By Roberto Vilchis, an ancient history expert who has lived in vibrant downtown Mexico City his whole life. Edited by Matthew Wears
If you’re spending just three days in Mexico City, then the first question I have to ask is; why not longer? As you probably already know, the city is not only very huge, but there’s sixteen pretty distinct neighbourhoods for you to explore as well. This obviously means that there’s going to be so many places for you to visit, so cramming it all within three days is going to be a very difficult task, but it is possible with the right planning. That’s where this seventy-two hours in Mexico City guide comes in handy, this little article is going to be very important if you want to make the most of your short trip. I’ll be covering only the absolute best of Mexico City here, according to me of course. Having lived here for my entire life, I know exactly what is going to be worth your time and what isn’t, so believe me when I say I’m a bit of a Mexico City travel expert! I live in the south of the city, but I’ve explored pretty much every museum, tasted just about every taco and walked through many of this city's vibrant neighbourhoods. Anyway, it’s time to jump right in to find out exactly what to do in Mexico City in three days. Let begin!
Start your seventy-two hours in Mexico City by going straight to the downtown area, in particular Chapultepec. This is an absolutely enormous parkland that is actually one of the biggest inner-city parks in the world, and with its size comes a whole load of incredible things to explore. The most beautiful place has to be the Chapultepec Castle, a grand colonial palace that sits on top of a mound with amazing panoramic views of Mexico City below. As well as this, the park is also home to the Museum of Anthropology, which is not just one of the most fascinating Mexico City travel destinations, but it’s one of the most important educational institutions in the entire world. You could spend many hours exploring this huge collection of ancient artefacts, although because you just have three days in Mexico City, try to keep it brief!
Next, bring your own lunch and enjoy a relaxing meal on one of the many open green spaces in the park - you can pick up food to go from literally anywhere in Mexico City, so finding something to eat won’t be a problem. Trust me, this will be the most relaxing meal you’ll get anywhere in this city! After this, it’s time to head to one of the city’s most exciting and vibrant areas; the Roma and Condesa neighbourhoods. Spending seventy-two hours in Mexico City wouldn’t be complete without exploring these two very cool parts of town, there’s enough hipster cafes and fancy restaurants to keep you entertained for weeks! Enjoy an afternoon beer at the famous Mercado Roma or grab a sugary snack from the twenty-four-hour churro shop; Churrería El Moro. If there’s one thing that this area is known for, it’s boutiques and quirky styles, so you should definitely look through some of the independent fashion retailers and vintage shops whilst you’re here!
For all of the art lovers who want to know exactly what to do in Mexico City in three days that’s going to give them their creative fix, then I’ve got the perfect thing for you. Explore the Roma districts rich and diverse graffiti scene! Continue to take in the artistic flair of these two neighbourhoods by heading to one of their incredible art galleries, such as the highly regarded Galería OMR, or the super creative Machete art space. End your night by heading further east until you reach the totally unique Mercado Jamaica. This twenty-four-hour flower market is one-hundred percent Mexico City off the beaten path, and interestingly, it’s pretty much the only place in the whole city where you buy your produce straight from the producer! The food in this place is really authentic too, so make sure to finish your night with a real local delicacy; Lebanese influenced tacos al pastor.
For day two of your three days in Mexico City, it’s time to head down into the south of the city. I think it’s such a shame that not that many tourists venture down here, there really is so much to see and if you’re into your historical sites like I am, the place is absolutely amazing because it’s full of them. If you search ‘three day itinerary Mexico City’ online, then the chances are you’ve come across the floating gardens and colourful canals of Xochimilco. This is a very popular tourist attraction, but you couldn’t come to the city without seeing it. But before we get to that, take some breakfast at Mercado de Xochimilco, an incredible indoor market that dates back all the way to colonial times. Here in Mexico, we love tacos so much that we eat them all times of the day, so think why not eat like a local and enjoy some delicious breakfast tacos!
After breakfast, it’s time to spend the morning over at the most famous part of Xochimilco; the ancient canal area. This was the most advanced form of cultivation in the world when it was designed way back by the Aztecs, but now it’s one of the absolute must do Mexico City attractions for all tourists. Hop on board one of the colourful boats (called a trajinera) and float along the chinampas of the UNESCO World Heritage site, passing food stalls, artisans and even the odd Mariachi band as you go! If it’s not too early in the day then you should try some pulque, a pretty mild alcoholic drink which now only found in the more traditional parts of town. If you want to experience one of the stranger things to do in Mexico City, then you can go to the now popular island of dolls, a very creepy collection of dolls and toys that hang all along the canal side.
When you’ve finished exploring Xochilico, head just a little bit further north in the city to the Coyoacan neighbourhood. Spend some time taking in the culture at either the Frida Kahlo or Leon Trotsky museums, or head to the Dolores Olmedoa art gallery, which is a real hidden gem. If not, head to University City which is just a short journey away. Paying this place a visit is one of my favourite things to do in Mexico City and I visit at least once a week, it’s worth it just to see the incredible murals painted all over the library building alone. To finish off your day, I’d really recommend going to the Loz Danzantes restaurant in this neighbourhood. Now, this place is going to be just a little bit more expensive than a fonda, but you’re going to get a fantastic selection of some Mexican favourites that are honestly some of the most delicious in town. The mezcal is really good from here too!
For the final full day of your three days in Mexico City journey, it’s time to leave the craziness of the city behind for just a few hours, and head up to the incredible Teotihuacan. This ancient city is one of the absolute must do Mexico City historical sites, so much so that spending a full day here on your three day trip is completely worth it. Walk along the Avenue of the Dead before going on to discover the emblematic Pyramid of the Sun, which is definitely one of the most important historical structures anywhere in the Americas. The easiest way to get here is by tour, although if you’re feeling more adventurous it is possible to do it by public bus. Next, stop for some tacos in the nearby San Juan Teotihuacan market. This is one of my best tips, purely because this local favourite is a much more authentic experience than the restaurants around the entrance, which serve very bad food at an extremely high price.
After your day trip, it’s time to head into the historic centre, which is a place that I think everyone should go to at least once, even if you’re on a tight schedule and have just one day in Mexico City. The Zócalo (or the Plaza de la Constitución as it’s also known) is the main square in the entire city, and it’s where you’ll find many of the must do Mexico City attractions, such as the Metropolitan Cathedral and the ancient ruins of Templo Mayor. If you have time, take a tour of the National Palace and discover a collection of incredible murals from one of Mexico’s finest ever artists; Diego Rivera. For your final evening it’s only right that you go out and celebrate in proper Mexican style! Grab some food from any street vendor, before heading into the popular local bar Hostería La Bota and ordering a beer (or ten).
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