Your Perfect Weekend in Mexico City

weekend in Mexico City

weekend in Mexico City

Montezuma and Cortes, Frida and Diego, tacos and tasting menus: there are two sides to every aspect of Mexico City.

The old perception of the city still hangs on with many who haven’t visited since its low point in the mid-1990s though, when crime was high and the smog count was higher. Now the air and streets are cleaner, crime stats are on par with Las Vegas or Miami, and blue skies are seen more days every year. Among the clanging of rising skyscrapers and rising wealth, there’s an electric feeling in the air of a city on the move.

The foodie capital of Latin America can also credibly claim to be the museum capital of the world. There are 173 official museums in the city, ranging in subject from tequila to the art collection of the world’s richest man.

CDMX is huge, but many of the city’s attractions are close to the center. Visit on a Sunday and you can explore some of them on a bicycle or take a traffic-free walk as the main Paseo de la Reforma boulevard is closed to traffic.

Getting there is usually quite reasonable too by air. Besides the big U.S. legacy airlines, there are flights from Southwest, Aeromexico, Interjet, Volaris, and more. With prices often dipping down to $300 round trip, it’s worth considering a weekend in Mexico City trip as a getaway.

Where to Stay in Mexico City

First you’ll need a base and if your visit is short, it’s best to be somewhere central to minimize your time in traffic. Fortunately, the hotel zones of Mexico City are pretty cut and dry.

Some of the best luxury chain hotels in town are in two distinct areas. The first batch is a few blocks from each other on Paseo de la Reforma: the Four Seasons Mexico and the St. Regis. For tricked-out rooms on top of two of the city’s best restaurants, choose 35-room Las Alcobas in the chic Polanco district. There you’ll also find a JW Marriott and a W nearby. There are also a few good choices in the historic center, like Downtown México and Hotel Ciudad de Mexico.

Four Seasons Mexico City

Go to Bonwi to find the best deals on Mexico City Hotels in all price ranges and earn more points than you probably would from a direct hotel chain loyalty program like Bonvoy.

What to Do in Mexico City

Exhibit at the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico CityThe museum choices in this metropolis are overwhelming, but for a true understanding of Mexico’s pre-Columbian history start with the National Museum of Anthropology. Extensive exhibits are arranged by time period, from giant Olmec stone heads to Mayan artifacts to items recovered from the original capital city here.

The delightful Museum of Popular Art is fun for all ages, with whimsical Day of the Dead skeletons, masks, and fantastical alebrije creatures from Oaxaca. Explore the historic center and cross the Zócolo (Constitution Plaza) to see the giant cathedral, remainders of the pyramids it was built on top of, and buildings that date back to the founding of New Spain. If the national Ballet Folklorica is in town, enjoy a colorful performance in the gorgeous Bellas Artes performance hall.

Teotihuacan pyramids and ruins in Mexico

Or if you can spare much of a day, head out to the huge and mysterious ruins complex of Teotihuacan and climb a giant pyramid to understand the scope. Better to go on a day other than Sunday though–that’s a free day for Mexicans and the place gets packed.

You’ll Eat Well in Mexico City

A plate of chilaquiles from a restaurant in Mexico City CDMXMexico City has a well-deserved reputation as a great food city, the best one in Latin America in most respects. From street carts and taco stands to some of the world’s best restaurants, you’ll be looking forward to every meal. See this post on the best restaurants in the city at the moment, but there are so many memorable ones here that any list will only scratch the surface. It’s best to ask around and if you can spend some time in Roma, you’ll catch many chef stars of tomorrow.

You’ll drink well too and find plenty of new taste sensations. Mexico is the home of tequila and mezcal, after all, plus the original agave drink pulque is coming back in style. Mexico produces good wines in the northern section of Baja California and there’s finally a real craft beer scene in the capital.

Where to Shop in CDMX

Cheap and kitschy souvenirs are easy to find, but for good quality items at a fixed price the best bet is Fonart, a government-sponsored handicraft promotion cooperative with five locations. Another reliable option is the Museum of Popular Art’s boutique.

In the historic center, browse the eclectic Shops at Downtown Hotel for something more contemporary.

Take a Walk

One of the best ways to get a feel for this vibrant city is to do lots of walking. You could stroll for miles in the historic center, in the Condesa neighborhood, or Roma. If you have Frida Kahlo’s Blue House high on your list, spend some time strolling around Coyoacan and maybe catch a meal on the main square.

Enter your dates on to get a high reward points payback and book a flight to one of North America’s most vibrant cities. Even if you only have a weekend in Mexico City, you can see and do a lot.

Article and photos by Timothy Scott Leffel, who lives in Mexico and edits a luxury travel blog about travel in Latin America. 

The Hotel Zones of Mexico City

Zocolo of Mexico City has hotels nearby

When you’re trying to figure out where to stay in Mexico City, it makes a lot of sense to start with the location. What are you planning to do while you’re there? Are you going to have business meetings or do you want to stroll around the historic center? Do you want to be in a nightlife area? In a leafy park zone? Near the best restaurants?

hotel zones of Mexico City neighborhoods

For such a large metropolis, Mexico City is actually quite easy to navigate from a tourist standpoint. Most of the hotel zones of Mexico City are within a mile of two main streets that meander from downtown out through Polanco. Here are the areas to consider when you’re planning your trip to this capital of food and culture.

Historic District Hotels of Mexico City

The most atmospheric part of Mexico’s capital city is the oldest part. The historic centro is grounded by the huge Zocolo public square, with the off-kilter cathedral on one side and the municipal buildings on the other. You can take the subway straight here and it’s not very far from the airport.

There are a few chain hotels, like a Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn, but most of the properties are independent or small-chain ones with lots of personality. Hotel Downtown Mexico is part of Grupo Habita and has sections for both high-end travelers and budget backpackers, both mingling on the roof desk with pool. You may have seen Gran Hotel Ciudad de Mexico in several movies and one episode of The Romanoffs on Amazon streaming. It has an amazing view from the roof, where there’s a restaurant.

Zocolo of Mexico City has hotels nearby

There are also some hostels and budget hotels in this area that are a good value and you can take the metro from here to anywhere it goes.

Paseo de La Reforma, Zona Rosa, and Condesa

I’m lumping these three together because if you’re someone who doesn’t mind walking for a half hour, you can get from one of these areas to the other on foot.

Many of the embassies and bank headquarters are along the Paseo de la Reforma boulevard leading from Alameda Park to Chapultapec Park. So you’ve got familiar chains like Marriott, Sheraton, Four Seasons, St. Regis, and Hilton along this corridor, along with a few Mexican chains. The eventual Ritz-Carlton will be along here too.

Paseo de la Reforma hotel zone has Four Seasons

The Zona Rosa is a big nightlife area a few blocks from the main drag and some of the best mid-range bargains in the city are in this area. It’s convenient and fun for going out, though it can be noisy on the low floors.

Condesa and Roma transform from business district to leafy residential areas with lots of restaurants and nightlife. Most of the hotels in this area are independent ones and some are a great value.

Polanco and Chapultapec Park

Polanco is the richest neighborhood near the city and it will dispel any notions you may have about Mexicans not having a lot of money. You’ll find shops from Prada and Louis Vuitton, Mercedes and BMW showrooms, and restaurants that can top $100 per person without many drinks.

Las Alcobas Hotel stairwell Mexico City

One street on the edge of Chapultapec Park has a string of chain hotels like Hyatt, JW Marriott, Intercontinental, and W.  Habita’s original hotel is in this area, as is the upscale Las Alcobas with the staircase pictured above.

Neighborhood Hotels of Mexico City

There area distinct hotel zones where you can stay in Mexico City, plus a few scattered around neighborhoods like San AngelIf you want to be in an area where you won’t see many other tourists at night, a place where Mexicans live and work, there are a few nice sections of town besides Condesa and Roma where you can stay in a real neighborhood.

Coyoacan is where Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera spent most of their time, so you can visit both houses they lived in together here. Plus there are some nice restaurants on the main place you can enjoy after the day visitors have all left.

The local Stara group has hotels in neighborhoods without a whole lot else. Stara San Angel Inn is in the area where there’s a big weekend art market and they also have a property in Colonia Juarez.

There are hotels at the airport of course, including a Camino Real right outside of Terminal 1 and a Hilton inside the terminal itself.

For reviews of the top choices, see detailed reviews here of the best luxury hotels in Mexico City.

When you’re ready to book, be sure you get a good points payback wherever you stay by checking out Mexico City Hotels at Bonwi. You may get enough points from this stay to pay for a flight to a Mexican beach area like Los Cabos the next time around.


Travel writer Tim Leffel has written about Mexico City for more than a decade and has a home base a few hours north in Guanajuato.