If you’re looking for a cultural destination with delicious food, friendly people and historic sites, Mexico City is it! This vibrant city has it all and spending 5 days in Mexico City is a trip that won’t break the bank. CDMX is an affordable destination that is seemingly under-the-radar at the moment, making it a great time to visit and experience all Mexico City has to offer!
Keep reading for my itinerary and tips for an epic 5 days in Mexico City (and scroll to the bottom to check out my video guide of Mexico City!)
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Mexico City Trip Overview:
PTO/Vacation Days Needed*: 3
Exchange Rate: 1 Mexican Peso = $0.052 USD
*This itinerary is based on arriving on a Friday and leaving on Tuesday.
There are direct flights to Mexico City from several destinations (including LAX!) to MEX for affordable prices. The best way to get around Mexico City once you land (and throughout your entire trip) is to use Uber. It’s super cheap, safe and very fast! We never had to wait more than 3 minutes for an Uber ride.
Where to Stay in Mexico City:
There are several different neighborhoods of Mexico City, all with different vibes.
Roma & La Condesa: These bohemian, walkable neighborhoods are right next to each other and are some of the best spots to stay in Mexico City, in my opinion. Here you’ll find beautiful tree-lined streets, boutique storefronts, and a great food scene!
Centro: This is the iconic historic center of Mexico City. Think antique buildings, beautiful old churches, and huge plazas. Great spot if you are looking to hit the main sites and be in the middle of the action. Also delicious street food.
Zona Rosa: The LGBT center of Mexico City, full of fun restaurants, bars and shops
Polanco: Super chic luxury area with designer stores and tree-lined streets.
Juarez: Up-and-coming neighborhood with funky cafes and quaint restaurants
Coyoacan: Artsy neighborhood near Frida Kahlo’s house, however it is slightly far from the rest of Mexico City
For our 5 days in Mexico City, we opted to split our time with 2 nights in the Roma area and 2 nights in the Centro historic area. Splitting up time between these two neighborhoods means that you won’t have to spend time in traffic to go see the sites in each area, and instead can walk from where you are staying (if you haven’t already heard – Mexico City can have bad traffic!).
Where to Stay in Roma/Condesa:
We stayed in a private room at Hostel Home in the Roma area and absolutely loved it! It’s in a great location, has a cute common area and the staff are so friendly. It’s a great place to meet people and socialize with chill vibes. I definitely recommend staying here if you are traveling on a budget to Mexico City!
If you are looking for a bit more luxury, consider staying at Hotel Condesa DF. This trendy hotel has the most amazing rooftop bar and is in a great location!
Where to Stay in Centro:
For the Centro area, we stayed in a private room at Hostel Joven Mundo Catedral. While we found this hostel to not be as nice as Hostel Home, it is in a perfect location in the Centro area and has an awesome rooftop bar with a beautiful view. However, I don’t recommend staying here if you are traveling alone, as it doesn’t have as much of a social atmosphere to meet people.
If you are looking to spend a bit more, I’ve heard GREAT things about Chaya B&B. I definitely recommend staying here if it is in your budget!
5 Days in Mexico City – Itinerary:
Day 1: Roma, Tacos and Lucha Libre!
Assuming you arrive to Mexico City in the afternoon, head to the Roma/Condesa area to check in and start exploring. First stop – Carnitas tacos at Tacos Don Juan. I had the BEST carnitas tacos of my life here, but they ONLY SERVE THEM ON FRIDAYS so be sure to schedule accordingly (seriously- it’s that good).
At this tiny restaurant, you order at the counter, where you’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at the action going on to prepare your fresh tacos. The tacos are about $1.50 USD each, and there’s a DIY salsa bar to prepare your own toppings (I recommend the green one). There is nowhere to sit, but there are spots to stand outside of the restaurant and enjoy your food.
Spend the rest of your afternoon meandering around the beautiful, tree-lined streets of Roma and Condesa, and admire all of the bright colorful buildings.
Check out Avenida Amsterdam for the most picturesque street that has a pedestrian tree-lined walkway in the middle. This is right next to Parque Mexico – a serene, lush park with wide walkways and more beautiful trees.
If you’re in the mood to shop, head to Goodbye Folk for great vintage clothes and trendy handmade shoes.
One of my favorite things to do in any city is to check out some rooftop bars. I recommend relaxing with a cocktail with a view at the Hotel Condesa DF rooftop bar. This area is truly beautiful! (Def try the Mezcal Mojito – so good!)
Also – if you visit Mexico City in the Spring, you’ll get to experience the beautiful purple Jacaranda trees in full bloom everywhere. Based on this alone, I would say that Spring is the best time to visit Mexico City!
Next up- Lucha Libre! This is definitely a must-see event while in Mexico City, even if you aren’t normally a fan of wrestling (I’m not). It’s quite the cultural experience and is SO much fun. Basically, it’s like WWE except the people in the ring are wearing masks, have crazy character backstories and do high-flying acrobatic moves. Also, dancers come out in between matches to add to the entertainment.
Lucha Libre Logistics
How to Get to the Lucha Libre Match:
There are a few spots to see Lucha Libre, but the most popular is Arena Mexico. This is about a 20 minute walk from the Roma area, or a quick Uber ride. Note that Arena Mexico has Lucha Libre only on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays, so plan accordingly.
How Do I Get Lucha Libre Tickets? Should I Go With a Tour Group or Independently?
You definitely don’t need to go with a tour – it is very easy to figure out on your own! That being said – if you are trying to meet people and want to join a tour, there are some available like this one that provide transportation, entrance to the event, and a tequila shot.
We made friends at our hostel who were also going to Lucha Libre that night, and were able to easily go on our own and buy tickets at the venue (although it does help if you can speak Spanish). The tickets range in price, but the most expensive seats are still under $20 USD. While you are able to buy tickets on Ticketmaster about 3 days beforehand, you can also just walk up the ticket counter when you arrive (look for a booth that says “taquilla”) and look at the map to select your seats to purchase.
Other Lucha Libre Tips:
You can’t bring food, drinks or cameras into the venue. They search your bag pretty thoroughly for these items. If you forget this and bring a camera, they will “check it” for you behind a counter on the ground floor and give you a ticket to retrieve it after the show.
You will be ushered to your seats from someone who works there, and are expected to tip this person (About 20-30 pesos). The person who ushered you is also your waitress for buying drinks. There is no where to walk up and buy drinks on your own. Make sure you have cash! There are people walking up and down the aisles selling snacks, typical to a sporting event in the US (popcorn, chips, nachos, etc). I recommend eating dinner beforehand!
Day 2: Tamales & Xochimilco
Kick off your day with breakfast at Tamales Dona Emi (the best tamales I’ve ever had!). This family-owned & operated spot is about a 15 minute walk from the Roma area. The have a plethora of flavors to choose from, but get there early (around 9ish) to make sure they aren’t sold out of any options.
Our favorites were the Fig & Cream Cheese, the Huitlacoche (similar to truffle mushrooms) with Goat Cheese and the Pork with Green Chile Sauce. My friend and I ordered 4 different flavors for the two of us and split them. We ended up coming back the next day again (it’s that good!) with 2 more friends and ordered 6 different flavors, so we almost tried the the whole menu.
After your hearty breakfast, gear up for your journey to Xochimilco! Xochimilco, located 45 minutes south of downtown Mexico City, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for their canals, and can be described as the “Venice of Mexico”. Floating down the canals at Xochimilco is one of the most popular things to do in Mexico City for locals and tourists alike.
Here you can rent one of the colorful “trajineras” flat-bottomed boats by the hour and cruise down the canals with lush gardens and several other brightly colored boats surrounding you. The boats have a super long table with chairs, and hold about 20 people. It basically just turns into a party boat booze-cruise, which is super fun!
Bring your own drinks and snacks, and go with a group if possible. If you haven’t had a chance to meet people yet at your hostel or are having trouble finding a group to go with, you can always meet people at the boat docks there and try to jump on in with another group! We got lucky and ended up making friends at our hostel who had local Mexican friends, so we were able to join a big group with them (big shoutout to Jonas, Stefan and Pher!) . It was SO much fun!
Most people rent the boats for an hour, but our group rented for 3 hours (it ended up being 100 pesos per person), and the driver stops along the way for bathroom breaks. There are some boats that pass by with mariachi bands that you can pay a few pesos to play a song for you. Other boats pass by selling drinks and snacks in case you didn’t pack enough. It’s basically just one big floating party. It’s an awesome experience!
Day 3: Chapultepec Park and Centro Rooftops
On your third day in Mexico City, head to Chapultepec Park, which is like Mexico City’s version of New York’s Central Park (except about twice the size). There is SO much to see and do here. Castles, museums, paddle boating, walking around the park and even a zoo!
For starters- check out the Anthropology Museum. Mexico City is known for their museums and is home to over 150 of them, so even if you’re not much of a museum person (like me) you should try to visit at least one if you have time!
The Anthropology Museum is the largest and most-visited museum in Mexico, and contains a lot of Mayan and Aztec artifacts including the Stone of the Sun (Aztec calendar stone). It’s a great place to go to start educating yourself on the Aztec culture prior to going to the Teotihuacan pyramids! It costs about 75 pesos to enter the museum.
If you don’t have time to visit the whole museum (I don’t blame you – it’s huge!) the highlights are (as told to us by the information desk at the museum):
Room 4: Teotihuacan
Room 6: Mexica (this is where the Aztec calendar stone is)
Room 9: Maya
Room 12: Indigenous Groups
Next, enjoy walking through the park and checking out all the street vendors that line the walkway.
There is a lot of action going on (and a lot of people!) but there is plenty of room to get off the beaten path and enjoy the nature surrounding you. If you’re hungry, this is a great place to get a street food snack. We saw a lot of vendors making these fresh flatbread-type snacks (not sure what they are called) with fresh avocado, tomato, cabbage, and hot sauce on them. It was really good!
Next, make your way up to the Chapultepec Castle. Constructed in 1725, Chapultepec Castle is the only castle in North America to house actual royalty.
Not only is this castle full of history, but since its situated on top of a hill, it also has AMAZING views of the city and the surrounding forest park area. The castle itself is beautiful and has the most epic rooftop garden area. Can I live here please??
After you’ve had your fill of castle views, head to your next location of the trip- the historic Centro area.
It will be about a 30 minute Uber ride from Chapultepec Park to Centro, depending on traffic. After you check in to your hotel, grab a quick bite to eat before heading to a rooftop bar to watch the sunset. I recommend going to Tacos El Huequito to try the original (and the best) tacos al pastor. Seriously. It’s so good! You shouldn’t leave Mexico City without going here. These tacos are basically a Mexican version of Lebanese shawarma, but with pork. Simply delicious (and super cheap).
Next- head to a rooftop bar to watch the sunset with a drink in hand! I recommend Terraza. This rooftop bar is on top of the Joven Mundo Catedral Hostel (but is open to the public) and has a great view of the Cathedral and the surrounding area.
If you’re in the mood for some nightlife, check out Bosforo. This hole-in-the-wall hip Mezcal bar plays funky music and has cushions on the ground instead of seats out on the mezzanine (and has a great selection of Mezcal!). Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to go here as I saved it to go on Monday, and then found out that they are closed on Mondays. Don’t make the same mistake I did!
If you want to check out some more rooftop bars, head to Downtown and/or Casa Pepe. Both of these rooftops are super trendy, have great views, and serve delicious cocktails!
Before you end your night, don’t forget to try the famous churros at El Moro! You can either dine-in or take them to-go. Either way- they’re delicious!
Day 4: Teotihuacan Pyramids
Time to check out some amazing Aztec ruins!
Teotihuacán (pronounced ” tay-oh-tee-wah-kahn”) is one of the most iconic archaeological sites in Mexico, and is a must-see when in the area. Located about 25 miles north of Mexico City, Teotihuacán is most famous for the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon.
Although you can get here pretty easily on your own (by Uber or public transportation) I recommend going on a tour instead so that you can get a guide to explain the historical significance of each of the sites. This way you’ll be able to fully appreciate it!
We did this tour of Teotihuacan with an Archaeologist and it was great! It costs about $39 USD and includes transportation, entrance to the pyramids and a guided tour. They picked us up in a charter bus around 6:50am from the Centro area, so we were one of the first people to get to the pyramids. Our guide was great at explaining all of the sites and important facts, and even shed light on some interesting facts that aren’t mentioned in guide books! He gave us ample free time to climb up the Pyramid of the Sun, which is one of Mexico’s largest structures (it’s about 250 steps to the top) and check out the sweeping views of the pyramids surrounding us.
Your pyramid tour lasts about 4 hours (the area is huge!) and then they take you to a lunch spot nearby that includes a brief demonstration of how they use the Agave plant to not only create tequila and mezcal, but also paper, soap and fiber! They’ll give you a few free mini shots to taste-test.
You’ll get back to Mexico City around 4. Take this time to walk around the area and explore – there is so much to see! For instance, check out Chinatown with the cutest umbrella-lined street:
Head to the beautiful Palacio Belles Artes, which is probably the most iconic building (and most photographed) in the area.
Pro tip: get the best view of Palacio Belles Artes from above, at the top of the Sears Tower! Enter the Sears Tower across the street and take the elevator to the top where you’ll find a small cafe overlooking the palace. Enjoy a coffee with a view here before heading down to the ground level to check out the palace up close.
If you’re in town on a Sunday or a Wednesday, I’ve heard that the Ballet Folklórico de México show at Palacio Belles Artes is a spectacular event to attend, not only because of the show itself but also because you get to admire the beautiful architecture inside the theater. (You can walk inside Palacio Belles Artes without going to the ballet, but you aren’t able to go inside the actual theater area as far as I know).
Next, head to the famous Zocalo plaza -the main square in Mexico City. It’s massive, and there’s always something going on there!
You can walk through here to get to your next rooftop bar for sunset (can you tell I love rooftop bars??) called El Mayor, situated with a view of the Templo Mayor Aztec ruins below. To get here, you’ll enter through a bookstore at the bottom and take the elevator to the top. I’ve heard they have great frozen cocktails here, but we opted for wine this time!
For dinner, head to Plaza Garibaldi to dine with Mariachi bands. There are a few restaurants in this plaza, and they all have mariachi bands surrounding them for your dining entertainment. Pay them a few pesos and they’ll play right at your table!
After dinner, head to the bar called La Hermosa Hortensia in Plaza Garibaldi to try Pulque- the drink of Mexico City. Pulque is a fermented drink made from the sap of the agave plant. Most pulquerias will have several different flavors to choose from – we tried the Mango and Guava flavors. It’s an odd consistency and somewhat of an acquired taste, but I thought it was surprisingly good!
Day 5: Breakfast, Markets, Airport
Since you’re flying out this day, I assume you will likely only have about a half-day to explore. Start your last day in Mexico City with breakfast at El Cardenal, which serves one of the best breakfasts in the city! Come hungry. Choose a fresh pastry to start, and then for your entree you pretty much can’t go wrong with any option. We ordered a goat cheese omelette and Huevos Veracruzanos. Both were amazing!!
Next – head to one of the markets in the area for an authentic local experience. We went to Mercado San Juan.
You’ll see all sorts of food for sale here, including insects and exotic animals.
We weren’t brave enough to try any of that, but instead went to the corner of the market with the hot food. I recommend stopping by a few of the food stalls and ordering one thing at each, so you can try a variety! You really can’t go wrong with any order – it’s all so good!
Now time to head to the Mexico City airport! Don’t forget to get there 2 hours early for international flights.
Check out my Mexico City travel guide video in partnership with Civic Couch for a behind-the scenes look at the trip!