Long layovers are an easy (and economical) way to get a taste of a new place. And as the gateway between North and South America, it’s not hard to find flights with layovers in Mexico City. The capital is so large that you could have a dozen layovers here and still want to return! Here are my recommendations for your (first) long layover in Mexico City, but I promise you’ll want to make this a regular stop en route to South America!
The Angel of Independence Statue
It’s best to visit this iconic statue in the morning before the other sites open to maximize your layover. Then you can work your way back toward the city center and then on to the airport. The statue was built in 1910 to celebrate the centennial of Mexico’s independence from Spain. Since then, El Ángel has become one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks.
Chapultepec Park: Long Layover, Mexico City
Next, visit Bosque de Chapultepec because it is near El Ángel and opens 5 am most days. The park includes a lake, a zoo, an amusement park, restaurants, the national cemetery, public art and beautiful fountains. In addition, the park houses a number of museums such as the National History Museum, the National Anthropology Museum, and the Modern Art Museum. This is also a great place to grab coffee and breakfast from one of the many street vendors and snack shacks. I think this park is the most fun to visit on weekends, despite the crowds, because it is full of local families and there’s so much going on there!
Diego Rivera Mural Museum
The Diego Rivera Mural Museum is the perfect museum for a long layover in Mexico City. It’s small and centrally located, but still offers a glimpse at some of Mexico’s most important artwork. If you have time, you can make the trek to Frida Kahlo’s house, although it can get pretty crowded. Alternatively, Diego Rivera’s studio is usually pretty quiet, and it’s an amazing example of mid-century modern architecture. It is also within walking distance of a Saturday craft bazaar, which is so big that it spills out into two neighboring parks!
Plaza de la Constitución, the Metropolitan Cathedral, and Templo Mayor
The Plaza of the Constitution, also called Zócalo, is Mexico City’s largest square. At the heart of the capital, this plaza is always full of life with food stalls, street vendors and live music. For example, when I was in Mexico City at the end of December, this square was full of people performing traditional indigenous cleansing ceremony for the new year!
This square also houses the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral, which is the oldest and largest cathedral in Latin America! Entrance is free, and you could easily spend an hour or two inside just admiring the ornate architecture!
Next door is Templo Mayor, thought to be located on the exact spot where the Aztecs saw their symbolic eagle perching on a cactus with a snake in its beak. The Aztecs believed this was, literally, the center of the universe, and this is the symbol of Mexico today. The temple is only partially excavated, as it extends under the Metropolitan Cathedral and other buildings in the vicinity. Still, this archeological site offers a fascinating glimpse into the world of the Aztecs. And with new artifacts discovered all the time, Templo Mayor continues to intrigue even returning visitors.
Other Tips: Long Layover in Mexico City
Mexico City is huge and can have horrendous traffic, making it time consuming to get around by taxi. However, the city has a fantastic metro system that is fast and easy to use! Click here to view a PDF of the city’s metro map – I recommend downloading it on your phone so it’s easily accessible.
Want more sample itineraries for common layover cities? Check out my blog posts on things to do in Istanbul, Bangkok, Marrakech and New Delhi! Or, click here for travel tips and itineraries for all my favorite cities!