Mexico City is undeniably charming. The neighborhoods of Condesa and Roma are filled with tree-lined streets, trendy art galleries, boutiques and cafes, while the historic city center is chaotic, but contains many beautiful colonial-era buildings and intriguing museums.
With a population of over twenty million, the Mexican capital can feel overwhelming. So rather than sharing every detail, we’ve chosen our favorite things to see, do, and eat in el Distrito Federal.
What to do in Mexico City
The Historic Center
The main square—known as el Zócalo—is home to the Metropolitan Cathedral, which took nearly 250 years to build (1573-1813) and the ruins of Templo Mayor, which was the main temple of the pre-Hispanic Mexica people located in the capital of Tenochtitlan. Other sites worth visiting in the main square, include the National Palace and the Historic Palace, where the Mexico City government is currently headquartered.
There are dozens of museums scattered throughout the historic center, including the Museo de la Mujer (the museum of the woman), Museo de la Memoria (human rights museum), Museo Antiguo Palacio de Iturbide (historical palatial residence), Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso (museum and cultural center) and the Museo Nacional de Artes (national museum of art).
When you visit this part of the city, make sure to walk down the pedestrian-only Francisco Madero Avenue, take a break in Alameda Park, and check out the Art Nouveau-style at Bellas Artes Palace, one of the most iconic buildings in the city. If you’re willing to get in line, you can also get a picture-perfect view of the palace from Don Porfirio Cafe, located on the eighth floor of the Sears store across the street.
Pro-tip: Tucked behind the cathedral, La Casa de las Sirenas serves classic Mexican dishes on one of the city’s most underrated, yet beautiful terraces.
Basilica de Guadalupe
The Basilica de Guadalupe is located in the north of Mexico City. Around a 30-minute drive from the historic center, this site is visited by millions of people each year to see the image of the Virgen de Guadalupe on the tilma (cloak) of Juan Diego. Many day tours include a visit to the basilica with a trip to the pyramids of Teotihuacan, but visitors can also take an Uber or taxi.
Double the size of Central Park in New York City, Chapultepec Forest is a beautiful green space worth visiting. The park is divided into three sections, with some most of the popular attractions located in the first, including Chapultepec Castle, the National Museum of Anthropology, the Tamayo Contemporary Art Museum, a botanic garden, a lake and much more.
A half-hour drive south of the historic center, Coyoacán still feels like the village it once was before it was swallowed up by Mexico City. The biggest attraction here is Frida Kahlo’s Blue House, now open to the public as a museum. We recommend buying your tickets a couple of days in advance to skip the line and secure the time slot you want.
Make sure to stop by the Coyoacán Market, which is one of the most picturesque traditional markets in the city. There are also lots of great restaurants around Coyoacan’s main square.
Food & Drink recommendations in Coyoacán: On the central plaza, you can find the best chiles en nogada (including a vegetarian version) at Ave Maria if you visit during August and September, as well as very good traditional Mexican dishes throughout the rest of the year. For coffee and cake we love Ruta de la Seda, tucked away in one of Coyoacan’s more quiet plazas. Tostadas Coyoacan, in the center of Coyoacan market with a yellow sign, is famous for its wide range of toppings and friendly atmosphere.
Pro-Tip: Corazón de Maguey is perfect for a lazy lunch, or if you’re interested in keeping things more casual you can snack on the delicious churros, ice cream and corn on the cob sold around Jardin Centenario.
Things to keep in mind: Half a day in Coyoacan is enough, if you want to visit the Casa Azul, the market, and have lunch. However, if you decide to make it a day trip we recommend also visiting San Angel and the Bazaar Sabado or Xochimilco, which are also in the south of the city (keep scrolling for more details).
On Mexico City’s southern edge, the canals of Xochimilco have been designated a World Heritage site for their essential role in keeping the metropolis healthy and fed. Plus, the colorful trajinera boats are pretty cute for a photo op!
Things to keep in mind: The trajineras are available for private hire by the hour, so it’s more affordable to visit with a group of people or on a tour.
Tours we recommend: You can take an in-depth tour of the floating islands with De La Chinampa. Visitors will get to see where the farmers grow fresh produce and taste some of the food.
If you want to combine a tour of the Frida Kahlo museum and Xochimilco, we recommend the Get Your Guide tour.
Where to Eat and Drink
If you have a sweet tooth, a visit to one of the branches of El Moro Churrería that are spread out across the city is a must. This iconic blue-and-white tiled cafe in the historic city center has been open since 1935, while the pretty Condesa branch is a newer addition.
Pro-Tip: Try the consuelos (churro ice cream sandwiches) or dip your churros in Mexican-spiced hot chocolate.
When it comes to bakeries, Cafe Nin in Juarez (from Rosetta’s Elena Reygadas) is the reigning champion of fruit-filled pastries like the rol de guayaba and croissant de higos. We love the pan de muerto at Forte in La Roma, which is only available from late October until November 2. In the Historic Center, Pasteleria Ideal has an incredible selection of pan dulce, from conchas to croissants.
After night, Mexico City is all about sophisticated speakeasies and hidden rooftops. For magical cocktails, you’ve got to visit Xaman in Juarez, a neighborhood nestled between the historic center and Chapultepec Forest. Licoreria Limantour, with branches in Polanco and Roma Norte, is another cocktail hotspot regularly ranked among the world’s best bars.
Nowhere captures the spirit of Mexico City’s speakeasies better than Jules Basement in Polanco, which is tucked behind a refrigerator door inside a restaurant called La Surtidora. If you’d rather drink under the stars, Hotel Casa Awolly in Roma Norte is home to a very Instagrammable rooftop bar.
shop folk art
Get ready to spend money on amazing cuisine. From world-famous fine-dining restaurants like Pujol to tasty street tacos, Mexico City is a foodie’s paradise.
For special occasions, we love the relaxed vibe and Italian-Mexican fusion at Rosetta. (Chef Elena Reygadas is also behind Lardo and a couple of bakeries where you can get some of the best bread in the city.)
Want more Mexico City restaurant recommendations?
Check out this article.
Where to Shop in Mexico City
Make sure to leave plenty of room in your suitcase for souvenirs from your trip to D.F.
La Ciudadela market is the top spot in the city to buy artisan pieces from all over Mexico, with very reasonable prices and a huge variety on offer.
For work by contemporary designers and illustrators, Casa Salt is a good place to start. There are two stores, one inside the chic Barrio Alameda mall in the historic center and another in Condesa.
In the neighborhood of Polanco, just north of Chapultepec park, Lago DF is an emporium full of gorgeous designs from all over Latin America.
In the south of Mexico City, the cobblestones streets of San Angel are transformed into an artists market known as the Bazaar Sábado every Saturday, where you can find everything from fine jewelry to traditional embroidery.
Hotels in Mexico City
Mexico City is packed with boutique hotels inspired by its unique neighborhoods.
If you want the celebrity treatment, the exclusive La Valise, in Roma Norte, has only three suites, including a penthouse with a bed that slides out onto the terrace.
Chaya BnB is a more affordable option with a bohemian attitude in the center of the city, offering incredible views across Alameda Park. If you’re interested in a more historic and artsy neighborhood, el Patio 77 is located in San Rafael and expertly balances sustainability and style.
Hotels we are interested in exploring: Hotel Nima, located in the Roma district, only has four hotel rooms but gives a beautiful-charming “mi casa es tu casa” vibe. Casa Goliana, also located in the Roma district, is a luxury bed and breakfast located in a charming early 20th century home.
Getting around Mexico City
Getting around Mexico City can be a hassle due to the traffic and the long distances. The Metro is easy to use during the day (except for the 6-9 a.m. and 5-10 p.m. rush hours when it is ridiculously busy). Otherwise Uber, Didi and Beat rideshare services are all safe, convenient and affordable.
Pro-tip: If taking a taxi, make sure to use a registered sitio (taxi rank) rather than hailing one from the street.
How long to spend in Mexico City
You could easily spend a week exploring Mexico City, but three or four days or a 3-day weekend is enough to experience the many of the sites and restaurants.
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