CDMX is a hustling mass of humanity. But dig under the surface and you will find that it can be more fun than you could possibly have imagined. Here’s our 3-day Mexico City itinerary.
Mexico City sits on a 2,240 m high plateau in the centre of the country. Home to over 20 million people, it’s a huge conurbation with a vibrancy unlike any other.
Spending 3 days in Mexico City will introduce you to a city of bustling street stalls and craft markets; cool bars and energy where wandering kids and public demonstrations fill its every corner.
The historical centre is a grid of glorious Spanish architecture sitting on the still visible remains of an ancient Aztec city. In the suburbs, traditional village life has survived the sprawl of the city and just an hour away, the ruins of what was once the greatest city in the Americas, stands as a memory to Mexico’s distant past.
Its museums are some of the best in the world and its art galleries have a powerful political and historical message. The eclectic fusion of Mexican and Spanish cuisine make this Mexico City itinerary much more interesting and fun than you could possibly imagine. To top it all off, Mexico is excellent value.
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DAY 1 AM / ZOCALO AND CENTRO HISTORICO
Start your 3 days in Mexico City at the Plaza de la Constitución (otherwise known as Zocalo), the beating heart of the city and home to the cathedral, presidential palace and government offices. It is this square that was pulled apart in the James Bond film Spectre.
In the northeast of the square lies the centre of the ancient Aztec city of Tenochtitlán and the remains of a temple. Stroll around the ruins before exploring the attached museum. Next visit the Palacio Nacional which houses the offices of the president and the murals of Diego Rivera which tell the story of Mexico’s history before the Spanish conquest. The bell that sits atop the cathedral was the same one that rang during the war of independence.
Head to the north of the square and into the Catedral Metropolitana, the largest cathedral in the Americas. Many locals pray at the wide range of gilded and wooden altars. Make sure you join a bell tower tour which takes you onto the roof of the cathedral and gives you super views over Zocalo and the city.
DAY 1 PM / THE ANTHROPOLOGICAL MUSEUM
Grab lunch at El Cardenal, a beautiful building with an excellent traditional menu, before jumping on the metro to Chapultepec (Linea 2). Exit the tube and make your way into the park, the largest in Mexico City. It’s a beautiful lively place for a stroll and a castle is perched on the hill but the real reason for coming here is the Anthropological Museum.
The Anthropological Museum is one of the greatest museums in the world. It has 12 sections charting different aspects of Mexican history. There is no way you can see it all but we recommend you check out the sections on Teotihuacán, Mexica (Aztecs) and Mayans, especially if you plan on exploring the Mayan Ruins in Mexico later. Make sure you head into the gardens out the back where replicas of the ruins have been constructed.
Hop back on the metro, exit at Bellas Artes and make your way to Plaza Garibaldi, a square with music dancing and plenty of bars; a great place to hang out for the evening.
DAY 2 AM / COYOACÁN
Day 2 of your Mexico CIty itinerary explores the village of Coyoacán. In spite of being overtaken by the ever-expanding city, it has retained its independence and charm. Jump on the metro to Viveros (Linea 3) then walk east via the local gardens (Viveros de Coyoacán) to the Frida Kahlo museum.
The museum is the ‘Blue House’ where the artist Frida Kahlo lived and is now packed with mementoes and paintings of her life, her often difficult marriage to Diego Rivera and her Marxist leanings. Prices have shot up in recent years and queues can be long so make sure you book online in advance.
Head into the village centre and stroll around Plaza Hidalgo, Jardin Centenario and the Juan Batista church. Markets and food stalls are packed into the surrounding streets. Sit down and grab lunch on the pavement with one of the many smiling cooks, try the delicious Mexican street corn.
DAY 2 PM / STREET FOOD & BAR HOPPING
In the afternoon walk up the Leon Trotsky museum. Trotsky lost his battle with Stalin to become leader of the Soviet Union, was exiled and condemned to death. He sought refuge in Mexico City and made his home in Coyoacán. This house, a museum to his life, remains as it was when he was finally hacked to death.
Hop back on the metro at Coyoacán metro (Linea 3) and head to Balderas (Linea 3). Exiting, explore the southern streets of Almeda and Centro Historico before spending the evening in the bars of pedestrianised San Jeronimo and Regina. Try a pre-dinner mezcal or tequila and a plate of grasshoppers before taking a seat at Zéfiro for a great meal.
DAY 3 AM / TEOTIHUACÁN
On the last day of your 3 days in Mexico City head out of town to the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon in the ancient Mexica city of Teotihuacán, once the greatest city in the Americas. You can join a tour, but they often spend little time at the sight and more time at shops and other curios. Better to take the metro to Autobuses del Norte (Linea 5), collect your tickets from Puerta 8 in the bus station and get the bus to Pyramides or Zona Arquelogico.
The bus takes 1 hour and drops you right at the entrance to the park. It helps to arrive early as the crowds and the heat pick up after 10:00. Start by climbing the 248 steps to the Pyramid of the Sun before the heat of the day kicks in. Then stroll the Avenue of the Dead for the shorter climb up the Pyramid of the Moon.
Pop into the museum at its base before exploring the Palace of Quetzlpapálotl with its ornately carved pillars and colourful murals. Exploring the entire site takes 2 to 3 hours, after which leave from gate 2, walk through the car park and catch the bus from the far side of the main road. You should not have to wait more than 20 minutes.
DAY 3 PM / PALACIO BELLAS MODERN ART & SUNSET DRINKS
Take the metro back to Bellas Artes (Linea 8) and head to old-style Café Tabuca for lunch. Spend the afternoon exploring art in the Palacio de Bellas Artes, a simply stunning building with excellent political murals and interesting exhibitions. Head across the park to Museo Mural Diego Rivera which houses a 15m long mural, the pinnacle of Rivera’s work.
As the afternoon dies head up Torre Latinoamericana for a sunset drink and sweeping views over this massive city. For dinner try Azul Historico, great food with some fine mole in a beautiful courtyard twinkling under fairy lights. A perfect end to your 3-day Mexico City itinerary.
3 DAYS IN MEXICO CITY / WHERE TO STAY?
The best area to stay in Mexico City is Centro Historico. Many of the best sights are nearby and the metro lines offer good transport links to other destinations. But, for more options, here’s a great list of neighbourhoods in Mexico City.
GETTING AROUND MEXICO CITY
International flights land at Benito Juárez International Airport about 5km from the centre of town. Safe and reliable fixed price yellow door taxis take between 15 and 30 minutes and cost about 250 pesos. Otherwise, hop on the metro at Terminal Aérea (Line 5) and make your way into town.
Metro is by far the easiest way to get around Mexico City. It can, however, be very busy and crowded. Keep your eyes on your belongings and don’t leave your backpack on your back while riding the metro.
We found walking in all the areas which this itinerary covers safe. However, most locals eat at home in the evening so the streets can feel eerie and deserted.
You can find all the places we visited on the map below, colour coded by Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3.
BEST TIME TO GO TO MEXICO CITY
Mexico City rainy season runs from May to October and the depth of winter can be cold. This makes March / April and November the best times to go for the weather and to avoid the crowds. Ideally, time your trip for the Day of the Dead festival on the first two days of November.
MORE READING FOR MEXICO TRIP
Mexico has a vibrancy and energy that hits you the minute you arrive. There’s plenty to explore in Yucatán near the biosphere reserve of Celestun, plus here are some more of our guides:
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