I’m going to start by saying that we never really had any interest in visiting Mexico City. “Polluted” and “dangerous” were the two words we had come to associate with the largest city in Mexico. But we could not be more wrong.
When we started planning our trip to Mexico and Central America, we kept hearing other travelers rave about Mexico City, and we finally started to listen. They told us of cute neighborhoods, friendly locals and some of the best food in the world.
We decided to give Mexico City (aka CDMX: Cuidad de Mexico) a shot, and we’re so glad we did. We fell hard for this modern and beautiful metropolis and were overwhelmed by just how much there is to do.
We only had 3 full days to explore CDMX, and while we could have easily filled a whole week, a few days was a great introduction to Mexico City.
We’ve put together what we think is a perfect 3-day itinerary to Mexico City. We’re sharing where to stay, what to eat, top sights to see, some local tips, and even additional things to do if you have more time.
From the top attractions to some off the beaten path adventures, we’ve got your short trip to Mexico City all planned for you!
Day 1: Coyoacan and San Angel
Day 2: Chapultapec Park and Food Tour
- Bike around Chapultapec Park and visit the famous castle
- Visit the National Museum of Anthropology
- Take a Food Tour
Day 3: Explore Downtown and Watch a Lucha Libre Match
More Information on Mexico City
How long should I spend in Mexico City?
You could easily spend a week in Mexico City and not get bored. But if you, like us, are on a tight schedule, 3-4 days is enough to get a feel for Mexico City and see some of its best parts. It’s just a taste though. To really delve in, we think you’d need at least 5 days.
Day 1: Morning
San Angel Neighborhood
This picturesque neighborhood just southwest of Coyoacan was probably our favorite area in Mexico City. If you’re in Coyoacan, make the short trip here, and you won’t be disappointed.
Plaza San Jacinto
This park is filled with lots of green space and has a beautiful fountain in the middle. Around the edges there are cafes and restaurants for you to refuel while looking at the numerous museums in San Angel.
If you happen to be in Mexico City on a Saturday, consider checking out the market that takes place in the San Angel neighborhood once weekly.
You’ll find streets and parks lined with artists and local vendors. Eventually, you’ll make your way to a building known as the bazaar (northwest of the Plaza San Jacinto), and it’s worth a gander inside. The goods for sale in the bazaar are much higher-end (with price tags to match) than what the vendors outside are selling.
House - Studio Muesum of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera
Situated on one of the major streets in a busier part of San Angel, you’ll find the home that Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera shared toward the end of their lives. Their notoriously tumultuous relationship meant they needed time apart, so there are actually two homes on the property – one for Frida and one for Diego – with a bridge adjoining them for times they felt like visiting.
Frida Kahlo Museum
Compared to other museums in Mexico City, the Frida Kahlo house is on the expensive side. But the $200 MXN entrance fee (around $10.80 USD) hardly deters anyone from visiting.
La Casa Azul (the blue house in Spanish) is well worth a visit, even if you’re not all that familiar with Mexico City’s beloved Kahlo.
This museum is set in the house where Frida was born and died. She grew up in this home and later shared it with her famous husband, painter Diego Rivera. You’ll see both various pieces of her artwork as well as her personal belongings. Walk through her art studio, glimpse her beautiful kitchen, and see the bed where she slept and the garden in which she spent her afternoons dreaming or entertaining guests.
Top Tips for Frida Kahlo Museum!
- Insider Tip: Sometimes audio guides are not worth renting, but in the case of the Frida Kahlo Museum, we would strongly suggest paying the additional 80 pesos. Not only is it an audio guide, but it shows you relevant pictures and has activities as well. It was one of the most well put together audio guides we’ve done. Without the guide, there’s not a ton of information. Each painting has a short description in Spanish, and each room has an introduction in both Spanish and English. But without the audio, you’ll miss many aspects, stories and tidbits about the home and Frida's life.
- Money-saving tip: If you’re traveling with a companion, bring two pairs of headphones and a headphone splitter. This way, you can share one audio guide (saving your 80 pesos) and use your own headphones instead of the ones provided.
- Booking Tip: We heard that booking online was a good idea, as the lines can get long. It's an additional 14 pesos service charge per ticket to book online, but during busy times, it will save you from waiting in line. That said, when we arrived around noon, the reservation line was just as long as the walk up line, and we still had to wait about 20 minutes to enter.
- Before you go: Even though you’ll learn a ton about Frida Kahlo at this museum, we’d recommend reading up on her life if you don’t know much of her back story. The movie “Frida”, starring Selma Hayek, is a good introduction, too.
Other important info
Entrance fee: $200 MXN (around $10.80 USD)
How much time do I need at the Frida Kahlo Museum: It is relatively small, but the audio tour takes about an hour and a half.
Explore the Coyoacan Neighborhood
Imagine streets with colorful colonial style homes shaded by large trees. Cute cafes and boutiques are dotted amongst the homes of the well-to-do. You could easily spend a day getting lost in the tranquil streets of Coyoacan, but if you’re short on time, visit this neighborhood with a guide and hear stories of its past.
Try the Coyocan Free Walking Tour with Estacion Mexico. Our guide was wonderful and super informative. They meet every day at 3 p.m. at the ticket office of Viveros/ Derechos Humanos subway station (inside the station). Bring water and check the weather to see if you need an umbrella or not.
This 2.5-hour tour brought us through some beautiful streets and gave us insight on one of Mexico City’s most inviting neighborhoods. Our guide was wonderful and the group of just 6 people was a great size to meander through colonial courtyards and through historic streets.
If you’d prefer to wander through Coyoacan on your own, here are some spots you should hit:
Fonoteca Nacional (National Sound Archive)
This “museum” is set in a courtyard of a colonial home and is known for its collection of famous people speaking, including Diego Rivera. There’s no fee to get in, but when you enter, you simply need to sign your name, age, gender and country of residence.
You can listen to the recordings if you’d like, or you can enjoy the tranquil courtyard and free (yes, free!) coffee. You’ll likely see university students studying and you may even be lucky enough to be there during one of their regular live music performances.
Mercado de Artesanal Mexicano (Artisian Market)
Enter through the yellow arches and you’ll see lots of handicrafts and souvenirs for sale.
Parroquia San Juan Bautista
You can take a look inside the church if you’d like, but the main attraction of this area is the square in front of it. You’ll find locals hanging out around the fountain with the neighborhoods’ namesake coyotes and musicians performing in the open square.
On the outer perimeter of this market, you’ll find fruits and vegetables for sale alongside clothing and children’s toys. But if you venture inside, you’ll see stands selling all sorts of food. Keep going until you are near the back of the market, and here you’ll find the signature Coyacan tostadas.
One of the most famous ones is the ceviche, which was great, and we also really enjoyed the chicken tinga. There are a handful of vegetarian options, too. Wash your tostada down with a fresh juice!
Cost: Tostadas range from 30 – 40 pesos, and the juices are around 25 pesos.
Local Food Market – Antojitos Mexicanos Market
Just off of the main square, the Antojitos Mexicanos Market has an awesome selection of local foods. When we were there, we were the only foreigners.
Everything looked delicious, but if you’re feeling adventurous and want to try sometime a little “different” head to the back left corner to the shop selling quesadillas. Order the huitlacoche. This quesadilla will be made right in front of you and is stuffed with huitlacoche, or corn smut or fungus, a delicacy in Mexico.
The black filling is not as scary as it looks or sounds; it almost tastes and looks like a mixture of refried beans and corn. There are plenty of other options too, both vegetarian and meat based.
Cup of coffee: Head to Cafetzalli Coyoacán or Café El Jarocho for some of the best coffee in the neighborhood.
Tip: Know that in Mexico City, unless you order your quesadilla with cheese, it typically won’t come inside unlike those in other parts of Mexico.
Experience Mexico City’s nightlife scene! Wander the streets of the Roma and Condesa neighborhoods and pop into any bar or restaurant that strikes your fancy. And if you wanna turn things up a notch and go clubbing, here’s a guide to getting your groove on into the wee hours of the morning.
Day 2: Morning
Before you head out for the day, be sure to stop by Panadería Rosetta for either a quick grab-and-go pastry or sit and relax with a café. This local hotspot get pretty busy through out the day so get there early. They open at 7 a.m. Once you have your fill, head out to Chapultapec Park.
This gigantic park on the west side of town isn’t perhaps the city’s most picturesque, but it is one of the largest. With pathways for walking (or biking!) you can get a little exercise. You’ll find plenty of stands selling snacks along the way and a small pond with paddleboats for rent.
If you have a Mexican credit card you sign up for the Ecobici Bikes and rent get a one-day membership for just $99 pesos. With the membership you can use any of the bikes in the bike-share program, and travel up to 45 minutes for free. You can take as many 45-minute rides as you want, but if you go over, you will be charged a little fee.
If you're like us and your hotel has free bikes for rent, you can pedal away at your heart's desire. You can go and see the Official Residence of Los Pinos, or the Mexican President's House.
The main attraction of this park, however, is the castle that sits atop the park’s highest hill.
Perched high on a hill, visiting the Chapultepec Castle (Castillo de Chapultepec) is worthwhile if even just for the view of the city. Inside, you’ll find rooms preserved as they were in the 18th century. It is quite impressive, especially the stairways and the rooftop garden.
Be sure to allow at least 45 minutes to climb the hill, see the castle and walk back down. Add more time if you get the audio guide.
National Museum of Anthropology
This is often touted as a “must see” while in Mexico City, this museum is a history buff’s dream. You’ll find prehispanic artifacts, dioramas and interactive displays that give you insights to how Mexico and its ancient people settled in the region. We thought the museum was interesting, but honestly felt it was a bit overwhelming.
Note: Be aware that while some of the signage has been translated into English, there is still a lot that is only in Spanish.
If you are touring the museum on your own, we recommend going into the #1 room and traveling counterclockwise. If you are pressed for time, make sure to see the #6 (Aztec) and #9 (Maya) rooms.
We joined a free English tour at 1:30 p.m. for an hour and the guide brought us through the Aztec Room where we saw the Stone of the Sun (more famously and falsely known as the Aztec Calendar). Most of the information we came away from the museum with was from this tour.
Money-saving tip: If your timing works out, visit the museums on a Sunday when the admission is free! Unfortunately, our visit to Mexico City did not fall on a Sunday, but even so the typical 70 peso entrance fees are very reasonable. Open everyday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and closed on Monday.
Food Tour or DIY
Mexico City is a foodie haven. There are plenty of cooking classes and food tours to choose from that’ll give you great insight into Mexican cuisine. We had a great time with Mexican Food Tours and wrote about our experience traditional Mexican food tour in Mexico City.
If you’re on a budget though, you might be turned off by the steep prices. Instead, you can opt to do your own DIY food tour.
You’ll find incredible food throughout the entire city, but we’d suggest choosing a neighborhood where you can eat just a little bit at a time. (This works best at small shops or stands instead of sit-down restaurants.)
Food to Try in Mexico City
Be sure to try tacos al pastor, tortas, quesadillas (different than what you might be used to!), flautas, tamales, pozole, churros, aguas fresca, horchata and anything else that makes your mouth water!
Day 3: Morning
Downtown DIY tour
If you’ve been following our blog for a while, you know we love free walking tours. They allow you to see the most important places in a city, as well as some hidden gems you’d never discover on your own. You can also learn some of the stories that guidebooks don’t tell you and meet fellow travelers.
We’ve taken just short of 30 free walking tours around the world, and have had fantastic experiences for the most part (including our tour of the Coyoacan neighborhood). Unfortunately, we can’t say the same about the Free Walking Tour in downtown Mexico City.
Our guide did a fine job, but the group of nearly 40 people was so big it was hard to maneuver through the streets. And paired with traffic and city noise, it was hard to hear much of what the guide was saying.
We didn’t get much information from this tour that we couldn’t find in guidebooks. Plus, the route would be super easy to navigate on your own, so we would advise doing a DIY tour of the downtown (Centro) part of Mexico City.
Highlights of Downtown (Centro) Mexico City
President’s Office (National Palace)
It’s free to go inside and houses some of Diego Rivera’s murals. Note: You must bring a photo ID (one per group) in order to enter. We didn’t have anything other than our photocopied passports and a couple credit cards, both of which they would not take, so we were not allowed to go inside.
Post Office (Palacio Postal)
This building is beautiful with turn-of-the-century architecture. You can go in the entrance, look around a bit and take a photo.
House of Tiles (Casa de los Azulejos)
Just a few blocks from the post office, the building known as the “house of tiles” is a great spot to oogle at the beautiful blues or snap a few Insta pics.
Tip: Lighting here is best before noon or in the late afternoon.
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, you won’t want to miss out on tasting churros in Mexico City. One of the most famous places to try these cinnamon sugar magic sticks is at El Moro.
There are a couple locations in the city, but their original location in the historic district is a convenient stop while wandering around the center. They’re open 24 hours a day and serve hot chocolate too, so you’ll be sure to have your cravings satisfied no matter what time of the day (or night!) they strike!
Explore the Markets
Latin America has incredible markets that are well worth checking out. Mercado de San Juan is situated near the historic center, so a stop here won’t be too far out of your way. This market is know for its selection of exotic meats, like crocodile and wild boar. Just wandering through and people watching is an experience.
Alternative Market: If you’d like more of a local experience, take the metro to the Merced Metro station to explore the Sonora Market. Sometimes called a “witch market”, but we didn’t find the nickname very fitting. Sure, you can find crystals, incense and herbs, but more of what you’ll see is cheap plastic toys, shoes and food.
The appeal of this market isn’t what is being sold, but instead the “local vibe” you’ll get here as opposed to some of the busier markets. It’s certainly not a tourist attraction, and is only really worthwhile to add to your itinerary if you enjoy people watching and local experiences.
Note: Beware that this market begins from the metro station and it can be quite a maze to get through!
Jardin Chapultepec: Beer Garden
If you love craft beer as much as we do, you won’t be able to resist this sunny beer garden that serves up some great brews at a reasonable price. The atmosphere here is fun, with young professionals gathering with friends after work.
The food also looked great here. We were drooling over the tacos the person next to us was eating (complete with a big slice of queso fresco and avocado), but when we went up to order some, they had run out!
La Pitahaya Vegana
Whether you’re a practicing vegan or you just like a good veggie meal every once in a while, La Pitahaya Vegana, is a great stop for a taco sampling.
Compared to the tacos you’ll find on the street, these are relatively expensive at 120 pesos for three. But with creative combinations like cauliflower with coconut cream and pineapple or potato and coral tree flower curry made with love in a sustainably-run kitchen, we thought the equivalent of $4 USD was worthwhile. Plus, the woman running this place is super sweet.
Tip: If you want a beer with your vegan taco, you’ll need to arrive before 5pm since they stop serving alcohol at that time.
Mezcal Tasting at La Nacional
Literally right across the street from La Pitahaya Vegana is La Nacional, a well-known mezcal tasting bar. What’s the difference between a mezcal bar and a regular bar, you might ask? We had the same question, and well, the photo below should explain better than we can!
With tons of different strains of mezcal to choose from, the people here really know their stuff. They’ll serve you oranges sprinkled with worm-chili salt. To nibble on between sips, and slices of carrots and jicama to cleanse your palate. Hint: Sip first, then eat the orange.
Though not cheap (each 1.5-ounce serving costs between 80 and 200 pesos), it is kind of a fun way to try the difference in mezcal. If you’re with a partner, try two different types and compare!
Watch a Lucha Libre Wrestling Match
Before arriving in Mexico City, we’d heard that going to a Lucha Libre show was a fun experience, but we couldn’t find much information about going to one of these Mexican Wrestling shows on your own.
It seemed as though most people writing about this experience went with a guided tour. And while that might be a good option if you’re traveling solo and want a bit of camaraderie, it is totally doable (and safe!) to go on your own!
We loved our experience watching the Lucha Libre match. It was fun, crazy and full of bad acting and acrobatics. We created a whole article on how to book and watch a Lucha Libre match on your own.
If you have more time in Mexico City
One of the things we definitely want to do on our next trip to Mexico City is visit Teotihuacán. This massive archaeological complex is about and hour and half northeast of Mexico City.
The main highlights are the Pyramid of the Moon and the Pyramid of the Sun which you can climb up to get a view of the whole ruins.
There are many tours that run from Mexico City to Teotihuacán, but it is easily accessable by public transportation. The cost to enter the ruins is 70 pesos and you should plan at least 3-4 hours there.
This colorful neighborhood known for canalways and floating gardens. It is a little ways outside of the city, but if you make it down to Xochimilco, you can spend about half your day riding in the trajineras, colorful, hand-painted long boats.
There will be plenty to eat there so come hungry.
Where to Stay in Mexico City
Hotel MX Roma – Located in the hip neighborhood of Roma Norte, this hotel is conveniently located and comes with amenities like free breakfast, free bike rentals and a free espresso machine! They have a fitness center with a squash court available. There are coworking spaces with access to computers so you can get a little work done in between exploring the city. There is free parking and a rooftop terrace where you can watch the sunset.
Other Mexico City Hotels
Backpacker Budget: Suites DF Hostel – Smack in the middle of the city, this fun backpacker hostel has a great vibe and is a nice place to meet other travelers. They have private rooms as well as dorms and is steps away from a metro stop.
Feelin’ Fancy: Four Seasons Hotel Mexico City – It doesn't get much more fancy than this place. 5-stars, fitness center, outdoor pool, on-site spa and restaurant and is in a great location steps aways from Chapultepec Park.
How to Use the Mexico City Metro
Mexico City is pretty spread out so the easiest and cheapest way to get around is by the metro. With 12 metro lines, you can basically get anywhere in the city you want. And the best part is metro tickets for any distance are only 5 pesos ($0.27 USD).
In each metro station there is a Taquilla (ticket office). Just say "un boleto" (one ticket) or "dos boletos" (two tickets) and pass the pesos to the person behind the counter.
Once you have a ticket, head to the turnstyle (make sure you know which direction you are going) and slip the ticket in the slot to the right of the turnstyle. It will beep and you can walk through. If you have any troubles there is always a guard standing near the turnstyles that can help you out.
To leave the metro, simply look for the signs that say "Salida" and walk throught the exit turnstyle (no ticket needed).
Sustainable Travel Tip: The water fountains in the metro stations are safe for drinking! Simply fill up your water bottle and satisfy your thirst while saving money and plastic!
How to get cell phone service in Mexico City
If you’ll be in Mexico for a while, the cheapest way to get cell phone service is to get a SIM card in Mexico. Just make sure your phone is unlocked and is able to accept international SIMs (we learned the hard way when we moved to Thailand).
We’ve been told that you can get SIM cards at the popular convenience store, OXXO, but the one we went into did not have SIM cards, so we decided to go straight to the Telcel store and get it there. Our phone plan had 300 MB of data for one month and unlimited talk and text in Mexico and the US, and only cost $379 MXN ($21 USD).
If you run out of data, you can top off at OXXO or 7-Eleven. You can download the app Mi Telcel to check your data usage as well.