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How to Spend 24 Hours in Mexico City

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Michael Wynands
In this colorful, culturally-rich and artistic city, the possibilities can feel downright overwhelming. Welcome to MojoTravels, where we’ve picked out the absolute must-sees, and created an itinerary for a perfect day in Mexico City. Between their metro and bus system, a number of taxi options at all price points, and the EcoBici bike-sharing system, getting around is never a problem - so let’s find out where you’re going!

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How to Spend 24 Hours in Mexico City

In this colorful, culturally-rich and artistic city, the possibilities can feel downright overwhelming. Welcome to MojoTravels, where we’ve picked out the absolute must-sees, and created an itinerary for a perfect day in Mexico City. Between their metro and bus system, a number of taxi options at all price points, and the EcoBici bike-sharing system, getting around is never a problem - so let’s find out where you’re going!

Please note that we won’t be focusing on food for this video, but foodies should check out our video on How to Eat Your Way Through a Day in Mexico City.

Mexico City had a mixed reputation for safety for decades, and even in recent years, that continues to loom large in the mind of many would-be visitors. While Mexico’s capital city was once considered to be among the world’s most dangerous, various programs and initiatives have brought about fundamental change. Entrepreneurs, restaurants, community spaces, art and culture now take center stage. As with any city, you should always remain cautious and aware, but Mexico City no longer deserves its old reputation.

Our day begins in the neighborhood of Coyoacán. At this time of day, the streets will still be relatively quiet; savor this moment because the rest of the day is going to get rather crowded. Located in southern Mexico City, Coyoacán is a progressive neighborhood with a penchant for the arts and counterculture - it’s also beautiful. Grab a delicious coffee (cafés are everywhere) and then stroll amongst the quaint colorful homes and colonial buildings, marvel at the murals at the Ciudad Universitaria Campus, visit the market, or simply sit and people watch in a park. Just be sure to visit Plaza del Centenario to see Fuente de los Coyotes, the neighborhood’s famous coyote fountain.

Conveniently located in Coyoacán is Museo Frida Kahlo, also known as The Casa Azul or “Blue House”. This is where the famous artist was born and raised, and where she lived with her husband, painter Diego Rivera, in the last decade and a half of her life. Eye-catching in its appearance due to the vibrant blue paint, Casa Azul has operated as a museum honoring Frida Kahlo’s life and art since 1958 - as instructed by the late Rivera. It’s a one of kind museum that is both inspiring and intimate.

Having spent the first few hours of the day in Coyoacán, we’ve given the nearby neighborhood of San Ángel time to wake up and for its businesses to open their doors. Once a distinct rural community, this historic and art-centric neighborhood is a must-visit for anyone looking to understand the area’s roots. Walk the cobblestone streets past the pastel covered houses, visit historic buildings and lose yourself in the magic of it all. On Saturday, there’s even an outdoor art market, but really the entire neighborhood is a work of art.

We end off our morning by heading north roughly 20 minutes by cab to Bosque de Chapultepec, one of the city’s most beautiful and largest parks. This forest, which covers 647 hectares of land is an oasis in the busy city, but it’s more than just greenery and walking paths. Within the park limits you’ll find the Chapultepec Castle (which contains the National Museum of History) and once served as the presidential palace. There’s a number of other museums and monuments in the park, as well as a botanical garden, a lake and the Chapultepec Zoo. Honestly, you’re biggest challenge at Bosque de Chapultepec is deciding what to prioritize!

Though one can have a great time however they choose to spend their time in Chapultepec, there’s one museum that we need to single out as a must-visit, the Museo Nacional de Antropologia. We highly recommend starting the afternoon here before moving on to another area. This world-class building is home to a massive array of anthropological and archeological artifacts spanning millennia of Mesoamerican history and representing the various regional cultures of what is now Mexico. Though current day Mexico City is indeed culturally rich, this a unique opportunity to look back at the history of the country as a whole and that which came before it.

We’ve got a 17 minute cab ride to Mexico City’s Centro Histórico or Historic Center, where we’ll be joining the crowds to check out some of the city’s most famous landmarks and attractions. First on our list is the Palacio de Bellas Artes. A major cultural center for the city, the Palace of Fine Arts hosts a wide variety of performing art events, including music, dance, opera and theater. If you’ve got a few evenings in the city, the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico is reputed to be to be particularly fascinating. For our afternoon visit however, we’ll be focusing on the beauty of the building itself, as well as the breathtaking murals by famous artists contained within.

Just across the street from the Palacio de Bellas Artes is the famous Casa de los Azulejos, or House of Tiles. Constructed in the late 18th century by the Condes del Valle de Orizaba family, this palace is a perfect and absolutely beautiful example of the New Spanish baroque civil architecture style. But it’s really the tiled facade that makes it a must-see attraction. Yes… it’s a functional building that houses a restaurant, but more importantly, it’s a work of art that you need to see in person to fully appreciate.

To end off the afternoon, we’re taking a short walk 10 to 15 minute walk east through the Centro Histórico where another collection of attractions awaits. Our first stop (or rather walkthrough) is Zócalo, the massive city square, also known as the Plaza de la Constitución. Directly facing it is the Palacio Nacional, the seat of the federal executive, but also an awe-inspiring structure. Inside you’ll find more mesmerizing architecture as well as a mural by, yes, Diego Rivera. Last but not least, there’s the Templo Mayor Museum - where an Aztec Temple leftover from the pre-hispanic Aztec city of Tenochtitlan (upon which Mexico City was built) was rediscovered and progressively excavated between 1933 and 1982. Explore the temple ruins and the accompanying museum for a fascinating trip through time.

So… let’s talk about your evening plans. Mexico City is famous for its vibrant nightlife, but there’s so much ground to cover, we can’t really do it justice. Instead, we’ll simply suggest two neighborhoods, La Condesa and Zona Rosa, as the best choices for travellers looking to cut loose. For those less interested in partying however, we’ve got an evening of activities to keep you busy.

If your 24 hours happens to land on game day for Club América, Mexico City’s top tier soccer team, playing in Liga MX, you’re in for a treat. Their home turf, Estadio Azteca, is a destination in itself, and is widely considered to be one of the western meccas for the sport of soccer (or rather football, as they call it in Mexico). Club América is the country’s most successful team, and they always put on a good show. Even if you’re not particularly interested in the sport, it’s worth checking out a match for the experience and atmosphere alone. Who knows, you just might become a convert!

No trip to Mexico City is complete without a trip up the Torre Latinoamericana, and there’s no better time to check out the city than when it’s lit up at night. One of the city’s most recognizable and cherished landmarks, this skyscraper is the second tallest in the city, offering undeniably the best view in all of Mexico City from its observation deck on the 44th floor. Located in the Centro Histórico, you won’t have any trouble finding it. There’s even a restaurant and bar in the tower so you can grab a drink while marvelling at the skyline.

Last but certainly not least, is the famous Plaza Garibaldi. Because really… how can you visit Mexico City without seeing some authentic live music? Found just a couple of blocks north of the Torre Latinoamericana, this public square lined with restaurants and bars has served as the stomping grounds of mariachi bands for decades. Grab a drink or just take a seat on a park bench and buy yourself a song. Then let the music wash over you and let it all sink in.

Of course, 24 hours is barely enough to even scratch the surface of what Mexico City has to offer. But there’s always next time . . .

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