On my way to Cuba, I had an overnight layover in Mexico City. Twelve hours didn’t allow much time to see the city, especially when seven of them were spent sleeping, but I managed to see quite a bit during my brief visit.
If you’re staying for one night in Mexico City and wondering what you should see, read on to check out some of my ideas. This article assumes that you’ll be staying until at least 11 am, and therefore have some time in the early morning to see a few daytime attractions.
From the gorgeous Palacio de Bellas Artes to the quirky Frida Kahlo Museum to some cool neighborhood parks and restaurants, these were the sights I will remember most from my quick visit to Ciudad de Mexico.
Palacio De Bellas Artes
My travel friend found this beautiful structure and insisted we visit the Palacio de Bellas Artes. This palace of fine arts has an impressive exterior. We decided to visit here at 7:30 am, since there was nothing else to do at that hour and we wanted to maximize our time. At least here, we could walk around and see some incredible architecture.
Wandering the nearby streets in this area uncovered some charming alleys with neatly-tiled buildings. This one with the blue-tile pattern is called Casa de Los Azulejos.
It was a great area for old buildings with character and presence.
Riot police were waiting on the street next to Bellas Artes. This didn’t make sense at the time, since there was nothing going on. But apparently there have been many protests at that location from teachers unions in the past.
Roma Norte and Condesa neighborhoods
I stayed in an AirBnb on the cusp of the Roma Norte and Condesa neighborhoods. These are described as cool, modern areas, and that was certainly the case. I saw plenty of gourmet cupcake and gelato shops in the area. It felt just like a hip part of any U.S. city.
Any good hipster neighborhood has to have some unusual street art.
One shop that caught my attention was a store dedicated entirely to the Beatles! They sold memorabilia, music, and other collectibles.
Soooo much fresh fruit.
The night was chilly and rainy. Once nightfall hits, your options as a tourist are limited. But mezcal bars are a great way to spend your overnight Mexico City layover.
We ended up at La Clandestina, a mezcal bar around the corner from our room that lived up to its good reviews. Yelp is solid in Mexico City, in case you were wondering.
Lucha Libre Wrestling
Here’s your #1 option for a fun tourist activity in Mexico City after sundown. Lucha libre is high-flying, acrobatic wrestling in which most of the competitors wear masks. Tickets are dirt cheap, and you can even join a guided tour that will take you right from central part of the city to the arena to see the matches.
For more ideas for things to do in Mexico City at night, see the relevant section of this massive guide to visiting Mexico City.
Frida Kahlo Museum
Anyone who is familiar with Mexican art knows the name Frida Kahlo. The famous painter (1907-1954) spent most of her life in Mexico City in a house that is now the Frida Kahlo Museum. She grew up here, lived here with her husband Diego Rivera, and died here.
The museum features her work and the work of others. Many of its rooms have been preserved to show how she and her husband lived.
A word to the wise: Get here early if you plan on visiting. The line gets very long very fast. If your layover lasts until mid-day, you can visit the Kahlo Museum when it opens at 9 am and still have time to make it to the airport.
Parque Mexico is one of the biggest green spaces in the city. It had duck ponds, an outdoor exercise gym, a dog park, and a big open plaza where dozens of kids were playing soccer.
Nearby was Plaza Popocatepetl, another green space smaller and closer to where I stayed.
You can stroll around both of these parks at any hour. Just exercise normal big-city safety precautions if you decide to go out late at night. Keep an eye on your surroundings.
More Mexico City sights from around the city
Having already been to Puerto Vallarta, Cancun, Tijuana, and northern Mexico along the Texas border, Mexico City was the last major region I hadn’t yet explored. I’ve been wanting to go there forever, and this trip gave me just a tiny taste.
Now I can’t wait to go back. I’m considering moving there for a month or two next year and working as a digital nomad!
Mexico City was extremely modern. Every park had composting bins, and even Burger King (I always visit foreign fast food joints out of curiosity, don’t judge) had recycling bins. Bike sharing pods were everywhere, and the Mexico City subway is extensive with several different lines across the city.
I wasn’t expecting to see a mural of someone like Mumia Abu-Jamal in Mexico City, but there it was.
I like how the crosswalk dudes wore hats and walked dogs.
This guy played music at an intersection using one of those old-timey carnival instruments, the harmonipan!
A few more random sights from around the city.
Hotels Near the Airport: Where to Stay During a Mexico City Overnight Layover
As noted, I stayed at an Airbnb and simply took Uber to get back and forth from the airport. But if your overnight layover is shorter and you don’t have much time to go into the city at all, you might as well stay near the airport.
A few of your best near-airport hotel options in Mexico City:
Courtyard by Marriott: The Marriott’s Mexico City airport location is your nicest option if you’re looking for a clean, comfortable place that feels familiar and has the usual amenities.
Hostel Mexico DF Airport: Here’s your best budget option. You can get a bunk in a shared dorm for as little as $18 USD. Private double rooms are also quite affordable. Breakfast is included too!
We Hotel Aeropuerto: Another upscale property, the We Hotel is right across from the airport and even offers a free airport shuttle if you don’t feel like walking. The hotel has a Mexican restaurant and lounge on-site.
Punto DF Airport: Another budget-friendly option has dorm bunks for $16 USD and shared rooms for as little as $36. The charming property has a garden and terrace.
Have you ever spent an overnight layover in Mexico City? How did you spend your time?