International Travel, Itineraries & Trip Planning

How to Spend One Glorious Week in Mexico City

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When my partner and I told others that we were spending one week in Mexico City, some people seemed surprised. One entire week just in one place? Are there even that many things to do in Mexico City?

The answer is a resounding yes.

In fact, one week wasn’t actually enough, and we’re looking forward to visiting Mexico City again at some point. It’s the perfect place for when you want to be enveloped in culture and good food and relax without bumming it out on the beach.

1 week itinerary Mexico City pin

Top things to do in Mexico City

  1. Eat all the delicious food!
  2. Climb the ancient pyramids at Teotihuacan.
  3. Learn about Mexico’s long and diverse history at the National Museum of Anthropology.
  4. Explore all the food and crafts markets.
  5. Attend a lucha libre match.
  6. Taste more varieties of mescal than you knew existed — and pulque, too!
  7. Breathe in some fresh air in one of the world’s largest urban parks.
  8. Visit the home and studio of Frida Kahlo, one of the country’s most famous artists.
  9. Have a drink at one of the world’s best bars.
  10. Try your hand at cooking some authentic Mexican food.
Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera photo prop

A detailed itinerary for an efficient yet relaxing week in Mexico’s capital is incoming, but first, a few logistical things that you’ll want to know.

Can I get by with only English?

Mexico City is a major metropolitan city, so it should come as no surprise that there are plenty of folks who speak English. Most hotels, museums, restaurants, and tourist institutions have someone who speaks some amount of English.

Of course, like all international traveling, it’s very useful if you know the local language. (For me, it was most useful in communicating what I wanted to eat to street vendors!)

Download Duolingo or another language-learning app and try to learn at least the basics. A little goes a long way!

If all else fails, make sure you have a translation app on hand. While Google Translates works, I find SpanishDict’s app to be more powerful and accurate.

Templo Mayor serpent

Getting around Mexico City

Transportation in Mexico City is easy breezy.

The city is incredibly walkable with wide sidewalks. That said, Mexico City is also huge so there’s no way to walk everywhere unless you’re down to spend half your visit walking.

Uber is readily available and very cheap, with most rides being between $2-5 USD. There are also different types of taxis in Mexico City as well, though we chose to go with the more accessible app-based route. One place that we did consider taxis? The airport, where there is an official taxi stand just outside of the building.

Bike-sharing is also a good option for short distances if you feel comfortable riding on the road. EcoBici is Mexico City’s official bike-sharing program, though we also saw Jump Bikes and other bike rental options.

Public transit

If you’d rather take public transportation, Mexico City’s system is quite efficient. There are a couple of main options:

  • The Metro, aka subway.
  • The Metrobus, which has its own dedicated bus lanes.
  • A local bus system.
Diego Rivera mural

The Metro operates like subway systems around the world and is definitely the easiest to navigate. The Metrobus requires a little more planning since there aren’t transfer paths like there is with the Metro.

My recommendation is to buy a rechargeable tarjeta at one of the stations since that can be used on both the Metro and Metrobus. You can also buy paper tickets for the Metro, but they aren’t usable on the Metrobus. We made this mistake and ended up with way more paper Metro tickets than we needed.

I would only use the local bus system is you have a good command of Spanish or know the city well since you’ll need to communicate where you want to go. Like the local bus systems of many Central and South American countries, many of these buses run without set schedules or set routes.

That said, yours truly got on a local bus in Colombia and stammered through Duolingo Spanish and still somehow got from the suburbs into the city center. (There weren’t easier options during that trip!)

Where to stay in Mexico City

The local government divisions of Mexico City are fascinating and way too complex to discuss here. High-level, there are more than a dozen boroughs (alcadias), which then have hundreds of neighborhoods (colonias).

Of those, a few are popular with tourists because of their location and availability of accommodations and tourist amenities. They include:

Coyoacan streets
The streets of Coyoacan

Roma, Condesa, and Polanco are known to be posh, posher, and poshest, in that order.

These neighborhoods have your fill of options for hotels, restaurants, and bars, and are the most popular among tourists and expats. They’re also within walking distance or a quick Metro or taxi ride away from the main attractions. We stayed at Stanza Hotel in a part of Roma called La Romita and thoroughly enjoyed our time.

Centro Historico, as its name suggests, sits at the center of everything. It’s not known to be the nicest area, but it does have more budget-friendly hostels than the other neighborhoods. Just be cautious about going out alone at night.

Further south are Coyoacan and San Angel. For those who want a more artsy bohemian vibe, these colorful neighborhoods are perfect. The neighborhoods themselves are incredibly walkable, but keep in mind that it takes a 20-minute drive to get from these neighborhoods to the main tourist attractions in Centro Historico.

Money and tipping in Mexico City

Mexican pesos is the country’s currency, marked by the $ symbol. Keep that in mind so you don’t have a temporary freakout thinking something costs a bajillion dollars. (I know I did!)

While credit cards are widely accepted at the bigger hotels and restaurants, you’ll definitely want to have cash on hand at all times, whether it’s for street vendors, transport, or when credit card machines are down. ATMs are widespread, so get yourself a fee-less debit card and withdraw away.

CDMX sign

When you’re planning how much to budget for Mexico City, make sure to keep in mind that tipping is indeed a thing there. Here’s a quick guide for the most common situations:

  • Restaurants with wait service: 10-20%
  • Hotel housekeepers: 20-50 pesos per night
  • Bellhops: 25-50 pesos
  • Bartenders: 10-20 pesos per drink
  • Half- or full-day tour: 10-20%

1 week in Mexico City

Okay, here’s the Mexico City itinerary you’ve been waiting for.

We had seven full days in Mexico City, almost exactly down to the hour. Here are our suggestions for what to do each day. For food and drink suggestions, check out this post of straight-up food porn.

Day 1: Learn about Mexico City

For your first day in Mexico City, I’d recommend exploring and checking out some sights in Centro Historico.

First and foremost on your list should be Templo Mayor, the ancient temple discovered smack dab in the middle of downtown.

Because the bulk of the site is outside and you’re not allowed to have any food or beverages with you, you’ll want to do this earlier in the day before the sun gets too strong (which is always since Mexico City is at a pretty high altitude!)

Templo Mayor Mexico City
Templo Mayor’s skull rack

The Russian doll of pyramids at Templo Mayor gave us good foundational knowledge of the founding of Mexico City, while the Metropolitan Cathedral added to that history vis a vis the Spanish conquest period.

The cathedral, which is sinking on a regular basis because Mexico City is actually built on a lake bed (did you know that?!?) and the Zocalo, which is directly opposite the cathedral and is the third-largest public square in the world, are great places to sit and people-watch.

Another great spot for your first day? The National Palace, home of Diego Riveria’s epic murals, including the famous “The History of Mexico.”

The History of Mexico by Diego Rivera
One part of “The History of Mexico”

Our less-than-acute state-of-mind led us to skip a tour guide, but if there was anywhere in Mexico City where I would’ve hired one, the National Palace was it. Even having studied many of Diego’s murals in art history classes growing up, I would’ve appreciated more artistic and cultural curation.

In addition to the murals that are in the spotlight, make sure to check out the other publicly-facing parts of the National Palace. There are old homes and offices of past leaders of Mexico, old constitutions on display, parliamentary quarters, a botanical garden, and more.

Day 2: Explore Coyoacan

Perhaps the most well-known attraction in Mexico City is the Frida Kahlo Museum, aka La Casa Azul, or the Blue House.

Frida Kahlo House

The museum is fantastically laid out and gives you a biography of Frida and a sense of her life and work without the stiff feeling some museums can give off. The grounds are also beautiful and make for a great place to relax for a moment.

Because of its popularity, I highly recommend buying your tickets online to avoid standing in hours-long lines outside the house. Foreign credit cards seem to have trouble being processed, but debit cards work seamlessly.

Frida Kahlo painting

We got our ticket for 1 p.m. on our second day in Mexico City, so we chose to spend that day in Coyoacan, where the museum is located. In some ways, Coyoacan is to Mexico City what Brooklyn is to Manhattan. Still a part of the city, but hipper, less dense, and more colorful.

Mercado Coyoacan is a must-visit when you’re in the neighborhood. Like many other markets in Mexico City, this one has plenty of vendors selling everything from raw and cooked foods to textiles and clothes to toys and things you didn’t know existed. It’s a good place for both meals and souvenir shopping.

The park across from the market also hosts live music and weekend artisan markets. Sometimes there’s even a dance party as part of the festivities.

Another great place to get a good sense of local life is the main town square and park, of which the San Juan Bautista Church and the coyote fountain are focal points.

Sitting around and watching both folks enjoy their time off is such a nice way to feel more embedded in the local life. My favorite memory was of a teenager walking around with a sign that said something along the lines of “love poems written and recited on the spot.” A young teenage couple sitting on a bench across from us bought such a poem from him, and it was the sweetest moment.

If you’d rather get away from the crowds, I’d highly recommend the largely overlooked Frida Kahlo Park. The lush and serene escape has arches, mosaic murals, bushes shaped like butterflies, and of course, statues of Frida and Diego. It’s the perfect spot for a quiet moment in a big city.

Frida Kahlo park Coyoacan

Then, if you can, I’d suggest wandering even further away from the main Coyoacan haunts. Go explore the gorgeous Capilla de Santa Catarina, and walk along the rust brick walls around the area.

If you’re down for a longer walk, take Avenue Francisco Sosa all the way to San Angel. This street has countless beautiful doorways and photogenic buildings.

Once you get to San Angel, don’t forget to check out Parque la Bombilla with its towering Alvaro Obregon monument.

Alvaro Obregon monument

Day 3: Eat and drink your way through Mexico City

If you didn’t come to Mexico City ready to eat, you’re doing something wrong.

Mexico City’s food, especially its street food, is one of its main attractions. While you can certainly eat yourself silly on your own, do yourself a favor and book a street food tour to experience it with a local. (Believe me, John’s tour will definitely have you eating yourself silly.)

Once your bellies are full, I’d suggest taking in some of Mexico City’s many parks and markets so you can walk it off. Two great spots: Parque Alameda right there in downtown Mexico City and La Ciudadela artisanal market.

In the evening, get ready for some great drinks at either Limantour or La Clandestina, depending on your mood. Both spots are incredibly popular, so take your time enjoying whichever you choose and save the other spot for another night.

Limantour was ranked one of the world’s best 50 bars in 2019 and serves up a selection of delicious cocktails inspired by local flavors. This is definitely a spot where you want to stick with the cocktails instead of asking for anything on the rocks.

The vibe is upbeat and clubby without being an intense underground rager. There’s likely a line, but the process is organized and quick. Just don’t forget to give your name to the hostess when you arrive.

La Clandestina, on the other hand, feels a little bit like a neighborhood dive bar, laidback and unassuming. In this tiny bar, the gold is in the mezcal. Sure, get a cocktail or two as well, but don’t skip getting tasters of at least a few of the different mezcals on tap.

The whole seating and ordering process can be a bit chaotic at La Clandestina. Your best bet is to make a dinner reservation so you can get drinks along with food at the same time. If not, be patient but firm as you try to either snatch one of the few seats available or just order at the bar. (Whatever you do, don’t get rude and aggressive like some entitled tourists.)

Day 4: Climb the Teotihuacan pyramids

Like the Frida Kahlo Museum, the pyramids of Teotihuacan are a Mexico City must-visit.

Known as perhaps the most significant pre-Columbian Mesoamerican architectural site, Teotihuacan allows you to remove yourself from the hustle and bustle of Mexico City and enter a world from thousands of years ago.

Teotihuacan pyramids

You can go with a group or private tour, or you can visit Teotihuacan on your own. More to come later this month on how to visit Teotihuacan on your own.

No matter how you visit, make sure to have sensible walking shoes, sunscreen, water, and a healthy respect for sacred and ancient archaeological sites.

Day 5: Stroll through Mexico City’s urban lungs

Teotihuacan is magnificent and mysterious, but I won’t lie, it’s also really dusty there. So take time to refresh your lungs by spending it in Chapultepec park.

Known as Mexico City’s lungs, Bosque de Chapultepec is one of the world’s largest urban parks.

Chapultepec park

And it really is large.

The park houses the historic Chapultepec Castle, a free zoo, multiple museums, several manmade lakes, dozens of sculptures, and tons of playgrounds. You could literally spend multiple days in the park before you’re able to see every part of it.

Most people only visit the first section of the park that houses the castle, zoo, and the major museums, but I’d recommend going beyond that. You’ll find funky sculptures like Diego Rivera’s Fuente de Tlaloc, an amusement park, lakes with paddleboats, and more.

Fuente de Tlaloc in Chapultepec park

Your best bet for exploring as much of the park as possible? Walk for part of it and then get a rental bike for the rest.

Day 6: Spend time at the city’s museums

Perhaps you already got to it during your first trip to Chapultepec park, but if you didn’t, you must spend some time at the National Museum of Anthropology.

It’s arguably the most important museum in not just Mexico City but all of Mexico — and for good reason.

This huge museum is home to the most important archaeological and cultural artifacts of Mexico’s history. It’s also extremely well laid-out. The exhibits with historical artifacts are in chronological order, while the ethnographic exhibits about the peoples of Mexico are arranged by region.

We spent about three hours at the museum and honestly could’ve spent much longer there.

After you’ve absorbed all the wealth of knowledge and culture housed at the National Museum of Anthropology, head over to Centro Historico to check out some of the neighborhood’s gorgeous buildings.

Among them: the gilded Palacio Postal, the distinctive House of Tiles, and the showstopping Palacio de Bellas Artes. All three are in the same general area kitty-corner to each other.

You can visit the post office and the House of Tiles relatively quickly, but the Palacio de Bellas Artes will take a little longer. If you want to give your feet a quick break and your body an energy boost before heading into the building, consider stopping by Don Porfirio Cafe.

Perched at the top of the Sears building (yes, like the department store), this cafe is the to-go place for the best views of the Palacio de Bellas Artes.

Sure, the drinks and food are a little pricey, but can you really beat this view?

palacio de bellas artes

Day 7: Experience Mexican culture

Obviously, you’ve been experiencing Mexican culture your entire time in Mexico City. But on your last day, make sure to absorb as much of it as you can.

This day’s itinerary goes a little later into the night than most, so take it easy in the morning. Enjoy a lengthy brunch or perhaps get some fluffy happiness in Parque Mexico where there are dog training sessions most mornings.

Then spend the afternoon getting hands-on and learning how to cook all the delicious Mexican food you’ve enjoyed during your trip. There are tons of different options on Airbnb Experiences and other platforms, from taco-specific ones to the pre-Hispanic, all-vegan class we took.

Mexico City cooking class

Once you’ve recovered from your food coma, it’s time for the funky, loud, and entertaining Mexican tradition that is lucha libre.

I’ve never been a huge wrestling fan. But the colorful wrestling masks and the animated theatrics of lucha libre were certainly interesting to me.

You can buy tickets on Ticketmaster ahead of time, or you can buy it at the ticket booth. Tickets range from $55 pesos for bleacher seats to $450 pesos for the first three rows (of course, with added fees if you buy online).

If you want really good seats, your best bet is to buy online. We attended a Friday night lucha libre match at Arena Mexico and the only seats available when we finally got up to the ticket booth (after snaking lines of confusion) were those in the peanut gallery.

But no fear, it was still really fun! You can see a surprising amount even all the way up in the bleachers.

We had randomly run into one of my partner’s friends who’s from Mexico City that night. He was going to the match with his extended family, so we hung out with them. We got giant beers, sat on the concrete steps, and tried our best to follow along with what was happening.

Is lucha libre something I would go out of my way to attend the next time I’m in Mexico City? Probably not, but I sure am glad that I witnessed it at least once. It was hysterical, rowdy in a family-friendly way, and all-around an amusing experience.

Lucha Libre match

Other things to do in Mexico City

Like I mentioned at the beginning, one week in Mexico City isn’t enough! If we had more time, here are the top things we would’ve spent time on.

  • Xochimilco – Known as the Venice of Mexico City, these canals and floating gardens are located in southern Mexico City. Groups often spend the afternoon drinking and partying on the gondola-like boats, visiting with vendors and mariachi bands that float past them. We thought this would’ve been a better experience with a group of friends, so we decided not to go on this trip.
  • Hiking Iztaccihuatl – This volcano looked so cool! But we visited in the winter, so we didn’t want to have to pack snow trekking gear.
  • Narvarte taco circle – Taco circle, you say? Yep, there’s a roundabout in the Narvarte neighborhood that’s got taco stands all around it. I really wanted to hit this up, but we ended up not having the time to do so.
  • Pyramid of Ehécatl – It’s a pyramid discovered smack dab in the middle of the Pino Suarez Metro station. I’m a fan of the obscure, and this sounded really cool.

Hope this Mexico City travel guide has you all prepped for your trip! Pin it to share it!

1 week itinerary Mexico City pin

4 thoughts on “How to Spend One Glorious Week in Mexico City

  1. I would love to explore Mexico City! So much history and beautiful architecture! Plus the food is probably delicious!

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