When you visit Mexico City or Distrito Federal (D.F.), your main concern wouldn’t be safety. Instead, it’ll be time. The largest metropolitan area in Latin America is full of fascinating history, has a mix of culture that rivals New York City, and a gastronomy that will surprise even the most experienced world traveler. 48 hours in Mexico City will definitely not be enough to fully appreciate all that the capital has to offer but it will certainly provide you with a good introduction. Most tourists will concentrate their time in and around the Centro Historico but don’t miss Chapultepec if you need a quick urban retreat and Condesa and Roma to experience the latest in art, fashion, food, and design. Make sure you stop by Coyoacán as well for some of the city’s smaller museums.
48 Hours in Mexico City
For your first full day of your 48 hours in Mexico City, it’s best to start your sightseeing from the Centro Historico. This is where the city had its birthplace some seven centuries ago. Spend at least a few hours at the excellent National Museum of Anthropology where you can see ruins of Tenochtitian, the Aztec Empire capital that once stood on an island in the Valley of Mexico. Explore the treasures recovered from Mayan civilizations in Chichen Itza, ruins from the ancient pre-Columbian nations in and around Mexico and the southwestern United States, as well as archeological exhibits from foreign countries like Iran, Greece, and Russia.
After drinking in all that history, step out and enjoy the panoramic view of colonial buildings that surround the Plaza de la Constitución, otherwise known as El Zócalo. During the period of the Aztecs, this enormous square was their ceremonial center. Today, it serves as the gathering place for important political and cultural events. Several buildings located around the square are also of interest including the Templo Mayor, an indoor and outdoor archeological museum and site that showcases ruins from one of the main temples of the Aztec Empire. What’s more fascinating is that the museum itself is continuously growing with excavations still ongoing around the site.
Stop by the Metropolitan Cathedral as well, the largest in the Americas. Built by the conquering Spanish over a sacred Tenochtitian temple, the church took almost 300 years to build. There’s a fee ($12) to climb up the dome and get a bird’s eye view of the D.F. but entrance to the church itself, and its chapels, is free.
Cap of your day with food from La Guapachosa, a cozy spot serving authentic Mexican cuisine just off Avenue Chapultepec, near the metro stop Insurgentes. Start of with some chicharones then fill yourself with tostadas and tacos. Brush up on your Spanish though because there are no English translations on the menu.
Rise up early and start your second full day at the Mercado San Juan de Pugibet, Mexico City’s largest open-air market where you can find anything from ostrich meat to sting rays. You can buy fresh produce as well as local spices you’ll likely not find anywhere else outside of the country. Take in the sights, the sounds, and particularly the smells of freshly made sandwiches with suckling pig and barbecued duck at San Juan Selecto and don’t be afraid to try an insect or two at Los Coyotes. Finally, don’t forget to make a stop at the popular La Jersey store. The original sits near the center of the market and sells local and imported gourmet meats and cheeses.
Now that your belly is full, walk it off at the Palacio de Bellas Artes. The country’s national art museum is stunning inside and out, featuring Neoclassical and Art Nouveau architectural designs on its exterior. Prominent exhibits include murals by Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Rufino Tamayo. The museum also hosts theatrical and musical performances, most notably that of the Ballet Foklorico de Mexico.
For dinner, check out Mexico City’s hottest restaurant in town, Maximo Bistrot Local, located in the up and coming neighborhood of Roma. The restaurant run by New York-trained chef Eduardo García offers traditional Mexican cuisine with French and Italian influences and has been a favorite by critics from Anthony Bourdain to Richard Sandoval.
After such jammed packed itinerary, it won’t come as a surprised that your 48 hours in Mexico City came and went like a flash of light. Hopefully, now that you’ve grazed the surface, you’ll be inspired to come back once again and stay in Mexico City a little while longer.