Are you taking a trip to Mexico and planning on staying in Mexico City for the weekend or even just for a day?
As one of the world’s largest cities known for its bustling streets and ancient culture, you have a lifetime’s worth of gems to explore in this city.
This weekend travel guide gives some useful advice on where to go, what to do, and things to see in CDMX.
It will also include some practical travel tips that will help you make the most out of your time in one of Latin America’s liveliest cities.
Why visit Mexico City?
Mexico City is oozing with everything from historic landmarks, parks, museums, and some of the best street food in the country.
The city is popular with travelers backpacking Mexico and although a weekend is little time to spend in such a big city, visiting Mexico city during the weekend gives you ample time to touch the surface of what can be a world of surprises.
If it is your first time reading about Mexico or its capital, then you will find some cultural gems which are designed for anyone traveling to Mexico for the first time.
A Weekend in Mexico City
Below we will explore some of the best things to see in Mexico City as well as give you some insider tips to help you make the most of each landmark that you visit.
For new visitors, the historic center is one of the best starting points. Not only is it where you’ll find the Zocalo (main square) but it’s one of the busiest points in the city. Expect to see street performers, authentic Mexican restaurants, and much more.
The Zocalo is noted as the largest plaza in Latin America and can hold thousands of people so expect to see lots of activity in this area during the day and night.
The Ciudadela market is a must for everyone, especially first-time visitors to Mexico City and it is one of the most authentic Mexican markets around.
Knowing how to get past the cheap and more frivolous products to be able to find authentic and beautiful Mexican handcrafts is the key!
Whether looking for gifts or a quick souvenir here is a great place to find things such as Mexican jewelry, shoes, textiles, pottery, bags, and clothing. La Ciudadela is free and you can spend hours walking around looking at all the artisan gifts on offer.
Try Street Food
With all the things to do in Mexico you could ever dream of, one thing you’ll notice is that in every direction you look, street food plays a major part in everyday life. When planning any trip to Mexico City you must prepare your taste buds for a new and different type of flavor explosion first.
On each and every street corner you arrive at, you’ll be greeted with a unique scent or strong smell from one of the many stalls, stands, or street food trucks serving up one of Mexico city’s finest foods.
With so many dishes to choose from, many of which you may not have heard of, which do you decide to eat?
One of the street food delights we recommend you try is Tacos al pastor – just lookout for slowly roasted pork on a vertical spit with a pineapple on top.
You can find them all day long but they are a popular evening snack. During the lunch hours though, be sure to look out for Tortas, they a served on toasted bread and are filled with absolutely anything you can imagine.
Just like a sandwich – but better. With endless variations designed to suit all tastebuds, you can guarantee to find a winner for you.
Chapultepec Castle is one of the best places to get stunning 360-degree views of Mexico City. The castle sits more than 7,000 feet above sea level so if you are open to embarking on a little climb up to this castle then you won’t be disappointed.
Get access to be able to explore the period rooms which display historic artifacts and a level of design and upholstery that can only be appreciated.
Not only will you get an insight into the living culture and classic Mexican lifestyle. On the castle’s grounds, you’ll find lovely pruned gardens, statues, and extraordinary views of Chapultepec Park and Avenida Reforma.
Xochimilco is one of the boroughs of Mexico City (known as mayoralities in Spanish). It is known for its canals that have become increasingly popular for tourists both locally and internationally to visit and to be able to experience the floating gardens.
Firstly, you jump on one of the magical boats that transport you along the canal. On the boat, you can purchase Micheladas and even be presented with an all-singing passing mariachi band whilst on your streamlined journey over the water.
You can also purchase food from other passing boats along the canal which all together make up part of this unique Mexican experience.
Sunday is considerably busier than most days, but if you do visit, make sure you lookout for the floating gardens which are the garden centers you’ll see alongside the canal. There are disconnected from the mainland but reside on islands in the water.
If you wish to get out of the Historic center for the day and do a day trip from Mexico City, Teotihuacan Pyramids offer a magical day out for all ages to learn about Mexican history and the Incas.
Known as the place of the gods, Teotihuacan is located around one hour from Mexico City. You can visit as part of a group tour, or do a private tour if you are in a rush.
This was one the largest city in the Americas and had a population of up to 85,000, and as the largest attraction on this list, you‘ll need at least a full morning or afternoon to visit this attraction. Also, be sure to carry some solar protection and a sun hat as the sun is blistering here. That way you can relax as you tour around this magical landmark which is a must for anyone visiting Mexico city for more than a day.
Palace of Fine Arts
Known for hosting some of Mexico’s most notable events in theatre, music, opera dance, and literature, this 19th-century building is the first National Theater of Mexico.
For visitors interested in architecture and culture this is a must-see and since it is located just a few steps from the Zocalo you can easily reach it on foot.
Whether you are looking at the museum, the performance hall, or the art gallery, all areas of this fine palace offer lots of historical information both in English and Spanish.
Within the space of an hour, you can make up for most of your admission ticket price (which is just 70 pesos) by admiring the murals on the upstairs floor where you’ll see works by Diego Rivera, including Art Deco architecture and artwork pieces, as well as the chance to stop by for a drink in the café.
Travel Tips for Mexico City
Below are some Mexico City travel tips to help you make the most out of your stay.
Tip #1: Use public transport to get around. You will find that the Metro is a great option for when you want to save time on getting to different neighborhoods and zones around the city. Uber is also an option for moving around the city.
Tip #2: Keep your belongings with you at all times and be sure to carry a theft-proof style backpack if you are concerned about pickpocketing or petty theft.
Tip #3: Take your time when spending cash. You’ll find some of the best and most authentic foods are in the most unexpected places. Look out for street food joints with larger queues and look around the perimeter of the Centro Historic for other more obscure places to eat.
Tip #4: Try learning some Spanish before your trip to Mexico City. A few words can go a long way when it comes to getting things you want faster and can even enrich your overall experience (by a long way) if you speak a little more than average.
Tip #5: Health is wealth and to avoid getting sick during your visit to Mexico City, avoid drinking tap water and drinks served with ice. You should aim to buy bottled water which can be found in most supermarkets and OXXO stores scattered around the city. Always check to see if the bottle top is sealed property before you open the bottle. Another option is to carry a water filtering bottle which you carry around with you and refill when need.
Tip #6: Utilize some of the free things to do! The Best Free Things to Do in Mexico City Center
A Weekend in Mexico City: Travel Guide
We have now come to the end of this guide on how to spend a weekend in Mexico City! This metropolis city is the perfect place to base yourself when you want to get a taste of Mexico and you have limited time.
As well as give you some insight on where to spend your time, we have explored the city, including foods to try, popular things to see and do nearby, and some useful travel tips for navigating this gigantic city.
Guest author: Dan and George are two seasoned backpackers with extensive knowledge of Latin America who write no-nonsense backpacking guides for people looking to travel deeper when in Central and South America.