As we begin 2024, one of your resolutions might be to travel. And lately, you've been hearing more and more wonderful things about Mexico, specifically Mexico City. Perhaps you've visited before, but like all who have, you never quite saw it all and now you want to explore it further.
In Mexico City (abbreviated as CDMX), life is as intense as its urban layout. On the same street, you can find the most sophisticated buildings coexisting with archaeological remains and tamale vendors. Tradition and modernity are just a few steps apart. The ancient Tenochtitlán, capital of the Aztecs, is today a magical, powerful, and vibrant city that overflows its boundaries and, as its inhabitants say, “never ends.”
Well, to start off the year and to inspire you to visit Mexico's capital, today's blog presents a comprehensive 5-day guide to Mexico City where we suggest must-visit places and things to do to feel like you’ve covered it all!
Few travel tips:
Here's what you should know to make your journey unforgettable! Firstly, weather-wise, The weather in Mexico City can be warm and very sunny during the day and somewhat chilly during the morning and night, so be sure to pack layers, and you’ll be alright.
As you navigate the bustling streets of Mexico City, consider getting a Turibus ticket. This hop-on-hop-off tour bus is your key to exploring the city at your own pace. It winds through the city's major attractions, giving you the freedom to explore cultural landmarks at your own pace, all with the convenience of a single ticket.
And don't forget, while Mexico City is a metropolitan area that takes cards in most establishments, always carry some cash just in case you see a street vendor you want to support. Other than that, we recommend to be street-smart (as we would recommend being in any other world capital), respect the local culture, and most importantly, let the city's rich history and vibrant energy guide your trip!
Day 1: Historic Center
Begin your day at Alameda, an ancient park with fountains and benches. You will arrive at one of the most beautiful buildings in the country: Palacio de Bellas Artes, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This venue, made of white marble, serves as a forum and exhibition center. The Palacio de Bellas Artes is a must-see for the murals by Siqueiros, Rivera, and Tamayo. Additionally, the theater's curtain is made of individual Tiffany glass beads!
Once outside, other buildings worth admiring in this area include the Postal Palace; the Casa de los Azulejos, now a Sanborns department store with an original mural by Diego Rivera; and the Torre Latinoamericana, which was once the city's tallest building and has an observation deck. These last two places offer a wide selection of traditional Mexican cuisine, including Sanborns' famous enchiladas suizas.
Continue your tour along the pedestrian Madero Street, where you'll find shops and restaurants, as well as interesting buildings. At the end of the walkway, you'll see the huge Zócalo, with an immense Mexican flag. The Zócalo is Mexico City's main square and was the heart of the Aztec city of Tenochtitlán. It is also the second-largest square in the world.
At the back of the square is Palacio Nacional, which houses the executive power and the Ministry of Finance and is also open to the public to visit magnificent murals by Diego Rivera and the original bell used for the Grito de Dolores.
To the side is the imposing Metropolitan Cathedral, whose construction began in 1791 and combines neoclassical, baroque, and churrigueresque styles. Next to (or more accurately, beneath) the Cathedral are the ruins of the Templo Mayor of the ancient city of Tenochtitlán, the capital of the Aztec empire, now known as the Templo Mayor archaeological zone. There is also a museum to learn more about these excavations and see impressive remains of what the temples of Huitzilopochtli and Tlaloc were. If you're short on time or tired from your walk from the Palace of Fine Arts, we recommend prioritizing the Templo Mayor over the imposing cathedral, though neither will disappoint you.
Day 2: Chapultepec Castle and Park
A delicious breakfast at the Tamayo Museum café will prepare you for a stroll around Chapultepec Forest, the lung of Mexico City (akin to New York's Central Park) and a gathering place for many Mexican families. A stroll around the park will serve as your warm-up for the climb to the top of the hill of the same name, where the unmissable Chapultepec Castle stands. Formerly a warehouse, military academy, and residence of Maximilian of Habsburg and Carlota, as well as various presidents, the views of the city from the castle are breathtaking!
After your castle visit, we recommend you continue exploring Chapultepec Forest. The best way to do this is by bicycle, available for rent around the park. On your ride, you'll encounter interesting spots like the monuments to the Niños Héroes, the Baths of Moctezuma, the "El Sargento" ahuehuete tree, and an archaeological site with stone reliefs, as well as numerous sculptures, fountains, and ideal spaces to rest.
Day 3: Paseo de la Reforma and the National Museum of Anthropology
Paseo de la Reforma is the most famous avenue in Mexico City, cutting through various parts of the city, including Chapultepec Forest. However, both these areas are so vast and there's so much to see that we recommend splitting your visit into two days. If you prefer to do it in one day, you can't miss Chapultepec Forest and the National Museum of Anthropology.
The monumental National Museum of Anthropology houses the finest treasures of pre-Hispanic Mexico, such as the Sun Stone (Aztec calendar), the Tizoc Stone, and the Coatlicue statue, all gathered in one of the world's most important museum venues. It's essential for understanding a bit of Mexico's history.
Paseo de la Reforma is a grand avenue traversing the capital's three most vibrant neighborhoods: Chapultepec, Zona Rosa, and Juárez. It features some of the city's most significant monuments, like the Angel of Independence column and the Diana the Huntress Fountain. Along its sides are shops, malls, restaurants, and museums. To appreciate all of this in a short time, we recommend taking the hop-on-hop-off bus, which passes all the key points, as Reforma is also a very busy avenue and approaching on foot can be somewhat dangerous.
Just a few steps away, where Reforma meets Avenida Juárez, is the Monument to the Mexican Revolution, initially conceived by Porfirio Díaz, and now housing the National Museum of the Revolution. Around this monument are several terraces with views where you can have dinner at the end of your day, as you won't want to miss the view at sunset.
Day 4: Coyoacán and La Casa Azul
Before the conquest, Coyoacán was already an important area; later, it became a town gradually absorbed by Mexico City. However, it retains its traditions and is the neighborhood that best preserves the colonial past.
Coyoacán is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city and was home to Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Trotsky. And, of course, the best place to learn about this history is visiting Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s place of residence, La Casa Azul.
Start your day with coffee and a donut at El Jarocho. It’s advisable to visit the Frida Kahlo Museum early to see la Casa Azul without the crowds.
Afterward, we recommend eating at the mercado de Antojitos, one of our favorite places (and Frida Kahlo's too). After strolling down Higuera Street to Plaza de la Conchita, return to Plaza Hidalgo and Jardín Centenario, where you should indulge your taste buds with classic filled churros, ice cream, or esquites. Then walk along Francisco Sosa Street and end up in Plaza Santa Catarina to enjoy the tranquility of the square.
A classic evening plan is only complete after having dinner at Los Danzantes and take advantage of its privileged terrace to contemplate, with a mezcal in hand, the illuminated Fountain of the Coyotes.
Day 5: Xochimilco
Designated a World Heritage Site, Xochimilco preserves the ancient canals and chinampas (floating gardens) from the pre-Hispanic era. Tucked away in the southeastern part of Mexico City, the historic canals and chinampas, or floating gardens, of Xochimilco paint a scene straight out of an old Mexican textbook. Xochimilco is famous for its lively, painted trajineras, flat-bottomed boats which visitors can hire for a leisurely trip along the canals.
While navigating the canals, you'll encounter vendors in their own trajineras offering food, drinks, and souvenirs. Remember to bring extra cash to enjoy snacks and drinks from the local vendors on the river. You can even hire a mariachi band for a serenade!
We recommend spending half a day in Xochimilco. For the rest of the day, explore one of Mexico City’s three most popular neighborhoods: La Condesa, La Roma, or Polanco, depending on your taste. Each neighborhood has its unique charm and offers a variety of experiences to complement your visit to this vibrant city.
Mexico City's Neighborhoods: Cafés, Bars, and Restaurants
Beyond the establishments in the Historic Center and Coyoacán, Mexico City is home to several neighborhoods known for their great atmosphere and food. On many days, we haven't specified where to eat or dine because our recommendation is to explore these areas to discover the best restaurants.
One such neighborhood is La Condesa; here you'll find countless venues, restaurants, and bars to pick from. We suggest a stroll along Amsterdam Street, Parque España, Av. Michoacán, Glorieta de La Cibeles, and enjoying an ice cream at the traditional Roxy ice cream parlor. There’s a wide variety of restaurants, bars, boutiques, bookstores, tea houses, cafés, and more.
Another is Colonia Roma, known for its art nouveau style and French flair. In addition to beautiful big houses, parks, and plazas, there are cultural centers, gourmet and avant-garde restaurants, and fascinating museum-houses. For dining, a renowned choice is Casa Lamm restaurant, an old French-style house and an emblematic spot in the neighborhood.
Polanco is another cosmopolitan area worth visiting for fine dining, entertainment, and shopping, located in the west of the capital. This is the city's financial district, featuring luxury stores, top-notch restaurants, grand mansions, and embassies. Here, you'll find parks, numerous restaurants, elegant boutiques (including Avenida Mazarik with the city’s most exclusive shops), shopping centers, and art galleries.
San Ángel is also a hidden gem in Mexico City. It’s a beautiful area with cobblestone streets and tree-lined plazas, offering various dining options. This neighborhood also hosts the Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, where they lived from 1934. San Angel is particularly famous for El Bazaar del Sábado, a market featuring unique handcrafted items and artworks.
Lastly, along Paseo de la Reforma, you’ll find Zona Rosa, famous for its vibrant atmosphere and as a favorite spot for the LGBTQ+ community, as well as for its mansions and art deco temples.
There you have it! A 5-day trip guide to Mexico City with the places you cannot miss. Remember that Mexico City is a city that never-ends and what makes it special is its culture, people, and time spent. So, take this as a guide that can be expanded (rather than shortened) for days, considering the time needed to calmly experience all that Mexico City has to offer. However, we also recommend planning a 10-day trip and taking the days to visit places near Mexico city such as Teotihuacan, La Villa de Guadalupe, and even Taxco, Guerrero.
So, tell us, have you been to Mexico City before? If so, what was your experience like? Where there any parts of our guide that were especially useful or interesting to you? What would you like to know about Mexico City from locals? Let us know in the comments below, you know we love to read your feedback!
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Also, we invite you to explore our mercadito, where you can shop authentic artisanal crafts and other wonders filled with culture and symbolism from Mexico! From home décor, stunning textiles, kitchenware, shoes, candy, and sterling silver, we continue to grow our hand-picked selection of Mexican crafts!