4 Days in Colorful Mexico City
Mexico City is a vibrant place full of life, color, and culture. Wander the city to see the gorgeous Spanish influenced historic district, the colonial homes of Roma Norte, and the ruins of Ancient Mesoamerica. Sight-see and taste your way through the markets and restaurants of this beautiful and bustling metropolis. In this post I’ll lay out a 4-day itinerary for sightseeing around Mexico City.
Day 1: Explore Chapultepec Park
There are so many things to see in Chapultepec Park, from a 19th century castle perched high on a hill to the Museum of Modern Art. We decided to visit the most popular Museum In Mexico City that lies within the park, The National Anthropology Museum.
You can go explore this large park on your own or book a tour if you prefer to have a live tour guide telling you about the National Anthropology Museum and Chapultepec Castle.
Visit Museo Nacional de Antropología
The National Anthropology Museum is a massive museum filled with native ancient relics, but housed in an ultra modern building by famous Mexican architect Pedro Ramírez Vázquez. The building itself is a work of art, with beautiful cascading patterns of steel surrounding a courtyard. The architect didn't want the interior courtyard to be indoor, but Mexico City gets a lot of rain, so he designed a massive "umbrella" that has a single large pillar in the center with a protective structure above. This way you can be outdoors while still staying dry.
This museum has 23 rooms for exhibits and is nearly 20 acres in size. I loved seeing all of the ancient statues and folk art, but I especially enjoyed exploring the exterior with it's temples and sculptures all around. Needless to say, we didn't see everything.
Tip: Wander Chapultepec Park and grab dinner in Polanco afterwards. Polanco is a beautiful (but expensive) district is just north of the park.
Day 2: Take a Day Trip to Teotihuacan & Dinner in Roma Norte
We took a private day tour starting at 7am to Teotihuacan. We arranged the trip with Stepping Mexico, they were incredibly responsive, on time, and made our tour easy to navigate with lots of information about the sites we visited. You can also book a day trip with Get Your Guide to visit Teotihuacan, Shrine of Guadalupe & Tlatelolco.
We started the day early at Teotihuacan, and since we din't grab breakfast beforehand, we grabbed street food at the entrance. There was a vendor with delicious tamales. I didn't realize it was a thing in Mexico, but you can ask for a tamale as a sandwich inside a torta, which is kind of like a bun. We opted for this option since we were going to be climbing steps and walking a lot. They also had coffee at the stand which is safe to drink since it's boiled, but be aware that Mexico likes their coffee sweet so it has a LOT of sugar added.
Tip: Bring snacks or eat breakfast beforehand
Teotihuacan is an ancient city located about 40min from Mexico City. The approximate date is 100 BC, and it was the largest and most populated city in the pre-Columbian Americas. We toured the site early before the crowds showed up and it was silent and serene as we walked among the ancient ruins and learned about it's history.
Tip: Alternatively you can take an uber if you don't want to tour with a guide, ubers are very inexpensive in Mexico City
Eat lunch at La Gruta
"La Gruta," or The Grotto restaurant, is located inside a natural cave near Teotihuacan. With colorful chairs and twinkling candle lights, it's quite the atmosphere to dine in after visiting the temples. I loved the chicken mole! And the colorful chairs! The service was not the best, but Mexico culture is to have long meals to talk and relax. If you’re in a rush just try and flag the waiters down. Also be sure to ask for the check, generally they won’t bring it until you ask. It’s a cultural thing, they aren’t trying to be rude.
Visit Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe is the most visited Catholic site in the world, even more frequented than the Vatican. It was built in the 17th century, but the instability of the foundation made it unsafe, so a second basilica was built in the 70s by the same architect as the Archeology museum, Pedro Ramírez Vázquez. As you can see in the image below, it has a 70s vibe with the colors used and the artwork. This newer basilica houses what is known to be the original image of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
Day 3: Frida Kahlo & Xochimilco
The Frida Kahlo Museum, or "Casa Azul," is a vibrant and beautiful sanctuary in Mexico City. You can tour the grounds to view art by her and Diego Rivera, as well as rooms like their kitchen and bedrooms. The most interesting room was her art studio, which has been left as it was the day she left this earth in 1954. While it's one the the most crowded tourist destinations in Mexico City, it was still my favorite. There was something so special and inspiring about being in the space of such an influential artist.
Tip: Book in advance! This place sells out. Alternatively you can book a tour that includes the Frida Kahlo House & Xochimilco.
Ride the Colorful Boats of Xochimilco
Xochimilco is like the Venice of Mexico, but with a little more fiesta, and a little less romance. It's BYOB on the river, so people bring booze, snacks, and boom boxes to cruise around and party in these colorful boats. If you come empty handed, not to worry, there are loads of little restaurants right off the river waiting for your business and that have very reasonable prices. You can grab some micheladas (beer, lime juice, and assorted sauces, spices, and peppers) and hit the water. Also, there are boats that float around with food and drinks, ready to fill you up if you run out snacks or beer. It was a very relaxing journey for Suzanne and I, but I gotta admit that the boats with full party mode happening looked pretty fun! I’m ready to go back with a group of friends!
Tip: (2018) Expect to pay about 500 pesos per boat
You can also take a guided tour if you don’t want to find a ride over or prefer this type of experience. Here are a few options below.
Day 4: Barragán & Historic Downtown
Visit Casa Gilardi and Casa Barragán
Casa Gilardi was built in 1976 by famous Mexican architect Luis Barragán. It was the last project he completed before he died. It's privately owned, so we contacted the owner to schedule a tour. It was such an incredible experience to have the owner give us a personal tour of her home. The house has a bottom level indoor pool, a gorgeous outdoor courtyard, and Barragán's signature vibrant colored walls throughout. It feels like Mondrian's artwork has turned into a 3 dimensional space.
Tip: If you like architecture you can also book Casa Barragán, which was Luis Barragán’s residence. Book in advance, we weren’t able to go because we didn’t.
Explore the Museum of Popular Art
The Museum of Popular Art is near the Historic Center of town and completely free to go and check out. A lot of Mexico City museums are free, which is surprising! Especially one as pristine as this. It's a multi-level presentation of Mexican folk art, with a gorgeous glass ceiling that has artistic kites hanging down. The art here is 3D and colorful, showcasing all kinds of whimsical creatures and tales of Mexico's folkloric past.
View the beautiful murals or go see a show at The Palace of fine arts
The Palace of fine arts is in the Historic Center of Mexico City. It's a massive building with murals throughout from all kinds of masterful artists. The outside is primarily Art Nouveau and Neoclassical and the interior is Art Deco. We went in to check out the art (free of charge). There are countless gorgeous murals inside, the most famous are by Diego Riviera.
We also bought tickets to the Ballet Folklorico for the evening. I used to do this type of dancing when I was a kid so it was a treat to watch it in Mexico on this grandious stage. The show was head's above some of the folk shows I've seen across the world, but side note it was about 30-45min too long with no intermission.
Tip: Book a tour of Historic Downtown to learn all about it’s fascinating history.
Roam the Historic Center
The historic center also has some major excavations of Aztec civilization. These excavations weren’t made until 1978, when some workers found an amazing eight ton stone depiction of an Aztec goddess. Now you can wander these ruins that lie amongst the ornate Spanish buildings. A visual reminder of Mexico’s history.
Dine at Azul Historico
If you stick around the Historic District until the evening, eat dinner at Azul Historico, traditional Mexican food inside a beautiful open square with twinkling lights. It’s a beautiful setting, open air and surrounded by cute boutique shops. Leave some time before dinner to go shop around.
Tip: Book dinner in advance, this place fills up
Tips & Highlights
Hotel Parque México Boutique in Condesa - centrally located to all the tourist attractions, Condesa is a perfect place to stay (we stayed at an Airbnb here)
Hotel MX Roma in Roma Norte - Hip and trendy newer part of the city filled with nice bars and restaurants
Wander around Roma Norte and there are loads of amazingly gorgeous restaurants to choose from!
Casa Virginia in Roma Norte - the red snapper was delish!
Azul Historico in Centro - Traditional Mexican food inside a beautiful open square with twinkling lights
Mercado Roma - New age market with lots of hipster restaurants with things like tacos, sandwiches, beer, ice cream, and coffee
Frida Kahlo Museum
Museum of Popular Art
Casa Gilardi by architect Luis Barragán private home tour
Ubers are cheap and plentiful, besides walking, this is how we got around the city
There isn't a lot of English spoken in Mexico City, brush up on your Spanish and try and use it as much as you can!
Explore more tours and activities in Mexico City here on Get Your Guide.
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