Embarking on a Mexico City itinerary is a highlight of any trip to Mexico. Mexico City is the country’s capital and the largest city in North America.
It is a sprawling megalopolis, but it’s a city that is bursting with character and charm. Indeed, each of Mexico City’s neighborhoods has its own personality.
Each neighborhood is essentially a little village in itself. Even if you don’t consider yourself as being much of a city person, you will surely be captivated by some of what Mexico City has to offer.
Ideally, you would have at least a week to dedicate to exploring Mexico City. However, that is a relatively long amount of time and understandably, that may not be possible if the city is one of several stopping points on a wider Mexico travel itinerary.
This Mexico City itinerary enables you to at least scratch beneath the surface and see the city’s main highlights in a short space of time. Then, hopefully, you will be inspired to return and discover more in the future!
Mexico City is also often known as Ciudad de Mexico (CDMX). Throughout this article, CDMX references
Mexico City Itinerary Day One: Polanco & Chapultapec
Start your Mexico City itinerary by exploring one of the trendiest CDMX neighborhoods: Polanco. What Chelsea is to London, Polanco is to CDMX. It is home to a plethora of world-class restaurants, designer stores, and charming quaint coffee places.
It oozes elegance and sophistication at every turn and at the same time, it manages to do so without any air of pretension. This is a great place to base yourself during your time in CDMX, too, especially if you want to get around on foot.
Breakfast in Polanco
Some of the leafy, tree-lined streets of Polanco are more reminiscent of European cities than of something that you would expect to find in Latin America. Many of them open out to charming plazas or house wonderful breakfast and brunch eateries.
Maison Belén (Av. Emilio Castelar, Polanco, Polanco IV Secc, Miguel Hidalgo, 11550) is a French-inspired bistro that serves a selection of Mexican and international breakfast options. Better still is Cafe Toscano (Temístocles 26, Polanco, Polanco IV Secc, Miguel Hidalgo).
The latter is a tiny, ramshackle little eatery cluttered with books, artwork, and antique furnishings. The ambiance seemingly transports you to a cozy cafe in Florence, Italy, while the breakfast menu boasts contemporary Mexican dishes.
The vegan quesadillas are a must-try. So too, are the various juice options and pan dulces (sweet bread). From Cafe Toscano, it is just a short walk to the next stop on this Mexico City itinerary: the Anthropology Museum.
Visit the Anthropology Museum
The National Museum of Anthropology is the largest and most-visited museum in Mexico. It sits at the entrance to Chapultapec park, beside a little arts and crafts market that pops up in the park when it isn’t raining.
The museum is huge. There are literally thousands of artifacts on display here, spread across 23 permanent exhibition halls and two floors.
Even if you spend 2-3 hours in the museum, you won’t be able to see it all. When you first enter, the exhibition halls on your right-hand side discuss how Mexico has developed from the prehistoric era until today.
Up the stairs, you will find exhibits that focus on the history and culture of Mexico’s indigenous groups. Did you know that there are 68 different indigenous groups in Mexico today? They each have their own cultural practices, beliefs, traditions, cuisines, and religious practices.
Here, you can view many of their traditional clothing, their handcrafted masks, and the artisanal products that they create and sell. Information boards in Spanish and English enable you to learn about the different indigenous groups in different parts of Mexico.
Once you leave the indigenous exhibits, the main exhibition hall and the exhibition halls on the left-hand side of the museum complex focus on artifacts recovered from different parts of Mexico. The Oaxaca and the Mayan rooms are particularly interesting.
The museum can be a little overwhelming. It is worthwhile to visit with a guide or an archeologist who can lead you around the exhibits based on what interests you and discuss the various artifacts in more detail.
Admission to the complex is just 85 pesos per person ($4). You may be asked to place large backpacks and rucksacks in the (complimentary) locker room.
Explore Chapultapec Park
The 1,561-acre “Bosque de Chapultepec” is CDMX’s main area of greenery. It is almost twice the size of Central Park in New York and contains several points of interest within its borders.
Pass through the botanical gardens and head towards the spectacular 18th-century fairytale Chapultapec Castle. This is the only castle in North America to have actually housed royalty.
Mexican Emperor Maximilian I and Empress Carlota lived there from 1864 up until Maximilian’s death three years later. From then, Chapultapec Castle had several different purposes.
That is, up until 1939 when it was decided that the Museo Nacional de Historia should be housed within. The entrance to the castle is 85 pesos ($4) per person.
Allow at least 2 hours to explore. The castle is much larger than it appears from the outside and exploring it sees you pass through stunning manicured gardens, and gorgeous, grand palatial rooms filled adorned with vibrant frescoes and tall stained-glass windows.
Make Reservations at a World-Class Restaurant
Freshen up at your hotel and then prepare to have dinner at a world-class CDMX restaurant. Some of the restaurants in Mexico City have been recognized not only as being some of the best restaurants in Mexico but as some of the best in the world.
For the best of the best, the obvious choice is Pujol ( Tennyson 133, Polanco, Polanco IV Secc, Miguel Hidalgo). This eatery, managed by chef Enrique Olvera, was named the best in CDMX by the Wall Street Journal.
Pujol is well worth the hype and the price tag. However, keep in mind that you often have to reserve a table as much as 6-8 weeks in advance! (As a side note, if you head to San Cristobal de las Casas, you can dine at Chef Claudia Santiz’s restaurant – she worked at Pujol for several years before branching out on her own.)
If you aren’t able to secure a table at Pujol, there are plenty of other great options. Quintonil (Av. Isaac Newton 55, Polanco, Polanco IV Secc, Miguel Hidalgo) is an exquisite eatery headed up by Chefs Alejandra Flores and Jorge Vallejo.
It is still advisable to make an advance reservation if you want to eat here. It is possible to order from an a la carte menu or to treat yourself to a 10-course tasting menu with drinks pairing. Both menus change throughout the year depending on what ingredients are in season.
Treat yourself to dessert churros
Ask any Chilango (Mexico City resident) where the best place in town to grab churros is and 90% of respondents will tell you the same thing: El Moro. El Moro is a chain of churrerias with several branches around the city.
It dates back to 1935 when Founder Francisco Iriarte moved from Spain to Mexico City and started a small churro cart in the zocalo. Treat yourself to a mix of 3-4 sugar and cinnamon churros with a pot of their thick, syrupy, indulgent chocolate dipping sauce.
Conveniently, there is a Polanco El Moro that you can walk to after dinner. It can be found at Calz. Gral. Mariano Escobedo 501.
Mexico City Itinerary Day Two: Teotihuacan and Centro
Start day two of your Mexico City itinerary by exploring the spectacular pre-Colombian pyramids at Teotihuacan. This is one of the world’s oldest historical sites.
The original city dates back to 500 BC and became an extremely important trade hub in 500 AD. However, little is known about its early years.
The Aztecs found Teotihuacan in the 1400s and gave it its current name. Teotihuacan means “the place where the Gods were created¨. When they found it, the site had already been abandoned for centuries.
Many local tour companies offer excursions to Mexico City but it is just as easy to get there independently. It all depends on your personal preferences.
Obviously, seeing the site as part of a tour takes some of the stress out of managing the logistics of getting there. However, traveling to Teotihuacan independently gives you the opportunity to beat the crowds, and have the freedom to explore at a more leisurely pace.
Several structures are scattered throughout Teotihuacan. The site is expansive and necessitates at least 2-3 hours of your time.
If you are traveling to Mexico in the summer, try to visit as early as possible to avoid being beneath the intense midday Mexican sun. Start at the Temple of Quetzalcoatl and then walk along the Avenue of the Dead to the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon.
The Pyramid of the Sun is the largest and most iconic pyramid in Teotihuacan, and well worth the challenging slog up its steep steps to enjoy the panoramic viewpoint at the top. Equally interesting is the Pyramid of the Moon – once an important place of sacrifice.
Recommended Teotihuacan Tours
- From Mexico City: Teotihuacan air balloon flight & breakfast
- Mexico City: Teotihuacan and Tlatelolco day trip by van
- Teotihuacan: Exclusive early access and tastings
- From Mexico City: Teotihuacan and Guadalupe Shrine tour
Getting to Teotihuacan independently
You can get to Teotihuacan independently by taking a bus or an Uber/taxi. To take a bus, you need to make your way to the Autobuses del Norte bus station.
Buses to Teotihuacan depart frequently and a ticket is only 60 pesos (2.90) each way. If you want to travel by Uber in CDMX, you will arrive at the pyramids faster. Expect to pay between 500 and 700 pesos each way depending on the time of day.
You can usually find Ubers around Teotihuacan for your return journey. However, if you are unfortunate enough to not be able to find one, you can always take an Uber there and a taxi back.
Visit Palacio de Belles Artes
The Palacio de Belles Artes, with its gold-domed roof, is probably one of the most iconic sights of Mexico City. This spectacular cultural center was built between 1904 and 1934.
Inside, you can find a concert hall, the National Museum of Architecture, a theater, and the Museum of the Palace of Fine Arts. Other temporary arts, history, and cultural exhibitions from around the world are also often hosted here.
In the lobbies of the Museum of the Palace of Fine Arts, you will find spectacular murals painted by some of the most renowned Mexican artists– including Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco. To continue with your Mexican art fix, walk through Alameda Central, Mexico’s oldest municipal park. On the opposite end to the Palacio de Belles Artes, you will find the Museo Mural Diego Rivera.
Stop by the Museo Mural Diego Rivera
The Museo Mural Rivera is a small art museum that houses Rivera´s 1946–47 mural Sueño de una Tarde Dominical en la Alameda Central. This painting depicts Hernán Cortés, Friar Juan de Zumarraga, Sister Juana Ines de la Cruz, Benito Juárez and other notable historic Mexican figures standing together in Alameda park.
The painting was rescued from the now-destroyed Hotel del Prado. This small museum contains other interesting art pieces and sculptures, though Riveras mural is very much the focal point.
Walk Down Av 5 de Mayo and see the Casa de Los Azulejos
Passing the Palacio de Belles Artes, head towards Av. 5 de Mayo. There are several interesting buildings to see here.
Look out for the iconic Sears department store and if your schedule permits ascend to the 44th floor of the Torre Latinoamericana. This is the tallest building in Latin America.
The views across the city from the observation deck are second to none. This is one of the most important landmarks in Mexico.
Nearby, the 1907 Palacio Postal is a spectacular building designed in Plateresque and Elizabethan styles. Its facades are dramatic and laden with gargoyles. Inside, the ornate staircases, chandeliers, and frescoes make you feel as if you are exploring a grand palatial home.
Backtrack to Av. 5 de Mayo, admiring the grand old Banco de Mexico building. The Casa de Los Azulejos(house of tiles) will be on your right-hand side.
This spectacular baroque tiled building dates back to the 18th century and was once the home of the noble Count of the Valle de Orizaba family. Today, it houses a restaurant and stores.
You will find many global and Mexican high street stores scattered along the length of Av. 5 de Mayo and the nearby pedestrian street Av. Francisco I. Madero. Follow them along to the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral and the Zocalo.
Enjoy mezcal and mariachi in Garibaldi Square
A pleasant way to spend an evening, particularly if you are interested in Mexican culture traditions, is to catch the live mariachi bands at Garibaldi Square. There are several bars scattered around the square. For 150 pesos (circa $7), the mariachi bands will perform a song of your choice.
It is better to come here at night when the bars are alive and filled with people and mariachi as this area is relatively quiet during the day. Do note that Garibaldi Square is not one of the nicer parts of town.
Take a cab here and don´t walk here alone at night nor walk between Palacio de Belles Artes and Garibaldi Square. The Museo del Tequila y Mezcal discusses the history and production methods of two of the most famous Mexican drinks and is open until 9 pm daily.
Mexico City Itinerary Day Three: Coyoacan and Surroundings
Day three of this Mexico City itinerary is dedicated to exploring Coyoacan – the leafy, sleepy Mexico city district that artist Frida Kahlo once called home. While it is Frida Kahlo’s house that put this area on the map, and is the raison d’être for most people’s visit, after a day in Coyoacan you will find that her casa is not even your favorite aspect of your visit.
Visit Frida Kahlo´s house
The vivid blue Casa Azul is where Frida Kahlo was born and spent most of her life. Her father built the property in 1904 and her mother Matilde gave birth to her here in 1907.
Frida lived in the house both independently and while married to Diego Rivera. She eventually died here, and today, her ashes are on display in a pre-Colombian urn contained within the house.
Entrance to Casa Azul enables you to admire some of Frida’s paintings and personal effects. Her home has been preserved as a living museum and even if you are not hugely familiar with her work, a visit to Casa Azul provides a glimpse into the life of one of Mexico’s most important figures.
Casa Azul is almost always crowded. It is absolutely essential to purchase your ticket online in advance a day or two before you plan to visit. Tickets often sell out and so if you just rock up at the house without a prior reservation, you may find yourself disappointed.
You will be given a timeslot for entrance and it is important that you are at the house on time or you may be denied entry.
Stop for coffee in Coyoacan
After exploring Frida’s house, indulge in a quintessentially Mexican pastime and stop for a coffee and a pan dulce (sweet bread) at a nearby coffee shop. Cafe al Jarocho is a Coyoacan institution.
It first opened its doors back in 1953, making it the very first coffee shop in this neighborhood. It has been delighting locals and travelers alike ever since.
Order a cinnamon-spiked café de olla and a concha. Other charming spots to consider in Coyoacan are Cafe Avellaneda (Higuera 40-A, La Concepción, Coyoacán) and Coyote Specialty Coffee & Tea bar (Felipe Carrillo Puerto 2).
Stroll down the haunted Callejón del Aguacate
One of the more eerie things to do in Coyoacan (and CDMX in general) is to stroll down the supposedly haunted Callejón del Aguacate (Avocado alley). The narrow cobbled passageway is almost always deserted and feels frozen in time.
It dates back to the 1600s and legend has it that it is haunted by the ghost of a young boy and a soldier. All of those centuries ago, the young boy was bothering the soldier. The soldier then struck the boy as punishment and accidentally killed him.
There is a small shrine to the virgin mary in one of the alcoves of the alleyway. The story goes that the soldier placed this here to repent for his sins and that locals have carried on the tradition. Indeed, you will see small toys and baseball cards scattered throughout the shrine as gifts for the child.
Take the time to get lost in leafy Coyoacan
You could very easily spend an entire day just meandering around the barrio of Coyoacan. The brightly colored buildings and cobbled streets are a photographer’s dream.
Even the most quiet-looking, unsuspecting residential street twists and turns to reveal a selection of artisanal stores, bakeries, and traditional candy shops. Local agro products and chocolates make excellent souvenirs from your trip to Mexico.
Besides Kahlo, several known creatives, artists, and historic figures set down roots in Coyoacan. The Leon Trotsky House Museum is the former home of exiled Russian Leon Trotsky.
It is completely frozen in time (even his bathrobe hangs on the same hook in the bathroom) since he was assassinated at home using an ice pick in 1940. Nearby, you can find the grand colonial home where acclaimed Mexican poet Octavio Paz spent his final days.
The various Coyoacan parks are great for people-watching. Most notably the Zocalo central square and the forested Viveros de Coyoacan are popular among dog-walkers and joggers.
The churches of Coyoacan are particularly special. Don’t miss the imposing baroque San Juan Bautista church in the zocalo. It dates back to the 16th century and was one of the first churches in the Americas.
The pastel-colored Chapel of Santa Catarina dates back to the 1500s, though it has been altered and amended throughout the centuries. Its surrounding square is decorated with colorful papel picado and surrounded by charming bars and cafes.
Visit Diego Rivera´s Museo Anahuacalli
A 10-minute Uber ride from Coyoacan takes you to Diego Rivera´s Museo Anahuacalli. The building, made out of volcanic rock, is just as spectacular as the exhibits contained within it.
Museo Anahuacalli was designed by Diego Rivera himself and contains more than 41,000 pieces of pre-hispanic artwork from his personal collection. If you enjoy art, you will also be pleased to see that one room showcases many of Rivera’s drafts and early sketches.
Mexico City Itinerary Day Four: Xochimilco River Journey & Street Food Eats
Day four of this Mexico city itinerary takes you to Xochimilco – an area in the southern part of CDMX known for its canal network. This is essentially Mexico’s answer to Venice and this area is one of the last remaining vestiges of the old Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán.
Many local companies offer tours and excursions to Xochimilco. Here, locals and travelers take rides onboard colorful trajineras as they revel in the scenery and share a cerveza or two among friends.
It is possible to visit Xochimilco independently. If you decide to do so, you can opt to take a small tour of Xochimilco on a boat that takes you on a short ride up and down the canals for 40 pesos.
Alternatively, you can rent an entire boat for 350 pesos ($17) an hour. This is great if there are a lot of you.
However, if you are traveling alone or there are just a few of you, you can try and meet other travelers waiting at the dock to share the cost with. There are always plenty of people headed to Xochimilco, particularly at weekends.
If you have ever been to floating markets in Asia, Xochimilco is somewhat comparable. There are floating gondolas with mariachi, gondolas serving snacks and street food, and gondolas filled with locals having a party.
The isla de las muñecas (haunted island of the dolls) can be reached via Xochimilco. However, most tour operators do not run there. If you want to travel independently, be aware that there is also a smaller, fake Isla de las muñecas that someone has set up to avoid sailing so far to the authentic one!
Recommended Xochimilco tours
Generally, participating in a Xochimilco tour takes a lot of the stress out of managing the logistics and having to haggle with the boat owners. A number of reputable tours are detailed below for your consideration.
- Mexico City: Xochimilco, Coyoacan and Frida Kahlo
- Xochimilco: 5-hour boat ride and university tour
- Teotihuacan and Xochimilco private tour
Take an afternoon/evening CDMX street food tour
Street food is a huge part of Mexican food culture, particularly in CDMX. There are dozens of street food markets and by all means, you could venture through them independently.
However, opting to do a street food tour with a local enables you to discover places that you may not have otherwise found alone. Better yet, you will have an expert insider that you can ask for tips on the best places to eat/drink/hang out.
A number of reputable CDMX street food tours are detailed below for your consideration:
If you prefer to tour the street food markets alone, there are a few, in particular, to add to your radar. Mercado de la Merced is one of Mexico’s largest and oldest markets that sells practically every food item imaginable.
At weekends, Sullivan market is a good place to try pambazo (bread dipped and fried in a red guajillo pepper sauce and filled with papas con chorizo) or traditional barbacoa. Meanwhile, Mercado de San Juan is known for its edible insects and alternative meat treats. For instance, crocodile burgers and ostrich burgers!
Mexico City Itinerary FAQs
When is the best time to visit Mexico City?
Mexico City, like much of Mexico, is an excellent year-round travel destination.
Is Mexico City safe?
Mexico City is a safe place to travel to, provided that you take the same common-sense precautions as you would when traveling anywhere else in the world. The same can be said of safety in Mexico as a whole.
Follow the same measures as you would in any other large city. For instance, always be aware of your surroundings, don´t walk alone at night, don’t walk into areas that you know are dangerous, and don’t wear expensive accessories or walk around with your fancy DSLR camera hanging around your neck.
Pickpocketing is the only real thing that you need to be concerned about. Always keep an eye on your belongings, especially on the subway and in crowded Centro.
There are some additional safety measures that you can take for your peace of mind too. You may want to consider purchasing a theft-proof backpack. Anti-theft bags such as those offered by Pacsafe feature a mesh locking system and they are both slash and waterproof.
Can I visit Mexico City alone?
Solo travelers (including solo females) can feel very comfortable exploring Mexico City solo. Mexico´s capital is very diverse and so, you will not stand out or draw attention to yourself whatever your race, gender, or dress sense.
It is also very easy to meet and socialize with fellow travelers and locals. Search for events hosted on Meetup and Couchsurfing and utilize Facebook groups dedicated to ex-pats and travelers in CDMX.
Have you traveled to Mexico City? Perhaps you created a Mexico City itinerary of your own that you enjoyed? How would you compare Mexico City to other parts of Mexico?
Have a great time exploring! Hasta Luego!