Mexico City is the perfect base to explore Mexico City and the rest of (Central) Mexico.
Mexico City itself is much more than just its amazing historic city center. The perfect way to start realizing that, is to explore the 21 Barrios Magicos that you can find in the 16 boroughs (Alcadías) of Mexico City. The Barrios Mágicos (Magical Neighborhoods) are twenty one areas in Mexico City highlighted by the government in order to attract tourism to them. The program is patterned after the Pueblos Mágicos (Magical Towns) program.
Within the Mexico City limits, we can also find 6 archeological sites, a great way to explore Mexico’s intriguing past. These sites are Cuicuilco, Tlatelolco, Cerro de la Estrella, Templo Mayor, Xochimilco and Mixcoac (the site of Teotihuacan is in the State of Mexico, not in Mexico City). Plus all over the city we can find archaeological windows and evidences of Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec Empire, now Mexico City.
Something that most people don´t realize, is that only 49% of Mexico City is urbanized. 51% is still green, which makes a great place for hiking in one of the 8 National Parks of Mexico City or one of the many volcanoes such as the Xitle, Teuhtli or Ajusco volcanoes. A walk along Mexico Cities only living river Rio Magdalena in Los Dinamos is also a must. Plus you can always go for a relaxed walk in one of the many city parks or other green areas, such as Chapultepec Park or Canal Nacional, a true oasis in Mexico City. Kayaking in Xochimilco is another great way to enjoy nature, or a boat trip by traditional trajinera boat in the ecological park of Xochimilco or the party part of Xochimilco. Birdwatching or a visit to the beautiful Chinampas in Tlahuac are other great options to explore the non urbanized parts of Mexico City.
Mexico City is in the Top 10 of cities with the most museums in the world, with over 170 Museums. Have a look at our museum guide of Mexico City.
Traditional Mexican cuisine was inscribed in 2010 on the list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of UNESCO. Especially if you explore the city with a local, you will soon find out that Mexico has much more to offer then just tacos, and that also vegetarians and vegans can find amazing options. Either at the many markets, restaurants or at street food stalls, where you can find amazing dishes of all the 32 States of Mexico. A fun experience is taking Mexican cooking classes, to be able to impress your friends, family and colleagues with some traditional Mexican dishes. Taking a market tour is another great way to learn about the many (endemic) products that Mexico City has to offer, and to try out some fresh local food. Apart from exploring markets, restaurants and street food stalls, you can have more amazing gourmet experiences by trying Tastings (catas) of for example Mezcal, Tequila, Pulque, Cacao and Mexican coffee, wine and cheese.
As any cosmopolitan city, Mexico City has great night life. Fun events to immerse yourself further in Mexican culture are taking salsa classes, listening to live Mariachi music at for example Plaza Garibaldi, going to a Lucha libre show and going to concerts and theater of Mexican artists. Attending a Folkloric dancing show is another great way to learn all about the music and typical dresses of all the 32 Mexican States. If you are long enough in Mexico City, it is also very recommendable to take Spanish classes.
In Mexico City, you can also learn about and experience some of the most intriguing Mexican traditions. The most beautiful of them being without a doubt Day of the Dead – Día de Muertos. But also lesser know traditions convert into unique experiences, such as the Visita de los 7 Casas (visit of 7 churches or temples during Easter) and La Flor más Bella del Ejido. Plus many neighborhoods have their local Carnaval parades, Ferias (local celebrations), Expositions and Tianguis (temporal markets).
Even shopping for souvenirs you can turn into a beautiful and authentic experience. If you first visit the Museo de Arte Popular (a 10 minute walk from for example the handicraft market La Ciudadela), you have an idea what is the real deal and importance is of each handmade craft and the culture behind each of them. Especially if you go with a local guide, you will learn what Mexican States / places produce what kind of products and what colors these handicrafts normally have (generally products from the North are black and white / grey, and towards the South every time more colorful). Please don’t go just for the cheapest, but make sure you are buying real handmade crafts (artesania) and not imported and / or mass scale produced souvenirs. In general: if at a shop all looks identical and all is very cheap, its most likely imitation. If its handmade, every single piece looks a bit different. Maybe the most beautiful is if you can see how they make the handicrafts (talleres / workshops), ensuring that you really helped a local artist and the local economy. A bit more background on the impact of fake souvenirs, you can find in this article (is on Chiapas, but unfortunately now applies for all of Mexico).
Finally, you can take a further deep dive exploring Mexico City, by visiting some of the 141 Pueblos originarios de la Ciudad de México, communities whose social and political structure has been maintained for centuries and who are recognized and supported by the Government of Mexico City. Go with a certified local guide to have the best and safest experience.
Hopefully it is clear by now that ideally you have more than just a couple of days to explore Mexico City. It is the perfect base for longer holidays, especially if you take time to also explore its surroundings.
Nearby Mexico City, we can explore over 30 of the current 132 Pueblos Mágicos of Mexico on several day trips. The ´Programa Pueblos Mágicos´ (Magical Towns Programme) is an initiative led by Mexico’s Secretariat of Tourism to promote a series of towns around the country that offer visitors special experiences because of their natural beauty, cultural richness, traditions, folklore, historical relevance, cuisine, art crafts, and great hospitality. It is intended to increase tourism to especially smaller towns in rural areas.
Apart from the 6 archeological sites in Mexico City itself, we can explore over 40 of the current 193 archeological sites of Mexico on several day trips. 18 in the State of Mexico, 4 in the State of Tlaxcala, 6 in the State of Puebla, 8 in the State of Morelos, 4 in the State of Hidalgo; most of them can be easily explored on day trips from Mexico City. A bit further away, we can explore another 35 archeological sites in 2 or 3 day trips. Especially with a certified guide or archaeologist, these places really become alive, while learning about Mexico’s impressive prehispanic past.
Other places that we can explore on day trips or 2 to 3 day trips from Mexico City are the cities of Puebla, Tlaxcala, Toluca, Cuernavaca, Queretaro, Jalapa, Morelia, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajato, Oaxaca and Guadalajara, great destinations for city trips. 7 of them are ´Ciudades Mexicanas Patrimonio Mundial´, Unesco world heritage sites.
Even beaches are not too far away for a 2 to 3 day trip from Mexico City. With Tecolutla beach in the State of Veracruz at only 4.5 hours, Acapulco at only 5.5 hours and Ixtapa Zihuatanejo at 8 hours driving.
Last but not least, Mexico City is a great base for ecotrips an hiking nearby Mexico City. At less than 2.5 hours you can find amazing nature reserves and volcanoes such as Izta Popo national park, Nevado de Toluca, La Burbuja waterfall, Monte Tlaloc and La Malinche. At around 2.5 hours you can find Las Estacas and only at 3.5 hours you can find Grutas de Tolantongo; both some of the most beautiful natural water parks in the world. Additionally, from mid March to Mid November you can experience the wonders of the Monarch Butterflies in the sanctuaries in the State of Mexico and the State of Michoacan. Plus in June, July and August (rain season), you can explore the Firefly Sanctuaries in the State of Tlaxcala, State of Puebla and State of Mexico.
Download here 3 free digital guides of Mexico City in PDF.
Courtesy of Aztec Explorers and Azteca Travel Tours Art.
Aztec Explorers organizes every week day trips and longer trips to the most beautiful places in and around Mexico City. To both highlights as off the beaten track places. Here can find their latest calendars, newsletters and contact information. They can also help you with private walking tours and private trips.
Azteca Travel Tours Art can help you additionally with beach packages, circuit tours to all the 32 Mexican States and other national and international travels.