Your Local Guide to seeing Mexico City in 3 Days
Author: James Robertson | Last Updated: 4 Oct 2019
Mexico City is one of the biggest cities in the world, and thanks to that, there is always something to visit or going on. Be it a family trip, a business trip, or a trip with friends, you can find something that will fit your schedule and leave all traveling parties happy to have come. The thing about Mexico City’s tourist spots and things to do is that they are somewhat spread out all over so if you’re only here for a smaller time frame than three days, you might need to change up my schedule and leave out what does not interest you.
Having lived here, I dare say that we do not visit the tourist spots often. Crossing the city can be chaotic and take lots of time, so we mostly visit these spots when we have family and friends visiting. I do want to make some points against tourist stereotypes of my city that might stop you from visiting it. Mexico City is a big city, and just like its’ American and European counterparts, it can be dangerous in some areas. BUT, you just need to follow basic security rules and use your common sense to avoid having a bad experience. Leave the flashy stuff behind, look after your belongings, only take official taxis (they will have a sitio sign) and always check your Uber’s license plates, avoid shady areas at night and watch out for pickpockets. If you take all of these precautions, rest assured, Mexico’s safe for tourists. You do not need to rent a car to move through the city, you can take the metro or Uber, it is really cheap here compared to the States.
Always remember that my city is sadly polluted and doesn’t have the best air quality year-round, so if you’re sensible, it might be a good idea to have a back-up surgical mask so that you can breathe easily if there’s a lousy pollution day.
And last but not least, be a nice tourist! Even if most Mexicans speak English, it’s always lovely when tourists learn the basic words in our language. Hola, Buenos días/tardes/noches, Adiós, Por favor y Gracias are a great starter.
Now let’s get on to the fun:
Your CDMX (Say-The-Eh-May- Ay-Kees) Guide
Mexico City is lucky when it comes to weather. We have great weather all year, even though during the summer (hurricane season) we get quite a lot of rain. We do not get extreme cold like our neighbors up north so you can wear a sweater and a light jacket in winter and be alright. That said, Spring might be the most convenient as it’s the low season and our rain season starts more over the summer. However, you can still visit at whatever time suits you best and get decent weather. But do bring an umbrella if you can!
I designed this schedule keeping in mind that you might not be into visiting the pyramids, so in that case, I’ve offered an alternative today 1. Do keep in mind that you are more than free to change my schedules around and adjust them to your interests, this for me was the best way to go by starting at the historical beginning and then so on.
Day 1. (A) Once Upon A Prehistoric Mexico
The first pit stop of our tour will have you headed out of the city, I know that you’re here to visit us, BUT one of the best ways to learn about prehistoric Mexico is by visiting the pyramids of Teotihuacán. The archeological complex of Teotihuacan has three famous pyramids: that one of the sun, that one of the moon and the temple of the feathered serpent. The walkway connecting them is called the Calzada de Los Muertos, which sounds scary. Still, there’s nothing to be scared about here anymore. No more human sacrifices are taking place here. Do take comfortable shoes because you will climb up and down the pyramids and walk all over.
I wouldn’t want to spoil the fun ahead or forfeit your tour guide (which I recommend as the best way to learn about the place & history), so I’ll just state some cool facts here:
- Teotihuacan has been around for more since the end of the pre-classic period of Mesoamerican history.
- The name means the city of gods. Still, there are recent anthropological discoveries that suggest that the name was given by the Spanish and the real one was simply Teohuacan, which would mean the city of the sun.
- The latest archeological excavations started in 2010, and they have successfully found new tunnels chambers and passages below ground, which of course contained some prehistoric artifacts.
Enjoy your day in Teotihuacan, wear sunscreen, and take your time to recharge energy in this fantastic historical site. PS: you do not have to do a tour if you prefer to do it by yourself, it’s totally doable with Uber or public transport. And if you want only to do half-day, then head on over to our option B for Day 1.
Day 1. (B) The National Anthropology Museum, Chapultepec & Reforma
If you prefer to learn about history from the comfort of an indoor museum, you should head over to the National Anthropology Museum. While you could spend the whole day in the museum, taking a guided tour of it might be the best option to see all, learn all and do it in record time. The great thing about this museum is that it’s closely located to the Angel of Independence (a must-see in CDMX), as well as to the Soumaya Museum and the Tamayo Contemporary Art Museum.
It is also located on the outskirts of the Bosque de Chapultepec, where once upon a time lived Maximilian and Carlotta Hapsburg. It was later turned into a military academy, and now it’s a beautiful museum to visit. Right within Chapultepec, there is the recent opening of Los Pinos (what used to be where the Mexican President lived) to the public, so you can add it to your visit if you’re interested in seeing how and where Presidents lived.
Let’s talk about the highlights of all the places here mentioned and why you should visit them:
The National Museum of Anthropology
- It’s divided into 12 sections, each detailing a different part of Mexican history.
- The Aztec Calendar Stone, the headdress of Moctezuma II plus other prehistoric artifacts can be found here.
- You could easily spend just half a day inside of this one.
Soumaya Museum – Plaza Carso location
- Privately owned museum by Carlos Slim.
- Rodin and Dali collection plus artwork in the Impressionism to Avant-Garde periods.
- Works by renowned masters from Europe, with emphasis on Novohispanic and Hispanic painters.
Bosque and Castle of Chapultepec
- The Chapultepec Forest makes for a great stroll; there are a lake and a small zoo here. Plus the Monument to the Niños Heroes, the Museum of Modern Art, the Museums I mentioned above, plus others. This is the second biggest city park in all Latin America.
- The Castle of Chapultepec was first built
- Ex- Residence of the President of Mexico.
- Newly opened to the public.
- Glimpse into a presidential house.
I know that this is a long list of things to do in a day. Still, it’s all in the same area so there’s not a significant distance between them and you can visit a couple of them in a single day or fewer in half a day. There is no lack of options in this area of the city.
Day 2: The Historic Downtown: El Zocalo
Most of the historical center dates back to the colonial era, so if you feel like you’re seeing European style buildings, rest assured that your eyes are not fooling you. There’s also the considerable influence that the French had in Porfirio Díaz, one of Mexico’s Presidents in the 20th century that built some of the sights that you’ll be seeing today. But there’s also a prehistoric site next to the Cathedral. One can travel through time in the Zocalo within a day.
Here’s the list of what’s unmissable in the Zocalo, not in any specific order:
- The Cathedral of Mexico
- The Palacio of Bellas Artes → pro tip: head on to the Cafe Don Portiri across the street and get your full photo of the Palacio from the top.
- The Templo Mayor
- The National Palace
- The Palacio Postal
- The Torre Latinoamericana → you can go on top if you’d like.
- The Alameda Park
- The House of Tiles → nowadays a restaurant if you want to grab lunch here.
You can fill a full day quickly just visiting all of the above and taking in the sights.
Day 3: Coyoacán & Whatever You Did Not Get To Do
The bohemian side of Mexico City and where communists and great artists lived in the past century. Here you can find Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s famous blue house. La Casa Azul is where the married couple lived and worked, even hosting communist gatherings with Trotsky. Book ahead for this one, trust the local and you will not regret it. Once done, which honestly might take a while because of entrance queues, head over to the Coyoacan Market, to the Plaza Hidalgo, the San Juan Bautista Church and the Botanical Gardens.
And at last, I know that the days above are quite packed and that Mexico is full of traffic so it might take you longer than considered to visit everything I listed above. So if you wanted to do all and did not get time, use this free afternoon to go back to that thing that you wish to do before you leave my fantastic city. Be it the Zocalo or the area around Reforma and Chapultepec, make the most of your afternoon in all the spots listed above.
Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe
BUT if you’d like to do one last thing and are up for the trek across town (could be an hour, more or less depending on the time you leave) visit our Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The Basilica is the second most visited Catholic church (within the ones that worship Virgin Mary) in the world, right after St. Peter’s in Rome. Here you will find the cloak that contains the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe that appeared to St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin.
Enjoy my city and come back soon, there’s always more to see than you might think.
Your Local Guide
This article was brought to you by our featured travel blogger Valeria Couttolenc, who was born and raised in Mexico City. A big thank you to Valeria for showing us around her beautiful city.