Planning your Mexico City trip? As North America’s largest city, a trip to Mexico City, AKA CDMX, can be intimidating. However, it doesn’t have to be! Use this 5-day Mexico City itinerary to help with your next adventure.
The keys to CDMX travel are to 1) plan ahead, and 2) plan strategically.
To really want to maximize your time in Mexico City, given its massive size and seemingly unlimited number of things to do, is to plan your trip by neighborhood.
With a population of about 8.5 million, Mexico City’s traffic is legendary. It’s also not something you want to avoid at all costs! If you plan your trip by neighborhood, you’ll eliminate the amount of time you spend traveling to things, and maximize the amount of time you’re actually traveling.
Having said that, let’s look at a neighborhood-by-neighborhood guide to planning the most amazing five day Mexico City itinerary.
Day 1: Teotihuacán Archeological Site
Teotihuacan is one of Mexico’s oldest and most important archeological sites, and one of the country’s 27 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. While Mexico City does have quite a few of those sites, it shares top honors for the most UNESCO Sites with the state of Oaxaca; each has three.
While devoting one entire day of a five-day trip to Teotihuacan may seem like a lot, realistically, it’s usually a daylong affair.
Though only about 35 miles/50 km northeast of downtown Mexico City, the drive alone can take up to two hours because of traffic. You can cut your traffic time down by arriving at Teotihuacán right when it opens; which essentially serves two functions.
Teotihuacán, as well as many Mexican archeological sites, tend to lack one thing — shade. Archeologists and historians frequently research this site, so its surrounding trees have been cleared for their ease of study, meaning shade isn’t always available.
Arriving at Teotihuacán as soon as it opens means you not only beat the traffic, but you’re able to climb all three pyramids before the midday sun arrives!
When the sun does start beating down, head to the indoor Teotihuacan Museum (Museo de Sitio Teotihuacán) and the semi-shaded Sculpture Garden (Jardín Escultórico).
After a day of exploring Teotihuacan, spend some time checking out the Pueblo Mágico (Magic Town) of San Juan Teotihuacán. When you’re hungry, head to the area’s well known La Gruta (the grotto/cave) restaurant.
As you’ve likely gathered, this restaurant is located inside of a cave! La Gruta serves all the traditional Mexican favorites, like tacos, and also unique dishes such as escamoles, AKA “Mexican caviar.”
Day 2: Coyoacan/Xochilimco
Two of Mexico’s most visited and most colorful places! You’ll find both Coyoacan, and it’s famous Frida Kahlo Museum, as well as Xochilimco, home to Mexico City’s brightly-colored trajineras boats, in the south part of CDMX.
Some people like to experience Xochimilco during the day, while others prefer the more festive night-time atmosphere. I’ll leave that decision up to you, but regardless of order, Xochilimco and Coyoacan make a great one-day itinerary.
A visit to Coyoacan gives you a glimpse of old what old school CDMX life looked like. It is one of the oldest surviving parts of Mexico City, with a massive cathedral called the Iglesia de San Juan Bautista, which dates all the way back to the 16th Century.
This colorful and beautiful neighborhood is home to one of Mexico City’s most famous museums — the Frida Kahlo Museum AKA Casa Azul (Blue House). You’ll also find some lesser-known museums including the Diego Rivera-Anahuacalli Museum, National Museum of Popular Culture, and Leon Trotsky Museum.
In addition to museums, colorful buildings and history, Coyoacan is known for three very specific foods: tepoznieves (a shaved ice/ice cream combination), churros and tostadas.
You’ll find churros and tepoznieves shops lining the Parque Centenario, Coyoacan’s main park. There, you can also see the town’s beautiful Fuente de los Coyotes (Coyote Fountain). Fun fact: Coyoacan means “a place of coyotes” in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs.
If you want to sample the tostadas, there’s no place better than the Coyoacan Market (Mercado de Coyoacán). There, you’ll find several tostada stalls to sample a number of types including coctel de camaron (shrimp cocktail) and tinga de pollo (barbeque shredded chicken).
Day 3: Zocalo/Centro Historico
With its endless amounts of history, you could spend weeks exploring Centro Historico (Historic Downtown) and the Zocalo, downtown’s central square. With only one day though, here are 10 of the most well known and most visited Centro Historico sites.
1. Templo Mayor
The Templo Mayor (Main Temple) is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Once the seat of the entire Aztec Empire, spend some time strolling the remnants of their main temple and see some of its archeological treasures inside the museum.
2. Metropolitan Cathedral
From the rocks of the former Aztec Empire, Spanish conquistadors ordered the giant Catedral Metropolitana de México constructed. Of Mexico City’s numerous churches, this cathedral is the most opulent, and even houses the largest pipe organs in the Americas.
3. Plaza Garibaldi
Want to hear Mexico’s famed mariachi music?. Plaza Garibaldi is pretty much a 24/7 party for locals and visitors alike to dance and listen to Mexico’s most iconic music. While Mexico City is largely safe, do use Uber to get around Centro historico at night!
4. Palacio Bellas Artes
If you’ve ever seen an image of downtown Mexico City, chances are you’ve seen Palacio Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts). This golden-domed, classical European building is a work of art in itself but do head inside to see the gorgeous art deco interior and museum.
5. Alameda Central
Located next to Palacio Bellas Artes, the well-maintained Parque Alameda Central is a large urban park with beautiful sculptures and fountains. Centro Historico can be hectic, so take a break on one of Alameda Central’s many shaded benches. Be sure to add this cathedral to your Mexico City itinerary.
6. Palacio Nacional
The 660-foot/200-meter-long Palacio Nacional (National Palace) spans one entire side of the Zocalo square. The building houses Mexico’s Federal Treasury and National Archives, as well as several murals by beloved Mexican artist, Diego Rivera.
7. Barrio Chino (Chinatown)
What major city doesn’t have a Chinatown!? While the one in CDMX isn’t big, it is worth walking through for some photos of the iconic red arch entryway and colorful paper lanterns.
8. Torre Latinoamerica (Latin American Tower)
An iconic building in Mexico City’s skyline! Head to the top of the tower on a clear day for some amazing city views. Located nearby, take the elevator inside the Sears department store building to the cafe for another vantage point.
9. Visit Some Museums
CDMX has about 150 museums, many right in Centro Historico. Some of its most-visited include the Museum of Popular Art (Museo de Arte Popular), National Art Museum (Museo Nacional de Artes), Museum of Memory and Tolerance (Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos), and Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso (Old College of Saint Ildefonso).
Though small, art lovers will want to visit the Diego Rivera Mural Museum to see his most iconic paintings, Sueño de una tarde dominical en la Alameda Central (Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda Central). This museum is located near the painting’s namesake park, the Alameda Central.
Centro Historico boasts many of Mexico City’s most well known and beloved taquerías (taco shops) and restaurants. Your Mexico City itinerary should include trying local food. Some of the standouts include:
El Cardinal: This Mexican food institution has been around nearly 40 years. Try some traditional Mexican favorites and the hot chocolate, prepared tableside with a traditional molinillo (wood whisk).
Tacos: Try Los Cocuyos, El Huequito, Taquería Arandas and El Pescadito. Don’t miss Tacos de Canasta los Especiales to try tacos de canasta (basket taco), Mexico City’s original street food taco.
Fine(r) Dining: For a more upscale dining experience, head to Chef Ricardo Muñoz Zurita’s Azul Histórico. If you prefer a view with your meal, check out El Balcon de Zocalo and/or La Casa de las Sirenas; both rooftop restaurants overlook the Zocalo.
Sweets: If you still have room, get some churros y chocolate (churros with chocolate dipping sauce) at Churrería El Moro, and anything that catches your eye at Pastelería Ideal.
Day 4: Reforma/Chapultepec Park/Polanco
One of the world’s most-visited urban parks, Chapultepec Park (Bosque de Chapultepec) is massive at about 1,700 acres/7 km². Chapultepec spans the entire area between the Reforma and Polanco neighborhoods.
Start your day with a stroll down the tree-lined Avenida Reforma (Reforma Avenue). Check out all the statues, including the Angel de la Independencia (Angel of Independence) and Las Alas de la Ciudad (The Wings of the City), and you’ll wind up in Chapultepec Park.
Given its size and amount of attractions, you could spend a week in the park and not see it all! From the iconic Castillo de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Castle), nine museums, two lakes, a zoo, and more, you’ll have to be selective with your Chapultepec Park time.
Castillo de Chapultepec is North America’s only true castle, meaning royalty once lived in it. The former home of Emperor Maximilian I and Empress Carlota is now one of CDMX’s iconic sites.
If you had to pick one museum in the park, you might consider Mexico City’s most visited museum, the National Museum of Anthropology (Museo Nacional de Antropología). More into art than history? Head to the Museum of Modern Art (Museo de Arte Moderno) and/or Tamayo Contemporary Art Museum (Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo).
The Chapultepec Zoo (Zoológico de Chapultepec) has more than 200 animal species including jaguars, lions, tigers, and even two panda bears!
Polanco is one of Mexico City’s poshest neighborhoods! If you’re looking for some retail therapy, head to Avenida Presidente Masaryk (President Masaryk Avenue), known as the “Rodeo Drive of Mexico.”
The iconic Soumaya Museum (Museo Soumaya) and Jumex Museum (Museo Jumex) round out the list of Polanco’s popular sites. However, do stick around Polanco if you want to splurge on dinner! Make sure you add it to your Mexico City itinerary!
Chef Enrique Olvera’s Pujol, named one of the world’s best restaurants by the prestigious 50 Best list, is located in Polanco. If you can’t get a reservation at Pujol, Polanco’s Quintonil and La Docena restaurants also made the list.
Day 5: Roma Norte/La Condesa
Arguably the two prettiest neighborhoods in all of CDMX, Roma Norte and La Condesa make the perfect places to end a five-day trip.
Does the name Roma ring a bell? It should; this is the neighborhood made famous in Alfonso Cuaron’s 2019 Oscar-winning film, Roma.
Within the Roma jurisdiction, you’ll find both the Roma Norte and Roma Sur (North and South) neighborhoods. Roma Sur is a little livelier, while Roma Norte is calmer and prettier of the two.
Head to Roma Norte to see some of Mexico’s City’s most beautiful streets and architecture. Vintage buildings, representing design esthetics ranging from art deco to colonial, line the streets, each one somehow prettier than the next! Your Mexico City itinerary wouldn’t be complete without visiting.
You’ll find some of the neighborhood’s most beautiful buildings, its best cafes, hippest restaurants and even best-known nightlife spots along Avenida Álvaro Obregón (Alvaro Obregon Avenue).
Just across one of Mexico City’s main streets, Avenida Insurgentes (Insurgents Avenue), you’ll find Roma Norte’s sister neighborhood, La Condesa.
Get to know Condesa by strolling its tree-lined Hipódromo (racetrack), a circular, walkable pathway that goes around Avenida Amsterdam (Amsterdam Avenue). Once a horse racing track, hence the name and circular shape, the street is now a chill way to see La Condesa.
Don’t miss Parque Mexico (Mexico Park) and Parque España (Spain Park), two of Mexico City’s nicest parks.
Besides leisurely walking around and looking at buildings and street art, Rome Norte and La Condesa boast some of the best restaurants, cafes & bars in the city. Here are a few recommendations:
Bakeries/Brunch: Panaderia Rosetta, Lalo!, Que Sera de Mi, Maque
Lunch: Contramar, Fonda Fina, La Docena, Lardo
Tacos: Taquería Orinoco (tacos al pastor), El Hidalguense (barbacoa/barbeque), El Pescadito (seafood tacos), Tacos Hola el Güero (tacos guisados/stew tacos), Por Siempre Vegana Taquería (vegan tacos)
Dinner: Rosetta, Maximot Bistrot, Azul Condesa, Merotoro
Bars: Casa Franca (cocktails/speakeasy), Limantour (cocktails), Wallace Whisky Bar (whisky/spirits), La Clandestina (mezcal), Hotel Condesa DF (rooftop bar), Pulqueria Insurgentes (pulque), Loup Bar (wine), El Depósito (beer)
With some planning, and scheduling by neighborhood to minimize your time wasted in traffic, a five-day trip to the 12th largest city on Earth is doable!
Besides planning neighborhood-by-neighborhood, save travel time opting for Uber over public transportation! While this does cost more, the cost ends up being worth if you compare it to the amount of time you save.
For general reference, the 8 mile/13 km bus trip going from Roma Norte to Coyoacan would cost you about $2/€1 — however, it could take over two hours! The same trip in an Uber would, on average, cost you about $6/€4 and take as little as 30 minutes.