Mexico City is an overlooked city to travel to. Growing up in Canada you hear a lot of Mexico in international news regarding its safety and the amount of attacks on tourists in resort towns and crime in general within the country. Yet, as so many other destinations that we have visited, we felt safe throughout the city
Since we arrived back in Canada in 2017, Mexico was on the list of our next destinations to visit. Unfortunately we hear a lot of negative press against Mexico involving the safety of the country. There is a lot of talk about the murders, kidnappings, and petty theft that happens within the country. Even visiting Canada’s travel website, Mexico is listed as travel with extreme caution as of 2019.
That has never deterred us from visiting a place and upon further researching about safety in Mexico you can find that the main areas you should avoid fall along the U.S. border and to the West of Mexico City. These places we avoided.
Mexico City has so much to offer travelers that it would be a shame that the question of safety would deter anyone from visiting. First and foremost, the food is what gravitated us towards visiting Mexico. Along with the food we were looking forward to learning more about the Mexican culture and to visit some historical ruins while we were at it.
Five days in Mexico City is just enough to get a taste for what this lively city has to offer. Here is what we did in five days.
Table of Contents
Historical City Center Walking Tour
- Palacio des Belles Arts
- Museo Mural Diego Rivera
- La Ciudadela
- Templo Mayor
- Torre Latinoamerica
Teotihuacan Day Trip
- Lucha Libre
- Frida Kahlo House and Museum
- Mercado de Coyoacan
- Museo Anahuacalli
Puebla and Cholula Day Trip
- Puebla Zocalo
- Library and Cathedrals
- Estelle de Puebla
- Our Lady of Remedies Shrine and Archaeological Zone
- Chapultepec Castle
Where to Eat in Mexico City
How to Get Around Mexico City
Where to Stay in Mexico City
How to Get a SIM Card in Mexico City
In each of these sections are links to separate blog posts that dive into each of these days much deeper if you want to learn more about them.
Historical City Center Walking Tour
There is so much to see in the Historical City Center of Mexico City that you could dedicate a few days to it and not be able to see it all. We had to pick and choose the attractions that we would enter, but we did make an effort to make it to each one to marvel at the architecture even if we did not choose to enter.
We recommend this for your first day in the city because of how great of an introduction to the city it is. From the art to the buildings, the food to the markets, there is something here for everyone to enjoy and lots of things to fulfill your senses.
There is a lot to do and if you only have a limited amount of time while you are there, you need to plan your route ahead of time. That is why we copied and pasted our route to help you from needing to do any further research. If you want more information on this, click the photo above.
Palacio des Belles Arts
Museo Mural Diego Rivera
This was our starting point to our tour of Mexico City. From our accommodation straight to this gorgeous piece of architecture. There are various dance, music, opera, and other cultural events in this palace and would definitely be worthwhile to book something in advance or to take your chance and see what is there when you arrive. The day that we were there, they were hosting an art show. However, with the limited time we had to dedicate to the Historic Center of Mexico City, we decided to skip this due to the other art shows that we were going to see on this day and later in the trip.
Whether you decide to enter the palace or not, take a stroll in the park right next to it to enjoy the statues and fountains on your way to this next one. It is a beautiful area and it takes you right to the next destination on our list.
This was the perfect thing to fit into our short itinerary because the entrance fee is inexpensive and it is simply a room with a mural in it created by Diego Rivera. We spent about half an hour here to really enjoy this piece of art by the famous painter. It is a great way to get to know a little bit more about the famous artist and his work, however all of the text is in Spanish. If you want to really know what you are looking at, do a little research on your phone while you are there or book a tour.
The perfect place to visit if you are a souvenir shopper. The prices are fair and there are lots of different things to see in this massive complex of alleyways that are lined with different vendors.
The long list of souvenirs you can buy at this market include: Mexican wrestling masks, dolls, leather products, tequila, shot glasses, figurines, and many other Mexican handicrafts.
We spent a couple of hours here and you can even eat at one of the restaurants in the market, but we had already planned to eat at our next area that we would visit.
The main square of the historical center is home to an ancient ruin and some incredible architecture. It is well worth it to eat at El Mayor with a view of Templo Mayor and a small portion of Zocalo. From there, you could choose to tour the Templo Mayor and the Zocalo area. There are even some buildings you can choose to enter like the Cathedral.
From Zocalo, you can see the next attraction and you will continue walking for 10 minutes to get to it through a pedestrian only road full of a wonderful strip of shops.
Continuing from the Zocalo area you can walk the shopping district towards the Torre Latinoamerica where you can move up to the top of the tower for the view of the area you conquered in your itinerary. The view is pretty incredible of the area you just walked from the Palace to Zocalo. It is the perfect place to wrap up the day and would look beautiful once the sun goes down or at sunset. We were too tired after this day to wait for that, so we went up during the day and enjoyed our time here, though it is pricey (as are most admission tickets up towers at any destination).
From this tower, you can visit the El Moro Churreria to satisfy your sweet tooth at the end of your long day. It was a great way to wrap our day up with churros and sweets.
Teotihuacan Day Trip
You are going to need to keep those legs moving for this next day trip to Teotihuacan. This is an archeaological area that includes two pyramids and a long stretch of ruins from a once thriving population North East of Mexico City. If you want some more detailed information about Teotihuacan, click the photo above.
To get here, you will need to take an Uber to Gate 8 of Autobuses de Norte station and look for the booth with the blue pyramid that also has Teotihuacan on it. There you will buy tickets that cost $54 pesos each for one way on a bus that takes just over two hours to arrive.
From there you will be dropped off right near the Entrance 1 for Teotihuacan where you will pay your entrance fee and continue walking for about five more minutes to get to the entrance gate where there are souvenir stands to buy hats, sunscreen, and other various souvenirs to commemorate your trip. Do not worry, there is a lot more souvenirs to buy throughout the ruins.
From there you will walk straight through a long stretch with ruins on either side of you towards the direction of the Pyramid of the Moon straight ahead and the Pyramid of the Sun to your right slightly before the previous pyramid.
You are free to walk up the top of the Pyramid of the Sun and to the midway point of the Pyramid of the Moon. Both have very steep stairs and are not made perfectly. Luckily there are ropes that you can hold on to for your way up. The views are well worth it. Along with exploring more of the ruins, you can also visit the museum on site.
Before you leave, visit La Gruta restaurant which is just a five minute walk from the entrance by the museum. Here you can dine on Mexican food in a cave! It is a beautiful environment with some of the most delicious food we had while we were in Mexico and a great end to the meal with a ritual that they have every guest do.
If we recommended one day trip for you to take while you are in Mexico City, this is the one. Do not miss out on Teotihuacan. Again, if you want more in depth information on this, click the photo at the top of this section.
We squeezed this event in after our day trip to Teotihuacan at 8:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. at Arena Mexico. When in Mexico you need to treat yourself to a Mexican wrestling show. You will not be disappointed. You will need to plan this in advance and find the best day that you can visit a show. We searched online with the keyword Arena Mexico because we knew that this was the closest major arena to our accommodation. When we found the website that showed the events happening, we chose the day that would work best for us.
Tickets cost 130 pesos each and it was a small price to pay for a great view of the entertainment. The stadium was half full as rows above ours were not sold. It was extremely crowded outside of the stadium with food vendors and souvenir vendors along with hundreds of people looking to purchase tickets and just enjoy the atmosphere. From the outside, you would never know that it was a stadium.
You are not allowed to bring in bags or cameras into the arena. Once you have purchased tickets and made it past security, there will be several runners working for tips that will take you to your seat. You can also purchase snacks and beer from your seat. The show was just over two hours long and featured several different performances each going three rounds. The atmosphere in this stadium was incredible, and though it definitely was not a major match, everyone was into it. Click the image at the top of this section to learn more about Lucha Libre in Mexico City.
Frida Kahlo House and Museum
Mercado de Coyoacan
It only made sense to visit the house of one of Mexico’s most famous painters, Frida Kahlo. This blue house has now turned in to a museum. Once you enter the house you are greeted to a gorgeous open courtyard with a souvenir shop, fountains, and walkways around various plants. You can sit down to a video, which we opted out of, and continue through the house to see the various rooms and learn more about the history of the house and Frida Kahlo.
You can then continue on to an exhibition of her various clothing and jewelry that only recently was made available to the public and learn about why she dressedt he way she did. This was a great look at Frida Kahlo and to understand more about the figure. With this purchase also came entrance to the Museo Anahuacalli which is also worth a visit, though is not within walking distance.
Take an Uber to this museum which is included in the price of admission to Frida Kahlo’s house. It is definitly worth the visit and should not be forgot.
This was a museum that was built by Diego Rivera to display art and artifacts of the Mexican culture. He designed it to show off the architecture of Mexico and to display artifacts. There is a lot to wonder at here from the floors to the ceilings and the walls that house the incredible artifacts that tell a story of years past.
After Frida Kahlo’s house, walk ten minutes to this market to not only shop more souvenirs, but also take in the Mexican cuisine in this market setting. The foods are endless here and you can really get a look into the culture of the cuisine. We even tried some grasshopper and pig rinds here. But you can keep it safe and have some tacos and dessert. You can also walk a block from here to visit the Mercado Artesanal Mexicano for some more unique souvenir shopping.
Puebla and Cholula Day Trip
These side-by-side cities are a great way to spend a day trip outside of Mexico City. This is our next recommended day trip from Mexico City next to Teotihuacan. Puebla is a historic town where they celebrate Cinco de Mayo as it is the site where Mexico defeated the French army in an underdog battle.
We arrived by bus from TAPO to CAPU during a three hour ride and went straight to the main square of the city where the historic center is to join in on the Cinco de Mayo festivities. Upon our arrival we had just missed the parade, but there were street vendors for miles in ever direction selling souvenirs and food. We visited:
Library and Cathedrals
This is the main city center and it is full of wonderful historic architecture along with a space for locals to relax in the main plaza. This is a great starting point for your walking tour of the area that can cover so many of the things on your to do list in Puebla.
The Biblioteca Palafoxiana is a historic library near Zocalo and the Puebla Cathedral. It may be worth it for a tour if you are willing to pay the price of admission, but we decided not to and got a photo from outside. Other great places to see in the area are religious buildings including the Catedral de Puebla, Capilla del Rosario, and Templo de Santo Domingo.
El Parián is a popular market in Puebla full of souvenir shops and food stalls. It is the perfect place to go for a stroll and to enjoy the markets that the city has to offer.
All of this took up three to four hours of our time and with our bus leaving at 6:30 p.m. we had to move on to Cholula to visit:
Estrella de Puebla
Shrine of Our Lady of Remedies
Zona Arqueológica de Cholula
Though not in Cholula, it fits perfectly into your day if you visit on your way to Cholula or on your way from Cholula back to the bus stop to take you back to Mexico City. This is a massive ferris wheel that provides you with a great view of the surrounding area from the top.
This is an iconic shrine for the city of Cholula and is a must visit when you are in the area. The shrine is on top of a large hill which is the site of a pyramid. The shrine is colored yellow and overlooks the volcano in the distance, though the fog did not allow us to see it. Regardless, the shrine itself as well as the view of the city is beautiful enough to warrant a visit.
This is the archaeological zone that sites at the base of the shrine. We did not have time to enter this area and had to get moving from here, but it is the next thing we would have done if we had the time. It is supposed to be one of the largest pyramids in the New World.
This is a canal that is inhabited by hundreds of colorful boats that you can cruise on for $500 pesos per hour per boat. You can choose to do this by yourself or with a group of people to make the cost lower per person. Either way, it is a party on the canal.
We arrived on Monday at 10 a.m. at Embarcadero Nuevo Nativitas and there were hardly any other people cruising the canal. It was extremely quiet and shop owners were just opening up. This gave us some bargaining power when booking our one hour cruise. However, if you want more of a party vibe then you should go on the weekend.
Once you are on your boat and cruising the canal, smaller boats will approach you trying to sell flowers, food, beer, photographs, and mariachi bands that will board your boat to sing to you.
You driver will make their way to a flower shop where you can get out and walk around before heading back to the docks where your cruise will end. We thoroughly enjoyed the peaceful cruise and on the way back many more boats were coming out and the canal was becoming much more busy with singing and drinks to be had.
Bring your own drinks and food onto the boat when you go and think about joining a group before you get to the docks so that you can pool your money and spend more to get to the island of the dolls.
This is a massive park that is home to an amusement park, several different museums, and a castle. This could be a full day itinerary in and of itself. The main attraction here is the castle, so do not miss out on that.
Chapultepec Castle was built in the mid 19th century. It is now home to an incredibly informative historical tour of Mexico. With lovely views of the surrounding area and an amazing walk through the history of Mexico through paintings and artifacts, this attraction cannot be missed. You cannot bring bags in with you, but you are able to check them into the lockers before you enter for the small price of $10 pesos.
Walking through the castle will take at least a few hours so budget your time accordingly. Unfortunately everything you will read will be in Spanish, so if you are interested in learning more beyond looking at the artifacts you may want to hire a guide at the entrance.
Where to Eat in Mexico City
This was one of our favorite restaurants in Mexico City with a view of the Zocalo and Templo Mayor. It serves really good Mexican food in an incredible atmosphere at a reasonable price.
Also in the Historic City Center like El Mayor, El Moro specializes in churros and serves other amazing desserts to satisfy any sweet tooth. Having been in business for decades, it makes sense why it is a popular spot.
This is a lovely spot for lunch or dinner in La Condesa with a great area outside to eat or a great atmosphere inside. It was our first spot in Mexico that we got a taste of Mexican food.
This is a Mexican food chain in Mexico City that serves affordable food that tastes fairly good. It was our second place that we visited and though we were not thoroughly impressed, it was good for the price point.
Just north of La Condesa is this stylish bar / restaurant where we tried Mescal for the first time. We also ordered some dessert and nachos. It was a great place to enjoy the night life of Mexico City.
Our second favorite food place on this list we found in Coyoacan. It is a lovely restaurant with a perfect outdoor eating area with excellent food that allows you to eat right next to a busy plaza area.
Churreria General de la Republica
Another churreria on the list, but this one in Coyoacan is a small establishment that serves one thing. Churros. And they are pretty good at it.
Panaderia is a cafe in Juarez, El Beneficio in Coyoacan, and El Pujol and Cafe Del Dia in La Condesa all offer good coffee and pastries to get you started for any day.
How to Get Around Mexico City
This was our preferred method of transportation in Mexico City. It was so affordable that we did not waste our time taking public transit and risk being pickpocketed as our AirBnB host even warned us about the potential of this happening.
Using Uber, most trips throughout the city being anywhere from $40 to $70 pesos.
Longer trips that lasted as long as 45 minutes due to traffic within the city cost about $100 pesos. Though our trip to Xochimilco from our AirBnB near Chapultepec cost $150 to get there and $200 pesos to get back as it is depending on the time of day and demand for drivers.
We would not recommend the taxis in Mexico City as they all look run down. We did take a taxi from the airport to our AirBnB, but this was a registered taxi that we purchased a ticket for in the airport when our Uber account was not letting us login.
Bus and Subway
These are both very inexpensive ways of getting around the city, but you are trading off efficient use of your time. This is why we opted to use Uber throughout the city. If you have the time to spend and are cautious about your surroundings in closed and tight environments, then perhaps try using these methods of transportation around the city.
Rent a Car
No. Do not do it. At least with my comfortability of driving, Mexico City seemed like a free-for-all on the roads. I have driven in Canada, Hawaii, and South Africa, and later in this trip I drove throughout Cancun to Chichen Itza, but I would not have been able to drive in Mexico City.
Not only for the chaos that were the roads, but also the amount of traffic throughout the city is enough to make your head spin.
Best Area to Stay in Mexico City
We stayed in La Condesa and were really happy with how safe we felt when walking around throughout the day and into the evening. Around this area is where we would recommend you to stay in Mexico City. It is also a great base to get to anywhere from the airport, the historical city center, Xochimilco, and other bus stops. Alternatively you can stay in Roma Norte for a similar feel to La Condesa, just closer to the nightlife and restaurants.
If you are interested in the specific area that we recommend and some hotels we suggest you book, check out our post on the best area to stay in Mexico City.
How to Get a SIM Card in Mexico City
Once you land in MEX airport, you will notice a few different wireless shops that are selling SIM cards. We went to the first one we saw which was an AT&T both where they were selling SIM cards with unlimited everything as it was explained to us for 10 days for $300 pesos. This seemed like a great deal and we only had troubles with our connection in one area of the city just north of Chapultepec. Other than that it was flawless.
We carried on using this SIM card past the 10 days when we moved on to Cancun later in our trip and it was still working. On the tenth day when we walked into an AT&T store to see if we could get a few more days on the card before we left, they told us the card was good for 30 days.
We really felt as though we did everything we wanted to when visiting Mexico City. Five days was the perfect amount of time for us, though we are very busy travelers and are willing to spend more on transportation in order to fit more into a day. If you are slower travelers and want to move at a pace more suitable to you then perhaps you will want to add more days to your trip.
Ultimately we find wherever we travel and for however long we are there for, it is never enough. There are always things that we wish we had more time to see and things we wish we had added to our itinerary. Regardless, we are always happy for the memories that we made and the things we accomplished while there.
Mexico City was no different. The city really blew us away with how incredible it is for travelers. With day trips to satisfy any traveler and culture exploding throughout the city, it is the perfect place to book your next trip. Avoid the touristy resorts that the country is so well known for and get a dose of local life by staying in the big city. You will not regret it.
Have you been to Mexico City before? What did we miss from this itinerary that you think travelers MUST visit? Leave a comment below!