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  • Writer's pictureMaria

Quintessential Mexico City in Three Days or Less

Updated: 6 days ago

American Express Travel has just announced the top 10 trending destinations to visit in 2023, and Mexico City is on the list. Always Pack Tissues shares her itinerary from 2018 to get you started on your planning!

Note: Always Pack Tissues represents many tried and tested travel sites as what is called an 'affiliate' partner. That means if you click on my ads I may get a commission from a resulting sale.

Need to Know

Truth be told, all you really need is a long weekend to experience Mexico City, but you should linger longer. A few tips to begin:

  • It's 7,382ft elevation - higher than Denver - so be sure to drink lots of water and take it easy on your body the first day.

  • Being at higher altitude, the weather will be chilly in the morning and evenings but the sun will be brutal during the day, even if you don't feel the heat. Wear lots of sunblock.

  • Uber is available (or at least it was in 2018), watch the rating scores of your driver

  • Taxis are a good way to get around

  • There are subways that we didn't take, just be safe

  • Don't know where to stay? Start here: Show me hotel deals in Mexico

My favorite area of town: Polanco

Seek out Polanco for a feel of Europe. Tree lined streets and green spaces are plentiful in this area, along with old biddies walking their tiny poodles and teacup pups. Restaurants offer varied European cuisine and there's a lot of your standard Marriott style hotels in this area too. When I go back, this will be my home base.

The Best Day with a Family: Chapultapec Park

Enjoy walking up the hill to the castle, visit the zoo and the Anthropology museum. Make sure to stop and try some Dorilokos, popular taco-inspired bags of Doritos topped with taco meat and garnish. A great snack!

Street food stand reading "Dorilokos"
Dorilokos stand in Chapultapec Park

Below, dig in a little deeper to the details:

Day 1: Walking Tour of Mexico City

Morning: fly in by lunch time

Starting in the Centro Historico, check into your hotel and get the lay of the land.

A colorful local market
Mercado de la Merced

Walk to Mercado de la Merced. Be aware you will see a lot of "Red Light District" type of stuff going on, and big crowds. Stick close together and browse the many lanes of shopping. You'll see more local stuff here than souvenirs. Think socks, belts, kitchenwares, etc. Definitely stop and try any one of the dozens of stands offering "tlacoyos", a Mexico City street food. It's basically a tostada with all sorts of meat, onions and flavors on top. YUM.

A girl makes tortillas at a street food stand
One of many must-try tlacoyos street food stands

My finished tlacoyo with all the fixings
My finished tlacoyo with all the fixings

For more touristy shopping, try La Ciudadela for typical Mexican souvenirs. From there, walk the 15 min to Palacio de Bellas Artes. It's a beautiful building in itself, but grab the best views at the secret cafe across the street. It's inside the Sears on the top floor. Order a coffee and snap some pics! It's called Cafe Don Porfirio.

A historic building with a gilded roof and mountains in the background
Palacio de Bellas Artes

Walk back towards Zocalo taking Paseo Madero. Here you will find a pedestrian street with shops, restaurants and cafes. Walk past Templo Mayor, through Zocalo square and main palace building.

Large historic building
Zocalo - the main square

Day 2: Visit Teotihuacan

Housing the third largest pyramid in the world, Teotihuacan is an outstanding day trip, best started as soon as you wake up. 31 miles NE of Mexico City, you can take a bus or we just ponied up and took a taxi.

You do not need a tour to visit the ancient city. Just arrive at the gates and buy a ticket. Even if it is a little chilly, bring a hat, sunglasses and lots of sunblock. We were beaten by the sun the day we visited. Enjoy the VERY large complex on foot before taking a quick walk from the pyramids over to La Gruta. Literally "cave" in Spanish, this is a great little touristy spot for outstanding cocktails and food in a cave setting. A nice and cool respite from the beating sun after a long morning of walking.

Once you get back from the pyramids, take a beat from the heat. Later, take uber or the metro to Chapultapec Castle and stroll through the park. If desired, visit the Anthropology museum. You can also save this stuff for your third day if you don't want to take too much on in one day.

Night two dinner should be in Polanco - we recommend Jaleo bar de tapas. For a night cap, uber to the Roma neighborhood to try some pulque at La Nuclear Pulqueria.

Beautiful stained glass windows at the Chapultapec castle
Beautiful stained glass windows at the Chapultapec castle

City views and opulence at Chapultapec castle
City views and opulence at Chapultapec castle

A saloon door opens with "La Nuclear Pulqueria" sign on top
A popular saloon for trying pulque - the "nectar of the gods"

Optional add-ons or swaps:

  • Saturday market at San Angel with lunch at the legendary San Angel Inn

  • Boat ride (trajinera) through Floating Gardens of Xochimilco

  • Coyoacan and Frida Kahlo museum - expect long lines

Day 3: Spend the morning doing whatever you missed. Fly out in the afternoon.

Next time: add a side trip to Guanajuato for a few more days of fun!

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