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The Ultimate 5 Days in Mexico City Itinerary

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Are you planning your Mexico City Itinerary? How exciting! As the largest city in North America, there are plenty of amazing things to do even in just a short 5 days in Mexico City. In fact, there are so many things to do that planning a trip to Mexico City (CDMX for short) can be a bit intimidating.

Not only does this incredible place house more museums than any other city in the world, with over a mind-boggling 180 museums, Mexico City has so much to teach us. Go any direction from the city center, and you’re bound to smack right into one of these incredible institutions.

Don’t worry too much about seeing everything when visiting Mexico City–you simply can’t. You want to enjoy your time there, not worry about juggling dozens of museum or attraction appointments. So, we’ve broken down some of the highlights for you for the ultimate Mexico City itinerary.

TL;DR Best Attractions In Mexico City

Best Activity for Culture Vultures National Museum of Anthropology (Museo Nacional de Antropología)
Best Activity for Arts Aficionados Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts)
Best Activity for Families Palacio Nacional
Best Activity for First-Time Visitors Plaza Garibaldi
Best Activity for History Buffs Teotihuacan
Best Activity for Photographers Torre Latinoamericana (Latin American Tower)

How many days do you need in Mexico City?

The Angel of Independence in Mexico City
hiragana / Adobe Stock

With all cities of this size, you could spend a whole year in CDMX and still discover new places all the time. However, 5 days in Mexico City is an excellent amount of time to hit all the most popular places. From the incredible street food scene to touring the National Palace, we’ve got you situated for a fantastic time visiting Mexico City.

The one thing that helps most with CDMX travel is to stick to a neighborhood-by-neighborhood agenda and spend each day in just one or two areas near one another rather than traversing the whole city repeatedly.

By doing this, you’ll make it to all the top places in Mexico City, but in a relaxing, organized manner. Plus, you won’t wear holes in your shoes, which could be easily done in a city this size.

See Related: Travel Tips for Visiting Mexico on a Budget

How to get around Mexico City

Buses closed to Monument To The Revolution
Robert Lozano / Adobe Stoc

When it comes to getting around a city, it all really depends on your personal comfort level as a traveler. Public transport might not intimidate you if you’re from New York or Chicago. But if you’ve never traversed a metra in another language or during peak rush hour, you might want to consider alternatives for your Mexico City trip.

Is it safe to rent a car in Mexico?

Yes! Especially if you plan on staying around touristy areas or major cities like Mexico City or at a resort in Cancún, having a rental car is perfectly safe. It would be best if you took the same precautions as you would driving anywhere, including having insurance for the car.

As always, protect your own trip by only renting with reputable car rental companies. We prefer folks like Momondo or RentalCars.com. Be mindful of the road, park in well-lit areas, and be aware of your surroundings. You should be a-okay with your rental car in tow, particularly in Mexico’s capital city.

How to Avoid Mexico City Traffic

With a population of over eight million population, traffic in Mexico City’s traffic is infamous. It’s something you’ll want to avoid at all costs. This is why dedicating each day to one or two areas near one another is the most innovative strategy — it can often take over an hour across town.

In general, however, you’ll also want to time your driving around Mexico City strategically. Like any city, rush hour in the evening to early night tends to be a terrible time to drive.

So, the hours between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. are also when kiddos are headed home from school. Maybe give yourself a few hours to explore with your car before these busy times and enjoy the city on foot after that.

Taking Uber in Mexico City over Public Transport

With just five days in Mexico City, you’ll also save yourself some precious travel time by using Uber or other rideshares over public transportation. This is both relatively economical, generally considered safer, and makes getting around much quicker. 

For reference, the 8-mile (13km) bus trip from the Roma Norte to the Coyoacan neighborhood costs about $1USD — but can take more than two hours. This same trip via Uber costs about $5 and takes as little as 30 minutes. If you do use public transport, try to avoid it during rush hours: 7 am-9 am and 5 pm-7 pm.

5-Day Mexico City Itinerary To Copy

Day 1: Teotihuacán Ruins

Teotihuacán Ruins

Teotihuacán (roughly pronounced tay-oh-tee-wok-on) is one of the oldest and most important of all Mexican archeological sites. It is also one of Mexico’s 35 or so UNESCO World Heritage Sites. While devoting one entire day of your 5-day Mexico City itinerary to seeing Teotihuacán may seem like a lot — visiting this vital site does warrant it.

This Mayan complex, once a bustling city in its own right, is home to several ancient buildings you may recognize. For example, the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, the Pyramid of the Moon, and the Pyramid of the Sun can all be found here.

Though located only about 35 miles (50km) from downtown, the drive from Mexico City to Teotihuacán takes one to two hours, depending on traffic. The best way to keep your travel time low is by leaving the city around 8 a.m., so you’ll arrive for the 9 a.m. opening time–a strategy that serves two functions since you can beat the heat and the crowd. If you don’t want to deal with the traffic, you could always stay at the charming Hotel Quinto Sol, just a few miles from the site.

Teotihuacán Ruins and Pyramids

Most ruins in Mexico, Teotihuacán included, tend to lack one common thing — shade. As historians, scientists, and archeologists frequently conduct research here, trees have been cleared for ease of study, meaning finding shade is rare.

Arriving at the Teotihuacan Ruins at 9 a.m. when they open means you both beat the traffic and beat the heat. If you’re planning to climb the three pyramids at Teotihuacan, you’ll want to do so before the midday sun arrives.

When the sun starts beating down, head indoors to the Museo de Sitio Teotihuacán (Teotihuacan Museum) and the Jardín Escultórico (Sculpture Garden), which have some trees and shaded areas.

After several hours of exploring the Teotihuacán archeological site, head to the nearby La Gruta restaurant. La Gruta translates to the cave; yes, this restaurant is inside a cave! La Gruta has a terrific ambiance and serves everything from tacos and enchiladas to chapulines (grasshoppers).

See Related: Best Travel Shorts for Warm Climates

Day 2: Coyoacán and Xochilimco 

Coyoacán and Xochilimco, located in the south of the city, are two of Mexico’s most visited and colorful places. Coyoacán, the former home of Frida Kahlo, is one of the oldest neighborhoods in CDMX — and Xochimilco (pronounced so-chee-mill-co) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site where people ride colorful gondola-style boats through its canals.

1. Coyoacán

Coyocan

Start your day in Coyoacán, which offers a glimpse of what old-school Mexico City life looked like. It is one of the oldest surviving parts of CDMX, with buildings like the Iglesia de San Juan Bautista cathedral that date back to the 16th Century.

Enjoy a coffee in one of the cute Coyoacán cafes, like Café El Jarocho or Café Avellaneda, then walk over to the La Casa Azul (Blue House), otherwise known as the Frida Kahlo Museum. Do yourself a favor and purchase tickets in advance, as the line to get in is often long. The Frida Kahlo House is something not to be missed for artsy travelers or fans of the artist herself.

To see more Mexico City museums in Coyoacán, the Diego Rivera-Anahuacalli Museum and the National Museum of Popular Culture are both excellent. Also, check out the Jardín Centenario (Centennial Garden) to see the coyote fountain and Mercado de Artesanias (Artisan Market) for shopping and souvenirs.

Grab a quick lunch at the Mercado de Coyoacán (Coyoacán Market) before heading to Xochimilco. Coyoacán has the best tostadas in Mexico City, and in this colorful, traditional mercado, you can sample different tostadas from various vendors.

2. Xochimilco

Boats in Xochimilco

After eating, grab an Uber for the 45-minute drive to the Floating Gardens of Xochimilco. Xochimilco is a series of artificial canals, hand-dug by the Aztecs centuries ago, and was initially used as a waterway thoroughfare for commerce and trade. Its name is derived from Nahuatl and means where the flowers grow.

Now, Mexico City locals and visitors flock to these canals to ride on one of the brightly-colored trajineras (gondola boats). As the boats are big enough to accommodate about 15 people, the atmosphere in Xochimilco is definitely perfect for larger groups.

Besides offering the trajinera rides to visitors, other boats are floating by with vendors selling tacos, tamales, esquites, beer, pulque (a pre-colonial alcoholic drink), and more. You’ll also see boats with full mariachi bands on board that you can hire to serenade your boat. Most Xochimilco cruises are about three hours, but many boats stay out late at night, especially on weekends. 

Plus, if you want to stay close to the boats, one of the closest hotels is the Hotel Amala. This colorful, cozy hotel is practically on top of the action. While there aren’t a ton of amenities at the Amala, the rooms are spacious and brilliantly decorated, making for a beautiful stay.

See Related: Tulum vs Cancun: Which is Better to Visit?

Day 3: Centro Histórico and Zócalo

Centro Histórico (Historic Downtown) and the Zocalo, the main plaza downtown, are both UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This area of town offers endless amounts of history and no shortage of things to see, but with only one day, here are the top things to do in downtown Mexico City.

1. Torre Latinoamericana (Latin American Tower)

Torre Latinoamericana in downtown Mexico City
JDiMAGE / Adobe Stock

The Torre Latinoamericana is one of the most iconic buildings in the city center. Not only is it one of the tallest buildings in the country, but it was also the first major skyscraper completed in a highly active seismic zone when it was finished in 1956. It was formerly the tallest building in Mexico and the tallest in Latin America. Although both records were squashed, it’s still impressive.

Head to the Mirador (observation deck) on a clear day for unparalleled CDMX views. You won’t see much on cloudy days; however, entry is inexpensive, so it may be worth the trek anyway.

Travel Tip: A nearby Sears department store has a cafe on the top floor and offers similar views. You can go up for free if you buy something in the cafe.

2. Palacio Nacional (National Palace)

Front of the Palacio Nacional in Mexico
Wangkun Jia / Adobe Stock

The stunning Palacio Nacional (National Palace) spans one complete side of the Zócalo, or the Plaza de la Constitución, the main square in Mexico City. This impressive building houses the National Archives and Federal Treasury of Mexico and the four murals by Mexican painter Diego Rivera depicting the country’s history.

Built in the Baroque style, construction of the Palacio Nacional began in 1522. Since 2018, the massive building has also served as the home to Mexico’s sitting president. While the palace itself isn’t ancient, the land it stands on has long since had a leadership role. Since the Aztec empire, rulers have dwelled on this spot in Mexico City.

When you’re ready for a hotel stay not unlike the posh digs of the Mexican president in the Palacio Nacional, head over to the Gran Hotel Ciudad de México. This ornate hotel is steps away from the world-class museum and will make you feel like you, too, are royalty, residing in a nearby palace.

3. Museo del Templo Mayor (Main Temple)

Exhibits in the Museum of the Main Temple
Museo del Templo Mayor / Facebook

The Museo del Templo Mayor (Museum of the Main Temple) showcases what was once the most important building of the Aztec Empire. During the Spanish colonization, the colonizers buried the temple underground, but it was excavated in the 1970s-1980s. Now, you can tour the temple remnants and visit the indoor museum to see artifacts found during the excavations.

In the Nahuatl language, the temple was called Huēyi Teōcalli. Before it was defiled, the temple was dedicated to two Aztec gods: Huitzilopochtli, the god of war, and Tlaloc, the god of rain and agriculture.

It was destroyed by the Spanish colonizers in 1521. Thankfully, through careful archaeology, we can learn from the ancient Aztec people and preserve it in a museum for future generations to appreciate.

4. Catedral Metropolitana (Metropolitan Cathedral)

Catedral Metropolitana (Metropolitan Cathedral)

The Spanish conquistadors ordered the giant Catedral Metropolitana (Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral) to be constructed using some of the Templo Mayor’s stones after the temple’s destruction. Of all Mexico City’s many churches, this one is the most opulent.

It’s simply massive and superbly detailed; it took over 250 years to complete construction. Since the building took so long, you’ll notice four distinct architectural styles throughout the cathedral: Baroque, Churrigueresque, Gothic, and Neoclassical.

Although petite in its name, the Catedral Metropolitana, that’s not the church’s full name. It’s actually known as Catedral Metropolitana de la Asunción de la Bienaventurada Virgen María a los cielos or Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven.

5. Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts)

Palacio Bellas Artes

If you’ve seen an image of Mexico City, chances are good it was of the golden-domed Palacio Bellas Artes, or Palace of Fine Arts. Also known as simply Bellas Artes, this classical European building is itself a work of art. Decorated in the Art Deco style, this gorgeous epicenter of fine arts is a must-see for any proper Mexico City itinerary.

Here, you’ll discover all kinds of incredible art. From paintings by the famous Diego Rivera to performing arts showcases, the Palacio de Bellas Artes is truly the artistic heart of the city’s historic center. Although a lot of artists perform here, three of the beloved groups that regularly appear at the Bellas Artes are the Ballet Folklórico de México (the Mexican Folklore Ballet), Compania Nacional de Opera de Bellas Artes (the National Fine Arts Opera), and the National Symphonic Orchestra.

6. Plaza Garibaldi

Plaza Garibaldi in Mexico
Mexico City / Mexico City

Are you looking for some mariachi music in Mexico City? Plaza Garibaldi is the place to be for mariachi. Plaza Garibaldi is known as the home to mariachi and the main square for a musical good time.

Any time of day, you can hear the crooning of mariachi flowing into the streets from the Plaza. However, the actual home is at Salón Tenampa, where mariachi has been played with gusto since the 1920s.

Still located in the historic city center of Mexico City, you only have to venture just a few blocks from the Palace of Fine Arts to find this plaza. It’s easy to spot, too, given the amount of music stemming from it. Originally known as Plaza Santa Cecilia, the spot was renamed to honor Lieutenant Colonel Peppino Garibaldi after the Mexican Revolution came to an end in 1920.

7. Alameda Central (Central Mall)

Fountain in Alameda Central Park in Mexico City, Mexico
Dan Van Pelt / Adobe Stock

Located right next to Palacio Bellas Artes, there’s Alameda Centra, an expansive park with beautiful sculptures and fountains. More than that, it’s the oldest established park in the Americas, having been founded in 1592. Before it became a public park, it had an essential part in Aztec life as a thriving market.

As Centro Histórico is quite hectic, Alameda Central is a great place to take a break and have a taco picnic on a park bench. It’s even believed that President Santa Anna filled the park’s fountains with beer after his 1846 victory in the Mexican-American War. So this spot is steeped, perhaps even literally, in Mexico City history.

8. Centro Histórico Museums (Historic Center Museums)

Building exterior of National Art Museum, Mexico
Paulo / Adobe Stock

Mexico City has about 150 museums, with many located downtown. Over 40 exist in the Centro Histórico alone! Obviously, you won’t get to all of them with only a few days in Mexico City, but hitting a few of them will knock down some for next time. Some of the best museums in Centro Histórico, as well as Mexico City at large, include:

  • Museo de Arte Popular (Museum of Popular Art)
  • Museo Nacional de Arte (National Art Museum)
  • Museo de la Memoria y
  • Tolerancia (Memory and Tolerance Museum)
  • Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso (Former College of Saint Ildefonso)

9. Barrio Chino (Chinatown)

Street in Barrio Chino, Mexico
Juan Carlos Fonseca Mata / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

Although other cities like Lima, Peru, have Chinatown districts, the one in Mexico City is particularly important. It’s the oldest one in Latin America, dating back to the 1600s. While it isn’t huge like the Chinatown in San Francisco, it is nonetheless important to the landscape of Mexico City.

Despite its petite size, the Barrio Chino is a happening part of city life. If you’re a fan of Chinese culture, you should check out the annual Chinese New Year celebration. Barrio Chino’s two-block radius along Dolores Street comes to life with parades, parties, and tons of delicious food to mark the occasion.

10. Eat street food

Serving of different Mexican food
petrrgoskov / Adobe Stock

When it comes to Mexican cuisine, you know you’re going to eat well in Mexico City. Authentic street food is everywhere here, and whether you’re an Elote fan girl like me or you love trying new, good food, you can’t go wrong. The best way to try a whole smorgasbord of Mexican food is via a food tour.

Some food tours we recommend include:

If you’d rather show yourself around the city, Centro Histórico has many of the best taquerías (taco shops) and restaurants in Mexico City. Some of the standouts include Los Cocuyos, El Huequito, Taquería Arandas, and Tacos de Canasta los Especiales, where you’ll find tacos de canasta (basket taco), Mexico City’s original street food taco.

See Related: Should You Take Uber in Cancun?

Day 4: Reforma, Chapultepec Park and Polanco

Your second to last day in Mexico City should be a smattering of different areas around the city. Now that you’re familiar with the area, it’s an excellent chance to mix it up. Marry some natural adventures with shopping excursions.

1. Reforma

Reforma Avenue, Mexico City

Start your day by strolling down tree-lined Paseo de la Reforma (Reforma Avenue). Besides taking you down the street, this area of Mexico City is also full of rich history. Reforma is the most crucial walkway in both the city and the country since it represents the government’s reform back into its republic form from monarchy.

You don’t have to go far to find affordable yet stunning accommodation from here either. Located downtown, the Emporio Reforma carries on the nearby Paseo de la Reforma tradition, so you never have to miss a moment of the city’s history.

You can also check out all the street art and statues here, including the iconic golden Angel de la Independencia (Angel of Independence). Walking west, you’ll eventually wind up at our next stop in the enormous Chapultepec Park.

2. Chapultepec Park

Aerial view of Chapultepec Park
zsuriel / Adobe Stock

We’ve talked a lot about historic buildings, but now it’s time for one of the grand dames of Mexico City: the impressive Chapultepec Park. Given its impressive size and many attractions, you could spend a week here and not see everything. From the beautiful Castillo de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Castle), nine museums, two lakes, a zoo, and more, you must be selective with your time.

Bosque de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Park) is one of the world’s most-visited urban parks. Chapultepec spans the entire area between the Reforma and Polanco neighborhoods, so visiting these three places in one day makes sense.

3. Polanco

Aerial view of Polanco, Mexico City
mardzpe / Adobe Stock

Polanco is the poshest of all Mexico City neighborhoods. If you need retail therapy, head to Avenida Presidente Masaryk (President Masaryk Avenue), often called the Rodeo Drive of Mexico. Museo Soumaya (Soumaya Museum), Parque Lincoln (Lincoln Park), and Museo Jumex (Jumex Museum) round out the list of best things to do in Polanco during the day.

Just stick around Polanco if you want to enjoy some Mexico City fine dining–or get an overview with a food tour. Chef Enrique Olvera’s Pujol, named one of the best restaurants in the world by the prestigious 50 Best list, is located in Polanco. As it’s not easy to get a reservation at Pujol, Quintonil and La Docena are two restaurants that also made the list.

Day 5: Roma Norte and La Condesa

If you don’t want to be one of those people who need a vacation from my vacation, this last day is all about having no plans. Enjoy meandering around two of the prettiest CDMX neighborhoods, Roma Norte and La Condesa, for a perfect end to your Mexico City itinerary.

As they are located next to one other, start in whichever you’d like and then head to the other. Both have a similar relaxing vibe, with beautiful architecture, cool street art, sidewalk coffee shops, great parks, and boutiques, as well as plenty of options for a nice dinner and drinks.

1. Roma Norte

Roma Norte, Mexico Architecture
Marianamolinar / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

Does Roma, combined with Mexico City, ring a bell? If you’ve seen Alfonso Cuaron’s 2019 Oscar-winning film, Roma, it was named after this neighborhood. You’ll find the Roma Norte and Roma Sur (North and South) neighborhoods within Colonia Roma, though Norte is the prettier of the two.

In Norte, you’ll find some of the most beautiful streets and architecture in Mexico City. Vintage buildings in every design esthetic, from Colonial and Mid-Century Modern to Art Deco, line the streets — each one somehow more interesting than the next. Enjoy a casual stroll down Avenida Álvaro Obregón (Alvaro Obregon Avenue), where you’ll find some of the best cafes and taquerías, a few unique shops, and cool bars and speakeasies at night.

2. La Condesa

Person walking a dog in La Condesa
Lazjak / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

Just across one of Mexico City’s main streets, Avenida Insurgentes (Insurgents Avenue), you’ll find Roma Norte’s sister neighborhood, La Condesa. Get to know La Condesa on a stroll along the tree-lined Hipódromo (Racetrack). Once a horse racing track, this circular, walkable pathway goes around Avenida Amsterdam (Amsterdam Avenue) and offers a great way to explore Condesa.

Don’t miss Parque Mexico (Mexico Park) and Parque España (Spain Park), two of Mexico City’s nicest parks, both located in Condesa. This upscale neighborhood also has some excellent shops, like Viejo Amor and Carmen Rion.

See Related: Important Pros and Cons of Travel Insurance

Summary: 5 Days In Mexico City Itinerary

Day Activities
1 Climb pyramids at Teotihuacán, see sculpture gardens, dinner at La Gruta restaurant
2 Explore Coyoacán and Xochimilco for museums and boat rides
3 Wander around Centro Histórico and Zócalo for a day of museum visits and delicious street food
4 Get to know the neighborhoods of Reforma, Chapultepec Park and end with Polanco for fine dining and shopping
5 Eye the magnificent architecture in Roma Norte and enjoy the nature in La Condesa

What to pack for Mexico City

Person packing a yellow suitcase
Sebra / Shutterstock

Mexico City’s weather is colder than many think. This part of Mexico has what’s known as Eternal Spring weather, so expect cooler, springtime 65-75°F weather for much of the year. However, know that in winter, Mexico City temperatures can drop to about 45°F at night.

CDMX is about 1.5 miles above sea level, and those not used to high altitudes will want to add anti-altitude sickness medication to their Mexico packing list. Beyond that, this is a very walkable city, so bring your most comfy shoes.

Here are some of our must-haves for traveling to Mexico City:

See Related: The Ultimate Summer Trip Packing List

FAQs

How many days is enough for Mexico City?

To us, five days seems like the appropriate number of days in Mexico City, especially if you’re a first-time visitor. There is so much to do, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, but with more days in Mexico City, you could also get bored. Five days is the perfect sweet spot to see things but also have time to relax and recuperate.

What is the best month to visit Mexico City?

We didn’t put together this detailed Mexico City itinerary with a particular time in mind. However, the best time to visit would be March to May and October to November. These times will have the best weather, though that also means more crowds.

Is Mexico City a cheap vacation?

All things considered, even a five-day Mexico City itinerary shouldn’t leave you broke. Mexico City is a relatively inexpensive vacation spot with so much to do, like the Frida Kahlo Museum, seeing Chapultepec Castle, and learning more about the ancient city beneath the modern one.

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