Travel Destinations

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Mexico City in Three Days: Highlights and Must-See Sites for a Long Weekend

Mexico City History Center

Mexico City is a city bursting with culture, history, and an endless array of culinary delights. Over the course of a long weekend with three full days, we immersed ourselves in the heart of this vibrant metropolis, experiencing the canals of Xochimilco by kayak and trajinera, savoring Mexican cuisine from street food to world-class restaurants, venturing to the iconic Teotihuacan Pyramids, and wandering the historic center and charming Coyoacán neighborhood.

Explore the Canals of Xochimilco, the Venice of Mexico

One of the most unforgettable experiences during our Mexico City adventure was our journey to the enchanting canals of Xochimilco, often dubbed the "Venice of Mexico." This picturesque network of canals, located just a short drive from the city center, is where Mexico City originated.

Kayak Xochimilco

For those seeking a serene start to the day, Kayak 33 offers guided kayak tours of Xochimilco, including an option for a sunrise excursion. However, if, like me, you're not a morning person, they also offer customizable private trips, allowing you to experience the magic of Xochimilco on your own terms.

Xochimilco Canal

Our adventure began when Kayak 33 picked us up from our hotel so we had a leisurely morning start. As we kayaked along the glassy canals, the tranquility and beauty of the surroundings enveloped us.

Xochimilco Island of the Dolls

Beauty turned into eerie when we stopped at the Island of the Dolls. Legend has it that a man once inhabited this island, believing it to be haunted by the spirit of a young girl who had tragically drowned. In an effort to appease the restless spirit, he began hanging dolls in the trees and buildings across the island. Over the years, the dolls have multiplied, creating a haunting spectacle.

As part of our customized private trip, Kayak 33 arranged for a trajinera, a traditional wooden boat, to continue our journey through the canals. The trajinera was adorned with a painted wooden banner customized for our group, making us feel like honored guests.

Onboard, a talented chef prepared a sumptuous feast of cochinita pibil sopes, garlic portobellos with melted cheese, tuna tostadas, and refreshing hibiscus water, allowing us to savor the flavors of Mexico. There was tequila to toast to this unforgettable experience.

Xochimilco Mariachi

Our trajinera adventure included a mariachi ensemble that joined us on the water, serenading us with traditional Mexican music.

Sample Mexican Food from Street Food to World-Class Restaurants

Mexico City is a paradise for food enthusiasts, a place where every corner teems with tantalizing flavors and mouthwatering dishes. From inexpensive street food carts to prestigious establishments on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, this city's culinary landscape offers an unparalleled feast for the tastebuds.

Mexico City Juarez Neighborhood

To embark on our gastronomic adventure and sample the diverse flavors of Mexico City, we chose to join a food tour organized by Devoured, a Mexican women-owned company that specializes in showcasing the city's culinary treasures. Our choice was the "Juarez Highlights" food walk, a journey through the vibrant Juarez neighborhood.

Devoured food tour - tlacoyos de frijol

Our culinary exploration kicked off at Tamales Madre, where we were treated to a trio of tamales, each with unique and savory flavors

Our next stop was Exquisitos Tacos de Mixiotes, where we indulged in tacos filled with marinated meat that was cooked to perfection in parchment wrapping.

La Rifa Chocolatería

Taking a brief interlude from food, we visited La Rifa Chocolatería, a delightful chocolate haven where we learned about the art of chocolate-making and sampled chocolates sourced from small, sustainable producers.

Devoured food tour - burritos

Our culinary adventure continued as we savored birria tacos, tlacoyos de frijol, seafood tostadas, and burritos from various street food stands.  

We completed the food tour with a bowl of pozole and finally ice cream at Joe Gelato, along with some very full tummies.

Carmela y Sal

For an upscale dining experience, we spend an evening at Carmela y Sal, which is described as serving “superb home cooking” by chef Gabriela Ruiz Lugo.

For a dose of cultural entertainment, we visited Plaza Garibaldi, a square famous for its roaming mariachi bands. We chose Salon Tenampa, a historic establishment that opened in 1925. Diners can eat indoors, surrounded by mariachi music, or opt for an al fresco experience, where people-watching and live music in the square complement your meal. 

Travel back in time to the Teotihuacan Pyramids 

We took a historical expedition to the Plaza de las Tres Culturas, the Teotihuacan Pyramids, and the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The pyramids are located about an hour away from the city center. To ensure an easy trip, we arranged for a driver through our hotel, Casa De La Luz Hotel Boutique.

Teotihuacan Pyramid of the Moon

The highlight of our excursion was the Teotihuacan Pyramids, a UNESCO World Heritage site. We walked along the Avenue of the Dead, which goes from the Pyramid of the Moon to the Pyramid of the Sun and ends at the Temple of Quetzalcoatl. 

Teotihuacan Pyramid of the Sun

We were amazed at how these huge structures were built more than two thousand years ago and tried to imagine what life was like in this ancient city with over a hundred thousand people. Climbing the temple's steep steps was quite a workout too.

Plaza de las Tres Culturas

On the way to Teotihuacan, we made a quick stop at the Plaza de las Tres Culturas, a place where Mexico’s history converges with pre-Columbian, Spanish colonial, and modern.

Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe

We also had the opportunity to visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a revered religious site for Catholics worldwide and visited by millions each year.

Visit the Frida Kahlo Museum and Explore the Coyoacán Neighborhood

The Frida Kahlo Museum, also known as the Blue House, is the primary attraction in the Coyoacán neighborhood. This was Frida Kahlo's home for a significant part of her life, shared with her husband, Diego Rivera, the famed muralist. Inside, we explored their artwork and gained insights into their complex relationship.

Frida Kahlo Museum kitchen

The museum showcases how the couple lived, items they collected, and some of Frida Kahlo’s wardrobe. We walked through the rooms where they lived and painted, gaining a glimpse into their daily lives. The museum's narrative also delved into Frida Kahlo's health struggles and resilience.

Frida Kahlo Museum studio

After our museum visit, we wandered through the Coyoacán neighborhood.

Parroquia San Juan Bautista Coyoacán

We visited the Parroquia San Juan Bautista Coyoacán, a 16th-century church and former convent. Across the way is the Plaza Jardin Hidalgo and its coyote fountain. Nearby, the Bazar Artesanal Mexicano offers a variety of locally crafted art and gifts.

Coyoacán fountain

We couldn't resist trying some churros at Churreria de Coyoacán, a tasty treat for our neighborhood walk.

Wander the Historic Center of Mexico City

We spent part of an afternoon exploring the historic center of Mexico City. We began with a visit to the Metropolitan Cathedral, the first cathedral built in the Americas. Next to the cathedral are the Templo Mayor ruins, which offer a glimpse into the ancient Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. The National Palace is home to Diego Rivera's murals depicting Mexico's history. The Palacio de Bellas Artes is a beautiful cultural center showcasing art and architecture. 

Palacio de Bellas Artes

Mexico City is an ideal destination for a long weekend getaway. This huge city offers a rich tapestry of experiences, from exploring ancient archaeological sites like Teotihuacan to floating along the canals of Xochimilco. The city's historic center, culinary delights, and lively mariachi music scene provide endless opportunities for discovery and enjoyment. With its diverse attractions, Mexico City promises a memorable and culturally enriching escape, even in just a few days.

Katherine Belarmino and Romeo Belarmino are the authors of Travel the World, a travel blog for the everyday working stiff. They work full-time in non-travel related jobs, but take every opportunity they can to travel the world during their limited vacation time.