Planning to visit Mexico City for one day? Be sure to grab this exciting one-day Mexico City itinerary that has great choices for history and art lovers. Do not miss out on these amazing cultural itineraries for spending 24 hours in Mexico City.

Best One Day In Mexico City Itinerary For Culture Vultures

Last Updated on December 12, 2023 by Soumya

If you’re looking for the perfect one-day itinerary for Mexico City, then you’re in the right place.

This Mexico City itinerary has been crafted by an ardent CDMX fan who has lived in and visited the megapolis several times aka me. 🙂

I have spent months, weeks, and days as well as a short layover in Mexico City. Therefore, I can guarantee you that there’s so much to do here even in a short time.

So, if you’re still wondering if 1 day in Mexico City is worth it, then let me tell you that it definitely is.

With all the history, culture, food, and amazing shopping options, Mexico City offers a plethora of options to every traveler.

In this post, I present to you two unique itineraries with the most amazing things to do in Mexico City in one day.

The first Mexico City itinerary is for history buffs and the second one is for art lovers (Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera fans, are you listening?).

Please feel free to skip to your preferred itinerary by using the Table of Contents below.

Author in front of the Mexico City National Palace
Can’t miss the Zocalo even if I am in CDMX for a day.

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Option 1: One Day in Mexico City Itinerary for History Buffs

Morning – Explore Mexico City Historic Center

Start your day early by visiting the Zocalo, the main square of Mexico City.

This bustling square is not only the best spot for people-watching but also holds great historical importance.

The Zocalo was once the center of the Aztec empire, and today it is home to several iconic Mexico City landmarks.

Before we get started on the landmarks, let’s get the most important thing sorted. FOOD.

If you’re looking for a good breakfast place for your first day in Mexico City, I highly recommend Cafe Tacuba. This historic place covered with beautiful talavera tiles and serves authentic Mexican food.

Metropolitan Cathedral

Churrigueresque architecture at the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
Fascinating Churrigueresque architecture at the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral. If you’re wondering what to see in Mexico City in one day, see this.

The first landmark that you must visit in downtown Mexico City is the Metropolitan Cathedral.

This stunning cathedral was built in the 16th century and has a mix of architectural styles that reflect Mexico’s colonial past.

I love the cathedral’s interiors which are covered in ornate Churrigueresque style of architecture.

Take a tour inside to admire the intricate details and learn about its history. Also, find out why the cathedral, like many other CDMX landmarks, is sinking a little bit every year.

Pro Tip: Curious to learn more about Mexico City before your trip? Check out 21 interesting Mexico City facts that nobody else will tell you.

Templo Mayor

Templo Mayor Pyramid in Mexico City
The ruins of the double Aztec pyramid at Templo Mayor in downtown Mexico City.

Next, head to Templo Mayor, an archaeological site that once housed the main temple of the Aztec empire. It was known as Tenochtitlan.

Excavations here have unearthed fascinating artifacts and ruins that provide insight into the lives of the Aztecs.

On a tour of Templo Mayor, you can see the remains of a dual pyramid, intricate stone carvings, a skull rack, and a massive circular disk representing the Aztec Moon Goddess.

If you’re interested in Aztec history but have only a day in Mexico City, then add Templo Mayor to your itinerary. It is conveniently located in the historic center, unlike other Aztec ruins in Mexico City.

National Palace

History of Mexico Mural
The famed History of Mexico mural at the Mexico City National Palace.

Next up on our list is the historic National Palace that has served as the seat of government since the Aztec empire.

Visit this sprawling palace to admire its colonial architecture and some stunning murals by the famous Diego Rivera.

Pro Tip: To visit the National Palace, you have to reserve yourself a space on a free guided tour offered by the authorities. You can do that over email or by waiting in line at the office. Find all details in my National Palace Visitor’s Guide.

Casa de los Azulejos

Casa de los Azulejos or the “House of Tiles” is a former palace whose exterior is covered in vibrant blue and white tiles. This makes it a perfect Instagram spot.

The palace is now a cultural hub and home to a popular restaurant called Sanborns.

Inside the restaurant, you’ll find a majestic mural painted by Jose Clemente Orozco in 1925.

Pro Tip: There’s a nice place for lunch nearby. It is called La Casa de Tono and serves the best pozole. They have vegetarian-friendly options too.

Palacio de Bellas Artes

Next, take a stroll to Palacio de Bellas Artes, another must-see architectural gem in Mexico City.

This ornate building is home to a theater and several art exhibitions.

Exhibitions include works by famous Mexican artists such as Diego Rivera, Rufino Tamayo, and David Alfaro Siqueiros.

Torre Latinoamericana

Torre Latinoamericana in Mexico City

This skyscraper, once the tallest in Mexico, offers panoramic views of the city that are hard to beat.

Torre Latinoamericana is the perfect place to end your day Mexico City tour with a glass of drink in hand and a stunning sunset in the background. Be sure to purchase your Torre Latinoamericana tickets in advance here.

Let me tell you that this tower is not just a pretty sunset place. It has got a cozy, little museum that tells you the history of modern Mexico.

Be sure to check out how Torre Latinoamerica withered the numerous earthquakes that have shaken Mexico City in the past. The one in 1985 was especially devastating.

La Ciudadela Artisan Market

Cute Otomi Doll - One of the best souvenirs in Mexico
Otomi dolls in Mexico City markets are the best gifts from Mexico.

If you’re in the mood to buy some authentic Mexican souvenirs, head to La Ciudadela Artisan Market, located very close to the Historic Center.

With hundreds of stalls selling everything from handmade crafts to vibrant textiles, it’s a shopper’s paradise.

Even if you’re not into shopping, La Ciudadela Market can be the perfect place to immerse yourself in the local culture.

Evening – Experience Mexican Culture

After all that history during the day in Mexico City, I encourage to spend your evening enjoying Mexican culture.

Here are the three cultural activities that I love the most in Mexico City. Pick whatever appeals to you.

Lucha Libre Game

Lucha libre masks
Colorful Lucha Libre are wonderful souvenirs from Mexico.
Photo: dariolopresti via Canva Pro

A lucha libre match is a kind of wrestling game that involves a lot of theatrics and drama. It’s loud, colorful, and incredibly entertaining.

The wrestlers (called luchadors) wear vibrantly-colored masks that are representative of lucha libre. The sport’s history dates back more than 100 years.

Perhaps, the most enjoyable way of watching lucha libre is with a local guide who can give you all the deets.

Here’s a great Lucha Libre tour in Mexico City that comes with tacos and Mexican drinks. Can’t get better than that, can it?

Pro Tip: Lucha libre matches don’t happen every day of the week. They are usually scheduled on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. Be sure to check that before planning your perfect day in Mexico City.

Folkloric Ballet at Palacio Bellas Artes

If you love folk dances, then you’ll love the amazing Folkloric Ballet at Palacio Bellas Artes.

The ballet is a very colorful dance performance that showcases the culture and heritage of different regions of Mexico.

Performances happen only twice a week – Sunday and Wednesday. So, if you’re spending any of these days in Mexico City, then be sure to catch a ballet performance.

Be sure to book your ballet tickets well in advance because they sell out pretty fast. ↳ Click here to book your Folkloric Ballet tickets online.

Night Street Food Tour

Tacos - food in Mexico
Tacos are never a bad idea even if you are spending just 24 hours in Mexico City.

Mexico City is renowned for its rich culinary landscape that buzzes with life after sundown.

The streets transform into buzzing food markets, with vendors selling everything from traditional tacos to exotic quesadillas and churros.

Walking around these markets at night and tasting various street foods gives you an authentic experience of Mexico City’s gastronomic pulse.

Check out this Night Street Food and Bike Tour in Mexico City that is the best in town. Involves a lot of eating and cycling around the neighborhoods of Roma and Condesa.

Pro Tip: The Night Street Food Tour operates during the week and not on weekends. The best part is they operate on Mondays in Mexico City when most other stuff is closed!

Option 2: One Day in Mexico City Itinerary for Art Lovers

The courtyard of Frida Kahlo Museum
Casa Azul or the Frida Kahlo Museum is a mecca for art lovers from around the world. For art lovers spending 1 day in Mexico City, this museum is a must visit.

Morning – Frida Kahlo Museum & Coyoacan

Start your day in Mexico City with a visit to the famous Frida Kahlo Museum, also known as Casa Azul (Blue House). It is located in the charming neighborhood of Coyoacan.

This was the former home of the iconic Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. She was born in this house, lived here with her husband Diego Rivera, and died here.

The museum is a tribute to Kahlo’s life and work, with many of her personal belongings and artworks on display.

Explore the beautiful gardens and colorful rooms of Casa Azul as you learn more about the fascinating life of Frida Kahlo.

Over the years, I have realized that signing up for a Frida Kahlo Museum guided tour like this one is a great choice. That’s because these tours teach you so much more than your eyes can see.

Pro Tip: Tickets to the Frida Kahlo Museum sell out pretty soon. Best to buy them at least a week in advance. Two best places to buy – Official website or Tiqets website (in case the official website is sold out). For more options, check out my Frida Kahlo Museum Tickets Guide.

Afternoon – Diego Rivera Murals in Historic Center

Arsenal Mural at Public Education Secretariat.
An interesting mural by Diego Rivera at the Secretariat of Public Education. This shows Frida Kahlo handing out weapons to revolutionaries.

After a morning of immersing yourself in the world of Frida Kahlo, head downtown for some more art.

Mexico City is known for its vibrant street art scene. In the early 1900s, it was the birthplace of the Mexican muralist movement.

A mural walking tour like this one is my favorite way to immerse myself in the street art scene of Mexico City.

You’ll see famous murals by the maestros including Diego Rivera, David Siqueiros, and Jose Clemente Orozco.

You’ll also make stops at iconic locations such as the Palacio de Bellas Artes, where you’ll visit 17 different murals depicting the growth of Mexican muralism.

The best part about this mural tour is that it begins at 2:00 pm. So, it easily fits into your one day Mexico City itinerary.

Pro Tip: Are you a Diego Rivera fan? Then, you’ll love reading through our guide on the best places to see Diego Rivera murals in Mexico City.

If you’d like some more art, head to the neighborhoods of Roma and Condesa. They are filled with chic galleries and colorful murals by both local & international artists.

Evening – Roma Art & Food Scene

More tacos at Roma Norte in Mexico City. If you’re still wondering what to do in Mexico City for a day, just go and eat tacos.

End your day in Mexico City with a delicious dinner in Roma, one of CDMX’s trendiest neighborhoods.

This area is known for its gastronomic scene, so you’ll have plenty of options to choose from.

Contramar is a great place for seafood whereas Restaurante Rosetta is known for its atmospheric ambience.

Taqueria Orinoco is my absolute favorite place for tacos. If you’d like some vegan ones, head to Por Siempre Vegana, another favorite.

After dinner, take a stroll through the streets of La Roma and soak up the lively atmosphere. You’ll find plenty of bars and cafes to enjoy a drink or dessert before ending your day in Mexico City.

If you’d like some good churros, Churreria El Moro is the best place. They have several outlets including one in Roma Norte and one in Condesa.

Best One Day Tour of Mexico City

Balloons at the Avenue of Dead - a major fragment of Teotihuacan mystery
Looking for something fun to do in Mexico City? Go hot air ballooning over the pyramids of Teotihuacan.

If you’re looking for a great one day guided tour of Mexico City instead of having to plan everything on your own, then I have some worthy recommendations for you here.

Begin the day with this highly-rated Historic Downtown Tour, then explore on your own, and end the day with this gorgeous Tacos and Mezcal Tour in the evening.

If you’re only spending a short layover in Mexico City, then you’ll be glad to know that there are some amazing Mexico City layover tours that include pick-up and drop from the Benito Juarez Airport.

Here’s the best rated Mexico City layover tour that includes a customized walking tour according to your needs and requirements.

Looking to do something other than history and arts with your 1 day in Mexico City?

Where to stay in Mexico City for a day?

If you’re planning to spend only 24 hours in Mexico City, I recommend that you stay close to the attractions. Otherwise, you will spend too much time on commute.

If you’re going with Option 1 i.e. Historic Mexico City Itinerary, then I recommend that you stay in the Historic Center.

Here are a couple of great hotels in the Historic Center of Mexico City that I have stayed in myself.

  • Kali Centro and Hotel Flamencos are both budget hotels that are located within walking distance from the center. They have great breakfast options.
  • Zocalo Central is a midrange hotel that is housed in a 19th-century building and has got the best views in town. Customers love it for the location and their lovely staff.

All of them are clean, comfy, and easily accessible from the center making them perfect for one night stay in Mexico City.

Beautiful colonial building at the Mexico City Historic Center
Beautiful colonial buildings dot the downtown. So, it is easy to find an interesting place to stay for one night in Mexico City.

If you’re opting for Option 2 i.e. Artsy Mexico City Itinerary, then you can either stay in Coyoacan or the Historic Center (see above for accommodation options in the historic center).

Coyoacan is better because your first stop for the day is going to be the Frida Kahlo Museum. Here are some great hotels in the Coyoacan neighborhood.

  • Casa Tamayo is a cute and sustainable guest house in Coyoacan that has the best reviews. It is 15 mins (by walking) away from the Frida Kahlo Museum.
  • H21 Hospedaje Boutique is another great property with comfortable rooms and great customer service. It is just 10 mins away from Frida Kahlo Museum.

Practical Information for visiting Mexico City

Flying in Sorority Mural at Mexico City's Paseo de la Reforma.
Street art in Mexico City is colorful and eclectic.

Best time to visit Mexico City

Spring is a great time to visit Mexico City because temperatures are milder and perfect for exploring. There are no rains during this time.

Spring is also jacaranda season in Mexico City. You can see the purple flowers in full bloom all around the place. Some of my favorite spots are the Alameda Park, Paseo de la Reforma, and Chapultepec Park.

Another good time to visit Mexico City is in fall (October – November) when the city is all dressed up for Day of the Dead celebrations.

How to get to Mexico City?

Fly to Benito Juarez International Airport (MEX) in Mexico City and get a taxi, Uber, or bus from the airport to the city center. Book a reliable airport transfer here.

How to get around Mexico City?

I love using public transport even if I am visiting Mexico City for a day.

Mexico City’s public transport is extensive and cheap. So, you can literally go anywhere within the city and beyond without burning a hole in your pocket.

Mexico City Metro and Metrobus (a bus rapid transit system) are the most useful ones.

If you’re not comfortable riding the bus/metro, feel free to use Uber or DiDi. These are the two most popular ride-sharing apps in Mexico and are extremely safe.

Pro Tip: Check out our blog post on the cheapest and the best ways to get around Mexico City.

One Day in Mexico City Travel FAQ

Is 1 day enough for Mexico City?

1 day in Mexico City is just enough to see the historic treasures of Zocalo or follow in the artsy footsteps of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. However, remember that you’ll only be scratching the surface in one day and will have to come back for more.

What to do in Mexico City for 24 hours?

The things that you can do with 24 hours in Mexico City include visiting the historic landmarks of downtown CDMX, taking a street food tour, watching a scintillating lucha libre performance, and shopping at the famous La Ciudadela market.

How do you spend a day in Mexico City?

Spend a day in Mexico City by visiting the landmarks of the Historic Center (including the Metropolitan Cathedral, Templo Mayor, National Palace, and Palacio de Bellas Artes), eating too many tacos on a street food tour, shopping at La Ciudadela, and watching an energetic lucha libre performance.

Loved this one day Mexico City itinerary? Pin it for later!

Planning to visit Mexico City for one day? Be sure to grab this exciting one-day Mexico City itinerary that has great choices for history and art lovers. Do not miss out on these amazing cultural itineraries for spending 24 hours in Mexico City.

Soumya is an acclaimed travel writer who has traveled to 30+ countries and lived in 8 while pursuing her passion for history and culture. Her writings have been published in BBC Travel, Architectural Digest, National Herald, and many more. She loves exploring world heritage sites and has a deep affinity for everything ancient, especially the lost civilizations of Mesoamerica!

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