Top Things to Do in Mexico City: Plan Your CDMX Itinerary
Mexico City alias Ciudad de Mexico (CDMX) is a must-visit place on your trip. When creating your Mexico City travel itinerary, be realistic, as there are many top activities to do that it is not possible to fit them all in a single day. Here's our guide on the best things to do in Mexico City including the one-day tour to Teotihuacan.
For many travelers, Mexico City is the first destination on an exciting trip to Mexico, but for us CDMX was the last place we had on our itinerary, as we crossed the borders to Mexico from Belize, and then slowly made our way to Mexico's capital via the Yucatan Peninsula and via the rest of the country dotted with many Mayan ruins.
Before we dive into the best things to do in Mexico City, we must admit we are usually not too excited to visit large cities and saying about CDMX that it is large is a huge understatement. Mexico City is enormous. It is one of the biggest cities in the world, and it is often notoriously known for pickpockets, crowded streets, and air pollution. But put prejudices aside (as we did), and you will find that it is possible to discover great museums, parks, lively neighborhoods, ruins, splendid architecture, and tasty food in this sprawling city.
Depending on your Mexico itinerary, you can spend in Mexico City as much time as you want without getting bored.
One day to see all the top attractions and do the best things has to offer is for sure not enough, on the other hand, if you decide to allocate one week or more for CDMX, you will have plenty of time to explore museums and less known places of Mexico's capital.
BEST THINGS TO DO IN MEXICO CITY
We must admit we did not fall somehow hard for Mexico City, for us the city with more inhabitants than our home country was simply too big, but in five days we spared for visiting CDMX we had enough time to start to like this place, and can without hesitation put it on the list of the top capital cities we've visited in South and Central America.
CDMX is very popular among expats, so there must be something about it, right?
Below, you can find some of the best things and top attractions which lie in Mexico City.
Do not attempt to see them all, especially if your time is limited, rather pick several highlights and take your travels slowly.
The best way how to see the city is on foot and combining it with metro transport, or you can book a hop-on-hop-off bus which will take you around the most interesting sights in the center.
Zocalo | There is no better place where you should be headed on your first day in the city than to Zocalo, Mexico City's main square. The plaza is large, and it can take a while until you soak up all the architecture and the atmosphere. One of the most notable buildings dominating the square is Metropolitan Cathedral. Except for the cathedral, there are many noteworthy buildings around the historic area, and when time allows, you can easily see them all in one afternoon. The best architectural gems Ciudad de Mexico has to offer are Palacio de Bellas Artes (wander to nearby park Alameda Central as well), Palacio Postal, La Casa de Los Azulejos alias the House of Tiles, or Torre Latinoamericana (you can go up to the observation deck).
Coyoacan Neighborhood | The great thing about visiting this neighborhood is that you are not arriving here to see a particular sight, but you are coming in Coyoacan to explore the cobblestone streets, small plazas, cafes, and colorful mansions. This neighborhood has a quirky, artistic atmosphere, and visiting this part of Mexico City is really worth it.
Chapultepec Park | Every large city we visited in South and Central America (for example Sao Paulo to name one), has an oasis within the city's limits where people can escape the hustle and bustle of the metropolis. Chapultepec Park is a place where you can enjoy the greenery and spend here a leisure afternoon. If you want to stretch your legs, climb to the hill in the park where stands Chapultepec Castle - this is a place from where you can get panoramic views of the city. There is even a metro station nearby carrying the same name, so getting there from the city center is not hard at all.
Templo Mayor | Did you know you can find ruins right in the historic center of Mexico City? Centuries ago on the place of today's Mexico City stood an ancient city Tenochtitlan, the former capital of the area. Although the most important buildings were destroyed by Spaniards, until today you can walk around ruins and we can only imagine the former grandeur of Tenochtitlan. You can walk inside the complex, but those traveling on a budget will appreciate that quite a lot of the ruins is possible to see only when walking on the boardwalk above.
Angel of Independence | In the middle of a large roundabout stands a high column with a golden angel on its top. This structure is an important symbol for Mexico as it was erected to commemorate Mexico's independence from Spain.
Xochimilco | Approximately 30 kilometers from CDMX's center is another overly popular attraction, the canals of Xochimilco. Some travelers find this World Heritage Site cheesy, some amusing, but it doesn't change the fact that it is interesting to take a boat and float on the canals. It is quite easy to reach Xochimilco independently, only take Tren Ligero from CDMX which goes to the canals directly.
Food Tour | Mexico is well-known for great food, and you should not stay away from food stalls here, as you can get some of the best tacos you've ever eaten. We stayed near Salto del Agua metro station, and in this part of Mexico City was a great selection of street food and markets, but we believe you will find your favorite place to eat in CDMX on own, most likely by accident. In case you prefer guided food tours, you can check out this one.
Frida Kahlo Museum | Frida Kahlo was the most famous Mexican painter, and probably still is until these days, so visiting a house where the artist was born and where she died and which was turned into an interesting museum, is a worthwhile thing to do. The entrance fee is pretty expensive, Mx 246 for foreigners when booking the ticket online. It is slightly cheaper when you book the tickets on spot, but the museum is one of the top attractions in CDMX, lines are long, and it is even possible that you won't get inside the museum without reservation unless you arrive really early.
Anthropology Museum | Mexico City is packed with museums, and you'll for sure find here an exhibition you are interested in. Nevertheless, there is one museum no traveler should miss, the Anthropology Museum. Exhibitions focus on the pre-Columbian era, and it is a place where you can learn a lot about Mexican history and culture.
Puebla | About two hours from Mexico City lies another noteworthy colonial city, Puebla. Puebla can be either the next destination on your Mexico itinerary or you can visit it on a one-day trip either by public transport, car or with an organized tour. The city of Puebla is set in a postcard-like location as two volcanoes are towering nearby - we believe you've heard at least about one of them, Popocatepetl.
Teotihuacan | Only 50 kilometers from Mexico City is one of the most touristy attractions and one of the must-see places in the country, Teotihuacan ruins. No matter how much time for Mexico City you have, you simply cannot miss Teotihuacan. Once the largest city in Mesoamerica, the ancient city was not built by Maya civilization, actually the history and origin of Teotihuacan founders are still shrouded in mystery, but to us, it did not matter who had built the complex. For us, it was enough to walk among the large pyramids and other beautiful structures and imagine how the place must have looked like centuries ago. We've written a comprehensive guide on how to visit Teotihuacan independently, but you can get there by car or with a guided tour from Mexico City as well.
WHERE TO STAY IN MEXICO CITY
Mexico City is a huge metropolis, where you can find hundreds of hotels. Although CDMX has a well-working metro system, why not to stay in the city center so you won't have to travel forth and back all the time?
Most of the best things to do in Mexico City are close to the center, and it is easy to get from there to the bus station to enjoy one-day trips outside the city.
Here are three best hotels in CDMX for every budget.
Budget | Hotel Panuco - Perfectly located cheap hotel offers everything you might possibly need for your stay in Mexico City.
Mid-range | Hotel Marlowe - The centrally located hotel is the best value for money in Mexico City. Clean and tidy rooms, friendly staff, tasty breakfast, and fast wifi are the main features.
Luxury | Gran Hotel Ciudad de Mexico - Beautiful hotel with splendid lobby hall, situated right on the main square, offers top service you would have expected in a five-star hotel.
WHAT TO PACK FOR VISITING MEXICO CITY
Mexico City is a destination which can be visited all year round. Temperatures are usually pleasant, although there can be some chilly times during winter between November and March.
We visited Mexico City in May, and it was hot all day, with occasional afternoon showers because in May starts the rainy season and lasts approximately to October.
Here are five essential things you should pack for visiting Mexico City at any time of the year.
Anti-Theft Daypack | Always when walking in large city with many people around, we prefer wearing this backpack.
Sunscreen | It is sunny in Mexico City most of the time, and sun protection is important, especially when you plan on visiting places such as Teotihuacan with no shade.
Rain Poncho | It is worth it to have a rain poncho in your backpack all the time. It is light and easily foldable.
Filtered Water Bottle | Tap water is not drinkable in Mexico, pack a filtered water bottle to reduce your plastic footprint.
SAFETY IN MEXICO CITY
We know, that Mexico as a country does not have the best reputation when it comes to safety.
Nowadays all you can read about Mexico is violence, drug trafficking, and immigration troubles.
Yes, Mexico is for sure dealing with many issues, but tourists, if they stick to the well-trodden path and mind their business, are usually spared.
We felt in Ciudad de Mexico as in any other large city in the world. It is a place where you should watch your valuables all the time and do not flash around your electronics as pickpockets on the streets or in the public transport occur. If you need to find something on your phone, we recommend you to walk inside the store or a restaurant, as we've read many stories about phone snatching.
It is also better to explore the city during the day and take Uber at night, especially if you are a solo female traveler.
HOW TO GET AROUND MEXICO CITY
Mexico City has a very efficient network of public transport, and the easiest way how to get around is to use the metro, which is very crowded, especially in the morning, but it is simple to use and gets you quickly from one place to another.
When booking your accommodation, make sure the metro station is nearby.
Another way how to get around Mexico City is by taxi, but for safety and payment comfort, we recommend you to use Uber, which is legal in Mexico. To call Uber you need a wifi or data, but it is easy to buy a sim card in almost every shop.
HOW TO GET TO MEXICO CITY
The capital city of Mexico is easy to reach, and you won't have a problem to find a connection from CDMX to the next destination on your itinerary as well.
We traveled extensively around Mexico by bus, and it was never hard to find a bus to the place we wanted to go. We found ADO buses the best when it came to safety and comfort. CDMX has several bus terminals, so always check from which terminal the bus goes - when traveling to or from Puebla, you will need the South Bus Terminal.
Mexico City has a large international airport, with outstanding connections to many cities in the USA, and many Americans take advantage of it quite often.
We also flew later from Mexico City to New York, and the flight tickets were not expensive at all.
When looking for flight tickets you can search Skyscanner to find the best price.
If you plan on traveling around Mexico, if CDMX is your first destination in the country, the best way how to explore Mexico when you are limited by time, is to rent a car at the airport.
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