By Masahiro Iztapawood, a long time Mexico City local who loves showing people around his home city. Edited by Elodi Troskie
Mexico City, the energetic and colourful capital of Mexico, makes sure international travellers are warmly welcomed by locals. As the oldest capital in the Americas, Mexico City is a historical and cultural hotspot. The countless museums, art galleries, markets and places to eat will leave you with a never-ending list of things to do in Mexico City. With its tropical climate, Mexico’s weather allows for a pleasant visit throughout the year. Although one day is far too little to see and experience all of its attractions, here is my travel guide for 24 hours in Mexico City.
Morning: the early bird gets the tamales
Before breakfast, squeeze in a visit to one of the city’s many museums. My favourite museum in the city is the National Museum of Anthropology, one of the most popular attractions in Mexico City for art and architecture lovers. The museum is open from 09:00 until 19:00 every day except Mondays. Admission is 75 MXN, but nationals, teachers, students, people with disabilities, children under 13 and people over 60 can enter for free. To get there, take the Metro Auditorium (Line 7) and Chapultepec (Line 1). The museum is very popular to both tourists and locals, so you may find a long queue at the door. Avoid the masses by coming as early as you can. Next, head over to El Esquina de Chilaquiles, a street food market in downtown Mexico City. This is one of the best places to eat in Mexico City and a great way to jump into the flavours and spices of Mexican cuisine! I love getting breakfast tamales, a traditional dish made of masa or dough, steamed in a corn husk or banana leaf and filled with meat, cheese, fruits or vegetables.
Lunch: live entertainment
After breakfast, head over to Paseo de la Reforma, Mexico City’s main street that runs through the city’s historic district. You can get there with a short 10-minute taxi drive or 25 minutes by metro. This is a lively street where you’re bound to find art expos and live performers to entertain you while enjoying the architecture of upscale Mexico City. Exploring the city on foot is a must-do outdoor activity in Mexico City! Have lunch at one of the restaurants in the area – a good option is Azul Historico, a popular vegetarian-friendly restaurant you can access by continuing down Reforma street. Every month, the restaurant chooses a Mexican festival as a theme and adjusts the menu accordingly. Expect a Latin American gourmet dining experience. Prices are reasonable for the restaurant’s location and the quality of the food. I always recommend visitors to try one of the soups when eating at a restaurant in Mexico City.
Afternoon: Mexican arts and crafts
A trip to Mexico City isn’t complete without a visit to a market. Mercado De Artesanias La Ciudadela, the Ciudadela Crafts Market, is one not to be missed. The market was started in the 1960’s when the Olympic Games were held in Mexico and local artists were scouted to showcase their work to international travellers flooding to the city. Today, the market covers about 16 000 square meters and features more than 200 stalls. You’ll find handmade crafts ranging from clothing to jewellery to embroidery. If you’re in need of a drink or pre-dinner snack, you’ll have a wide variety of food stalls to choose from. This is a great spot if you’re looking for Mexican souvenirs or gifts to take home. But you won’t just find the usual touristy souvenirs – if you dig a little deeper, you’re sure to find many hidden gems you find at every second market around the city. The market is open every day from 09:00 until 19:00 (18:00 on Sundays). Another option for the crafty traveller is exploring the neighbourhood of Coyoacán, one of the city’s most creative areas not far from Ciudadela. Coyoacán is a hub of colourful streets, artisanal markets, coffee shops and colonial-era architecture – a must-see.
Dinner: a local cantina experience
For a local Mexican experience, I’d recommend a light meal at one of the laid-back cantinas, where you can watch TV or play a round of pool while waiting for your food. This is the perfect way to relax after your busy day out and about in the city, and a perfect first stop if you’re planning a night out. A few suggestions are El Centenario, Cantina Tio Pepe and El León de Oro – all within a 5-15 minute drive from the Ciudadela Crafts Market. These cantinas are Mexico City’s hidden gems and will gift you with an authentic, local experience if you’re looking for non-touristy things to do in the city. If you only have one day in Mexico City, this is an experience not to deprive yourself of.
Nightlife: the night owl’s dream
Mexico City’s nightlife is one of its biggest attractions for international travellers. The party animal won’t suffer a shortage of things to do at night in Mexico City. You’ll find bars and nightclubs open every day of the week, and if you’re visiting over the weekend, you’re sure to find a live concert or three. Rest assured that you won’t run out of things to do in Mexico City at night. A safety travel tip if you’re heading out at night: activate Uber on your phone so you won’t find yourself stuck in an unfamiliar area with no way to get home. The city isn’t necessarily extremely unsafe – at least not more than your average big city – but you don’t want your Mexican experience ending on an unpleasant note. That being said, the city’s locals are a friendly bunch and if you find yourself in a sticky situation, you can count on their help and guidance!
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