Mexico City in 4 Days - Suggested Itinerary
Planning a trip to Mexico City? You could easily spend months there and not see it all. But sadly most of us are short on time and vacation days. Here’s how to maximize a 4 day trip to Mexico City:
Assuming you arrived last night, or (god forbid) ended up on a red eye, you should start off the day with a leisurely morning exploring your neighborhood. See what cafes are open for breakfast - eggs, pasteries, and a good cup of coffee will be standard. Or, well the hell, you’re on vacation - get churros for breakfast! You’ll find them both in bakeries and from sidewalk vendors. Walk down to the local plaza to get a feel for the area. A lot of neighborhoods in Mexico City have great street art to see and photograph. Eventually make your way to the Centro area, which has most of the governmental buildings and also is the most touristed part of Mexico City. That being said, it’s touristy for good reason - check out the National Palace to see the Rivera murals, the nearby massive Cathedral that towers over the Zocalo, and the slightly further afield Anthropology Museum to see the Aztec and Mayan artifacts. Make sure you check the hours beforehand as the museums are often closed on Mondays or holidays. Later that day, venture out to the trendy neighborhoods of Roma Norte or Condesa for dinner to enjoy some of the amazing local Mexican (non-touristy) cuisine. Some of the most in demand chefs and restaurants can be found here. The website Eater has a great guide on some of the places for foodies to check out. For those on a budget, also look at Las Chalupitas, which I ended up at one night unexpectedly and had a delicious and affordable meal.
Now that you’ve gotten your bearings, get a cab, uber, or take the train on an adventure down even farther south to Xochimilco. If you’re an art fan, be sure to hit up the Dolores Olmedo Museum to see a large collection of early 20th century artwork done by Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and more. After the museum, or skipping the museum, head down to the docks for the most unique Mexican experience, a ride on the canals (one of the highlights of my own trip). You have the option of an hourly trip, a visit to the floating gardens, or a longer trip to the Isla de las Muñecas - Yes, the Island of the Creepy Dolls. If you’re traveling solo, I’d recommend going with a group. Both Viator and Airbnb offer group outings on the boats.
Read more about getting to Xochimilco and taking a boat out to the Island of the Creepy Dolls here
Have a relaxing morning after yesterday’s adventures, and head down to beautiful Coyoacan to experience the feeling of old colonial Mexico City. Here there are cobblestones, pink houses, and the well-trod tourist site of the Frida Kahlo Museum, aka The Blue House. If you’re a Frida fan, arrive early (or buy in advance) to avoid some of the line. To be honest, if you’re not a Frida fan, you can probably skip the in favor of some churros in the picturesque plaza at Coyoacan. Do take a swing through the Coyocan Market while you’re there to get a taste of the crowded stalls and bargain hunting of Mexican markets.
If you missed the Anthropology Museum on Day 1, take a cab, uber, or subway up to Chapultepec Park to see it. The Anthropology Museum is enormous. The vast holdings of Mayan, Aztec, and other indigenous societies can be almost overwhelming at times. One could easily spend a full day there. Luckily it’s open until 7pm (closed Mondays). If you have the time, also spend a little time in surrounding Chapultepec Park. There you can find botanic gardens and even a castle!
On your last full, day, wake up early for a sunrise tour of the pyramids of Teotihuacan. It’s only about an hour north of the city, though feels like you’re in a very different world. Yes it’s touristy, but it’s also spectacular. While it’s often assumed (at least by me) that it was an Aztec site, it actually pre-dates them by several centuries. No one’s sure who the city’s founders were. They do know that it was a fairly diverse city, with a variety of ethnic groups making their home in different complexes. The city was abandoned by 900 AD, possibly sooner. When you arrive, you’ll first go through the ticketing area flanked by food and souvenir vendors. From there, you walk north along a grand walkway past several temples (most of which can be climbed), plazas, and more. The largest temple is the Pyramid of the Sun. If you’re able to, definitely climb the 248 steps to the peak. An emptier site, and emptier stair climbs, are good reasons for the early morning tour. It’s also more bearable weather-wise, as there is no shade at Teotihuacan and the sun can be quite punishing!
The site can be viewed on your own, as you can catch a bus from the city several times a day. You can also hire a guide from the front entrance who will give you a rundown the layout and history of the different buildings. If you’re nervous though, tours are a good option, and I’d definitely recommend it if you’re traveling solo. Tours are fairly inexpensive. There’s something nice about sitting back and letting someone else handle the planning, driving, and schedule. Plus, it’s a great way to chat with other travelers about your Mexico experiences! While it should only be about a 5-6 hour tour, make sure to check with your tour operator on what time you’ll be heading back, especially if you want to make plans for the evening. Most tours combine the pyramid tour with about 2-3 other stops for lunch, tequila tastings, and souvenir buying. Traffic and hotel dropoffs can also add an unpredictable amount of time.
Once you’re back, enjoy one more delicious meal and delicious cocktail before packing up to leave the next day!