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What to Do in Mexico City in 3 Days

Oct 11, 2022 | Destinations, North America | 0 comments

From exploring iconic museums and eating delicious cuisine, to learning about centuries of fascinating history, there is a long list of what to do in Mexico City in 3 days.

If you’re big on adventure and short on time, you’re in the right place.

In my opinion, Mexico City is a culture destination. This is the place to come for back to back museum visits punctuated by local café, street tacos, and churros con chocolate.

Like a true foodie, I wrote a completely separate post about where to get amazing vegan food in Mexico City.

At the top of this post, I’m sharing what to do in Mexico City in 3 days.

Keep reading afterwards if you want to know about safety tips, where to stay in Mexico City, and how to ride the Mexico City metro, including the women-only metro car!

What to Do in Mexico City in 3 Days

There is no shortage of things to do in Mexico City. If anything, there’s too much and it’s overwhelming to figure out what to do in Mexico City that you will enjoy.

When in Mexico City for 3 days, this is what I recommend to do. If you have more time, I’ve shared other attractions after this section and a day trip to the outskirts.

Day 1: Start at the Historic Center and see the Zócalo

But first: coffee. Tierra Garat is a Mexican coffee chain and one of its locations was just around the corner from our Airbnb.

The aroma of rich, deep espresso paired with decadent chocolate stopped us in our tracks. Grab one of these to start the day, then hop on the metro. The closest metro stop for the Historic Center is Zócalo/Tenochtitlán.

A zócalo is a town square. There’s one in every town and city, just like the one I shared in Oaxaca.

The Mexico City Zócalo is framed with stunning, detailed colonial architecture and is the perfect starting point for many Mexico City attractions.

It’ll be crowded, so watch your surroundings and keep your valuables close.

Grey stone colonial building in Mexico City

See the Metropolitan Cathedral

The Metropolitan Cathedral is an imposing, even haunting structure in the center of Mexico City.

Like any colonial-era building in Mexico, it has a dark history: the cathedral was built shortly after the Spanish invasion of Mexico and was built on top of a sacred Aztec site.

On the building’s exterior are prominent Catholic and biblical figures carved in stone. It looks like someone dropped a European cathedral in the middle of North America’s largest city.

The interior is dripping in gold and paintings adorn every wall. It is truly so gorgeous. Entry is free and, like any church, there is a dress code. A good rule of thumb is to keep knees, shoulders, and midriff covered.

The Metropolitan Cathedral in its haunting beauty and cultural significance is worth a visit.

Bronze statue in front of grey steps and gold bas-reliefs on back wall

Bonus: See Diego Rivera’s Murals at the Palacio Nacional

The Palacio Nacional was closed the day we were in the Historic Center, but I definitely recommend checking it out!

There are a few of Diego Rivera’s murals in the building’s courtyard and entry is free.

We got to see Rivera’s most famous mural at a museum I’ll talk about below, so there is ample opportunity to see his iconic work in other areas of Mexico City if the Palacio Nacional is closed.

Do a self-guided tour of the Templo Mayor Museum

Even after seeing Chichén Itzá and the Tulum Ruins, Templo Mayor makes my list of what to do in Mexico City in 3 days.

I touched on this in my Mexico travel guide, but here’s a quick run-down:

The Maya civilization, whose center of the universe was Chichén Itzá, ruled southern Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala in its heyday.

The Aztec civilization came after its fall, and they ruled what is now Mexico City. You’ll see the name Tenochtitlán often, because that is the Aztec name for the city and served as its center of life before Spanish conquistadors invaded.

Templo Mayor is a museum and ruin site with ancient artifacts from the Aztec civilization. It’s a 5-minute walk from the Metropolitan Cathedral because the ruins were found just below the center of Mexico City.

In the 1970s, electricians working for the government stumbled upon the site. Archaeologists are still excavating it to this day.

Now, there is a museum interior with plaques explaining Aztec daily life and rituals. After this section of the museum, you can go upstairs to the open-air ruins. There’s also another indoor area with artifacts, mainly statues and pottery.

At the time of writing, entry is 85 Mexican pesos and hours are Tuesday to Sunday, 9am to 5pm.

For the amazing brunch, dinner, and churros we ate on day 1, check out my Mexico City vegan guide! The food was truly unforgettable.

Day 2: Visit the Palacio de Bellas Artes

To my fellow coffee lovers, this morning’s coffee was an oat milk latte from Blend Station.

Now, on to day 2’s adventure! Ride the metro to Bellas Artes and you’ll see the Palacio de Bellas Artes immediately.

The building itself is absolutely gorgeous and so grandiose. After taking a few photos of the imposing marble with its citrus domes, look for the line to enter the museum.

What awaits you inside are larger-than-life murals from Mexican painters, including Diego Rivera’s Man, Controller of the World.

Pro tip: Use Smarthistory when in museums to understand more of what you’re seeing. Their guides explain the background and meaning of paintings like the famous murals here.

Large marble building with orange dome
Mural of vivid colors with a man standing in the center

Stroll through Mexico City’s Chinatown

Like any large city, Mexico City has its very own Chinatown. I had no idea before this day, so imagine my pleasant surprise when I turned around after Bellas Artes to see the iconic red lanterns decorating the street.

I love Chinatown and aim to see each one wherever I’m traveling. Needless to say, Mexico City Chinatown became an immediate detour!

Paper umbrellas and red lanterns hanging over an alley

Visit the Museo Nacional del Arte

Every cultural capital has a fine art museum, and Mexico City is no different.

Its Museo Nacional del Arte is a 10-minute walk from Bellas Artes and houses stunning paintings from Mexico and Europe.

At the time of our visit, there was also a Rembrandt special exhibit. Each room had so much to explore—it’s one of the best museums I’ve visited to date.

Bonus: Just across the street is the Casa de los Azulejos, a historic building covered in decorative tiles of blue, white, and yellow.

Day 3: Take a self-guided food tour

This section will be light, because my vegan guide covers our third day well.

The main event of day 3 is food! Delicious, amazing, would-eat-it-all-again food.

And everything we ate was local, from small businesses.

The main foods you must try in Mexico are tacos, enchiladas, volcanes (my personal favorite!), and churros. Props if you try some of these from one of Mexico City’s many street food carts.

I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

What to Do in Mexico City for a Week

If you have more time in Mexico City, I recommend to visit more museums and take a day trip to see well-preserved Aztec ruins.

Visit more Mexico City museums

There are more museums per capita in Mexico City than anywhere else in the world.

For arts enthusiasts like me, visiting museums is one of the best things to do in Mexico City. Aside from eating, of course.

This is the list of other museums in Mexico City I would have visited with more time:

A note on the Frida Kahlo Museum: it is quite far from the city center. You’re looking at 3 hours roundtrip from the center to this museum on public transportation.

This is its location on the map. See what I mean? Frida is an all-day commitment.

This was going to be our third day in Mexico City, but tickets were sold out and we were exhausted. If you have the time, enjoy!

Take a day trip to Teotihuacán

A popular day trip from Mexico City is the 2-hour trip to Teotihuacán. We weren’t too upset to miss this one, considering we’d already seen ancient ruins three times on this trip.

We were ruined out, a phenomenon on par with being templed out in Southeast Asia or experiencing the ABC effect in Scotland (meaning Another BLOODY Castle).

However, if given more time, I would recommend spending the day at Teotihuacán for its cultural and historical significance.

The easiest way to get there is taking a tour, like these on GetYourGuide. Since I studied abroad in Barcelona years ago, I’ve used GetYourGuide in several countries to book all kinds of tours, from airport transfers to full-day excursions. The reviews are usually spot-on, so read the recent ones before you book!

You can also DIY this day trip by taking the local bus to the pyramids. If you’re a regular, you already know this is my preferred way of traveling. I would start with a Google search like this one.

Take a food tour, cooking class, or go to an open-air market

Or all of the above! You can find cooking classes that include a market shopping trip for local ingredients before making a traditional Mexican dish. Because Mexico City is so vegan-friendly, finding a vegan food excursion is easy.

Traveling Herbivore offers a vegan food tour, and Aura Mex Cooking will teach you how to make plant-based tacos al pastor. Yum!

Is it safe to travel to Mexico City?

The majority of us here are young female travelers with worried mothers who, as soon as they know about this trip, will ask: Is Mexico City safe?

And I get that. I do.

After all, it’s a megalopolis with 22 million people living there. Larger cities can be more dangerous.

I found that Mexico City was on par with my other experiences in large cities like Paris and Barcelona. Tokyo, which is larger than Mexico City, is an exception—I felt safest in Japan as a young lady traveler.

Overall, I did not find Mexico City to be exceptionally dangerous. Then again, I did not go to Mexico City alone as a solo female traveler.

I was with one of my best friends and we stick together when traveling. We never split up, regardless of where we are.

My safety tips for traveling to Mexico City are:

  • Travel with a friend and stick together.
  • Keep your valuables close to you, just as you would in any large city.
  • Never disclose where you’re staying, which is also a general tip (and yes, men have asked me this before when traveling; well-meaning or not, I just deflect the question and move on).
Blue, white, and yellow tiles

How to Get Around Mexico City

In short: take the metro. For my fellow lady travelers, I recommend the women-only car. Nothing happened to us on the Mexico City metro, but taking the women-only car was just more relaxing.

Riding the Mexico City Metro in 2022

You can pay for metro tokens from the station attendant in cash, which is what we did each time. At the time of writing, each ride is 5 pesos.

There is also an option to buy a card and put money on it, but I don’t recommend that if you’re only in Mexico City for 3 days like we were.

When we went in May 2022, masks were required in the station and on the metro.

How to take the Women-Only Car on the Mexico City Metro

After finding your platform, look to both sides for a sign that says “Vagones Exclusivos” on a pink background. In some stations/platforms, it will be on the far right. In others, it’ll be on the far left. It is always at the very end of the platform, though.

The sign will be large enough to see from a distance and looks like this:

Pink sign on a grey floor that says "Vagones exclusivos"

Uber

When the metro doesn’t work out, either from long lines at rush hour or it doesn’t service your destination, I recommend Uber. The one we took in Mexico City was well-priced and Ubers are very easy to hail in a place as busy as this one.

Where to Stay in Mexico City

Neighborhoods considered more trendy or enjoyable to stay in include Roma Norte and Condesa.

We stayed at an Airbnb in Reforma, steps from the Ángel de la Independencia and close to the Insurgentes metro stop. It was a great location, so I recommend finding something in this area!

Compared to the rest of the Airbnbs we stayed at on this trip, this one was the most expensive with the fewest amenities. This is only to be expected in a megalopolis like Mexico City. A fair budget is about $70-100 USD per night.

Painting on a ceiling embellished in gold
Ceiling of a CDMX museum

In Mexico City, air conditioning is an anomaly. There will be hotels that offer it, but most Airbnbs will not. Mexico City Airbnb listings are almost always in colonial buildings from the 1900s or earlier.

Our Airbnb claimed to have air conditioning, but it was actually a tower fan. It was warm in the apartment, but not too hot to me. My friend disagreed—to her, it was stuffy, uncomfortable, and difficult to sleep. Your mileage may vary.

If you want guaranteed A/C, you should book a hotel (especially one within a larger chain). I know that’s not preferable to many travelers (myself included), but Mexico City may be the exception to you.

Grey church against a dark blue sky

Mexico City was the last stop on this amazing trip. From the gorgeous beaches of Cancún, to the pyramids of Chichén Itzá and the best vegan food I ate in Tulum, to *everything* about Oaxaca, visiting Mexico was a dream come true.

Not only did it exceed high expectations, but it surprised in all the best ways.

As amazing as Mexico was to me, I hope it is even more to you. Buen viaje. ❤️

Read more Mexico travel guides:

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Palacio de Bellas Artes with text "How to Spend 3 Days in Mexico City, Mexico"

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Hi, I'm Sarah

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Welcome to my oasis! I am a writer and budding entrepreneur with a love for caffeine, capital gains, and seeing the world. If I'm not writing, you can find me reading a good book, trying out a new vegan recipe, or adding to my coffee mug collection. My goal in life? To see every country in the world. Come along for the ride!

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