Mexico City is one of the biggest metropolis in the world, so one day is not enough to see it all. However, here are some suggestions to make the most of your 24 hours in this vibrant city.
1. Castillo de Chapultepec
One of the best views of Mexico City can be seen from the balcony of the Museo Nacional de Historia, also known as Castillo de Chapultepec.
From the main entrance of Chapultepec park you’ll need 15 minutes to get to the bottom of the hill where the castle is located. From there, you can take the transportation provided by the museum to get to the top. It costs 13 pesos. Otherwise you can climb walking. It won’t take you more than 15 minutes.
The castle is open Tuesday to Sunday from 09:00 to 17:00 hrs. The entrance fee is 57 pesos (US$5). The collection inside the museum is not great, but the view of the city is fantastic!
It also has some Siqueiros murals that are worth checking out.
Another great view can be seen from Torre Latinoamericana, in front of Bellas Artes and few blocks away from the main square (Zocalo). Entrance to the observation deck, located on the 44th. floor, costs 60 pesos for adults (around 5 dollars). It is open from 9:00 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day.
On the 41st. floor there is a restaurant called Miralto. Food is good, though expensive, and service is a bit slow. The adjacent bar is cheaper, but the view is not as good as in the restaurant.
2. Monumento a la Revolución
The Monument to the Mexican Revolution has an observation deck from which you can see great views of the city and take good pictures. It costs 40 pesos (around US$3.50) and for 20 pesos more you can get an information leaflet in English. It’s open from Tuesday to Thursday, from 10:00 to 18:00 hrs., Fridays and Saturdays from 10:00 to 22:00 hrs. and Sundays from 10:00 to 20:00 hrs.
The original purpose of the building was becoming a new seat for the Federal Legislative Palace. In 1910, French architect Emile Benard was appointed to do the job and began its construction. However, the outburst of the revolutionary movement forced the government to abandon the construction. The best time to visit the place is right before dusk.
The water-jet fountain at the bottom of the building, with cool light effects, works continuously from 18:00 to 22:00 hrs. (except Mondays).
3. Museo Nacional de Antropología
The National Museum of Anthropology is one of the 10 most visited museums in the world. It exhibits collections of archaeology and ethnography from the different indigenous cultures of Prehispanic Mexico, such as Mayans, Aztecs and Toltecs.
It is open Tuesday to Sundays from 9:00 to 19:00 hrs. Admission fee is 57 pesos (around US$5). Must-sees: Mayan section, Piedra del Sol (Aztec Calendar) and a representation of how Mexico City (Tenochtitlan) looked like before the arrival of Spaniards.
If you are not too much into archaeology and prefer painting I recommend you to visit Museo Nacional de Arte. (Tacuba 8, Centro. Entrance: 37 pesos. Tuesday to Sunday, 10:00 to 17:30 hrs.).
It has a great painting collection from the 16th. to the 20th. century. I particularly recommend the first floor, which contains Velasco, Jara, Clausell, Fabrés, Almanza and Ramos works.
Did you know that Mexico City has more museums than New York City? Here are some others that you could visit: Museo Mural Diego Rivera (features a Diego rivera mural), Museo Casa Frida Kahlo (one of the houses where she lived with Diego, contains many of her paintings), Museo Soumaya (belongs to Carlos Slim, has a good sculpture and painting collection), Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes (an art deco building with Siqueiros and Diego Rivera murals) and Museo del Estanquillo (contains a fabulous collection of miniature traditional stores).
4. Paseo de la Reforma
If you are not a museum fan, try renting a bicycle and discovering all the monuments and buildings located in Paseo de la Reforma, a wide avenue with a special bicycle lane that runs in a straight line, cutting diagonally across Mexico City.
It was designed by Ferdinand von Rosenzweig in the 1860s and modeled after the great boulevards of Europe. It runs from Chapultepec Park, continues through the Zona Rosa and on to Centro Histórico (Mexico City downtown).
You can turn right in Avenida Juárez and visit Palacio de Bellas Artes, a very beautiful building whose construction started in 1904 and is now used as a venue for world-class shows. You can finish your journey at the Zócalo, where you can visit the cathedral, the small archaeological complex next to it and Diego Rivera’s mural at Palacio Nacional (10:00 to 17:00 hrs. except Mondays).
Too much of a hassle? Take the turibus (double-decker tourist bus). Chapultepec-Centro Histórico circuit lasts around 3 hours. You can take it in front of Auditorio Nacional or at Reforma 222 shopping mall. A one-day ticket costs 165 pesos (US$15).
5. Eat comida yucateca
You can’t leave without trying Yucatán gastronomy. Seriously! Ok, it’s not originary from Mexico City, but from the Southern tip of the country. However, in my opinion it’s the best Mexican food! My suggestions: sopa de lima, papadzules and panuchos. You won’t regret it, provided you don’t try the extremely hot habanero sauce 🙂
To drink: agua de jamaica or agua de horchata (non-alcoholic beverages). Otherwise you can have a margarita, a paloma, a michelada or a straight tequila (Herradura Reposado, Don Julio or Sauza Conmemorativo, forget about Jimador).
There are several restaurants that offer these specialties. Here are three suggestions:
Fancy: Los Almendros (Polanco) www.almendros.com.mx
Traditional: Xel-ha (Condesa)
Conveniently located: Las Polas (Río Lerma 170, Cuauhtémoc).
6. Ballet folklórico de Amalia Hernández
If you are a music and/or folk dance enthusiast, this is a must-see.
The live music, technical perfection, sophisticated wardrobe and original choreographies grant the Ballet Folklórico de México its hallmark of uniqueness and quality. Founded by late Amalia Hernández, the ballet has been distinguished with more than 400 prizes. The stage couldn’t be better: the magnificent Palacio de Bellas Artes.
The show lasts 1:30 hrs. and includes folk dances like “Matachines”, from the North of Mexico, “El Gusto”, a Mexican tap dance from the coast of Guerrero, a piece dedicated to the “Soldaderas”, the women who supported their men and even bore arms with them in Mexico’s fight for liberty, jarochos from Veracruz and the famous deer dance. The performance closes with the charros of Jalisco, known for their high spirits and joyous grasping of life.
Tickets cost from 300 to 700 pesos (US$25 to 65 approx.) Shows: Wednesdays 20:30 hrs. and Sundays 09:30 and 20:30 hrs.
If you enjoy nature, like birds, plants and flowers, Xochimilco is a good option.
However you have to consider that it is an hour and a half away from Mexico City downtown. Riding a trajinera (the traditional boat) costs 350 pesos (around 26 dollars) per hour.
Other boats will come to sell beer, food, live music, etc. For a relaxed ride, I recommend embarcadero Fernando Celada, more peaceful than the others. You will be able to get an idea about how were Mexico City channels before it was conquered by Spaniards. I recommend you to take the one and a half hour ride instead of the 60 minute one. It costs 500 pesos instead of 350, but it is well worth it if they take you to the ecological reserve channels.
In the area there is a Museum called Dolores Olmedo with some Diego Rivera paintings and gorgeous gardens with peacocks.
Another pleasant walk is around the lake of the second section of Chapultepec (Mexico City central park). You can take a taxi and ask him to drop you at Restaurante del Lago. There are a few good restaurants around the lake like Meridiem. The first section of Chapultepec park also has nice green areas.
If you want to buy handicrafts to take back home try Mercado de la Ciudadela (cheap) or Mercado de Artesanías de la Zona Rosa (more expensive but conveniently located). Silver jewelry, textiles, paintings on amate paper and Olinanla wooden boxes and trays are common gifts.
If you visit the city on a Saturday, you can go to «Bazar del sábado», in San Angel, a traditional handicrafts market. Another weekend option is the handicrafts market of Coyoacán. Both of these neighborhoods (San Angel and Coyoacán) have exquisite examples of colonial architecture.
Sorry but I can’t advise you about other kinds of shopping, as I find shopping malls uniformly boring all over the world.
One last suggestion: Try not taking street taxis, as it can be dangerous. Use hotel cabs instead.
8. What to see around Mexico City
If you have a spare day, go to Teotihuacan pyramids or Tepoztlán, a small town with a breath-taking mountain range, both of them an hour drive from Mexico City.
If you go to the pyramids, try entering through door 2, walk towards the Sun pyramid and climb it. For tall guys it is easier to climb the pyramid stepping side-wise and keeping your focus along the step rather than looking directly down the steps.
Then walk towards the moon pyramid, take your left to see the temple of Quetzalpapalotl and take the right to go behind the Sun pyramid and get an idea of how the complex really looked like in the old days. The city is thought to have been established around 100 BC and continued to be built until about 250 AD.
Seen that? Been there? Try any of these options, at a two-hour drive from Mexico City:
Taxco, a traditional colonial town dedicated to the production of silver jewelry also famous for its downhill bike race; Bernal, a magical town that hosts the third largest monolith of the world; Cholula, a pre-Columbian archaeological site located in a city that has many churches; Xochicalco, an archaeological site in the state of Morelos from around 700 – 900 a.C., Puebla, a majestic colonial city or Chignahuapan, a pretty little town with an authentic provincial environment and beautiful waterfalls nearby.
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Great list. I wish I had more time in Mexico City.