keep any backpackers busy for weeks. Despite the reputation that the city gets as a place that is not safe for tourists to visit, it is, in my opinion, somewhere that cannot be missed during a visit to Mexico. Read on and find out the 6 activities that you have to do when you are visiting this wonderful city.

  • The Anthropology Museum

The Anthropology Museum of Mexico City is found in the Chapultapec region of the city. It is both the largest and most visited museum in the whole of Mexico, and it is easy to see why.

For the price of 85 Mexican Pesos, just over £3, you have access to the whole museum for a day. If you are a Mexican national or resident in the country, then you can even get in for free every Sunday.

The museum opens at 10am every day, except Monday when it is closed for the whole day, and it is my recommendation that you get there as close to that time as possible. The museum is vast and there is a lot to get through so put aside a whole day for a visit if you are interested.

The museum itself is split into 2 parts. The downstairs is the archaeological history of Mexico. Here you can learn the history of all the different regions of Mexico right from the start of the human settlements in North America through to the Spanish Conquest of the country in 1521. The rooms on this floor are organised so that you get a narrative of the history. Each room contains a plethora of information in both English and Spanish as well as countless artifacts that can tell us about Mexican history.

The upstairs part of the museum has a different focus. It is labelled as the ethnographical section and here there are numerous rooms looking at the different societies and cultures that exist within Mexico. This section is not historically focussed but instead on how the different cultures have come to be formed and what we can learn about them from their beliefs.

In my opinion, this is one of the best museums that I have ever visited. However, it is important to bear in mind that it will not be for everyone. The museum is not interactive, and it will require a full day to really experience all it has to offer.

  • Lucha Libre

The experience of Lucha Libre is one that is quite difficult to describe to someone that has never been. The term Lucha Libre can be translated into English as free wrestling, meaning that there are no specific restrictions as to what can happen in the ring.

This type of wrestling has become synonymous with the wearing of very extravagant masks which often define the characteristics of the fighter who wears them. This is coupled with some very intense ring walks, loud music and an all-round great show.

There are a few places around the city where Lucha Libre can be seen, but by far the most famous is the Arena Mexico. Here on 3 nights of the week, Friday, Sunday and Tuesday, anyone can attend and see this spectacle for themselves. Tickets can be bought for as little as 120 Pesos (£5) for seats right up at the back, or 420 (£16) Pesos if you want to sit right next to the ring. In my experience it doesn’t really matter where you sit as you are there for the experience rather than to watch the intricate details of the fights.

Each night there will usually be a number of fights moving up in importance until the final fight, the main event. There are a variety of different fights such as tag team, female wrestlers and even title fights towards the end.

This is a staple part of Mexican culture; Lucha Libre was declared an intangible cultural heritage of Mexico City in 2018 and really is a must see when you are visiting.

  • Visit Teotihuacan

A 90 minute drive north of the city centre, you will find the famous site of Teotihuacan. The site is the archaeological remains of the most eminent city in Meso-America from the first half of the first millennium, with its peak around the year 700 AD.

The site itself is spread over a vast area, much larger than I had initially realised. It is split into 3 main areas. The Temple of the Feathered Serpent Quetzalcoatl is found at one end of the site and the two iconic pyramids, the Temple of the Sun and temple of the Moon, are found at the other end. These two parts of the site are connected by the extensive Avenue of the Dead.

The Temple of the Sun is the third largest pyramid in the entire world, after only the Great Pyramid of Giza and the Great Pyramid of Cholula, so is certainly a very impressive sight to behold. When I went you were able to climb up to the top of the pyramid, providing a breath taking view of the whole Teotihuacan site as well as the surrounding area. However, I have heard that recently this might not still be possible so it is best to check before if climbing pyramids is on your bucket list.

The site itself can be easily accessed by local bus from the main bus station in Mexico City, or there are numerous tour operators in the city that will organise the whole day for you, some including a tour guide, should that be more up your street.

There is also the possibility to Teotihuacan for sunrise and ride in a hot air balloon to get not only a stunning view of the pyramids but also an unforgettable experience. This costs in the region of £120 per person, which is a lot for any traveller on a budget but is a fraction of the cost that an equivalent experience would cost in Europe or the USA.

If you have opted to make your own way to Teotihuacan, then I would recommend that you visit the Anthropology Museum beforehand in order to get some good background knowledge of the site before your visit.

  • Go to a football (soccer) match

When you think of football, Mexico might not be the first place that comes to mind. However, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t the perfect place to watch a game of football.

Mexico City is home to 3 of the nation’s premier football teams and any of them are worth going to watch during your time in the city. Matches are most often played on Saturdays and Sundays, but it is worth keeping an eye out for mid-week games as sometimes these can be the biggest matches.

The main stadium in Mexico City is the Estadio Azteca, which is the largest football stadium in the Americas, and the setting of the infamous Hand of God incident in the 1986 World Cup. There is also a second stadium home to the other major side in the city which can hold over 63,000, so is also a spectacular experience.

I was lucky enough to watch Club Universidad Nacional, often known as Pumas due to their logo, play a match at their home, Estadio Olimpico Universitario. The ticket cost only 120 pesos (£5) when I bought it on the door, and I ended up in an end with some of the biggest Puma fans.

The atmosphere throughout the whole game was incredible. The fans around us were singing throughout the entire 90 minutes. Even the members of our group who had never been to a football match before thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere at the game. Luckily for us, Pumas won 4-1 but I imagine that the atmosphere is just as good even when they are losing.

  • Wander the streets of the Roma neighbourhood

Like most of the world’s largest cities, Mexico City is split up into different neighbourhoods each with their own feel and character. Whilst I would urge everyone to visit a number of these neighbourhoods during their stay in the city, my personal favourite is Roma.

Unlike the historic centre of the city, which is absolutely nonstop, the neighbourhood of Roma is far more relaxed. It is home to treelined streets, based on the boulevards found in Europe, as well as countless cafes and restaurants serving food for all appetites and budgets.

The whole neighbourhood is very safe. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can suddenly forget all of the important rules as a backpacker to keep safe, but I as a solo traveller have felt entirely comfortable walking around the neighbourhood alone both during the day and at night.

It is home to some of the best parks in the city including my personal favourite, Parque Mexico. These green spaces are incredibly well kept and provide areas to exercise, relax and go for a walk often out of the intense Mexican sun.

If you are one for a party, then the Roma neighbourhood is home to some of the best places for nightlife in the city. This ranges from techno clubs right the way through to salsa bars, so there is plenty to cater for every traveller for every night of the week (just not a Monday everything is closed).

  • Go to Xochimilco

When the Spanish reached Mexico City, then known as Tenochtitlan, in 1519, it was a city perched on an island in the centre of a huge lake. Today, the only remanets of that lake and the type of boats that the Aztecs used on it can be found in Xochimilco.

It is a neighbourhood to the south of the city centre popular with both tourists and locals. The big draw of Xochimilco is the ability to hire a boat and travel through the canals. The boats that can be rented are beautifully decorated and can seat around a dozen people for a trip.

The best thing about the boats in Xochimilco is that as you cruise along the canals, people on smaller boats will come up to you and offer a variety of different services. These include things such as full traditional Mexican meals, drinks both alcoholic or non-alcoholic and mariachi bands who will come onto your boat and play you a song.

You rent the boat by the time that you want to spend on it so there is a lot of flexibility depending on how long you want to spend there. However, it is important to note that you pay a flat fee for the boat so if there are more of you going as a group then each individual will pay less.

These are just a few things that scratch the surface of the activities and sites on offer in Mexico City. There is plenty to keep you busy for a few days if not a few weeks. The city itself is one of my favourite that I have ever visited and that is in part due to the fact that there is so much to do, and the city has so many surprises at every corner.