Mexico City, Mexico, is the capital city and the center of all the financial, cultural, and political happenings in the country. This massive metropolis is full of amazing people, food, activities, and experiences waiting for you. Learn what to eat, how to navigate the airport, and which attractions you definitely don’t want to miss.

Early Morning: Get a Great Meal to Start the Day

Choose your breakfast wisely so that you have plenty of energy to get you through the busy day ahead. If you’re looking for a traditional meal served by formally dressed servers in an elegant, white-tablecloth setting, you can’t go wrong with Restaurante El Cardenal. Try the chilaquiles a la veracruzana with a basket of freshly baked bread and a hot chocolate made the Mexican way with a touch of cinnamon.

If you’re in more of a hurry and don’t have time for a sit-down breakfast, visit one of Mexico City’s famous bakeries for a little something to go. Pasteleria Ideal is one such institution and has been in continuous operation since 1927. You can easily see why: Get in line to grab tongs and a platter. Pile it high with a variety of pastries and conchas, sweet bread rolls covered with cookie crumbs or icing, to snack on all day.

For another option somewhere between the elegant experience of Restaurante El Cardenal and the grab-and-go atmosphere of Pasteleria Ideal, try one of the many fondas around the city. These small casual restaurants cater to early risers. Fonda Margarita is one of the best. Try the huevos con frijoles, a surprisingly delicious mixture of beans and eggs made into a flavorful patty.

Palace of Fine Arts
The Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City.

Midmorning: Take a Walk

What better way to get to know a city than to stroll the streets and soak in the culture, architecture, and shopping areas around you?Mexico City has so much to offer that you may have trouble deciding where to start. Wonderful possibilities exist everywhere you look, so check maps to see which options are closest to your breakfast spot.

The Avenida Francisco Sosa is a lovely little colonial street with brightly colored homes, shops, and cultural opportunities. The cobblestone-paved area gets little vehicle traffic, so you can enjoy your stroll. More than 65 buildings along the way are historic landmarks. You can travel from Sabado Mercado in San Angel to Coyoacan along this venue. Fruit carts and little cafes dot the path, along with cultural centers and parks.

For a different experience, check out the Avenida Juarez, one of the main streets in the downtown area of Mexico City. This street is home to museums such as the Palace of Fine Arts, the Diego Rivera Mural Museum, and the Memory and Tolerance Museum. You’ll also find a monument to Benito Juarez and the Teatro Hidalgo along the way. Try to stay on the same side of the street as the Alameda Central park for an easier walk.

If funky and fun is more your style, check out Calle Londres in Colonia Juarez, a home to quirky little shops selling everything from coffee and clothes to art. The Wax Museum and Ripley’s Believe It or Not! are two of the more unusual spots to visit. Independent Mexican designers display their wares here, making both places must-see attractions if you’re looking for fabulous street art that reflects the people who live and work in Mexico City.

Noon: Eat Again

After all that walking and shopping, you’ll be ready for lunch. The challenging part is choosing where and what to order. First decide whether you want a formal dining experience, something to grab on the fly, or a happy medium.

If you’ve planned ahead, you may already have reservations at Restaurante Nicos. Widely considered the best restaurant in all of Mexico City, you can’t possibly get in without a reservation. This place strikes a balance on every point. As a formal setting, it’s far from stuffy or pretentious. Many dishes get prepared tableside, such as the cafe de olla, a coffee experience that involves grinding the beans while you watch. Try the sopa seca de natas, a creamy tomato and chicken dish based on a 19th-century recipe.

If you want to save Nicos for later, consider another possibility. When you’re in Mexico City, you have to eat tacos at least once, right? Los Sifones is a place to get an authentic meal of unusual square-shaped tacos in fresh tortilla shells. Choose a traditional beef taco, or try the flavorful pork in the tacos al pastor with some melted cheese and chorizo on the side. The beverage selection is impressive, too, with everything from beer to lemonade available. While you eat, check out the work of local artists on the walls.

Almost as popular as the taquerias in Mexico City are the torterias. These places serve up tortas and teleras by the ton. These sandwiches, large and small, get made in traditional rolls filled with almost any filling you can imagine. La Texcocana is one of the best among hundreds of these establishments in the city. For more than 70 years, the restaurant has served simple but delicious food. The sandwiches here are only about 4 inches long, so you may want to try a few different ones. Fish, pork, and beef are popular choices, but if the meat isn’t to your liking, try the avocado with fresh cheese.

Teotihuacan
Teotihuacan,”the City of the Gods”.

Afternoon: Do Some Sightseeing by Land, Air, and Water

After a morning of walking and a filling lunch, you’re probably ready for a more relaxing afternoon. Many tour companies show off different areas of the city through various methods of transportation. Decide whether you’re looking for a tour that shows off the history of the city, the newest developing areas, or a bit of everything.

In such a large city, automobile traffic is a problem, so Segway Tours has found a niche for folks who don’t want to walk but don’t want to spend hours on a bus. An excursion down the Paseo de la Reforma shows you the Mexican Stock Market and the Senate, as well as other important buildings in the city. Go during the day or at night and enjoy the friendly guides and the delicious snacks along the way. You’ll find downtown tours available day or night, plus a day trip from Polanco to Chapultepec. All tours go in small groups with safety equipment provided.

Teotihuacan is known as “the City of the Gods,” home to the ancient pyramids and other wonders best viewed from the air. What better way to take in the views than in a hot air balloon? Sit back and enjoy, snapping pictures and soaking in the sights of the Sun and Moon Pyramids and the Avenue of the Dead. For about an hour, you drift over some impressive scenery. When you return to the ground, you can commemorate your trip with a glass of wine and a photo.

Perhaps the most unusual way to see part of Mexico City is a gondola ride through the network of canals hidden in the corner of the city at Xochimilco. Far from your typical river cruise, these boats are brightly colored and feature everything from fresh food grilled on deck to mariachi bands. You won’t find any motors, so the trip takes anywhere from 2 to 4 hours. The 4-hour trip takes you by the famed Island of the Dolls, a rather sad display created in the 1950s by a man trying to appease the angry spirit of a dead girl.

Coyoacan
The Coyoacan in Mexico City.

Evening: Spend Just Enough Time for Some Shopping Before Dinner

Mexico City offers every kind of shopping you can think of, from malls to open air markets and quaint boutiques. If you’re in the market for something specific such as art or clothing, you’ll want to choose the venues most likely to have what you need. But if you’re shopping in general, you can’t go wrong with any of these places as your starting points.

Centro de Santa Fe is a large modern mall, from department stores with names known worldwide to smaller specialty shops. Besides hosting shops of all types, you’ll find a bowling alley, a movie theater, and a huge park for the kids. If you want to give ice skating a try, you’ll find a rink on the lowest level, surrounded by its own food court.

If the covered walkways of a mall don’t hold your interest, check out the La Ciudadela Mercado de Artesanias. As one of the most visited markets in the world, you’ll understand why visitors say it’s like having all of Mexico on display in one place. Jewelry, furniture, musical instruments, and more are on sale. Everything here is made in Mexico by Mexican hands, so you’re sure to find something to take home for yourself or as a gift.

Mexico City hosts many specialty boutiques full of surprises. Take Sangre de Mi Sangre. Owner Mariana Villarreal was born in Mexico and educated in Brooklyn. Her edgy collection of jewelry includes delicate pieces, skull necklaces, and more made from metals and beautiful stones.

Arroz Con Leche has cute clothes for your little ones in materials that hold up over time. Each piece follows from a traditional Mexican design and is handmade by local artisans.

If you’re a fan of hip-hop culture, don’t miss Lucky Bastard, a shop that prides itself on special merchandise. The shop guarantees that you won’t find anything for sale in its store available anywhere else.

Dinnertime: Go All Out with World-Class Dining

If you’ve eaten light or been on the go all day, you’re ready for one of the many fine dining establishments in Mexico City. Have a seat and let the staff walk you through an authentic Mexican dinner. You’ll find some ingredients in common, but the spin each chef puts on the menu is as individual as the restaurant.

Quintonil in Polanco is the genesis of Jorge Vallejo, carrying a certain elegance without making guests uncomfortable. Try the huazontles, a vegetable like broccoli, served with cheese and a spicy salsa. Choose from a variety of beef, pork, and seafood dishes for the main course. For dessert, you have to try the Hot Mexican Chocolate Pot with Sweetened Corn Ice Cream. Everything at Quintonil features fresh seasonal ingredients which influence what’s on the menu at any given time.

Eloise is another upscale restaurant, but it serves up European and contemporary meals along with classics from Mexico. Start the meal with tuna tartare made with mango, coriander, and other flavorful spices and vegetables served with tortilla chips. For the main course, the Hamburger Elois or the rack of lamb are excellent choices. Quench your thirst with something from the extensive menu of wine and spirits.

While in Mexico City, you must have at least one meal at Sir Winston Churchill’s. The house specialty here is a prime rib of roast beef served with Yorkshire pudding and two sauces. If you still have room after all that comfort food, check out the roving cart of homemade desserts offering up a divine blueberry cheesecake along with fresh fruit and berries.

Angel of Independence
The Angel of Independence in downtown Mexico City.

Where to Stay in Mexico City

Choose from hotels, hostels, and private rentals in any of the 16 boroughs that make up Mexico City. From inexpensive rates that leave you more money for fun and food to luxury beyond imagination, you’ll find many options here. Once you decide where you want to stay, the decision gets easier.

Hotels

For a clean and comfortable stay that won’t empty your wallet, check out the Hotel Isabel. It has 71 rooms, and some have impressive views and interior courtyards. At the other end of the scale is the Four Seasons Mexico City with all the opulence and luxury you expect from the name. For a middle-of-the-road price that still gets you modern perks, consider the Hotel Novit.

Hostels

This type of accommodation usually offers private or dorm-style rooms and private or shared bathrooms. You can find some beautiful ones in all 16 boroughs of Mexico City. The Hostel Inn Zona Rosa is one such choice in the heart of the city. This area is fully controlled and safe while still in walking distance to restaurants, shops, and museums. Mexico City Hostel is another good pick near the city center. This place includes breakfast and the use of a fully equipped kitchen in the rate. If a room near the airport serves your needs better during your trip, check out the Hostel Airport Mexico DF, five blocks from the T1 terminal.

Private Rentals

Maybe you need more space than a traditional hotel can offer, or maybe you want to live like a local. Choose the area of the city where you want to stay and check out what’s available. If you’re going solo, consider a one-bedroom apartment or a single room in a larger house. To meet the needs of families traveling together, look for a three-bedroom apartment or a small house. While the selection is best closest to the city center, you can still find a peaceful place on the outskirts.

Alameda Central Park
Alameda Central Park.

Airport Guide

Mexico City International Airport is the busiest in Mexico and one of the busiest in all of Latin America. Every year, up to 45 million passengers travel through the airport, far beyond its capacity. No matter when you travel, areas are crowded and hectic, so allow extra time whether you’re arriving or departing. Two runways serve the massive facility.

Terminals

The airport is about 5 km east of downtown Mexico City. It serves as a hub for Interjet, Volaris, Aeromar, and Aeromexico, the largest airline at the airport and a SkyTeam hub. The two terminals, T1 and T2, are 3 km apart, but they connect via runways and Airtrain. A total of 20 airlines operate from here, including Southwest, Air Canada, Delta, and more. Both international and domestic flights move through this facility. The top 10 busiest routes are Cancun, Monterrey, Guadalajara, Tijuana, Mérida, Los Ángeles, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Miami, Villahermosa, and New York.

The access platform for T1 is in the Puente Pilotos bridge, and it is the largest, arranged in three sections with gates numbered 1 through 15, 17 to 23, and 24 to 36. More than 5,000 parking spaces are split between the international and domestic areas to handle long- and short-term parking needs. The platform for T2 is near Gate M. T2 has two halls, K and H. K Hall has gates numbered 52 through 62, and H Hall has 62 through 75.

Amenities

If you are looking to kill time while you’re waiting for your flight, you’ll find plenty to do. You can shop in the duty-free stores or grab a snack or a full meal in one of the many restaurants, cafes, and bars. On-site medical services are available to take care of travelers who are ill or injured. ATMs, banks, and currency exchange centers can help you with your financial needs. VIP lounges are available at both terminals, and each one is operated by one of the following airlines or companies: American Express, Centurion Club, Televisa, MasterCard, Lufthansa, and HSBC.

Nearby Hotels

Staying near your hotel may suit your needs best. If so, you’re in luck because Terminal 1 is close to four hotels: Camino Real, Courtyard by Marriot, Fiesta Inn by Fiesta Americana, and a Hilton. Terminal 2 is close to the NH Hotel.

Ground Transportation

You have many options for transportation to and from the Mexico City International Airport. Aerotrain and local buses run between the two terminals to help get you where you’re going. Various routes connect T1 and T2 with different attractions in and around Mexico City.

The Metrobus connects the airport with Mexico City on Line 4 with several stops along the way. Passengers can also catch the subway along Route 1, 3, and San Lazaro Metro.

The closest metro station is “Terminal Aerea Station.” Line 5 runs between Pantitlan and Politecnico. T2 doesn’t connect directly with the metro station, but passengers can take trolley bus line G (close to the Metro station) to the Boulevard Puerto Aereo Station and transfer to Line 1 Metro.

Several authorized companies offer taxi service, and many hotels in the vicinity provide shuttle service directly to their doors.

No matter what brings you to Mexico City, you have many choices to make about where you stay, what you eat, and what you do for fun while you’re in Mexico City. Let GoDoTrip help with all the information you need to build the trip of your dreams.