Years ago, I used to visit the Baja peninsula in Mexico at a time when visiting Mexico City (aka CDMX) was considered sheer folly.
Tales of crime, corruption and pollution abounded and conjured up images of endless slums and body bags, but things are very different today.
With more museums per capita than any other city in the world and named World Design Capital of 2018, it is now known as a model for other megacities to listen and learn.
We only had 48 hours in Mexico City to explore this sprawling metropolis on our way to Cuba, but this city packs a lot of punch in a short time, and we can’t wait to return!
How to get to Mexico City
Benito Jaurez International Airport is the main arrival point for flights into the city and is serviced by all the major carriers from the USA, Canada, Central, and South America, as well as some carriers from Europe.
It is located 13kms from the city centre.
It is also possible to arrive by train from cities along with the US border services by Amtrak but only luxury trains such as the Copper Canyon.
It is also possible to drive from the US with a permit that requires a copy of the car registration and driver’s license.
Mexican car insurance is also compulsory.
It is also possible to arrive by Bus by connecting with US bus lines in Texas.
Where to stay in Mexico City
The city is made up of 16 delegaciones (districts) which are also subdivided into over 1700 neighbourhoods.
For a short trip, it is best to stay in or near the historic centre. In particular, there are some great accommodation choices and many things to see and do in the following places:
Centro Historico – this is where many historic colonial landmarks can be found, including the Metropolitan Cathedral, National Palace, Palacio de Bellas Artes, Plaza de la Constitution, and Templo Mayor.
This area is full of narrow cobblestone streets, lots of shops and restaurants, and is full of colonial and European architecture.
Condesa and Roma – this is the artistic area that has undergone significant gentrification in recent years.
It’s a sprawling area full of parks, beautiful Art Deco architecture, and interesting bars, galleries, micro-breweries, antique bookshops, and hipster coffee shops.
Polanco – one of the wealthiest suburbs in Mexico City, this leafy area is full of gorgeous converted haciendas, high-end restaurants, and bistros, boutiques, embassies, and hotels.
Chapultepec – this is one of the largest urban parks in the world and is Mexico Citys version of Central Park in New York City.
The park is home to a huge lake, a Zoo, several Museums, and an amusement park, as well as many activities such as paddle boats, bicycles, and concerts.
Nearby Lomas de Chapultepec is the wealthiest neighbourhood in CDMX.
How To Spend 48 Hours in Mexico City
Day 1 in Mexico City itinerary
We stayed in the upmarket and very stylish Polanco district in a converted hacienda with stunning decor including a pair of swings in the pale pink foyer.
Pug Seal Tennyson is one of the most beautiful small hotels we’ve ever seen, and the service was outstanding as well.
There are a number of other very good accommodation choices in Polanco, particularly boutique hotels. Check rate and availability of some great choices HERE.
Things to do in Mexico City Day 1
Chapultepec Park – Begin your first day in Mexico City with a trip to Chapultepec Park.
Wander through the park, exploring the various activities and exhibitions on offer, which change regularly. See their official site for more information.
A walking tour of Roma district – we booked this tour through Airbnb Experiences, and it was such a wonderful experience.
Roma is a hip, safe neighbourhood with hipster-run coffee shops, bars, and parks favored by artists and artisans.
It has water activities, a modern art museum, and a zoo, but the must-see attractions are the Museum of Anthropology and Chapultepec castle (Mexico City’s version of Versailles).
The Museum of Anthropology – Located inside Chapultepec Park, you’ll find the Museum of Anthropology, Mexico’s most visited museum. Admission is 65 pesos, and it’s definitely worth a visit.
Museum of National History – If you venture to Chapultepec Castle – still inside the park – you’ll get to the National Museum of History.
The museum offers an overview of Mexico’s history from the conquest and formation of New Spain up to the early 20th century.
Day 2 itinerary for Mexico City
Spend your second day taking a taxi into the historic centre and seeing some of the many incredible cultural buildings and monuments.
National Palace and the Diego Rivera murals (painted between 1929 and 1951) that illustrate the history of Mexico.
The National Palace opens at 10 a.m. but can close sporadically for government events, so it’s better to see it early.
Zócalo– Mexico City’s main square. (It’s said to be the third-largest main square in the world after China’s Tiananmen Square and Russia’s Red Square.)
You’ll pass the Aztec ruins of Tenochtitlan, excavated in the shadow of the massive Metropolitan Cathedral.
The head-down Francisco I. Madero Street for some people watching and shopping.
Metropolitan Cathedral– this 17th-century cathedral is the largest in North America and was built on the ruins of an Aztec religious site.
Visit Coyoacan. Colonial-era suburb lined with old mansions and several of the city’s best museums.
It was the home of famed artist Frida Kahlo and her husband, Diego Rivera.
Frida Kahlo Museo — possibly the most famous attraction in CDMX and not really a museum.
Also known as La Casa Azul, this blue house, this is where Mexico’s most famous artist Frida Kahlo was born, and many of her works are on display.
You can then also visit :
Diego Rivera Studio – where Khalo and her famous husband Diego Rivera lived or you can take a daytrip to Teotihuacán home to the Pyramid of the Sun and the Avenue of the dead, which is located around 45min from Mexico CITY
Where to eat and drink in Polanco
Pujol – Named the 20th best restaurant in the world. Dark, muted tones and flavours set in a big beautiful garden.
You need to book at least one month in advance, possibly more.
Quintonil – #22 in the world! Modern Mexican with an emphasis on greens.
Agua Y Sal– high-end seafood and an excellent wine list.
La Unica – Pork is king at this bustling snout to tail bistro. We ate here on our first night – snagged a last-minute table – and were impressed immediately.
Catamundi restaurant & Mercado– its everything, a deli/bakery/wine bar/cafe/restaurant/market. We spent a long time here.
Mexico City is an exciting destination that proved to us it is worthy of at least a few days and hopefully a bit longer.
In many ways, it was the highlight of our trip to Mexico this year and will remain a place that we are keen to return to as I know it offers a whole lot more.
Make sure you put it on your list!
Sandy Papas is an experienced traveller and writer based in Australia who has visited 50 countries. She counts Cuba in her top 5.
You can find her at Greece Travel Secrets and Weekend Getaways Australia.