Edited by Holly Stark
Visiting Mexico and want to enjoy fun, inspiring, and educational activities in the capital without spending a peso? With plenty of places to visit in Mexico City for free, exploring the city on a budget is no trouble at all. An ideal destination for travelers on a shoestring, Mexico City has excellent options for budget accommodation, and delicious economical food, and there is a lot to see and do without breaking the bank.
Discover the best free things to do in Mexico City, from walking around the city’s coolest neighborhoods and heading to the ‘lungs’ of the Mexican capital, Bosque Chapultepec, to partying during one of the city’s festivities. Here are the top free things to do in Mexico City like a local.
Explore the City Parks
Mexico City may be known for its crowds, mazes of buildings, and traffic, but it also has many peaceful green areas to explore. Parque Mexico in the Condesa neighborhood has well-maintained paths, green vegetation, and art-deco benches and decorations.
Chapultepec Park is another popular park that is well worth a visit. It offers plentiful green spaces and natural areas as well as a lake with paddle boats for rent, monuments, historic sites, and cultural venues.
The largest city park in the Western Hemisphere, Chapultepec is often referred to as Mexico City’s lungs. Check out the Bosque de Tlalpan if you can’t get enough fresh air, perhaps one of the best forests known by local runners, athletes, and nature lovers who live south of Mexico City. Pass through the zoo, by playgrounds and various kiosks and cabins where you can rest and eat or drink.
Stroll down Reforma Avenue
Paseo de la Reforma is a wide avenue that runs diagonally across the heart of Mexico City. One of my favorite streets, the Paseo de la Reforma is truly a work of art. There are a lot of cool shops, cafes, and restaurants on the Paseo and I recommend taking some time to just explore it. Just make sure you wear some comfy walking shoes!
The street was designed by Ferdinand von Rosenzweig in the 1860s and modeled after the “great boulevards” of Europe; such as the Ringstraße in Vienna and the Champs-Élysées in Paris, to make Mexico City more like a European capital.
However, today, this avenue is known as the Gold Mile and really holds its own; a vibrant conglomerate of Mexico's tallest skyscrapers, and full of life, any time of day, with plenty of attractions for everyone. One of my top free activities Mexico City, Reforma Avenue is a good place to go, with musicians, a food market and something to see on every corner.
Celebrate Día de los Muertos
A rule that all Mexicans live by; there is not a single dull moment when you’re in Mexico! Get a glimpse of the Mexican charm and joy during one of the city’s festivities. Celebrate life during Día de los Muertos on November 1st and 2nd.
The 1st is dedicated to children and is called the “Day of the Innocents”, while the second is dedicated to the people who have passed on. Graves are decorated with flowers, feasts are prepared, and families come together to remember their loved ones.
The festival is very spiritual; altars are decorated with ancestors' cigarettes, tequila, fruit, candles, pictures, candy, or chocolate, for the long travel from the world of spirits to the human world. Cempaspuchitl or orange marigold flowers are said to guide the spirits to their altars, so they won’t get lost. A must-see Mexico City attraction and one of the top free things to do in Mexico City, the Día de los Muertos festivities are a great time to visit Mexico City.
Soak up the Vibe of Dia de la Independencia
Visiting Mexico City around September 16th? Be sure not to miss Mexico’s Dia de la Independencia - although it would be impossible to miss. A day of celebrations for the start of Mexico’s war of independence, the streets are filled with good energy, fireworks, locals drinking tequila and beer, and celebrations.
With the words of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla calling to the people to rise up against the Spanish crown still resonating in the streets of Dolores, as well as the rest of the country, Dia de la Independencia is the day that the entire country celebrates. Feel Mexico City’s creative vibe and witness artists putting up shows and exhibitions, Mexican music filling the streets, and you may even see some costume parades. Seeking things to do in Mexico City at night?
Check out El Grito de la Independencia, or “the shout of the independence”; where on the night of September 15th, the president of Mexico commemorates el Grito by ringing a bell, proclaiming “¡Que viva México!” and waves the Mexican flag from a balcony above the Zócalo.
Check Out Basílica Guadalupe
Within the northern city limits is the famous Basílica of Guadalupe; not just another church, but the central place of worship for Mexico's patron saint and the home of the image responsible for uniting pre-Hispanic indigenous culture with Catholic beliefs.
The Basílica Guadalupe is a Catholic shrine on Tepeyac Hill in Mexico City that is devoted to Our Lady of Guadalupe; the patroness of Mexico. An important pilgrimage site and one of the most visited churches in the world, the original image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is on display.
The Basílica Guadalupe is a site of pilgrimage year-round, but especially on December 12, the feast day of this manifestation of the Virgin Mary. From the Basílica Guadalupe on top of the mountain hill, you can see the city in all its glory. A hidden jewel, the views up to the spot are incredible; a must-see when seeking free things to do in Mexico City.
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