Got 3 days in Mexico City? Follow my detailed Mexico City itinerary to delve deep into the city’s rich culinary culture and history.
It’s massive, energetic, and frankly, misunderstood. For years, Mexico City had a bad reputation for its ties with drug lords and the cartel. As the 6th largest city in the world by population (home to almost 21 million people), the high-octane megalopolis can be pretty damn overwhelming.
But make no mistake. These days, Mexico City is cleaning up its act. By distancing itself from the drug war, the capital city is now largely safe for visitors. It has also become the cultural heart of the country and a great first introduction to Mexico.
We were very surprised by just how vibrant, fun and interesting the city is. With more museums than any other city in the entire world, Mexico City is definitely worth a visit for culture vultures and history buffs. Plus, the city is studded with charming neighborhoods, old-school cantinas, and awesome street food!
My Mexico City Itinerary
If you’ve only got 3 days in Mexico City, this itinerary will help you make the most of your time there and see as much as possible. I’ve included the best of the city, as well as the best places to eat and stay in Mexico City.
Click on the links below to skip to each section:
- Day 1: Explore the Historic Center
- Day 2: Visit the areas of Coyoacan, San Angel & Chapultepec
- Day 3: Day trip to Teotihuacan pyramids
- How to Get to Mexico City
- Best Time to Visit Mexico City
- How Many Days in Mexico City?
- How to Get Around Mexico City
- Where to Stay in Mexico City
- Best Places to Eat in Mexico City
- Internet in Mexico City
- Cost of Travel in Mexico City
Day 1: Explore Centro Historico
Don’t be overwhelmed by the size of Mexico City – just focus on different sections of the city each day and you’ll do just fine. On the first day of this Mexico City itinerary, we will start in the Centro Historico or Historic Center, packed with gorgeous colonial buildings and museums galore.
Wander around the Palacio Bellas Artes
One of the most famous landmarks of Centro Historico is the Palace of Fine Arts, housing the country’s most important art collections. It focuses on the Mexican muralists such as Diego Rivera and his contemporaries. Rooms and exhibits follow a chronological order, first looking at works from the ancient pre-Hispanic period, then the colonial era, and finally art from an independent Mexico.
Explore Zocalo Square and Surroundings
The Zocalo sits at the very heart of the historic center of Mexico City. The grand square is flanked by the Palacio Nacional (National Palace) on one side and the impressive Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral to the other. The square is always buzzing with life, from indigenous Mayan performers to street vendors and tourists.
Visit Museo Templo Mayor
Just behind the city Cathedral lies one of the city’s most impressive sights – the Templo Mayor. These are the ruins left behind from the great Aztec temple and the ancient city of Tenochtitlán, which was destroyed when the Spaniards conquered Mexico.
It wasn’t until the 1970s, that some electricity workers discovered this amazing site, buried beneath the ground. Although it’s mostly just ruins today, you can still make out important religious carvings such as snakeheads and skulls. It’s free to view the temple from the various viewing platforms.
Eat a Traditional Mexican Restaurant
When you’re finished, treat yourself to lunch nearby at Azul Historico or Restaurant El Cardenal, two of the best traditional Mexican restaurants in the area. Azul Historico offers excellent multi-course lunches and has a beautiful, open courtyard lit up with tea lights. Restaurant El Cardenal is more of an institution well-loved by both locals and visitors. Their menu is definitely one of the best in town.
Join a Night Street Food Tour
By night, street food vendors ply the streets of Centro Historico with delicious and authentic Mexican fare. To get under the surface of the street food scene here, we joined a night street food tour and had an amazing time learning about Mexican street food.
This after-dark taco tour consists of an epic, six-course menu covering the city’s essential styles like brisket, canasta, and al pastor, plus beverage pairings like pulque and beer. Do ask about the post-taco private tasting of Mexican spirits, a one-of-a-kind chance to sip mezcals from lesser-known regions like Durango and San Luis Potosí.
Book Your Tour here:
Day 2: Venture Beyond the City Center
Explore the Coyoacan Neighborhood
On the second day of our Mexico City itinerary, head out to explore the district of Coyoacan. The beautiful neighborhood is lined with colorful colonial style homes, cute cafes and boutiques. It is a slightly upscale residential area with lots of Airbnbs for those who prefer to stay in a quiet area. You could easily spend a day getting lost in the tranquil streets of Coyoacan, as there are tons to see and experience.
Visit Museo Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo has become a Mexican icon and her paintings have become loved throughout the world. Her house, known as the Casa Azul, has been converted into a museum. 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. Book your tickets here!
Wander through Mercado Coyoacan
After you visit the Frida Kahlo house, walk next door to Restaurante Antiguo San Angel Inn, a legendary institution for those looking for good food. But if you’re on a budget, head to the Coyoacan Market, around a 20-minute walk from the Frida’s Casa Azul.
It’s a great place to pick up some great souvenirs and to stop for a bit of lunch. The market is filled with small stalls serving up some of Mexico’s most authentic dishes, from stuffed chile poblanos to tacos and quesadillas.
Stroll through the San Angel
This picturesque neighborhood of San Angel, just southwest of Coyoacan, is a pleasant and leafy neighborhood worth visiting. If you happen to be in Mexico City on a Saturday, consider checking out the weekly Saturday bazaar that takes place here.
You’ll find streets and parks lined with artists and local vendors. Eventually, make your way to a building known as the bazaar (northwest of the Plaza San Jacinto).
Hike in the Bosque de Chapultepec
Head back towards the center, stopping at the great Bosque de Chapultepec along the way. This huge park is the city’s green lung and covers a whopping 686 hectares, making it one of the largest city parks in the western hemisphere.
Filled with green meadows, forested areas and lakes, the Chapultepec Park itself is home to several museums and monuments. The name Chapultepec is a Nahuatl word which means “at the grasshopper’s hill”.
Wander around Chapultepec Castle
One of the monuments worth visiting in the park is the Chapultepec Castle. It is located on top of a hill, thus offeringThe castle unparalleled views of Mexico City. The site of the hill was a sacred place for Aztecs, and the buildings atop it have served several purposes during its history, including that of Military Academy and Presidential residence, and since the 1940s, the National Museum of History. Get your tickets here.
Visit Museo Nacional de Antropología
You could easily spend all day in the National Anthropology Museum, but limit yourself to just the afternoon, so you don’t feel overwhelmed by too much information. Here you’ll find everything you’d ever wanted to know about Mexico’s ancient cultures, from the Mayans and the Aztecs to the Toltecs. It’s packed with replicas of ancient cities, as well as original indigenous art. Book your tickets here!
Watch a Lucha Libre Show
If you’re a fan of Lucha Libre (Mexican wrestling), Mexico City is the best place to see it live in action. Lucha Libre is dramatic, acrobatic, and a little bit wild. You will be amused by the drama and impressed by the acrobatic skills of the luchadores.
There are three arenas in Mexico City where you can see Lucha Libre. Arena Mexico in Colonia Doctores is the largest of the three and hosts luchas every Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday night. Check out the lineup on the website of the CMLL (Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre). You can get your tickets (around $10) on the same day, so you don’t even need to plan in advance.
Eat Street Food in Centro Historico
After the street food tour last night, you would probably hooked on street food in Mexico City! Head to Alameda for some of the best tacos you’ll ever have. Don’t forget to try my favorite esquite (spicy corn with lime) and elote (corn on the cob smothered with mayonnaise and cheese). Then enjoy a mezcal with a plate of grasshoppers in the bars of pedestrianised streets of San Jeronimo and Regina.
Day 3: Explore Beyond Mexico City
Visit the Ancient Ruins of Teotihuacan
If you have more time, we highly recommend making a day trip to Teotihuacan on the last day of your Mexico City itinerary. Located 30 miles (50 km) northeast of modern-day Mexico City, Teotihuacan is an ancient Mesoamerican city and one of the most famous ruins in Mexico.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site was settled as early as 400 B.C. and became the most powerful and influential city in the region by 400 A.D. The Aztecs found the city in the 1400s and named it Teotihuacan (meaning “the place where the gods were created”).
We recommend booking a day tour to Teotihuacan so you can understand the history better with a knowledgable guide. We booked this tour and had an excellent guide, who told us interesting stories and made the place come alive.
Book Your Tour here:
Treat Yourself to the Best Mexican Meal
To end your 3 days in Mexico with your bang, head to the famous Zéfiro for a gourmet, contemporary Mexican meal. Located inside an 18th century neoclassical building, this restaurant offers dishes and desserts presented in a bold and innovative way. It offers an interesting selection of Mexican cocktails and an eclectic atmosphere that combines the past with the present.
Experience the Nightlife in Mexico City
If you’re not too tired, we recommend checking out Mexico City’s traditional bars and modern clubs. Cantina Tío Pepe dates back to the 19th century, making it one of the oldest cantinas in downtown Mexico City. With its beautiful carved-wood bar and stained glass work, this traditional spot is great spot for people watching.
Another place we love is Bósforo, a hip mezcal bar hidden away on a dark sidestreet in Centro Historico. It plays trippy music, has a mezzanine with cushions on the ground instead of seats, and serves a wild list of great mezcals.
How to Get to Mexico City
The main gateway to Mexico City is the Mexico City Airport (also known as Benito Juarez International Airport). The national airline, AeroMexico, flies daily from many major cities in the US.
Flying into Mexico City from the US is quite affordable. You can fly from Los Angeles to Mexico City for as little as $300 return (4-hour flight). Flying from Europe to Mexico is also cheap, especially from London and Madrid. We took direct return flights from Madrid to Cancun once for $400.
There is a very convenient and fast bus service that runs from Mexico City Airport to the city centre, the Metrobus line 4. These buses operate from 4:30 to 00:00 daily and take only 30 minutes to reach the centre of Mexico City. Tickets cost just 30 Pesos ($1.30) one-way.
Best Time to Visit Mexico City
The best time to visit Mexico City is during the dry season between December and April, when there is virtually no rain.
The coolest months are between December and February, although temperatures can reach averages of 82°F (28℃) during the dry season. The wet season begins in the south in May and lasts until October.
Mexico City celebrates many cultural festivals throughout the year. The biggest ones are in Semana Santa (Easter) in April and Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) on the first two days of November.
How Many Days in Mexico City?
Mexico City is HUGE, and if you want to see it all, I’d say you need a week in Mexico City. But most of us don’t have so much time to spare, and we’d rather have the option to explore the rest of Mexico. So 3 days in Mexico City are perfect in my opinion.
This Mexico City itinerary is pretty intense and packed with lots of things to do. Be prepared to be on the go from morning to night. I have also included a few street food nights out, but if you prefer to eat in restaurants, check out my restaurant recommendations.
For those who rather explore at a slower pace, I recommend removing the day trip to Teotihuacan. That way you will have three complete days in Mexico City to explore other neighborhoods.
How to Get Around Mexico City
One of the best ways to get around Mexico City is the metro system, which is cheap and easy to use. Just buy a ticket (“bolleto” in Spanish) from the booth. A metro ticket costs only 5 Pesos ($0.23). You can change as many times as you need to without having to purchase the ticket.
The only issue is that it can get extremely crowded, particularly during rush hours. Try to avoid times when locals are going to or home from work as much as possible.
Another great way to get around is by using Uber. There are a lot of Uber drivers in the city, so you’ll never have to wait long for a car. They’re supposedly safer than the regular city taxi in Mexico City because you can track exactly where you’re going.
Where to Stay in Mexico City
Budget: La Querencia DF
This budget-friendly bed & breakfast is housed in a colonial-style home in Roma Norte, one of the city’s hippest neighborhoods. You’ll notice it straight away because of its bright orange color and cute little balconies. Rooms are brightly colored, clean and cozy. Check the rates here.
Midrange: Chaya Bed & Breakfast Boutique
This cheerful three-star hotel is located right in the heart of the historic center, close to the grand Palacio de Bellas Artes. Rooms are clean and bright with polished concrete floors and lots of plants. There’s a stylish and cozy lounge area and hammocks out on the rooftop. Check the rates here.
Luxury: Las Alcobas DF
This boutique hotel is located in the upscale Polanco area of the city, not far from the huge Bosque de Chapultepec park. It is an exclusive and intimate place, perfect for romance. There is also a relaxing spa and wellness center to unwind. Check the rates here.
Best Places to Eat in Mexico City
Located in the Centro Historico, Taqueria Los Cocuyos is probably the most famous taco stand in the city. This tiny stall produces authentic, handmade tacos 24 hours a day. Everything here is excellent, but we like the longaniza and campechano the most. Read TripAdvisor reviews.
One of the most famous traditional restaurants in Centro Historico is Azul Historico. This was also our favorite restaurant in Mexico City. They offer excellent multi-course lunches made up of traditional Mexican fare. They’ve also got a beautiful, open courtyard lit up with tea lights by night. Read Tripadvisor reviews.
San Angel Inn
After you visit the Frida Kahlo house, walk next door to Restaurante Antiguo San Angel Inn. If the wedding scene in The Godfather actually took place in Mexico City, it would have been filmed here. Located inside a former monastery with a beautiful courtyard, this is the kind of legendary place that’s a destination on its own. Read TripAdvisor reviews.
El Hidalguense is only open on weekends (Friday-Sunday, 7am-6pm), but come to this massive Roma Sur restaurant any time during those hours and expect to walk into the biggest party in the neighborhood. Large families eating giant plates of barbacoa (it’s their specialty), and friends sipping mezcal shots and housing tacos. Read TripAdvisor reviews.
Internet & Data in Mexico City
Internet in Mexico City is pretty fast and reliable, and you can get WiFi in most hotels and guesthouses.
If you need internet for work or plan to spend at least 2 weeks in Mexico, I recommend getting a SIM card at the airport upon arrival. You can also get it in any OXXO shop in Mexico City.
A SIM card itself costs between 29 and 149 pesos (around $1-6 USD). We bought 3GB of data valid for 30 days on the sin limite plan (unlimited) for 200 pesos (~8 USD.) That will also give you unlimited calls, texts, and most social media within North America.
There are three cell service providers in Mexico:
- Telcel – the most expensive but has the widest coverage (this was the company we went with).
- Movistar – faster network and cheaper plans, but you won’t get coverage in as many places.
- AT&T – a relatively-recent addition with a smaller coverage area, although it’s growing quickly.
Cost of Travel in Mexico City
Mexico City is generally very affordable, especially if you eat local and stay in guesthouses. With 3 days in Mexico City, we spent around $200 per person, including accommodation and tours. If you follow this Mexico City itinerary, you won’t spend more than that.
We recommend getting around Mexico City by public transport. The metro and buses are very cheap. A metro ticket costs only 5 Pesos ($0.23). We spent at most $2 per day on transport.
Accommodation usually ranges from $30 for a simple guesthouse room to $150 for a 4-star hotel. Mexican food is incredibly good and cheap everywhere. You can get $1 a meal if you’re on a tight budget, or $5-10 per meal in a restaurant.
Planning A Trip around Mexico?
This Mexico City itinerary will give you a taste of just how incredible Mexico is. But there’s so much more to Mexico!
We definitely recommend exploring more of Mexico to experience the country’s rich history, incredible Mayan ruins, colonial towns and beaches. There are so many areas we love, including the Yucatan Peninsula and Guanajuato.
One of the best ways to explore the country is renting a car. You get to experience things at your own pace and enjoy the freedom and flexibility of a Mexico road trip. Plus it’s safe, comfortable and super cheap. We always use Discover Cars as they’ve always offered the best rates and great customer service.
Read my articles on Mexico below:
- My 2-Week Mexico Itinerary
- 35 Things to Do in Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
- Exploring Rio Secreto in Yucatan
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