When you are a backpacker on a budget, it can be hard to find things to do that doesn´t break the bank. This post is especially for our hostel friend Nathan, a very tall Australian, who asked me to give him a list of things to do in the city. Here you go Nathan, one whole week of free activities in Mexico City:
Monday is a difficult tourist day, as most museums are closed on Mondays. Markets are not closed on Mondays, so it´s a good idea to head over to the Mercado Medellin or the Mercado Merced to buy fresh fruits and veggies and stare at the many pinata on display.
For souveniers shopping, you can visit La Ciudadela (close to metro Balderas) or the smaller Mercado Insurgentes (close to metro Insurgentes), but be prepared to haggle to get prices down.
If you need of exercise, you can rent a bike for free for three hours at the gratisbici stand in front of the Anthropology Museum in Bosque Chapultapec.
Tuesday is a great day to look at murals by Mexican artists, such as Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros in the following three places:
1. Palacio Nacional (always free) in the Main Central historic plaza is a beautiful building with cinematic murals by Diego Rivera. Don´t be intimidated by the guards, just ask them to point you to the entrance. Remember; you will be allowed in with an ID or passport. We went around 4pm and saw a changing of the guards ceremony.
2. Antiguo Colegio San Ildefonso (free on Tuesdays) holds Diego Rivera´s first mural in the theatre next to the reception. It also has murals by David Siqueiros and Jose Clemente Orozco.
3. The courtyards of the Secretaria de Educación Publico (always free) are lined with 120 fresco panels by Diego Rivera.
On Wednesday you can learn about history and culture at the Museo de la Ciudad de Mexico (close to Metro Pino Suarez). The observation deck of the Monumento a la Revolucion (free on Wednesdays) provides a panoramic view of the city.
If you haven´t been to the Zocalo (Historice centre) yet, Thursday is an ideal day to hang around the main plaza and watch kids fly kites. If you´re lucky there may be a fair on, or even a (peaceful) protest. You are allowed to enter the Metropolitano Cathedral on the one side of the square if you are wearing full length pants. The Centro Cultural de Espana (always free) is nearby with interesting art exhibitions. You can also visit the Museo Archivo de la Fotografia (always free) that holds changing exhibitions.
Scenic Plaza Tolsa and Plaza Santo Domingo are walking distances from the Zocalo.
Ex Teresa Arte Actual is a former concvent closeby the centre. You can see proof of how Mexico City is sinking, just by looking at this building. Mexico City was build on top of a lake.
On Friday you can head over to the rich area Polanco to observe the architectural wonder that is the Soumaya Museum (always free) and the Museo Jumex (free on Fridays) right next to it.
Saturday is a fun day to explore the Coyoacan neighbourhood where Frida Kahlo used to live. If you don´t want to pay the 140 pesos to visit the famous Casa Azul, where Frida grew up, you can walk through the lush Viveros nursery (close to Viveros metro station) where you will see Mexicans doing yoga or learning martial arts or jogging around. The two plazas, Jardin Plaza Hidalgo and Jardin Centenario make for interesting people watching. You may even see a bride and groom taking pictures outside the cathedral.
The Bazar Sabado in San Angel is a fun market to look at some of Mexico´s best handcrafted jewelry, woodwork, ceramics and textiles.
Sunday is possibly the best day to be a tourist in Mexico City, as many museums are free on Sundays:
– The Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes (Fine Arts Museum) is as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside. Diego Rivera´s notorious mural that was demolished in the Rockefellar Centre in New York City is (re) painted on the second floor of the museum. Also free on Sundays is the Architectural Museum on the top level.
– The Diego Riviera Museum (free on Sundays) across the Alameda Central plaza holds the colourful mural Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Central Park. We were surprised by a piano concert when we were there on a Sunday.
– Museo Nacional de la estampa (free on Sundays) is an art museum with printworks on display. The museum is close to the Bellas Artes or Hidalgo Metro stops.
– The Palacio Postal and postal museum is closeby where you can look at stamps.
– Bosque Chapultapec is a fun outing on a Sunday as there are many vendors selling sweets and snacks. Some of the museums in the park are free on Sundays. The zoo in the park is always free and you can see pandas there.
For a Mariachi experience you can go to Plaza Garibaldi at night. You can have dinner or drinks at a street restaurant or walk around on the plaza between the mariachi bands.