Mexico almost seems like a home away from home for my husband and me! With every trip to Mexico, we fall in love with this amazing country. Mexicans are some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet and their warmhearted culture is so welcoming. During the last few years, we visited several touristy resort towns in the Yucatan peninsula and on the Pacific side, such as Cancun, Tulum, Mazatlan, Los Cabos, etc. So for this trip, we opted for a more authentic experience in Mexico City — to dive into the culture and architecture of this historic colonial city and it ended up being one of our best trips!
The city is built on the ruins of Tenochitlan, the capital of the Aztec empire. It contains numerous historical buildings dating back to the 16th-century. It has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its amazingly rich historical and cultural significance. Mexico City is quickly becoming popular among tourists and recognized for its architecture, cuisine and culture. As one of the largest cities in the world with a population of almost 9 million, Mexico City is sprawling and busy. There’s always something to do here! You’ll find museums, historic churches, plazas, buildings, and incredible parks. Most of its tourist attractions are all centered around a fairly small geographical area.
The first thing that comes to mind, when you think of Mexico city is dangerous, dirty, polluted and crowded. If this is your impression of Mexico city, you could not be more wrong. We were pleasantly surprised to see how safe and clean the city was, and there was a lot of traffic, but no honking or crazy drivers on the streets of Mexico City.
Mexico City is one of those destinations that you truly need to experience for yourself. It’s time to reconsider what you think about the Mexican capital, be adventurous and explore all the wonderful things this city offers! This gem in Latin America is the perfect place for a weekend getaway. Best of all, Mexico is an affordable place to travel, as the cost of living is low compared to the United States.
We are excited to share the details of our trip and our recommendations with you! Here are suggestions on what to see, where to stay, what to do, what to eat and explore the beautiful Mexico City in 3 days.
Where to stay?
Mexico City offers plenty of options to stay in some of the most unusual neighborhoods. You can’t go wrong if you chose any of the following neighborhoods.
- Paseo de La Reforma is one of the most exciting neighborhoods in Mexico City. This part of town is known for its monuments, street vendors and a bustling nightlife scene. La Reforma is Mexico City’s version of Times Square and it hosts the majestic La Angel de Independencia. Visitors who are staying in this pedestrian friendly area of the city can enjoy breathtaking views of the city at night.
- Roma is home to Mexico City’s quirky subculture. The neighborhood plays host to many art installations, and visitors could spend several hours admiring the murals throughout the neighborhood. This is considered to be one of the coolest places to stay in Mexico City with some of the best restaurants and bars.
- La Condesa is trendy, urban, chic and a popular location for young people. The neighborhood is home to designer boutiques, beautiful parks, and a world-class nightlife scene.
- Centro Historico or El Centro is the historic center of Mexico City and has some of the country’s most incredible architecture. The old city center is centered around the Plaza de La Constitucion, an area with narrow cobblestone streets and distinctly European architecture.
- Polanco is the Beverly Hills of Mexico city! Do you need a better explanation of what this neighborhood has to offer? It’s known for upscale shopping, dining, art galleries and more museums. It is centrally located within the city and the area is very pedestrian-friendly and you can enjoy a beautiful stroll in the evening in this luxurious neighborhood.
We decided to stay in the centrally located Paseo de la Reforma neighborhood, so that we can easily access all the major attractions around Mexico City. We stayed at the Le Meridien hotel, which was ~25 minutes from the airport, so it was very convenient for our quick getaway trip to Mexico City. The hotel is also ~8 min walk from the metro station if you go with public transportation. The Le Meridien Mexico City hotel location had everything within walking distance. The hotel location was a 5 min walk from the Monumento a la Revolución, half a mile from the Angel of the Independence, and one mile from Zócalo. We loved exploring the city, getting lost in the the local attractions and soaking in the culture.
Polanco, Centro Historico, Roma or Condesa are the most popular neighborhoods in Mexico City for tourists. Our suggestion is to pick something that is close to what you plan to do. We always prefer staying close to the heart of the city and it’s easy to get to the most important landmarks. Here are a few suggestions for some upscale hotels — St. Regis Mexico City, Villa Condesa, Hotel Gran Ciudad de Mexico, Condesa DF, Hotel Carlota, Chaya B&B, Las Alcobas, Casa Prim Boutique and La Valise.
What to see?
Did you know that Mexico City has the largest number of museums of any city in the world? You can spend a week in Mexico city and not get tired of everything this city has to offer. Our trip was time-boxed to a long weekend, so we picked some of the top attractions.
- Angel of Independence — El Ángel or Monumento a la Independencia, is a victory column in the center of a roundabout on the major thoroughfare of Paseo de la Reforma in downtown Mexico City. This is one of the most representative symbols of Mexico City and the whole country. The monument was constructed to pay tribute to the heroes of Mexico’s Independence. It was inaugurated on September 16, 1910 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Mexico’s Independence.
- Chapultepec Park and Castillo de Chapultepec — This is a huge park and you can spend an entire day here. There are several market stalls, cafés, etc. You can climb up the hill to the impressive and beautiful Chapultepec castle to watch the sun set over the city. The castle closes at 5 pm local time, so if you want to check out the museum make sure you arrive here early.
- Zócalo, Alameda, Palacio de Bellas Artes — Zócalo is located in the heart of Mexico City and it’s one of the largest public plazas in the world. This area is beautiful to take a stroll as it’s surrounded by museums, cathedrals and restaurants. Zócalo is one of the city’s most famous attractions! The Palacio de Bellas Artes, or the Fine Arts Palace, is one of most beautiful buildings in all of Mexico City with its unique and intricate domed top.
- Catedral Metropolitana De La Ciudad De Mexico — We felt this to be one of the most beautiful cathedrals we’ve seen and it’s one of the largest churches in Latin America. This famous cathedral dominates the Zócalo area in Mexico city. There are very friendly and helpful guides throughout the cathedral who can describe some of the most intricate details of its history. We loved this amazing place!
- Frida Kahlo Museum — One of Mexico city’s top attractions. Even if you are not a fan of Kahlo’s art, the museum, which is housed in her former home, is less about her art and more about Kahlo as a person – and what a fascinating person she was. Strolling through the place where Kahlo spent most of her time, you can see where she slept, the art studio where she worked, and the lounge room for entertaining her friends. The beautiful garden is ideal for a nice stroll.
What to do?
- Visit the Teotihuacán and take a hot air balloon ride to the Sun and Moon Pyramids — Teotihuacán is a quick 1-hour road trip from Mexico city and it’ll be one of the most unforgettable road trips you’ve ever taken. Teotihuacán is shrouded in mystery and it was once Mesoamerica’s greatest city. This complex of majestic temples is known for its two massive pyramids — Pirámide del Sol or Pyramid of the Sun and Pirámide de la Luna or Pyramid of the Moon. The Pyramid of the Sun is the largest pyramid at Teotihuacán and the third largest pyramid in the world. We decided to purchase a hot air balloon tour, which includes roundtrip transportation to the pyramids. It is a bit expensive, but definitely worth the money. The company picked us up around 5 am in the morning from our hotel, so we took one of the first hot air balloons up to the see the pyramids from high up the sky. We spent the day at the pyramids and decided to check out La Gruta restaurant after the tour. Make sure you have an entire day set aside to check out the Pyramid of the Sun, Pyramid of the Moon, Temple of the Feathered Serpent, Palace of Quetzlpapalotl and Avenue of the Dead. My husband was a little uneasy about the balloon ride yet in the end he absolutely loved it!
- Enjoy a scenic boat ride at Xochimilco — Be sure to check out Xochimilco (pronounced: So-chi-mil-co) and spend the afternoon floating through the canals on brightly painted boats called trajineras. A fair price is $350 pesos per boat per hour. It is ideal to visit this place on a weekend when the locals and tourists visit. The place will be filled with people and music. Xochimilco, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is one of the last remnants of Lake Texcoco. A trajinera (flat-bottomed boat) excursion here is one of the best things to do in Mexico City. Local families hire trajineras for special occasions and parties with friends, passing through the famous canals perhaps to the tune of a mariachi band. Be sure to ask your boat captain to take you to the island of dolls, it’s creepy and awesome! While there are various routes to take on a trajinera, some pass by chinampas, another remnant of Aztec civilization. Tenochtitlan did not have arable land, so the Aztecs created it. Chinampas are artificial islands formed by woven mats underneath the water’s surface that are staked into the ground to build a fence. Mud and aquatic vegetation fill the space between the fence until topsoil appears above water level. Crops grown on the chinampas included maize, beans, squash, tomatoes, and chilies. Today in Xochimilco, you might see these same crops in addition to tules (used for woven mats), flowers and more.
- Visit a local Mexican market — Head to one of Mexico City’s many markets for lunch. We visited the famous Coyoacan market located near the Frida Kahlo museum. It had a staggering maze of vegetables, hardware, piñatas – you name it. If you’re brave enough, you should try the fried crickets or scorpion tacos.
What to eat?
Mexico City’s food is some of the best in the world, and we recommend you to taste as much traditional Mexican cuisine as you can!
- La Gruta, Restaurant at the Sun and Moon Pyramids — Meaning “grotto” this is an underground restaurant that serves traditional Mexican cuisine inside a volcanic cave. If you visit the Sun and the Moon pyramids in the city of Teotihuacan, which is around an hour’s drive northwest of Mexico City, you can’t miss one of the country’s most-spectacular places to eat situated just behind the ancient landmark. La Gruta offers a truly unique dining experience!
- Taqueria El Progreso — You’ll find taqueria’s serving up delicious tacos, tamales, chilaquiles etc. pretty much on every street. Yes, you will eat a lot of tacos when you’re in Mexico City, and it never gets boring. We had some delicous chorizo breakfast tacos right on the street and it was amazing.
- Restaurante El Cardenal — This restaurant is an excellent place to try authentic Mexican food and it is a popular destination for breakfast. The freshly baked bread is one of the most perfect deliciousness you will ever have! We had the Escamoles al epazote for lunch! After reading the reviews, I had to try it. Escamoles are the edible larvae and pupae of ants harvested from the roots of the Agave tequilana (tequila) plants in Mexico – super weird and yummy with a unique buttery taste.
- La Hacienda D Los Morales — This restaurant offers fine dining at its best. The location was once a historic residence for Mexican socialites. It’s known for its charming interiors, romantic ambiance and impeccable service. Hacienda de los Morales has numerous accolades, including Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence. The building dates from the 16th century, and it has retained its colonial style. The hacienda exudes history and it is truly enchanting!
How to save money?
- Eat Street Food — Mexico city is known for its street food. Typical Mexican dishes include enchiladas, tamales, tacos, guacamole, etc. You can eat delicious food at the local markets or street vendors for a few dollars. Our only suggestion would be to avoid ice in your drinks when you eat on the street.
- Share a Uber or Lyft — We used Uber for our entire trip. You can rent a car, but trying to find a parking spot in this city is not worth it. You can save money by using Uber POOL or Shared Lyft, which is a shared ride that allows you to split the cost of your ride with a stranger who is headed in a similar direction as you. Plus it can be a fun way to meet other tourists and learn of fun places to visit.
- Save money on currency exchange — Mexico uses the Mexican Peso and 1 USD is typically equal to ~18 Pesos although the exchange rate fluctuates. Some resort cities may accept U.S. dollars. However, it’s likely that you will be charged more if you paid in dollars. You should have some pesos on hand when you land in Mexico to buy a bottles of water, a snack or pay for a taxi. Based on our experience, it is best to exchange currency at your local bank before your trip. You’ll spend less in fees versus exchanging currency at the airport or the hotel. NOTE: You may need to order the currency from your bank with several days notice.
- Book hotel accommodations in advance — Upscale properties in Mexico offer discounts up to 30 percent for travelers who book their stays three months or more in advance. Shop for hotel deals and use coupons on orbitz.com or hotels.com when you book your hotel room.
May we recommend?
Our recommendations for anyone hoping to travel to this spectacular destination:
- Museums are closed on Mondays, so if you are planning a long weekend in Mexico City make sure that you plan your activities accordingly. You can always tour the local markets or take a day trip to Teotihuacan on the Monday.
- Do not rent a car… Getting around in Mexico city is easy. Uber works really well and it is very inexpensive. You can also use public transportation to get around.
- Carry pesos with you at all times. You can use credit cards at large restaurants and some locations, but if you want to buy something on the street or a local market, it is always good to have pesos with you
- Stay within the central part of Mexico city. Don’t stray too far outside the city center, just to save money. You’ll waste a lot of time commuting instead of enjoying the many places to see.
Mexico City is arguably one of the most underrated travel destinations in the world. Also known as “CDMX”, this city is so worth your time, so put it on your travel list! You won’t run out of things to do in Mexico City… we guarantee it!
And remember… Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer!