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1 Day in Mexico City: Historic Downtown

La Ciudadela Market

There are more than nine million ways to live Mexico City, as each “Chilango” (native and/or resident of Mexico City), traveler, and tourist that walks its streets and visits its highlights daily, make it a unique and changing place.

What are the best things to do in Mexico City? Which are Mexico City’s tourist destinations? Many international travelers, Mexicans, and any curious “Chilango” ask themselves this question at a certain point, for the “Valley of Mexico” has such a cultural, gastronomic, and entertainment offer, that one would need more than a lifetime to experience it in a whole.

What is Mexico City famous for?

First of all, it is important for you to know that the Mexican capital is divided into 16 districts, each one with different neighborhoods and zones. Some of the main ones due to their offer are The Zona Rosa, Chapultepec, and Polanco, the Centro Histórico (Historic Downtown), the La Roma neighborhood, the Condesa, and San Ángel.

Throughout the 573 square miles of extension that this metropolis has, there is an innumerable number of museums, restaurants, bars, entertaining centers, theaters, and streets that are worth visiting. Its versatility, history, people, gastronomy, and nightlife are some of the things that make Mexico City an attractive and original touristic destination. Therefore, during a short stay, it is always problematic to choose what to see, where to go, and what places to leave for a future visit, thus having tips from a local is a travel game changer for those finding themselves in this situation.

Mexico City's main square

Mexico’s crowded main square, with views towards the National Palace.

What are must-dos with 24-hours in Mexico City?

If it is not possible for you to reschedule your flight or land transportation in order to stay longer in the city, it is important to have a clear idea of what you would like to experiment during your stay. If you want to get to know the “basics” in the city, keep on reading this article and discover the interesting and varied schedule we have prepared, so you can enjoy 24 fun and entertaining hours in the heart of the city: Historic Downtown. If on the contrary, you would like a more relaxed, modern, and non-touristic surprise, check our article 1 Day in Mexico City: Colonia Roma and Condesa for fresh and different suggestions.

The Classic Historic Downtown, the colorful Juárez, and the unusual Tabacalera 

Mexico City originated as Tenochtitlan, precisely in the space where the Historic Downtown is located now. This is why this zone and its surroundings are packed with markets, museums, restaurants, bars, and emblematic buildings that will show you around and let you live the hectic Chilango lifestyle. 

If you have only one day to enjoy the Centro Histórico, our advice is for you to find accommodation there, in order to avoid wasting time on the road and make the best out of your visit. “Downtown México” is a local boutique hotel with modern, cozy bedrooms, and a roof with one of Mexico City’s best views. On the other hand, “Casa Pepe” is a hotel with more affordable prices, a very original roof and, above all, a very fun atmosphere.

Once you have booked your hotel, check out this schedule, as it is the best way to spend one day in Mexico City.

Tamales Madre restaurant dish

Rajas and alpino tamal

Breakfast Tamales Madre: with a really modern, but cozy environment, this restaurant offers an original variety of artisanal tamales, prepared with only Mexican ingredients. Suggestion: tamal de nuez (walnut tamal), and tamal de mole con plátano macho (mole and plantain tamal).

Activities Chocolate Museum: You will learn the history behind chocolate, starting from the cacao seed, and exploring its elaboration process. In the MUCHO (Museo del Chocolate) you’ll also understand the importance of this ingredient for the Mexican culture. Suggestion: Enjoy a traditional cacao drink in Fonda Cacao, located inside the museum.

La Ciudadela Handcrafts Market: You’ll be amazed by the variety of handcrafted products from all around the Mexican Republic. Inside this great market, you can find clay handcrafts, purses, clothes, jewelry, toys, textiles, and more. Suggestion: Verify that the products you buy are Mexican because it is common to find bad quality imported fake products.

Lunch San Juan Market: It is one of the most important gourmet markets in the city, for it offers exotic products, imported cheeses, and charcuterie, which is why many chefs and Chilango foodies are usual clients of the place. Suggestion: don’t stop to eat in the first place you see; walk through the entire market and choose the places you find more appealing. That way, you’ll get to taste a bite of everything.

Activities – Palace of Fine Arts: It is known for its exterior beauty, its interior murals, and its importance as an artistic place. It permanently exhibits the work of some of the most recognized artists from the Mexican muralism movement. Suggestion: Ask for the temporary exhibit and for the guided tours inside the theater.

Tacos, beer, and mezcal tour

Mexican mezcal with orange and powdered chili.

Metropolitan Cathedral: This amazing building was constructed during the Spanish Viceroyalty. It is also one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites, due to its undeniable greatness. When you enter, you’ll be surrounded by golden altarpieces and grand rock columns. Suggestion: Ask for the guided tours, so you can visit the vestry, understand the altarpieces, and get to know the bell tower.

Snack and drinks Terraza Cha Cha Chá: With one of the best views to the Revolution Monument, you’ll be able to enjoy tropical snacks with street-like flavors, exotic drinks, and great music to enjoy a fun and warming evening. Suggestion: tuétanos con esquite (marrow with corn grain) and xoconostle mezcalita (prepared drink with mezcal).

Dinner: Tacos, Beer, and Mezcal Tour: Apart from discovering and tasting Mexico City’s best tacos, something you will be proud of, on this tour you’ll visit four neighborhoods and enjoy a drink in the first mezcal bar that opened in Mexico City. Suggestion: Book your SMFT tour in advance.

With all of these culinary, cultural, and entertainment recommendations, we hope you are now aware of what a day filled with amazing activities in Mexico City can be like. We encourage you to follow us on our social media, Sabores México Food Tours (saboresmexicoft) in order to have the best Mexico City travel guide and learn more about this city’s hidden treasures.


Article by: María José Ordóñez Platas