Mexico City is one of the most affordable capital cities in the world for visitors. Whether you want to explore Aztec history, see pre-Hispanic art, or simply get a great view of this sprawling metropolis, you can do it all for free.
As you explore the city, you never know what free museums, markets, and events you might stumble upon. Here are a few that you won’t want to miss.
One of the most iconic views in Mexico City is also free to explore © Sergio Mendoza Hochmann / Getty Images
Angel of Independence
One of the city’s most beloved monuments is the golden angel that sits atop the Monumento a la Independencia. It’s where locals come for football celebrations, Sunday workout classes, and political demonstrations. It’s also completely free to go inside. You can explore the base of the monument which is a mausoleum with the remains of some of the country’s most famous generals and political instigators including Ignacio Allende, Juan Aldama, Miguel Hidalgo, Don Nicolas Bravo, and Mexico’s first female journalist, Leona Vicario.
Museum of Modern Art
Many of Mexico City’s 150 museums are incredibly affordable at under US$5 for entry, but a little-known secret is that many are free on Sundays, including the Museo de Arte Moderno. The museum is located just inside the main entrance of Chapultepec Park. Inside you can see pieces from Mexican artists, and there's a relaxing sculpture garden where you can sit in the sunshine while surrounded by art.
Wander through the Catedral Metropolitana and marvel at the time it took to create such an ornate structure © Christoher Groenhout / Getty Images
The centerpiece of the city is the Metropolitan Cathedral. It demands your attention as you stand in the Zócalo, the main square of the city. Entrance to the cathedral is completely free, they simply ask that you cover up shoulders and don’t wear shorts, sunglasses, or hats inside. Make sure you check out the paintings at the rear of the building and take note of how unevenly the cathedral is sinking into the dried up lake bed beneath you.
The Palacio Nacional, is home to the federal executive government and is completely free to the public. Inside you’ll find a garden to stroll through, traveling art exhibits, and perhaps the most popular reason for visiting, one of Diego Rivera’s most famous set of murals. You don’t need to book in advance, just be sure to bring a passport to offer as identification in order to enter.
The campus of UNAM is a wonderful place to wander, see free public art and spend an afternoon contemplating all Mexico City has to offer © Frédéric Soltan / Getty Images
The National Autonomous University of Mexico, commonly referred to as UNAM, is one of the largest and most prestigious universities in all of Latin America. While that may not convince you to visit the campus as a tourist to the city, the wonderful mosaics, murals, and sculptures should. Start at Las Islas park and the central library building and don’t skip out on the botanical gardens, either. There’s a set of Aztec ruins nearby that are worth a visit too, although you’ll have to fork over $3 for that site.
The city’s largest park, Bosque de Chapultepec, also happens to be one of the largest city parks in the Western Hemisphere. This huge green space is divided into several different sections and each is full of free activities. The main entrance is just off of Paseo de La Reforma. Here you’ll find vendors lining the path selling everything from popcorn and ice cream to shoes and sunglasses. Take a stroll around Lago de Chapultepec or enjoy some classical music inside the Audiorama. Cross over the road to Section II of the park for a more relaxed part of the park. Here you can go for a jog on the Pista El Sope or rent a bike to ride around the lake.
Its completely free to gawk at the incredible gilding and design work in this fanciest of post offices © altrendo travel / Getty Images
Palacio de Correos de Mexico
Take a step back in time when you walk into Palacio de Correos de Mexico, the city’s very first post office. It was built in 1907 and designed by the same architect originally hired for the Palacio de Bellas Artes, and remains a public post office to this day. You can still go in and purchase a postcard to send home, or you can simply enjoy the gold elevators and ornate staircases for free. There’s usually an art exhibit near the back of the post office which is also free to the public.
Museum of Fine Arts
Another museum that you’ll want to visit on a Sunday is the Museum of Fine Arts which is located inside the Palacio de Bellas Artes, or Palace of Fine Arts, the large and colorful building located in the Historic Center. On Sundays, head to the ticket desk to receive your free ticket, then head back outside to get in that line that’s snaking around the block. They only let a certain number of people in the museum at a time, but you’ll never wait more than 25 minutes to get inside. Just be sure to bring some sunscreen!
The shroud of Our Lady of Guadalupe hangs in the basilica, free to all to see and wonder at its magic © Paola Cravino / Getty Images
Basílica de Guadalupe
The Lady of Guadalupe is the patron saint of Mexico. The story goes that the Virgin Mary appeared to an indigenous man, Juan Diego, on two occasions during 1531. The first time she appeared to him, she told him to build a shrine to her. He told the bishop what he saw and the bishop didn’t believe him. Mary appeared to him again three days later and told him to bring roses to the bishop so that he would believe Juan Diego. When Juan Diego removed the roses, her image was imprinted on his clothing. That very cloth that he was wearing now hangs in the Basílica de Guadalupe.
While a trip to the library may not be high on your list of things to do when you’re on vacation, this isn’t your average library. Biblioteca Vasconcelos is classed as a mega-library at over 400,000 sq ft and is home to the complete book collections of five of the country’s most renowned thinkers, Carlos Monsiváis, Ali Chumacero, José Luis Martínez, Jaime García Terrés, and Antonio Castro Leal. It’s basically five libraries in one. Each of the collections are housed in completely different rooms and all branch off of the main room, which is made of clear glass floors and walls. Bibliophiles and those curious about art and architecture will love it here.
Carlos Slim believes everyone should have access to art and makes his collection free for all to view at the Soumaya Museum © Fitopardo / Getty Images
Art enthusiasts will love the collection at Museo Soumaya. The museum is home to the private collection of Mexico’s richest citizen, Carlos Slim. He built this stunning silver structure to house over 60,000 pieces of art from around the world including pieces from Diego Rivera, Monet, Leonardo Da Vinci, Rodin, and Picasso. It’s one of the few museums in the city that is free every day of the week.
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