Culture

These Stops On Mexico City’s Metro System Are Tourist Destinations All On Their Own

Mexico City’s sprawling and bustling metro system just celebrated its 50th Anniverdary and to celebrate, the system opened the world’s largest (gratis) public art gallery. And guess what? It’s located in the Metro itself.

About 5 million people ride the Mexico City subway every day—but most commuters don’t realize how much there is to do and see without ever having to go above ground. From piano stairs to a space tunnel, exploring the attractions hidden within the metro just might be the most fun you can have for 5 pesos (about $0.25 USD). These Mexico City metro stations settle the old question once and for all; it’s both the journey and the destination.

To celebrate 50 years of service, a massive art installation took place across the system.

But most of the focus was on Estación Bellas Artes, right under the iconic Palacio de Bellas Artes – one of the city’s many famous calling cards. From giant commission pieces from more than 300 different artists, to digital screens, and community driven exhibitions, it’s massive. In fact, the art gallery is spread among three different tunnels connecting three different metro stations.

But even before this exciting opening, Mexico City’s subway system has always had an eclectic mix of stations that are, honestly, destinations in and of themselves.

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I mean just take the La Raza station for example. It’s basically a giant science center that you get to explore on your rather long walk between lines. How do you make a long transfer fly by? Transform it into a walk-through space tunnel illuminated by a glow-in-the-dark night sky, the highlight of the science museum located within La Raza station (lines 3 and 5).

Then there’s the lush and kind of Rainforest Cafe-themed Estación Viveros.

Viveros (line 3), a station named for the nearby nursery, is in full flower: It was recently given a jungle makeover complete with imitation palms, jaguars, and snakes to raise awareness for the preservation of southern Mexico’s Lacandon Rainforest.

And even if you’ve never been to Mexico, you might already know about Metro Chabacano.

If Chabacano station (lines 2, 8, and 9) feels unsettlingly familiar, it might be because it was used as a shooting location for the subway chase scene in the Arnold Schwarzenegger film Total Recall. Legend has it you can still spot splashes of fake blood on the ceiling.

And, of course, many stations pay homage to Mexican historical figures – including Zapata.

A museum of caricatures located inside the Zapata stop (line 12) is an homage to Mexican cartooning, including plenty of satirical interpretations of the mustachioed revolutionary who gives the station its name.

Mexico City, a city known for its murals, even commissioned massive murals inside the subway – check out Tacubaya station.

Any visitor to Mexico City should check out Diego Rivera’s murals—but on your way, don’t forget to look up at the murals that decorate many metro stations. Particularly impressive are Guillermo Ceniceros’s ambitious chronicles of art through the history of time on the walls at the Copilco (line 3) and Tacubaya stations (lines 1, 7, and 9). On the kitschier side, see how many famous faces you can pick out in Jorge Flores Manjarrez’s I Spy-style mural of pop stars at the Auditorio stop (line 7).

Few people know that Latin America’s largest bookshop is located in the Mexico City Metro, more specifically at Pino Suarez station.

The largest bookshop in Latin America can be found in the long passage between the Zocalo and Pino Suarez stations. The underground emporium known as Un Paseo Por Los Libros sells titles from textbooks to manga and also hosts free workshops, lectures, and movie screenings.

Admire Mexico’s greatest lucha fighters at Guerrero station.

The Guerrero stop (lines B and 3) is a tribute to the legends of lucha libre, with costume displays and murals dedicated to 45 of Mexico’s finest masked fighters.

OK, this station might be too busy to be able to notice but try and take the stairs when you’re at Estación Polanco.

Don’t take the escalators at Polanco station (line 7), because the stairs are a giant musical piano keyboard. Finally, here’s your chance to live out Tom Hanks’s piano dance scene from the movie Big.

Don’t wanna drop the coins on a karaoke bar, well the station at Division del Norte has got you covered.

The music-themed Division del Norte station’s (line 3) free karaoke corner draws a crowd gathered to watch fellow riders belt out boleros and ballads on their way to work. The unassuming abuelitas laden with bags from the market always have the most impressive pipes.

Any visit to CDMX wouldn’t be complete without a trip to El Zocalo, including its namesake metro station.

Miniature maniacs shouldn’t miss the scale models of Mexico City’s main plaza at the Zocalo stop (line 2). They depict, in tiny form, the metamorphosis of the capital from the Aztec Templo Mayor to the present-day Metropolitan Cathedral. (And bonus points to anyone who can spot the cat who lives in this station.)

And we all know how people like to see religious figures in everything from clouds to toast, well at Metro Hidalgo you can experience your own miracle.

Hidalgo (lines 2 and 3) may be the most miraculous of all of Mexico City’s metro stations: In 1997, someone (possibly a street vendor) discovered a water stain in the shape of the Virgin of Guadalupe in one of its floor tiles. The apparition attracted so many pilgrims that metro authorities eventually had to remove the tile, which is now enshrined just outside one of the exits (follow the signs for Iglesia), near the intersection of Paseo de la Reforma and Zarco.

And if you happen to visit this station on the morning of the 28th of any month, you’ll be swarmed with pious commuters carrying figurines of Saint Judas Thaddeus—patron saint of delinquents and lost causes—who is venerated at the nearby San Hipolito Church.

Has this metro adventure turned you into a super fan?

Do a deep dive at Mixcoac station’s (line 12) sleek Metro Museum, where you can learn even more fun facts about the subway’s 50 years of history while you wait out rush hour.