Three Days in Mexico City

August 17, 2018

My wife, Dr. Zaid, and I recently had the opportunity to visit Mexico City in the spring.  Dr. Zaid was hired to speak to physicians at a bilingual medical conference on bio-identical hormone therapy.  Fortunately, her medical talks were spread over the week leaving us time to explore this beautiful and lively city!

Mexico City is a very lively and sophisticated place full of history, culture, and world class cuisine.  For those seeking something different and don’t mind a bustling city environment full of people (fourth highest city population in the world), Mexico City can be a fun and value-packed adventure.

Getting There

Living in San Diego, we are lucky to have the CBX (Cross Border Express)!  The CBX, which opened in 2015, is the world’s first geographically binational airport whose terminal is located in Otay Mesa, San Diego and connects via an access bridge to the Tijuana International Airport in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico ($30 round trip bridge fee at this time, tickets for purchase online).

Park your car in the Otay Mesa CBX parking lot (check website for current daily parking rate) and then present your passport and CBX and airline tickets on the U.S. side and walk across the international border via the 390 foot pedestrian bridge to clear Mexican Immigration and customs.

Flights from Tijuana are usually much less expensive (can be about ½ the price vs. leaving from San Diego International Airport) and more direct (Mexico City flights can be non-stop and ½ the time vs. flying from San Diego to LAX and then to Mexico City).  Non-stop flights from Tijuana to Mexico City are around 3 ½ hours and not too expensive.

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm, and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawaharial Nehru

Where to Stay

Mexico City has many great hotels from which to choose.  One highly recommended hotel is the Gran Hotel Ciudad de Mexico in the heart of the center of the historic district.  I recommend staying in this area as traffic can be very dense and taking an Uber around the city takes time.  TripAdvisor is a good method for identifying the best hotels, rates, and locations.

Day 1:

Get a map from the hotel concierge and figure out which sites are easily accessible by foot and which you might want to call an Uber.  Taxis have not been recommended for security reasons as their authenticity can be hard to verify when on the street.  We found that our Uber app worked OK throughout the city (although in some areas we had to walk around to get a better signal with our Verizon phone).

Stretch your legs after breakfast by taking a walk around the city center and head toward the main square, Zocalo (Plaza de la Constitucion).  This is one of the most recognizable places in Mexico City with a giant Mexican flag at its center.  The city’s national cathedral, National Palace, and other federal buildings are located here.  A nice way to get a bird’s eye view of the square is by taking an inexpensive bell tower tour at the national cathedral.  You will need to walk a lot of stairs but will be rewarded with sweeping views of the Zocalo and surrounds.  Allow two to three hours for touring around the Zocalo.  Note:  you may need to show your passport to enter any government buildings. 

When you are ready for lunch, there are some great restaurants around the Zocalo.  Our favorite was Azul Historico at Calle Isabel la Catolica 30, Centro Histórico, Centro.  Make sure to try their excellent fruit iced drinks and entrees with mole negro.  Indulge afterwards in one of their excellent desserts, like the flan or tres leches cake.   We ate here multiple times and never got sick.

After lunch, call an Uber and head toward the main park in Mexico City, Bosque de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Forest).  Inside the park there are many cultural interests, such as the presidential residence, the former presidential palace, a zoo and several museums.  One highly recommended museum and one of the most visited museums in all of Mexico is the Museo Nacional de Antropologia (artifacts from the pre-Columbian era).  The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday (check for current times and entry fee).

The park is a nice opportunity to relax and see some of the locals and their families.  We enjoyed watching people feeding the squirrels!

Uber back to your hotel before dark (or walk back if staying at the Gran Hotel) and perhaps freshen up before dinner.  Perhaps try the rooftop terrace at the Gran Hotel for dinner at Sunset.

Day 2

This may be a good day to take a day tour to Teoihuacan, a UNESCO World Heritage site containing some of the largest pre-Columbian pyramids in all of Mexico.  The site is about 40 miles northeast of Mexico City.  You can take a tour, book a driver, rent a car of take public transportation.  Take a bottle of water and wear sunscreen and a hat.  Go early to avoid the crowds and avoid Sunday if possible as residents of Mexico receive free admission so it may be more crowded.

If you prefer not to leave the city, another option is to visit El Angel de la Independencia, a bronze monument of the Greek goddess Victory (Originally built to commemorate Mexico’s war with Spain for independence).  Climb the 200 steps to the top of the tower to a great view of the long main thoroughfare Paseo de la Reforma.  After, a walk along the Paseo de la Reforma is an interesting way to see some of the shops and other stores within Mexico City.

Day 3

Spend your last day re-visiting the old historic center and taking in some new sights and visiting more great restaurants.  Perhaps do a little shopping.  After breakfast, head to the Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts).  The exterior of the building is architecturally stunning (art nouveau and art deco) and has some amazing murals from famous Mexican artists (e.g. Diego Rivera).  It has hosted some of the most notable events in music, dance, theater, opera and literature and has held important exhibitions of painting, sculpture and photography. The top of the building has distinctive red and yellow domes.  White marble floors and vaulted glass windows adorn the inside of the museum.  If you have a chance, attend a performance at the theater (book ahead). 

Walk across the street to the Torre Latinoamericana skyscraper and purchase tickets in the lobby for a ride to the top.  Built in 1956, this 595 foot building (44 stories) is notable in that it was the world’s first major skyscraper successfully built on highly active seismic land.  The skyscraper withstood the 8.1 magnitude 1985 Mexico City earthquake without damage.  A museum and observation decks are on the 37th through 44th floors.  Be prepared for amazing views above Mexico City!  Also great views at night!  Bring your camera!

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