Are you planning a trip to Mexico City and only have a few days? Since the city is so large, you might think there’s no way to see very much in only a weekend in Mexico City. But you absolutely can! If you plan strategically and stay in the area that has the majority of the things you want to do, you can actually cover a lot of ground.
And while I’ll always recommend spending more time in the city if possible, a Mexico City weekend is a good way to get your feet wet in one of the best cities on the planet. Here’s how to do it plus a 3, 4 and 5 day bonus itinerary.
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Why Everyone Needs a Weekend in Mexico City
I fell in love with Mexico City when I was 15 on a high school Spanish class field trip. I was instantly fascinated with this larger than life city and the new things I was seeing. Back home, I’m positive I drove everyone crazy talking about Mexico all the time. And here I am, all these years later still talking about it.
Mexico City remains one of my favorite cities I’ve ever been to. Located in the center of the country, Mexico City is home to approximately 22 million people and is a melting pot of people, culture and history unlike any other city in the western hemisphere. It’s a place everyone should visit at least once.
It’s also pretty easy to get to since it’s just a short plane ride away from most major cities in the U.S. And as the capital of Mexico, many of those flights are direct.
To get the most out of your weekend in Mexico City, it’s crucial that you’re realistic about what you can see and do. Don’t try to do too much. Mexico City is full of surprises and its streets are made for exploring. Set aside some time for just wandering around and taking photos.
Mexico City Weekend – Where to Stay
Mexico City traffic is a beast to say the least but if you choose to stay in the neighborhood close to most of the things you want to do, this will maximize your time. That way you can walk and cut down on the time you spend sitting in traffic or waiting for rides.
From affordable to upscale, Mexico City has no shortage of charming neighborhoods and hotels but for a short weekend in Mexico City – or if it’s your first time – I recommend staying in the historic center. This is where Mexico City’s largest town square or plaza, called the Zocalo, is located.
This area if very safe and pedestrian friendly. It’s easy to walk around and many of popular things to do to in Mexico City are found within just a a few blocks.
Southerner Says: it’s also easy to access the Mexico City metro train from here. I personally have only been on the train a couple of times so unfortunately I can’t give much advice.
Just a couple of blocks from the Zocalo, Hotel Catedral is a convenient, mid-range priced option (average $65USD) in the historic center. The hotel is close enough to the action but tucked far enough away to avoid some of the noise and crowds.
Hotel Catedral’s street facing rooms have small balconies and the ones in the rear have views of the top of the cathedral and the other historic buildings in the area. The bathrooms are a nice size and even have bathtubs. Something you don’t see very often in Mexico.
A generous complimentary breakfast is included with your stay. Breakfast in Mexico is not your usual waffles and fake eggs that you get in the states. It’s a meal with real eggs, chilaquiles and fresh squeezed juices.
Plus, there’s no need to worry if you don’t speak Spanish since the hotel has English speaking staff and a concierge to assist with your stay.
Weekend in Mexico City – Day 1
Morning – I’ll say it over and over again – the best way to really get to know a city is by walking and wandering around. Once you arrive to Mexico City and check into the hotel, hit the ground running – literally – by taking a free guided walking tour of the historic center.
The tour last about two hours and is available in Spanish and English. Also, it maybe free but don’t forget to tip your guide. There are also plenty of other organized tours. I’ve linked to some 5 star experiences below.
If you prefer to do your own thing, it’s super easy to create a walking tour. With so much to do around the Zocalo, it’s easy to make your own plan.
I made a Google Map at the bottom of the page with all the activities in this article. Also my Things to do in Mexico City list is another good resource, especially for first-timers.
The biggest standout in the Zocalo is the Metropolitan Cathedral, so start your weekend in Mexico there. It’s the oldest and largest cathedral in Latin America. As you walk around it, you’ll notice the different architecture styles since it’s been expanded over the years.
And if the building seems to be a little off kilter, that’s because it is. Mexico City was built on a lake and some of the building sink a little bit every year.
Southerner Says: since it is a functioning church, remember to dress appropriately and be respectful.
From the Cathedral, move on to the Templo Mayor, the site of Ancient Aztec ruins. When the Spaniards conquered Tenochtitlan, as the city was known back then, they wanted to erase all traces of the Aztecs, so they built everything on top of the Aztec city.
Historians knew this but didn’t really do anything about about it until in the 1970’s, when some workers made a major discovery. Since then, there’s been ongoing excavation in the area. Now visitors can see the the remnants of the city via a series of walkways through the ruins and a small onsite museum.
Take advantage of your location and grab lunch on the go from one of the many food carts around the Zocalo. Street food is everywhere and you have to give it a try for a true Mexico City experience. There’s everything from tacos to elotes and sopes, literally anytime of the day.
However, start slow. Don’t overdo it. Especially on your first day while you are acclimating to a new country and a higher elevation.
Afternoon – In the afternoon, still in the historic center, visit the nearby National Palace and Museum. The physical site of the palace has been where rulers governed since the Aztecs.
The National Palace is still used for many functions and it’s from the balcony here where the Mexican president commemorates Mexico’s call to war and rebellion against Spain every September 15th. Inside the palace don’t miss the museum that’s filled with art and wall frescoes by famous Mexican painter Diego Rivera.
Once you leave the palace, head west on Calle 16 de Septiembre, where you’ll pass by maybe the most beautiful hotel in the city, the Gran Hotel de Ciudad Mexico.
Have a peek at the amazing ceilings and architecture that have been featured in movies and television. You don’t have to stay long but it is one of the highlights in the historic center.
If you aren’t quite ready for dinner yet but want a little something to nosh on, walk over a couple of blocks to La Opera, one of the oldest bars in Mexico City.
Opened by two French brothers in 1876, the rich and famous have been dining and drinking there for years. Even Pacho Villa was a loyal customer and supposedly there’s even a bullet hole to prove it.
When ordering a drink in Mexico City, it’s customary that they’ll serve “una botana”, or a bite of something to eat. Kind of like a tapa or small appetizer. What qualifies as a botana varies from place to place. The last time I was at La Opera, it was refried beans with chips.
Leaving the bar, continue west on 16 de Septiembre until you get to Calle Lazaro Cardenas, then head north to the gorgeous la Casa de Azulejos.
It was given this name because azulejo means tile in Spanish and the exterior façade of the building is covered with tiles from the Mexican state of Puebla. Even though it was once a private home, it’s now owned by Grupo Sanborns, a chain of Mexican department stores.
In addition to a the store, the La Casa de Azulejos has a restaurant with a main dining in the courtyard. Instead of being open to the outside, the area has been covered with beautiful stained glass that compliments the exterior.
If you happen to be dining solo, there’s counter service in the back. But don’t worry – they offer the same delicious dishes you get in the main dining room and it’s served on their signature blue and white china. For another special experience, the restaurant also has a rooftop with great views of the city.
Evening – After a full day of walking, give your feet a much deserved break by taking a tour of the city on a Turibus. This fun double-decker bus is a fantastic way to see more of the city on your weekend in Mexico City.
I recommend waiting till it’s dark so you have a chance to see the city lit up. It’s a completely different perspective from how the city looks in the daytime.
The Turibus offers several routes to choose from, but the route that includes La Reforma, Mexico City’s wide main road through the downtown, is ideal for viewing all the illuminated monuments and statues along the route.
Tickets can be purchased in person in the historic center at the kiosk by the cathedral or you can purchase them online here.
After the tour, if you’re still up for some fun, tucked away behind an unassuming door that you’d never even imagine would lead to some place cool is Zinco Jazz Club – the perfect cozy place for a nightcap.
Located in an old bank, Zinco is more speakeasy than club. After you enter, you’ll head down some steps into the bar in what was once the vault of the bank.
With a variety of interesting cocktails on the menu – I ordered a mezcalini, made with mescal and tamarind – and it was smoky and sweet. The cocktail and the live jazz was a fitting end to my day.
Reservations are recommended at Zinco especially on a Friday or Saturday night. There’s no cover charge unless there’s a special event or band. Check their website for the musical lineup.
Weekend in Mexico City – Day 2
Morning – Day two of your weekend in Mexico City kicks off after a hearty breakfast at the hotel. Make sure you have you’re walking shoes on.
It’s reported that Mexico City has upwards of 150 museums so today’s agenda includes a couple of them. Even if you aren’t a person that normally visits museums when you travel, you’re sure to find something you are interested in.
For a stunner on the inside and out, check out Museo Soumaya at Plaza Carzo. It’s ideal if you don’t want to spend a lot of time indoors because the archquetecture on the outside is as good as the activities and what’s inside.
Founded by one of Mexico’s richest businessman for his wife, the museum is uniquely shaped and its six stories is covered in 16,000 aluminum tiles. You literally could spend all day just taking photos of it from the different angles.
Museo Soumaya has permanent and temporary art exhibits and an ever changing rotation of shows. The last time I there, they was a interactive musical featuring traditional Mexican dance and dress. Best of all, the museum is free to enter.
For a mid-morning or lunch time snack, stop off for a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and churros at Mexico City’s most famous churrería – el Moro. There are several locations throughout the city but the store in Polanco in right on the way to the next stop.
Afternoon – Spend the afternoon visiting the most beautiful green space in the city, Chapultepec Park. The park has been described as the lungs of Mexico City, a city notorious for smog and pollution.
Chapultepec Park is one of the largest parks in Mexico and it’s forested areas gives residents a respite from the hardness and concrete. Inside the park, there’s a zoo, Chapultepec Castle, museums, botanical gardens, public art, restaurants and much, much more.
My favorite museum in the park is the Museum of Anthropology. It contains the world’s largest collection of ancient Mexican art and features exhibits and information about all of the people that have inhabited Mexico City. It’s a definite must see on a weekend in Mexico City to understand and learn more about this incredible city.
However, my favorite thing in the park isn’t the museum. It’s a hidden in plain site feature that many people miss. Diego Rivera’s El Agua, Origen de la Vida or Water, Origin of Life is a sculpture of the Aztec god of rain named Tlaloc and an underwater mural located at the site of one of the city’s water system hydraulic structures at the Dolores Cárcamo Museum.
The water system that supplies the city is one of the largest manmade water supply systems in the world and is the source of water to many residents in Mexico City and other zones in Mexico. The idea of adding art at this site was to commemorate the work and highlight the importance of water that is literally the origin of life.
To add even more “art”, in 2010, when the sculpture needed some work done on it, artist Ariel Guzik made a sound box that uses the white noise produced from the water in the fountain, the sound of wind and the sun’s movements to create a sound interpretation of those three elements.
For more info about the park, check out my friend Cassie’s article about the sculpture and Chapultepec Park here.
Southerner Says: there’s a restaurant built into the evening itinerary below but If you prefer to eat in the park, Del Bosque is a lovely restaurant on one of Chapultepec’s lakes.
Evening – Back to the historic district in time for dinner, just a few blocks from your hotel and the Zocalo is Cafe de Tacuba. This timeless Mexico City restaurant has been serving traditional Mexican food since 1912. It’s a beautiful space to enjoy a typical meal after a busy day.
Next, you can’t have a weekend in Mexico City without visiting one of the prettiest building in Mexico City, the Palacio de Bellas Artes. In fact, you’ve probably already seen photos of it online or on Instagram.
The Palace of Fine Arts is the cultural center in Mexico City and the inside features more art by Diego Rivera and others. Additionally the palace has seasonal events and programs, with one of the most popular being the long running Ballet Folklorico.
This beautifully produced show tells the story of the Mexica and indigenous people of Mexico. Full of music, dances and exotic costumes – it’s an amazing production.
For a nightcap and a stunning view of the city, make one last stop of the day at the Mirador Torre Latinoamerica. This iconic tower was once the tallest building in Mexico City.
Even though there are taller building now, because of its location, the Latin-American Tower still has one of the most impressive views in all the city. To get to the top floors, there are a couple of options. Tickets can be purchased for the visitor viewing platform on the 44th floor.
However, for nighttime views, there’s a restaurant on the 41st floor and a bar on the 40th where guests can dine and drink in without a ticket. My recommendation is to call ahead and make a reservation.
Weekend in Mexico City – Day 3 (Bonus)
Since a three days in Mexico City is even better than just a weekend, here are my recommendations for what to do with that time. Note that museums are closed on Monday and many Mexican holidays fall on Monday so planning is important.
Day 3 – after spending two days in the city, why not head out of town and visit what in my opinion is the most impressive archeological site in Mexico – the pyramids of Teotihuacan.
Located approximately 25 miles from the city, in the state of Mexico, Teotihuacan tops my list of things to do near Mexico City and is a perfect add on to a weekend in Mexico City.
Teotihuacan is one of the most architecturally significant finds in all of Mexico and is the largest pre-Columbian city. Because of its importance, it’s also been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This ancient city has many structures and small pyramids but the star is the stunning Pyramid of the Sun, the largest of the structures found at Teotihuacan. It’s the third largest pyramid in the world.
On my first trip to Mexico City, there was hardly anything in the area but the pyramids. A lot has changed in recent years. More tourists means more attractions and more things to do around the site.
Personally I don’t think it necessary to add anything to such a amazing place but visitors who want more, have the opportunity to see the pyramids from above on a hot air balloon ride.
To make a day of it, visit nearby San Juan Teotihuacan. This small town has plenty of shopping and is a great stop for lunch or dinner after visiting the pyramids. A restaurant I highly recommend is La Gruta.
In Spanish, gruta means grotto or cave. This restaurant is located in a one of the caves in the area. It’s gorgeous and one of the most unique dining experiences I’ve ever had. I also had the most amazing corn cake dessert.
There are several ways to get to Teotihuacan. You could go by bus, organized tour and even Uber. Of course, if you have a car, you can also drive. There is parking on site.
Visiting the pyramids can be done as a half day excursion if you leave early but I recommend an all day outing. The site is very large and involves a lot of walking so make sure you wear comfortable shoes.
More Weekend in Mexico City Ideas
If you find yourself in Mexico City for even longer, here’s more things I recommend:
- Day 4 – explore the Coyoacan neighborhood and visit Frida Kahlo’s Blue House.
- Day 5 – visit some of the markets around the city and take boat ride at the floating gardens of Xochimilco. My friend Cassie has an excellent article about visiting Xochimilco.
Mexico City Quick Guide
Mexico City is the capital of Mexico. It’s the most populated city in North America and the oldest capital in America. A popular tourist destination, the city offers more than 150 museums, countless restaurants and bars.
- Airport Code – MEX
- Language – Spanish
- Currency – Mexican Peso (MXN)
- Climate – subtropical highland
- Best time to visit – Nov-May
Mexico City is approximately 7,349 feet above sea level. Even though it’s situated fairly south, due to its high elevation, the temperatures are are not as warm as one would expect. It’s always a good idea to have a sweater or light jacket on hand. June thru October is rainy season and a packable rain jacket, poncho or umbrella is a always a good idea.
Final Thoughts on a Weekend in Mexico City
One thing for certain is there’s always something to do in Mexico City and in the historic center especially. Throughout the year and seasons, you’ll find special events and activities not to mention plenty of street entertainment and music.
Since Mexico City is so large and there’s so much to do, you might feel pressured to pack a lot into your trip. And that’s highly understandable. However, fight that feeling a bit and make some time to just walk around and enjoy and soak it all up. I’m betting you’ll fall in love with Mexico City, too.