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Mexico City Itinerary

What to do in 1, 2, 3, & 7 days

Mexico Travel GuideMexico City › Itinerary for Mexico City
Updated: August 14, 2020

The Best of Mexico City

Best Things to Do in Mexico City: Cruising the waterways of Xochimilco; Visiting museums dedicated to Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera; Enjoying a night of mariachi in Plaza Garibaldi; Visiting Museo Nacional de Antropología
Best Tours: Mexican Food Tours; Mexico City Urban Adventures; Sabores Mexico Food Tours; Amigo Tours
Best View: Torre Latinoamericana
Best Restaurant: Pujol
Best Nightlife: Zona Rosa
Best day-trip: Teotihuacán
Best Hotels: Gran Hotel Ciudad de MéxicoBusueIsaaya Hotel BoutiqueNima Local House HotelHistórico Central HotelHotel Zócalo Central

Top 5 Mexico City Highlights

1. The Zócalo

The traditional heart of Mexico City is the vast central plaza known as the Zócalo, and any visitor to the city should aim to spend a good chunk of time here. Once the focus of Aztec Tenochtitlán, today it hums with tour groups, drummers, street vendors, buskers, souvenir markets, and political protesters. Dominating it all is the Catedral Metropolitana, the largest church in Latin America and one of the oldest, dating back to the 1570s. Its cavernous interior is crammed with ornate altars and side chapels. Not much remains of the Aztec city, but the nearby Museo del Templo Mayor preserves the remnants of its once great pyramid temple – mostly foundations, but spine-tingling nonetheless. The connected museum adds context and displays artifacts retrieved from the site. The other key attraction here is the Palacio Nacional on the east side of the Zócalo, which is free to enter and contains a series of stunning Diego Rivera murals. Rivera began working here in 1929, his México a Través de los Siglos a vast, multi-colored trip through Mexican history from Quetzalcoatl to Pancho Villa. The best view of the Zócalo can be had from the rooftop restaurant in the Gran Hotel Ciudad de México on the west side of the plaza.

2. Museo Mural Diego Rivera

Mexico City is crammed with fabulous art museums, from the classical Museo Nacional De Arte to the relatively new and space-agey Museo Soumaya, but the Diego Rivera Mural Museum really is a must-see. Rivera’s huge Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda encompasses almost every famous Mexican historical figure (Cortés is depicted with his hands stained with blood).

3. Museo Nacional de Antropología

Anyone even slightly interested in the great civilizations of ancient Mesoamerica should aim to spend at least half a day in Mexico’s top museum. Every Mexican culture is represented here, from the Olmecs to the Maya. Some of the objects on display are truly spectacular, such as the iconic 24-tonne Piedra del Sol, or “Aztec Calendar Stone”. The galleries are arranged chronologically around the central courtyard – it’s advisable to buy a guidebook in the museum shop or rent an English audioguide before you start, to make the most of your visit (most labels are otherwise in Spanish only). The upper floor focuses on the cultures of Mexico’s indigenous groups today.

4. Coyoacán

The affluent southern suburb of Coyoacán makes for an enticing day-trip, its blossom- and tree-lined colonial streets perfect for exploring on foot. The Museo Frida Kahlo is a fitting tribute to the beloved Mexican artist, displaying Kahlo’s signature tehuana dresses and numerous examples of her work – including her famous final painting, Viva la Vida, the inspiration for the Coldplay song of the same name. The museum occupies the “Blue House” where Frida was born and spent most of her life (sometimes with husband Diego Rivera, who also has work displayed here). Soviet exile Leon Trotsky was often a guest here in the 1930s, and his abode has been preserved as the Museo Casa de León Trotsky. This where Stalin had Trotsky assassinated in 1940 – with an ice axe – and the rooms have been preserved as he left them.

5. Xochimilco

Cruising the flower-lined canals and floating gardens in the suburb of Xochimilco is an iconic Mexico City activity, made even more enticing at the weekends when locals come out to eat and drink, creating a festive atmosphere. Renting a candy-colored boat (with captain) is relatively easy and cheap, allowing for a few hours of chugging along the canals, passing vendors in small canoes selling flowers, fruits, and hot snacks, as well as marimba players and entire mariachi bands. The floating gardens themselves – or chinampas – are rafts of mud and reeds anchored to the canal floors by tangles of roots. Xochimilco itself is a great place to sample the city’s pulquerias, traditional bars specializing in pulque, an alcoholic drink produced from agave plants since pre-Hispanic times.

Planning a Mexico City Itinerary

One Day in Mexico City

• Explore the Zócalo, Mexico City’s huge central square, home to the cathedral, the Aztec ruins of Templo Mayor, and the Diego Rivera murals in the Palacio Nacional
• See Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda at the Museo Mural Diego Rivera
• Visit Museo Nacional de Antropología, the country’s premier museum, with displays on all of Mexico’s major pre-Hispanic cultures
• Eat or drink at the historic Bar La Ópera, or Enrique Olvera’s vaunted restaurant Pujol
• Listen to the roving mariachi bands in Plaza Garibaldi, or see a performance by the Ballet Folklórico de México

Two Days in Mexico City

• Explore the Zócalo and stroll the streets of the old city
• Visit Museo Nacional de Antropología and Museo Mural Diego Rivera
• Eat at the historic Bar La Ópera and Enrique Olvera’s Pujol
• Check out the roving mariachi bands in Plaza Garibaldi
• See the Ballet Folklórico de México
• Explore Mexico City’s largest and most colorful retail market, La Merced
• Spend time in the upmarket suburb of Coyoacán, visiting the Frida Kahlo and León Trotsky museums, and its art and craft markets

Three Days in Mexico City

• Take in the views from the Torre Latinoamericana (if it’s smoggy wait till sunset when the lights highlight the city far more clearly)
• Soak up the history in the Zócalo and old city
• Visit the stunning Art Deco Palacio de Bellas Artes, home to some of the city‘s most flamboyant murals
• Peruse La Merced market
• Eat at Bar La Ópera and check out the mariachi bands in Plaza Garibaldi
• Explore Coyoacán and San Ángel, home to the studios of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, and the historic restaurant San Ángel Inn (housed in a 17th-century Carmelite monastery)
• Take a cruise around the floating gardens of Xochimilco, and visit local pulquerias (traditional bars) such as Pulqueria El Templo de Diana
• Visit the Museo Nacional de Antropología and Museo Mural Diego Rivera
• Dinner at Pujol, with cocktails in the Zona Rosa
• Devote a half-day to visiting the giant pyramids of Teotihuacán – go early before the crowds arrive (it opens at 9am). Take a organzied tour (Amigo Tours) or go solo with a direct public bus from Terminal Norte
• Shop for regional crafts and souvenirs from all over Mexico at La Ciudadela market
• See the Ballet Folklórico de México

One Week in Mexico City

• Explore the Zócalo and visit all 7 of Mexico City’s big art museums: the Museo Mural Diego Rivera, the Museo Nacional de Antropología, Museo Soumaya, Palacio de Bellas Artes, Museo Rufino Tamayo, Museo de Arte Moderno and Museo Nacional de Arte
• Lunch at rooftop Terraza restaurant, on the7th floor of Gran Hotel Ciudad de México, with sensational views over the Zócalo
• Enjoy a few nights out in the Zona Rosa
• Peruse the shops and top-class restaurants in upmarket Polanco; or grab a gourmet burger at Butcher & Sons
• Check out the outdoor cafes and bistro-style restaurants of Condesa – and slurp an ice cream at famous Neveria Roxy
• Spend an afternoon in leafy Chapultepec Park, boating on the lake and visiting the Museo Nacional de Historia
• Trawl the food stalls and mescal bars at Mercado Roma
• Spend a day in San Ángel and Coyoacán
• Soak up the scene in historic cafes and restaurants like Café de Tacuba, Café del Palacio inside Bellas Artes, Hostería de Santo Domingo and El Taquito
• Pay homage to Mexico City’s wrestling culture with a sandwich at El Cuadrilatero, and some live lucha libre at Arena Coliseo
• Shop at the Ciudadela market
• Catch a Mexican soccer match at Estadio Azteca, home to América (“The Eagles”), the nation’s most successful club
• Ride the ancient waterways of Xochimilco
• Visit the Museo Dolores Olmedo Patiño, housing a huge collection of work by Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, and the Museo Diego Rivera Anahuacalli, home to Rivera’s collection of pre-Columbian sculpture
• Listen to the mariachi bands at Plaza Garibaldi
• Explore La Merced market
• Visit the giant pyramids of Teotihuacán
• Visit the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, Mexico’s most important religious site

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