48 Hours in Mexico City: The Ultimate Itinerary

Guadalupe Basilica church and Mexico City skyline
Matt Mawson / Getty Images

Just a short flight away from many U.S. cities, Mexico City is the perfect place to escape for a weekend of tacos, mezcal and local culture. This buzzing metropolis (also known as the Distrito Federal or D.F.) can be overwhelming for new arrivals, but after exploring the historic center, the chic neighborhoods of La Condesa and La Roma, and Frida Kahlo’s hometown, Coyoacán, in the south, you’ll be planning your next visit before you’ve even boarded the plane home.

To help you make the most of your trip, we’ve put together a jam-packed guide to the best Mexico City has to offer. From the hottest restaurants and bars to unmissable art and history, here’s how to have an incredible 48 hours in Mexico City.

Day 1: Morning

10 a.m.: The Mexico City International Airport is not far from the city center by taxi or ride sharing app like Beat. However, traffic can be an issue on weekdays, so try to land before 7 a.m. or after 9 a.m. to avoid the morning rush hour. Head to your accommodation to check in (or at least leave your luggage) before embarking on your first day of sightseeing.

The city is filled with great options, including Airbnbs, boutique hotels, and luxury brands. Stay at Hotel Zocalo Central or Downtown Mexico for a stylish home base in the center of town (the views aren’t bad either.) A bit further away from the hustle and bustle, La Valise and Condesa DF are popular boutique offerings in La Condesa. Lovers of luxury should book the St. Regis or the Four Seasons for a sophisticated stay.

11 a.m.: Fuel up on one of the city’s favorite breakfasts at Lalo!, the more casual project of Maximo Bistrot chef Eduardo García. The communal tables and innovative food reflect his local-first ethos, with a touch of tongue-in-cheek humor. Order a fresh orange juice and the chilaquiles to start your day off on the right foot.

If you like your chilaquiles to go, seek out the famous Chilaquil Corner (Esquina del Chilaquil) at the intersection of Alfonso Reyes and Tamaulipas streets, where Perla Flores Guzmán and her family have served up sandwiches (known as "tortas") stuffed with chilaquiles from a small cart for more than 20 years. You can choose between red or green sauce, and add chicken or pork, along with the usual accompaniments of cream, frijoles, onion, and cheese. Expect a line on Fridays and weekends.

Take this opportunity to wander the beautiful streets of La Condesa or explore the artsy alleyways of La Roma, checking out the local boutiques, cafes, and parks. The intersection of Parque México and Avenida Michoacán is a good place to start, but don’t be afraid to get a little lost.

The Angel of Independence, Mexico City
Sergio Mendoza Hochmann / Getty Images

Day 1: Afternoon

1 p.m.: Go west and explore Mexico City’s most enormous park, Chapultepec. It is home to a bunch of incredible museums and sights, including Chapultepec Castle, the Anthropology Museum, Tamayo contemporary art museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and a zoo. The park’s main arteries are lined with food and novelty stands, giving it a carnival-like atmosphere on weekends and holidays, but there is plenty of space to escape the crowds if you need to.

3 p.m.: In Mexico, lunch is the most important meal of the day, especially when accompanied by a beer or a mezcal. Treat yourself to a fresh seafood feast at Contramar, where chef Gabriela Cámara serves up creative and sought-after dishes in a laid-back setting. Afterwards, take an evening stroll from Roma Norte up to the Paseo de la Reforma to marvel at the golden Angel de la Independencia and the Monumento a la Revolución.

Day 1: Evening

7 p.m.: Take in the sunset from the Miralto Bar on the 41st floor of the Torre Latinoamericana. The Torre Latino was the world's first major skyscraper successfully built to endure high-level earthquakes and remains one of the city’s most distinctive landmarks. There are dozens of terrace and rooftop bars in the historic center, but this one has unparalleled views.

8:30 p.m.: Foodies should make a reservation to dine at one of Mexico’s most exclusive establishments during their stay. The restaurant that started it all, Pujol, remains the city’s star attraction with Enrique Olvera at the helm. Since opening his doors in 2000, Olvera continues to transform Mexican cuisine using molecular gastronomy that must be eaten to be believed.

Quintonil, run by Olvera’s protégée Jorge Vallejo in upmarket Polanco, is also rapidly becoming a classic, highlighting local vegetables and herbs in an elegant dining room. The mole is one of the best in the country. But if you’re still full from lunch, you can always join the crowds of locals grabbing a couple of mind-blowingly delicious tacos al pastor from Mexico City institution El Huequito instead.

11 p.m.: Mexico City’s nightlife is diverse, taking in everything from hipster speakeasies to local pulquerias. Start your mezcal education at Bósforo, before trying a world-class cocktail at Licorería Limantour and checking out the latest electronica at tiny but hip Departamento. If something low-key is more your style, Pata Negra is a popular venue with live music upstairs most nights of the week.

Day 2: Morning

10 a.m.: On your second day in D.F., spend some time getting to know the historic side of the capital. First, join Mexico City’s grand dames for breakfast at El Cardenal in the Centro Historico. Although there are three other outposts scattered throughout the city, the historic building on Calle Palma is the original and the best. Order a hot chocolate with pastries or a more filling Spanish-style omelet and enjoy the atmosphere surrounded by historic murals and stained-glass windows.

11 a.m.: The main attractions in the historic center are dotted around the Plaza de la Constitución, commonly known as the Zócalo. Check out the Metropolitan Cathedral, Latin America’s largest and oldest cathedral, the National Palace, then learn the pre-Hispanic history of city at the nearby Templo Mayor museum, which preserves the ruins of the main temple of Tenochtitlan.

See if you can spot the diagonal angles of the Centro, which began sinking due to the drainage of the lake which once surrounded Tenochtitlan by the Spanish in 1607 and has continued with the overuse of the underground aquifers in modern times. 

Day 2: Afternoon

2 p.m.: Take a break for lunch at the Balcón del Zócalo where you’ll be treated to the Centro Historico’s best panorama. The food is contemporary Mexican, reinterpreting dishes like tlayudas with a subtle twist. Azul Historico may not have the views, but it makes up for it with its location inside the stunning 17th-century interior of the Downtown Mexico hotel. Chef Ricardo Muñoz Zurita is an expert on Mexican food history, so keep it traditional and try the cochinita pibil with delicious, freshly made tortillas and a tequila.

3:30 p.m.: Make the pilgrimage south to Frida Kahlo’s home, now a museum dedicated to her life and work. Many of the rooms are preserved as they were when she lived there with her husband Diego Rivera, including pieces from her personal fashion collection. Skip the queue at La Casa Azul by buying a ticket (around $15) in advance online, as weekends are especially busy.

Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City, Mexico
Cultura Exclusive/Ben Pipe Photography / Getty Images

Day 2: Evening

5:30 p.m.: Walk over to the charming center of Coyoacán, passing by Parque Centenario and the local church, and do some souvenir shopping at the traditional Mercado de Coyoacán or the hippie-influenced Mercado de Artesanías. This historic neighborhood, once a pre-Hispanic village on the shores of Lake Texcoco, remained independent of Mexico City through the colonial period into the 19th century until it was swallowed up by the expanding Federal District in 1857.

7 p.m.: The streets of Coyoacán are brimming with tempting snacks, including churros, elotes, and tacos, of course. Settle in for a more substantial meal of delicacies from all over Mexico at Los Danzantes, with a view of the Fountain of the Coyotes, or join the line at La Coyoacana cantina to see the best mariachis in the city. For a younger crowd, grab a pizza and glass of wine at Séptimo or a craft beer at Centenario 107. 

9 p.m.: On Sunday night, Mexico City tends to turn in early. However, the Ballet Folklórico is an unmissable experience, showcasing cultural dances, costumes, and music from around the country in the gorgeous Art Deco theater of Bellas Artes. You can also catch the show on Sunday morning or Wednesday night. Tickets in the nosebleed section go for around $15, while floor seats cost around $60.

If wrestling is more your style, catch the entertaining Lucha Libre at Arena México on Tuesday (7:30 p.m.), Friday (8:30 p.m.), or Sunday (5 p.m.). Tickets range from a couple of dollars up, depending on how close you want to be to the action and can be purchased at the box office on the day. Don’t forget to step inside Bellas Artes at some point during your stay to see iconic murals by Diego Rivera and other Mexican artists.

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