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A whirlwind weekend before your Mexico City departure

Mexico

World class museums and galleries, a thriving and diverse nightlife scene, and culinary excellence in every corner: Mexico City is a phenomenal destination for every kind of traveller. 

Whether you want to see Frida Kahlo’s birthplace, eat your weight in tacos, or immerse yourself in world class museums, you can do it in the largest Spanish-speaking city in the world. But with so much to do, FOMO can creep in before you even arrive. Thankfully, we’ve eaten our way through street food stalls, hiked up and down the surrounding mountains, and taken in the art in all of the coolest galleries to provide you with this itinerary.

If you’re in the Mexican capital nation and want to explore before embarking on your Latin American Contiki adventure, then read on for our guide to a whirlwind weekend in Mexico City!

Where to stay

Most of Mexico City is safe, but like all big cities, there are places where foreigners are likely to stick out and potentially become victims of petty crime. However, these areas are easy to avoid, and are mostly dangerous at night. As long as you’re aware of your surroundings, you’re sure to have a great time.

In terms of the best places to stay in the city, Roma and La Condesa are two of the coolest colonias (neighbourhoods) in Mexico City. Both are jam packed with cute cafes, cool bars, and life changing restaurants, and most people you’ll meet there will be able to speak enough English for you to get by (although we always recommend trying out your Spanish, even if you think it’s terrible). 

Polanco is also a great spot to stay, although it’s a little on the pricier side. Cuauhtémoc, Juarez, and Centro are also all wonderful locations that offer easy access to everything Mexico City has to offer, as well as a plethora of delightful accommodation options. 

If you don’t mind being a little further out, Coyoacán is a gorgeous colonia that’s packed full of colourful buildings, great food and drink options, and cultural highlights. However, it is a bit of a trek getting into the centre of the city from there, so if you’ve only got a short period of time here and don’t want to spend it commuting, you should probably look elsewhere.

How to get around

Uber and other ride-sharing apps are prevalent in Mexico City and are usually quite cheap and reliable. 

If you’re feeling brave, then the local bike sharing service is also a great and efficient option. Most of the central areas have dedicated bike lanes, but Mexico City’s traffic is notoriously wild, so if you’re not used to riding in a big city (or even if you are) then it might not be for you.

The Mexican capital’s public transport system is truly incredible. As long as you’re sticking to central areas, you’ll be able to take the efficient, clean metro system to pretty much anywhere. There are also metro-buses (they run along the metro routes but above ground), light-rail, and electronic buses. These can all be paid for by using the Metro Card, and fares are ridiculously cheap.

On the metro and metro-buses there will be a separate section for women and children under 12, if you’re a female traveller and want an extra layer of safety. These sections are clearly defined. The busiest metro stations are also staffed by police.

If you want to get a bit further out, the local bus services are extensive and go as far as surrounding mountain villages. However, you have to pay in cash, the routes can go through some very lonely places, and the timetables and bus stops are more suggestions than fixed. So, unless you’re very confident and have a decent level of Spanish, we’d recommend paying extra for an Uber.

hot air balloon trip over Mexico City

Image source:Contiki

Friday

Start your Mexico City weekend city break right with a hearty and traditional breakfast at Chilpa. This beloved spot on the border of Roma Sur and La Condesa is a firm favourite among locals and as such can get a little crowded, but the food is worth the wait. While they have a large selection of international dishes, like french toast and fruit bowls, we highly recommend trying their Chilaquiles – you can even build your own plate!

Now you’ve been fed and watered, it’s time to see the best of what this excellent city has to offer. You head north to Chapultepec Park and wander past the monuments and grand buildings that dot this expansive green space. Soon, you’re at your first real destination: the Museo Nacional de Antropología.

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An extensive and impressive museum, a visit here allows you to really dive into the history and culture of this incredible nation. The exhibits are enlightening and comprehensive, and the buildings that make it up are architectural marvels. You could spend all day here, but after strolling through its halls for a few hours you begin to feel peckish again. While you’re tempted to get some papas from the vendors that line the pathways in the park, you don’t want to ruin your lunch.

You head East on Avenida Chapultepec and soon find yourself at Masala y Maiz, the Indian/Mexican fusion restaurant that’s been making waves in the city’s food scene. Unique, inventive, and delicious, the quality of the dishes here are matched by the friendly service. If you haven’t booked a reservation, you might have to wait a while, but it’s definitely worth it. If they are completely full, then nearby Mari Gold is run by the same people. The dishes are slightly different, but the concept is similar, and the high level of quality remains.

You head into the centre of the city, passing by sites like El Angel de la Independencia and Monumento a la Revolución in Plaza de la República. Eventually, you wind up at the famous Palacio de Belles Artes, where you take in the beautiful artworks they show and learn about some of Mexico’s finest painters. 

After leaving you briefly stop by the Palacio Postal to take in the stunning edifice, then head to the beating heart of the city: the Zocalo. This isn’t just where public celebrations take place, though. The Zocalo is also home to Templo Mayor de México-Tenochtitlan, the ancient Aztec ruins that the region was once ruled from. 

After marvelling at the ancient remains, you take a short stroll to Hostel Mundo Joven Catedral. No, you’ve not travelled so far that you need a room for the night; this hostel is home to one of the city’s best rooftop bars, and provides stunning views of the nearby cathedral and the sweeping mountain scenery that surrounds the city. The drinks are also relatively cheap, which is a bonus.

You’ve got a big night planned, so you head for an early dinner at Mi Compa Chava Marisquería. This Roma seafood spot is one of the best in the city, so it’s worth trying to stuff yourself with as much of the menu as you can.

Your next stop is the world-famous Arena Mexico, where you have tickets for the iconic Lucha Libre. Mexican wrestling is particularly theatrical, and with the combination of cheap, massive beers and brilliant entertainment, you’re sure to get caught up in the excitement of the crowd. 

After the bustle of the wrestling you’re ready for your night out to start. You begin at Pulquería La Hija De Los Apaches, where you can indulge in the traditional alcoholic drink it’s named for: Pulque. This agave-based refreshment is an acquired taste (and texture), but if you’re a fan, you’ll soon become obsessed. This live music venue only accepts cash and is jam packed full of locals dancing salsa, cumbia, and bachata. If you’re feeling up to it, get on the dance floor and show off your moves (we don’t recommend this if you’re an amateur!).

Your final stop for the night is Patrick Miller. This weird and wonderful nightclub is known for its laissez-faire attitude, and as a result you’ll find people of all ages and nationalities here. The music varies but is always feel-good, and usually has a disco or funk flavour. Again, it’s cash only, but there are plenty of ATMs nearby.

Saturday

You wake up a little later than usual but that’s ideal, as it means you can have a late breakfast at a restaurant that only opens at 10: Expendio de Maiz Sin Nombre. This ultra popular spot consists of just the kitchen and some outdoor seating, but has fast become one of the city’s most popular eateries. 

There isn’t really a menu here. You simply tell the staff your preferences, allergies, and other food restrictions, and they bring out a series of small plates until you ask them to stop. Make sure you wash it all down with a Cafe de Olla, the spiced hot drink that Mexicans have been drinking for centuries.

You have a bit of a way to travel to your next stop: the Frida Kahlo museum in Coyoacán. You need to book ahead for this particular experience as the museum is one of the busiest in the city and only has a limited capacity, but it’s worth it for the intimate look you get into Mexico’s most renowned artist. 

You’ve immersed yourself in plenty of culture for the past couple of days, so you don’t feel bad that your next stop is all about letting loose. You head further south to Xochilmilco, full of beautiful waterways that are the last remaining evidence of the lake that Mexico City was built on (which is also why the settlement is slowly sinking). Although you can go for wholesome sunrise kayak rides here, the area is mostly known as a place for locals and tourists alike to go on party boat tours. 

You can hire your own boat among friends or go with a tour group. Most will let you bring your own refreshments onboard, so make sure you stock up. If you forget, there are plenty of shops at the dock, but ensure you bring cash as many don’t accept cards. 

Most vessels come with speakers so you can be your own DJ. If you begin to feel peckish, there are small boats floating around that attach themselves to your craft while they prepare your meal. There are also floating mariachi bands.

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It’s a long drive back into the centre, but before you know it you’re at one of the city’s best cocktail bars: Rayo. You enter a lift, where an attendant offers you cocktail tasters so you know exactly what to order once you’re seated. The service is impeccable, and the drinks are to die for. 

You spend the rest of the evening bar hopping through La Condesa and Roma, but as the night winds down hunger begins to hit. You make your way to the infamous Tortas Al Fuego, a 24-hour spot that’s frequented by local third-shift workers, partiers nearing the end of the night, and everyone in between. 

The place buzzes throughout the early hours, and the menu is jam-packed with Mexican staples, making it the perfect spot for a late-night snack that hits the spot. If you prefer something a little more laid-back, Caldos de Gallina “Luis” down the road is also open at all times, but has a much simpler menu and fewer tipsy groups.

Sunday

A hearty breakfast at Lalo! aids your recovery from the previous night, and soon you’re ready for your last day in this wild city. Sunday may traditionally be a day of rest, but here a lot of great attractions remain open, giving you the opportunity to get in one last fix of this incredible destination.

Your next stop is Teotihuacan, the famous archaeological site that’s home to the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon. The cost of a ride sharing service out there isn’t too big of a wallet hit, and there are countless tours that offer transport to and from the site. If you’re feeling independent, buses run regularly from Autobuses del Norte metro station, which is on Line 5 on the metro (the yellow line). The buses are cheap, air-conditioned, and comfortable, and you can get a return ticket from the bus terminal.

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You spend a couple of hours wandering around the huge complex and museum, taking it all in, but even the vibrant history of this attraction can’t stop your stomach from rumbling after all that walking. You head to nearby La Gruta Teotihuacán, a restaurant that’s located in a nearby cave. It’s a truly unique experience, complete with delicious meals and mariachi bands playing for your pleasure.

From there, you find your way back to the city. While there are dozens of great museums and galleries you could explore, you only have one evening left here and you want to dive back into the city’s hospitality scene, so you head to Tlecan for a post-meal cocktail. This mezcal bar utilises inventive mixes and flavours to bring out the best of the famous Mexican spirit. If you’re feeling lost, the bartenders are always happy to make suggestions.

From there, you get yourself back into the busy centre of the city, where you meander through the maze that is El mercado de la Merced. This world-famous market has everything from fresh fruit and veg, delicious street food stalls, and consumer goods and electronics. It might feel like a sensory explosion at first, but once you’re oriented to the market you’ll be able to find some great deals, as well as a plethora of souvenirs.

mexican food

Image source:Sandeep Sandhu

The party never stops in Mexico City, and this is true on the traditional day of rest. Sunday is one of the city’s most popular clubs, and for good reason. As the name suggests the club, located at the top of a shabby looking storefront, is open for one day of the week. 

You board a rickety looking lift, and before you know it you’re on a rooftop terrace, where local and international DJs spin the decks (previous acts have included Salute and Fred Again). The crowd is one of the most diverse and fun-loving in all of the city, which makes sense: the party begins at 4 in the afternoon and ends well after midnight. The perfect place to see off your whirlwind weekend in Mexico City.

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