Travel
3-days in Mexico City – A Culture Vulture’s Guide
December 6, 2018
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Torre Latinoamerica views of Centro Historico and beyond

Seeing all of Mexico City (CDMX) in 3-days is akin to getting your mouth around an overstuffed taco. Eventually, the delicious salsa of art, architecture, history, culture and of course, food, will squeeze out the end, slide down your arm hopefully onto your plate, where it will have to wait for the next opportune mouthful. This guide to 3-days in Mexico City will help you cram as much of the sprawling metropolis into that folded tortilla as you can handle.

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Things to do in Mexico City

Take a walking tour

For the first time visitor to Mexico City, it makes sense to start in the Historic District (Centro Historico in Spanish) and a walking tour is the perfect way to taken in the history and architecture of the colonial capital. We took a two-hour wander with Estacion Mexico on a pay-as-you-wish tour. A walking tour is a great way to start your trip, giving you a brief history of the City, while simultaneously getting orientated with the streets and locations of things you will want to return to later e.g. Palacio de Belles Artes.

Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral on the Zocálo
Take a walking tour of Centro Historico
Take a walking tour of Centro Historico

Get a top-down view

Over years of travel, we’ve clocked up quite a few of the world’s observation decks. What I like about the Torre Latinoamerica (apart from surviving some very serious earthquakes) is that its viewing platform isn’t too high. Especially in a city prone to poor air quality, you don’t want to get too far away from the rooftops. From the 44th floor you can see for miles, and still pick out smaller architectural details. The Torre Latinoamerica offers great aerial photo opportunities of the Palacio de Belles Artes, for those of us who don’t carry around a drone. The observation deck is open 9am-10pm and will set you back MXN100 for adults (approx. USD5)

Palacio de Bellas Artes from above
Torre Latinoamerica vista of the Plaza de la Constitucion and beyond
Torre Latinoamerica vista of the Plaza de la Constitucion and beyond

Explore the many museums

Depending who you ask, Mexico City ranks first or second in the world of cities with the most museums. Either way, you won’t get to see them all, so just pick a couple. I suggest you at least visit the National Museum of Anthropology which documents the indigenous cultures of pre-Hispanic Mexico. I had no idea just how complex the history of this region was until I visited this Museum. The English translation is a little spotty, so I recommend hiring an audio guide to help you get the best out of the amazing exhibits. I particularly recommend this National Museum of Anthropology if you are not planning to go to any of the archaeological sites in and around Mexico City.

Other museums to consider:

Frida Kahlo Museum aka La Casa Azul, Coyoacán – http://www.museofridakahlo.org.mx/en/the-blue-house/

Leon Trotsky Museum. Coyacán – http://museotrotsky.com/

Chapultepec Castle and the National Museum of History, Chapultepec Park – https://duendebymadamzozo.com/chapultepec-castle/

Museum of Modern Art, Chapultepec Park – https://mam.inba.gob.mx/

Museo Tamayo (Contemporary Art), Chapultepec Park – http://museotamayo.org/acerca

Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, San Angel – https://estudiodiegorivera.bellasartes.gob.mx/

Museo Dolores Olmedo, Xochimilco – http://www.museodoloresolmedo.org.mx/

The National Palace, Centro Historico – http://www.hacienda.gob.mx/

Museo Mural Diego Rivera, Centro Historico – https://museomuraldiegorivera.bellasartes.gob.mx/

Museum of Popular Art, Centro Historico – https://www.map.cdmx.gob.mx/

National Museum of Art, Centro Historico – http://www.munal.mx/en

Museo Franz Mayer, Centro Historico – http://franzmayer.org.mx/

Museum of the City of Mexico, Centro Historico – https://www.cdmx.gob.mx/vive-cdmx/post/museo-de-la-ciudad-de-mexico

Soumaya Museum, Granada – http://www.museosoumaya.org/

IMPORTANT NOTE: Museums in Mexico are closed on Mondays, and are generally free for Mexican citizens and residents on Sundays which makes the busier. Plan your itinerary accordingly.

National Museum of Anthropology
National Museum of Anthropology
Casa Azul, childhood home of Frida Kahlo
Casa Azul, childhood home of Frida Kahlo

Visit an archaeological site

There are several great archaeological sites that you can visit on day trips from Mexico City and one in the city itself. I recommend visiting at least one during your 3-days in Mexico City.

CDMX is located on what used to be the capital of the Mexica (Aztec) People, known as Tenochtitlan. In 1978, electric company workers digging in Centro Historico came across a pre-Colombian monolith. Over the next four years, archeologists excavated the site to reveal a great temple and many important artifacts including skeletons, clay pots and urns, gold, alabaster, coral and other materials. The site is now called Museo Templo Mayor, located at Seminario 8, Centro Histórico. It is open Tuesday – Sunday, 9am-5pm, with an admission of MXN70 (about USD3.50).

If you want to get out of the city for the day, try one of these:

  • Teotihuacan – The Pyramid of the Sun is the third largest pyramid in the world.
  • The Great Pyramid of Cholula, also known as Tlachihualtepetl, the largest known pyramid in the world.
  • Tula (and Tepotzotlan) – Capital of the Toltec Empire that predates the Aztecs.
Teotihuacan
Seated on top of the Pyramid of Moon, looking down the Avenue of the Dead and at the Pyramid of the Sun

Sample some Mexican cuisine

I think it’s nice to take a high-low approach. While there is delicious food to be eaten at impossibly low prices on the street, there are also some top-notch chefs taking Mexican cuisine to new levels in higher-end restaurants. Keep in mind that eating at street vendors is more flexible, as most of the reputable restaurants will require a booking due to popularity, or expect to be put on a wait list if you decide to walk in.

Street food vendors on Luis González Obregón
Taking our walking tour guide’s advice, we had a great USD6 dinner for two at the street vendors on Luis González Obregón.
Azul Historico
Splashing out (relatively speaking) at Azul Historico

Spend time in a market

Get to a market, the more local the better. Markets are always hives of activity that tell you a lot about the local lifestyle and culture. We dropped into the Mercado de Coyoacán (a short walk from the Frida Kahlo Museum) which I recommend, but you can start your research with this list of great Mexico City markets.

Coyoacán Market
Coyoacán Market

Experience Mexico City nightlife

There are three things you must experience (I think?!): Ballet Folklorico de Mexico, Lucha Libre and Mariachi music. Unfortunately for us, we couldn’t get tickets for the Ballet Folklorico, a showcase of indigenous culture through song, dance and costume – our dates just didn’t line up. So don’t just take it from me, read the reviews on Tripadvisor.

A good judge of whether you will like Lucha Libre is if you have a tolerance of WWE. I loathe it, my husband likes it – compromises are important in relationships. Plus, I believe in trying most things once especially in the name of cultural experience, so off I went. As to be expected, I wasn’t at all upset when the tall man sat in front of me a couple of matches in. I hear from fellow travellers that Lucha Libre improves with a few tequilas under your belt – keep that in mind.

As a self-confessed musicophile, Garibaldi Square was something I was really looking forward to. We ate in one of the well-known Mariachi establishments, Salón Tenampa established 1925 (so it’s one of those places where every tourist goes but because it has genuine history). My problem was this… multiple Mariachi bands playing at the same time in the same space. It was like being in a washing machine of sound. At one point we had a band playing at our table while concurrently two other bands were playing at the tables either side of us. Oh, what a mess! In one sense you could say it was a reflection of the general chaos of Mexico, but there is only so much of the cacophony one can take. So disappointed! If you know of a better way to experience Mariachi in Mexico City, please drop us comment below and share with us. Please!

Lucha Libre
Lucha Libre masks

Mexico City attractions map

Sample Mexico City 3-Day Itinerary

Day 1

  • Free (i.e. pay-as-you-wish) walking tour
  • Torre Latinoamerica
  • Museum of choice close to the centre of town
  • Ballet Folklorico

Day 2

  • Chapultepec Park
  • Museum of choice in Chapultepec Park or further afield e.g. Chapultepec Castle or Frida Kahlo Museum
  • Market
  • Lucha Libre
  • Garibaldi Square or other more desirable Mariachi experience

Day 3

  • Templo Mayor or day trip to an out of town archaeological site
  • If you choose Templo Mayor, you are likely to have free time to visit another museum, market or begin discovering another neighbourhood such as Roma, Condesa or Polanco.

Plan a trip to Mexico City

Find flights to Mexico City (MEX) with Skyscanner.

Search for accommodation using Tripadvisor or Airbnb (we loved staying at Dirk’s stylish abode).

Don’t forget travel insurance, I recommend Seven Corners or World Nomads.

Let your 3-days in Mexico City whet your appetite for a return visit. Don’t attempt to do it all, because it isn’t all doable. Just remember that losing some of your taco filling is better than never having taken a bite.

Peace, love & inspiring travel,

Madam ZoZo

3-Days in Mexico City - A Culture Vulture's Guide

About author

Madam ZoZo

Hi! I'm Madam ZoZo, aka Zoë, an Australian designer, creative consultant, blogger and digital nomad. I'm passionate about travel, design, dance and new experiences that fuel my creativity. I strive to travel in a style that is gentle on the earth and that contributes to the communities I visits, even if it is merely to take away a greater understanding of a different culture. Duende by Madam ZoZo, is where I share the stories of my travels and the duende (soul/inspiration) I find along the way.

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