Travel Guides

72 hours in Mexico City: A Long Weekend Guide

By July 4, 2018 January 7th, 2019 No Comments
  Views from the Chapultepec Castle, Chapultepec Park

Views from the Chapultepec Castle, Chapultepec Park

Mexico City has long been a favorite city of mine to visit. I love Mexico in general, so it makes sense that I fell hard for its capital. Here the leafy neighborhoods, the modern new-builds, the historic and bustling downtown, and the exceptional food scene (they have some of the top restaurants in the world and even the street food is to die for) work together to create an epic weekend getaway. You certainly will not run out of things to do. 

Mexico City, affectionately known by the locals as D.F. (pronounced day ef-fayand short for Distrito Federal) was once known only for its crime and pollution, but has emerged onto the stage and is certainly having it’s moment.  The city has recently been painted pink and rebranded as CDMX (though I suspect locals will continue to call it D.F.). This bustling metropolis, home to over 25 million people – making it one of the most inhabited cities on Earth – is no longer just a mere connection point for other Mexican destinations like Acapulco, Ixtapa, Cancun and Cabo. Mexico City has officially earned its place on the world stage. 

We arrived into Mexico City’s International Airport on Friday morning for a long weekend of exploring the city. I had been to Mexico City on two separate occasions prior to this trip and wanted to show Jeremy around for a weekend. 

In an effort to make sense of the city, we decided to start at the heart – the Zócalo or the Plaza de la Constitutión. This is the second largest city square to Moscow’s Red Square. The plaza is paved with volcanic stones that have been torn down from various pyramids of Teocalli, the Aztec ceremonial center that once stood here. It gives a clear picture of the confusing Mexican identity. Indigenous, European, modern, ancient; there are so many moments where all slam together to make up the cities, pueblos and beach towns of Mexico, but never more apparent than in the center of Mexico City in the Zócalo. 

Despite the constant chaos, there is something calming, fascinating, maybe ethereal about standing in the middle of this great city. Perhaps it was just the midday pollution haze, but even still I couldn’t get over the fact that we were here, standing on thousands of years of history literally built up on top of each other. 

I hope that you will one day get the opportunity to wander the streets of Mexico City, eat the exceptional food and feel the energy of this historic and breathtaking city. Whenever that happens for you, I have put together some of my favorite spots in the city to point you in the right direction! Enjoy! 

  Visit Mexico City and Wander the Beautiful Neighborhoods

Visit Mexico City and Wander the Beautiful Neighborhoods

Where to Stay

Mexico City is broken up into neighborhoods or districts and it is best to pick the neighborhood or neighborhoods you are interested in and then pick a hotel in that area. Condesa and Roma are my personal favorites because they are tree-lined and quiet. The downtown/Zócalo corridor is fun, lively, but also very busy. Polanco is modern and upscale featuring the premier shopping district and some of the best restaurants in the world. Cuauhtemoc was new for us, but we thought it was an awesome area. Coyoacán is home to the Frida Khalo museum and is also quaint, but a bit removed from the rest of Mexico City. 

  The Beautiful Design Hotel Condesa DF Courtyard, Mexico City

The Beautiful Design Hotel Condesa DF Courtyard, Mexico City

Condesa DF

The Condesa DF won me over when Samantha Brown (remember her!?) from the Travel Channel stayed there on her Mexico City episode of Passport to Latin America in 2007. In 2009, I studied abroad in Mexico and then my mom and I traveled around the country after my semester. We started our trip in Puebla, where I had been living, but made our way to Mexico City for several days to explore before heading out to the west coast. On this trip, we stayed in the hip, chic Condesa DF and I fell in love. The exterior of the building is neoclassic French architecture, but this triangle shaped building on the corner of the Parque España is perfectly modern and clean inside. On this last trip, we didn’t stay here, but we visited for breakfast and I think we both regretted not staying here this trip. Beyond the hotel itself, the Condesa neighborhood is one of my favorites in Mexico City as well. 

Downtown Mexico

If you are looking to stay right downtown in the action just off the Zócalo, then the Downtown Mexico hotel would be a great spot to be. With a popular restaurant and shops on the lower floors of this converted 17th century manor, the Downtown Mexico has a ton going on, but still feels like a quiet retreat in busiest area of town. Our favorite spot of was the rooftop pool and bar. 

Chaya B & B

Also downtown, Chaya B & B is a hip, bohemian getaway close to the action. With rooftop terrace filled with plants and hammocks, its minimalist design and its proximity to many popular attractions of Mexico City, this hotel is an option for those looking to have a great experience in Mexico City. 

La Valise

While we did not visit this hotel on this trip, I am intrigued to check it out because they have a room where you can slide your bed onto the patio and sleep under the stars or just relax outdoors. Seems like an interesting concept for a city hotel, but super cool nonetheless. In Roma, this transformed 1920s townhouse features contemporary interiors and large windows so you can experience this leafy, coffee shop-filled neighborhood from the comfort of your room. 

Hotel Carlota

Hotel Carlota is trendy, hip and quite modern and lives up to its reputation of being a loud, party atmosphere designed around the pool. This is where we stayed on this trip and it was a great spot in a centralized location in the Cuauhtemoc district of Mexico City. I didn’t know much about this area before we visited this time, but both Jeremy and I loved the neighborhood and liked the hotel. It is excellent for the price, especially if you are looking for something trendy. It was a good hotel, but it didn’t win us over for future visits; I would go back to Condesa DF before coming back here. 

Boutique Homes

Boutique homes is a great resource for finding upmarket Airbnbs and small hotels. They are choosier about their properties, so you know you are finding some pretty unique hotels or apartments. La Valise is listed on their Mexico City page, but they also include a couple of apartments that look spectacular. I would love to visit all of them. They have space for 8-10 people, so I am definitely booking one of them for the World Cup 2026 and begging my traveling team (you know who you are) to come explore with me! 

Airbnb

Airbnb is always a great option when traveling. We met a couple people on our trip that were staying in Airbnbs and had a great experience. 

  The Pool at Hotel Carlota, Mexico City

The Pool at Hotel Carlota, Mexico City

  Walking around Mexico City

Walking around Mexico City

Getting Around

Walk 

According to our apps, we walked well over 12 miles each day that we were in Mexico City. While things are little more spread out and can take 20-30 minutes to get from one neighborhood to the next, walking was our favorite way to explore because we could take so much in. When you walk Mexico City you can feel the shift in neighborhoods, find some off-the-beaten-path places, and just experience life in this great city. 

Metro/Bus

The public transit system in Mexico City is pretty great. The public buses are double decker, modern and often have a nice raised platform at many of the stops. We took the local bus out to Teotihuacán and it was perfectly manageable and way more affordable than a tour. We took the metro a few times, including coming into the city from the airport and it can be busy at rush hour times, but we found it very easy and convenient. If you take the subway in other cities (New York, Paris, London, etc.), you will find the metro system very similar in Mexico City. I was blown away with the affordability of the public transport (less than $0.50 USD) in Mexico City and we found it perfectly safe following all of our regular precautions that we would follow in any other city we were visiting in the world.  

Uber 

Uber is widely available and used in Mexico City. We used it on a few occasions where we needed to get somewhere quick or when we had a longer trip out to visit my extended step-family for dinner and it was unbelievably affordable. I think our 15-20 minute rides cost us less than $5 USD. Our longest 35 minute ride was no more than $8 USD.  

  Views from Chapultepec Castle in Chapultepec Park

Views from Chapultepec Castle in Chapultepec Park

  Torre Latinoamerica, Mexico City

Torre Latinoamerica, Mexico City

  Chapultepec Castle, Mexico City

Chapultepec Castle, Mexico City

  Street Food Touring, Mexico City

Street Food Touring, Mexico City

Activities

I have been to Mexico City on three different occasions, twice for 3 days and once for 4 days. I still haven’t had a chance to check off all of the items on my list that I would like to do and that are listed here. There is no shortage of awesome places to explore in Mexico City and around. 

Food Tour or Cooking Tour

This was hands down our favorite experience in Mexico City. I am vegetarian so we opted for a vegan food tour through Airbnb experiences and it was exceptional. My mouth is watering as I reflect on this experience and feel like I need to go back just to visit some of the stops on our tour. Next trip, I would like to try a cooking tour, which unfortunately we didn’t have time for on this trip. 

Visit the historic Downtown 

Venture downtown Mexico City to the Zocalo. This area is pretty busy, but definitely worth the trip. Start in the middle of the Zocalo and just take in the immensity of this city and more specifically the Metropolitan Cathedral. This impressive structure was built over the ancient ruins of Tenochtitlán and when you walk around the outside periodically you can see through glass panels in the ground exposing the old civilization. While the cathedral is awesome to experience from the outside with three distinct architectural styles, it is also free and pretty exceptional on the inside. One of the most interesting things to look at in the middle of the church is a plumb bob device that is measuring how much the building is sinking. Honestly I can’t believe it is still standing with how far it has moved. Much of Mexico City is sinking because it was built on a lake and because of this, the Metropolitan Cathedral is on the World Monuments list of 100 Most Endangered Sites. Just a hop, skip and jump from the cathedral is the Templo Mayor (great pyramid) of Tenochtitlán. Round out your downtown experience by taking in the view from the Torre Latinoamérica or getting some guacamole from a rooftop restaurant.

Wander the leafy streets of Condesa & Roma

Mexico City is an excellent city to walk and wander. Down each street you will find unique coffee shops, bakeries, parks, shops and beautiful architecture. We grabbed a coffee one morning and just wandered through Condesa and came upon so many interesting places along the walk. We then headed over to the Roma neighborhood to wander and loved that so much too. Roma has so many cute cafes and coffee shops it was hard to make up our mind on where to stop. Definitely wander into the Mercado Roma, a big multi-stop hip market for a quick bite or a coffee. 

Visit the Central Park of Mexico City, Chapultapec Park and the Anthropology Museum

Chapultapec Park is easily my favorite space in Mexico City because of my love for nature. This park is one of the largest in the Western Hemisphere and has so many interesting little areas. We started at Chapultepec Castle because it gives you a great view of the city. We then wandered through the park, past the lakes and botanical garden and out to the Anthropology museum. The walk is so nice even on a warm day because you are in the shade of the trees. The Anthropology museum is just an impressive building on its own, but it is filled with so much history and detail about all of the ancient civilizations of Mexico. It was awesome learning about Teotihuacán in the museum before we headed out there to visit. 

Day Trip to Teotihuacán

When I visited Mexico City about 9 years ago, we visited Teotihuacan and I really enjoyed climbing the Pyramid del Sol and Luna (sun and moon) so I wanted Jeremy to experience it this time. A day trip to Teotihuacán is a great opportunity to take a break from the city, plus it is an easy trip. We took the bus from the Autobuses del Norte station and it was about $5 for the round trip. The ticket counter can be found at Puerta 8 and there is will be a sign above it that says “Pyramides” or “Zona Arquelogico.” To get back to Mexico City we just went right back out where we got dropped up and caught a bus back to the city. We asked the information desk if we had to go to a specific exit to get the bus back to the city and he let us know that yes, we could get it at any of the gates. We were able to take the metro to and from the Autobuses del Norte station which makes this trip even easier. Just as an aside, Teotihuacán is free for Mexican citizens on Sunday, so that will likely be the busiest day. 

Frida, Diego and Coyoacán

Coyoacan, home of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, has a distinct vibe that comes from narrow cobblestone streets and small plazas. I have been to this area on numerous occasions and I still haven’t had a chance to explore the Museo de Frida Kahlo, so that will remain on my list. We got there on a Saturday morning pretty early and the line was already around the block, so we skipped it. I would imagine this would be a good spot on a week day, but still likely to be busy. 

Enjoy the Architecture with Barragan

I’ve been an architecture buff for quite sometime, so it should come as no surprise that I am fascinated by all of the architecture found in Mexico City. While we didn’t get to it on this trip, I would still love to check out of Luis Barragan’s work in an around Mexico City. It would be a dream to walk the pink walls of the Cuadra San Cristobal.  

  Panaderia Rosetta, Roma, Mexico City

Panaderia Rosetta, Roma, Mexico City

Drink Some Coffee

When I travel, especially in cities, I love to check out the coffee scene. There is just something I love about just enjoying a quiet cup of coffee or tea and watching people go about their day. Mexico City has an absurd amount of coffee shops and while we didn’t get to them all (there is no way I could drink that much coffee) we did find some really cute little spots we loved. 

Cafe el Jarocho

This is a Mexico City institution identified by the Mexican flag coffee cup. This spot isn’t fancy and there aren’t any seats, but they do what they do best: coffee. 

Cafe Avellaneda

If I could create the most ideal little coffee shop to start my day in, it would be just like Cafe Avellenda. With perhaps 5 total seats at the counter, this hole-in-the-wall shop took coffee making seriously. It is an ideal spot to prop up for the morning with your newspaper. 

Cafe Negro

This was a great spot to grab a small breakfast and coffee in the Coyoacán district. Modern and clean, with simple options from breakfast sandwiches to yogurt and fruit. 

Chiquitito Cafe

In beautiful Condesa, this tiny little coffee shop is the perfect spot to start your day. 

Panaderia Rosetta

This was the cutest bakery and coffee shop that I have ever seen! There is no way a place like this would be allowed in the U.S. because of building codes, but that makes it even better in my opinion. It was a small cavern like spot in Roma and definitely worth visit for a decadent sweet and a cup of coffee. 

  Pink CDMX Taxis, Mexico City

Pink CDMX Taxis, Mexico City

Additional Tips

Cell Service 

AT&T is present in Mexico and we were able to turn on our cell service, data and texting for no additional charge while we were traveling around Mexico City. You do have to actively turn it on in your account before you go, but it just used our regular plans while we were traveling around. 

Best time to visit

Technically the best time to visit Mexico City is between March and May because the winters can be cold and the summers can get rainy. We were there in May and found it to be chilly in the mornings, but very warm during the day. 

Currency

They use the Mexican Peso and I would try to have pesos and not dollars! Credit cards are widely accepted and you shouldn’t have any issues with that. 

Safety

We felt completely safe walking around, taking the metro and Ubers in Mexico City. We always follow similar safety guidelines no matter where we are that include carrying very little to nothing of value (the camera is the only thing), we don’t wear any expensive jewelry or watches and I never carry a big bag. We are always aware of our surroundings and avoid anything that seems a little off. If we want to explore something that might not be in the best area or where we will stick out (we always do!) we will arrange a guide and we are very cautious after dark. We might Uber to dinner or out for drinks, but we generally go places in areas that we are familiar with or with someone we know. We are almost never out super late, but when I studied abroad in Mexico we did go out as college students do into the wee hours of the morning and just always stayed in big groups. I would just always be overly cautious and vigilant anywhere I go and Mexico City is no different from New York, Chicago or LA.  

As I am writing this, I am already planning another weekend trip there for next year. There is so much to do, I realize as I put this list together, we didn’t get to near all of the items I wanted to get to, so we will just have to go back! Plus if you can tack it on, Puebla and Cholula are also awesome places to visit. Bah, I’m obsessed and I hope you enjoyed it! 

  Views of Chapultepec Park, Mexico City

Views of Chapultepec Park, Mexico City

  Chapultapec Castle, Mexico City

Chapultapec Castle, Mexico City

  Juxtaposition of Old and New, Roma, Mexico City

Juxtaposition of Old and New, Roma, Mexico City

  Anthropology Museum, Mexico City

Anthropology Museum, Mexico City

  Teotihuacan Ruins, Outside Mexico City

Teotihuacan Ruins, Outside Mexico City

 Teotihuacan, Mexico City

Teotihuacan, Mexico City

  Mexico City Fruit Stand

Mexico City Fruit Stand

  Eating Chili Mango in Mexico City

Eating Chili Mango in Mexico City

  Vegan Tacos, Mexico City

Vegan Tacos, Mexico City

  Coyoacan, Mexico City

Coyoacan, Mexico City

  Fruit Shop, Mexico City

Fruit Shop, Mexico City

  Cactus Gardens at Teotihuacan, Mexico

Cactus Gardens at Teotihuacan, Mexico

  Condesa DF, Mexico

Condesa DF, Mexico

  Out Front of Condesa DF, Mexico City

Out Front of Condesa DF, Mexico City

  Condesa Neighborhood, Mexico City

Condesa Neighborhood, Mexico City

  Rooftop Terrace at Hotel Carlota, Mexico City

Rooftop Terrace at Hotel Carlota, Mexico City

  Tree-lined Streets of Mexico City

Tree-lined Streets of Mexico City

  The Zocalo, Mexico City

The Zocalo, Mexico City

  Views from Torre Latinoamerica

Views from Torre Latinoamerica

  Metropolitan Cathedral, Mexico City

Metropolitan Cathedral, Mexico City

  Templo Mayor and the Metropolitan Cathedral, Mexico City

Templo Mayor and the Metropolitan Cathedral, Mexico City

  Downtown Mexico City

Downtown Mexico City

  Flowers in Mexico City

Flowers in Mexico City

 Teotihuacan, Mexico City

Teotihuacan, Mexico City

THE END

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