Coming from Seattle or anywhere on the West Coast, Mexico City is a popular city to have a layover. You can’t fly to South America or many Central American countries directly, so you’ll probably find yourself on a layover in Mexico if you’re headed there. Instead of sitting in the airport for hours, spend your layover exploring Mexico City!
Tips for the Benito Juárez International Airport
There is free wi-fi there, but it’s not always the strongest. If you purchase something at Starbucks, you’ll get a receipt that has a wi-fi login and password that will last you longer. However, the wi-fi does work outside the airport, which is helpful if you’re ordering an Uber.
Speaking of Ubers, this is the safest way to get around in my opinion. There are many people who pose as taxi drivers or run their own business, and you don’t want them driving you around. However, you’ll see a sign outside for authorized taxis, which are fine to take. Just be sure to ask the price before they start driving away so you’re not surprised.
If you’re in Mexico City just for the day, store your bags in the luggage lockers outside baggage claim so you don’t have to drag them around all day. The main part of the city is about 20 minutes away without traffic, so it’s an easy drive to get there.
One important fact to know is you’ll fill out two forms when you go through customs. They’ll tear off part of one and give it back to you – don’t lose this! I almost threw mine away but thought I’d keep it just in case. They’ll ask for it back when you’re checking in again.
If You Have One Day…
Head to the Centro Historico District
I refer to this as the main part of town, but Mexico City is actually huge so there’s more than one main area. The Centro Historico District is where many museums and other attractions are, so it’s the perfect place to hang out if you don’t have much time.
This square is called the Zócalo and there seems to always be something going on there. When I was there, tens of thousands of people lined the streets to attend a benefit concert for the earthquake they recently had. It’s the biggest square in Latin America and can hold up to 100,000 people.
There are also random art pieces around the town, so spend some time checking them out. I wasn’t quite sure what the ones in the picture below symbolized, but I enjoyed looking at them.
Get Lunch From a Street Vendor
My favorite thing to do in the morning was walking around watching the street vendors prepare their food. I know some people have some hesitation about eating street food, but when done right it can be much tastier than a restaurant. Just watch how they make it to ensure it’s fresh and hasn’t been sitting in the sun for awhile.
Relax at Parque Alameda
I was surprised to find this beautiful park in the middle of the city. It’s a good place to seek shade or grab a snack from a local vendor. There’s even free wi-fi here!
Check Out the Palacio de Bellas Artes
Right next to Parque Alameda is the Palacio de Bellas Artes. It’s one of the most beautiful buildings in Mexico City in my opinion. You can spend the afternoon strolling the various exhibits they have inside.
Have Dinner at Plaza Garibaldi
Plaza Garibaldi is the place to go at night if you want to see mariachi bands. Pick a restaurant nearby to watch the action and order some Mexican food. I loved the sauces and limes that came with my quesadilla, which is different from how Mexican food is served in America. Of course, you have to have a Mexican beer to go with it.
If You Have Two Days…
The Hotel Amigo Zocalo is right next to the main square in town and only about 20 minutes away from the airport. For $570 pesos a night (or $30 USD), you get a basic room with a bed, TV, and shower, but you don’t need more than that if you’re just there for one night. The front desk is very helpful with giving you a map and directions to walk around the town.
If you’d prefer to spend a little more on a more luxurious room during your layover in Mexico City, book a room at the Gran Hotel Ciudad de México. It’s on the opposite side of the square and starts at $2200 pesos per night. You’ll be close to plenty of restaurants and shops.
Stop in the Cathedrals
There are so many amazing cathedrals around Mexico City, and the morning is a great time to visit them. I loved seeing the locals coming in before work to have some quiet time before their busy days started. It seemed like there was one every few blocks to stop in.
Have Lunch at the House of Tiles
The Iglesia de San Francisco is across the House of Tiles (or Casa de los Azulejos), so stroll over here afterward. It used to be a private residence in the 18th century until it eventually got rented out to several businesses. There’s now a restaurant inside where you can admire the architecture of this mansion while you eat.
See the City From Above
For one of the best views in the city, head to the Torre Latinoamericana. You can see a 360-degree view of Mexico City on a sunny day. Its claim to fame is being the first skyscraper that was successfully constructed on earthquake-prone land, and it’s been able to withstand several major earthquakes.
For more authentic souvenirs than what the airport will have, stop in some of the shops. Many times they’re family-run and will be happy to tell you about who made the gift you’re purchasing (if you can speak Spanish). For a bigger selection, head to the Mercado de Artesanias La Ciudadela. Dozens of different vendors will be selling items at various prices, so spend some time shopping around for the best price first.
There’s plenty to do on a layover to Mexico City, so make sure you get out and discover it!
What would you want to do on a layover to Mexico City?
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