Mexico City, Mexico
Long layover sucks. On the way to New York from South America, we had a 10 hour layover in Mexico City. We decided to get out of the airport to enjoy a little bit of what Mexico City has to offer since it definitely beats moping around at the airport. Especially after we found ourselves stamped in into Mexico, 30 minutes after landing even though in theory we were ‘in-transit’.
It was our first time in Mexico. Well, actually it was technically my 2nd time, but since the only thing I remember from my first visit is having been put for a photo on top of a donkey, crying my 4 year old heart out, with a gigantic sombrero that says ‘Tijuana’ at the front, it doesn’t really count.
If you have a long layover in Mexico City, I recommend making your way directly to the centro historico. It’s one of the largest squares in the world (guess which is the largest? – the answer might surprise you). The city’s historic center is located around the central plaza and contains a concentration of historic buildings. There’s always plenty going on here which should keep you occupied for a few hours during your layover.
How to Get to Downtown Mexico City from the Airport
Taking Metro is an easy and cheap way to get to the city center. Line 1 can take you to Pino Suárez (close to the Zócalo). Cost: 5 pesos.
Uber is now also available in Mexico City. It’s convenient and safe. Cost: ~160 pesos.
Best Things to Do: Layover in Mexico City
Plaza de la Constitución/Zócalo
In Latin America, a lot of fun things can be found around the main plaza. So naturally that was where we headed first. Mexico City’s zocalo is one of the largest squares in the world. One one side of the zocalo lies the imposing Cathedral with its gold altar. There’s no entrance fee, so might as well check it out.
This area is always busy with street performers and vendors. We enjoyed simply walking around and getting caught up in the crowd. When it got too much, we escaped to one of the restaurants here. Puro Corazon is located on the sixth floor with a terrace overlooking the zocalo. It’s a great place for people watching.
Drink the Best Hot Chocolate at El Moro
12 minute walk from zocalo lies the city’s most popular churrería, selling fresh churros and velvety hot chocolate. It’s open 24 hours so if you’re in Mexico City early in the morning, come hang out here and stuff yourself silly with their sweet offerings. You can see their menu here. They have different types of hot chocolate. My favorite: light, French hot chocolate. So good!
Templo Mayor & Templo Mayor Museum
Templo Mayor was another site recommended for us to check out located just next to the main church. There we got a glimpse of the Aztec civilization that used to occupy the very place the museum was built on. When the Spanish came, they demolished this great temple – Templo Mayor – that was one of the most important buildings for the Aztec people at that time. Mexico City was built on top of the ruined Templo Mayor.
If you don’t have much time, we’d recommend heading straight to Templo Mayor Museum near the excavation site. It displays artifacts and trinkets found during excavation. Some of them are very well preserved. Even though it wasn’t as entertaining as the erotic pottery museum in Lima, for $4 – it was definitely worth a couple of hours of your time.
Our favorite tidbit we learned from the museum? Not only were the Aztecs big on human sacrificing through bloodletting and heart wrenching – they were pretty big on flaying their captives and wearing their skins as well. *shivers* Aren’t you glad you weren’t living there and then? We definitely are.
Taste Mexico City Street Food
Just because you’re in Mexico City during a layover, it doesn’t mean that you can’t get a taste of legit, local Mexican food. There are plenty of street vendors around the historic center selling tamales and nopal cactus taco. As soon as we tasted the street food in Mexico City, we knew that we were not in South America anymore. It was the heat. Whoa! The food here is spicy!
We had the best tamales we’ve ever had from a guy selling them off his bike. The best thing about it? We could taste the spicy, whoo-eee! There’s some spicy food in South America, but usually it comes in the form of ‘aji’ – a condiment made from chile that you add to your meal. If we piled enough of it, we could taste the spice alright. But the tamales that we had – there was no avoiding the spice, it was blended right in with the sauce – and it was HOT! Just look at that red, spicy goodness left on the wrapping.
It had been awhile since we had food that bites back!
The Anthropology Museum is a 20 minute taxi ride away from the historical center but it’s worth checking out. It’s an impressive museum (and I don’t usually like museums) and a good choice to spend your long layover in Mexico City. You can easily spend hours here.
If you have a long layover in Mexico City – the historical center and its surrounding attractions is your best bet. Mexico City historical center, including the zocalo and Templo Mayor, is only a 20 minute ride from the airport (minus the traffic). You can easily spend many hours there browsing the market, the buildings, and the museums.
Just make sure you take note which terminal your flight is flying out from. We ended up being dropped at the wrong terminal. It took us some time to figure out that out, and even longer to get to the right one.
Who knows – that little peek into Mexico might have the same affect it had on us: our layover went by so quick and we left with an unhealthy craving of Mexican food.
Who would’ve thought that a long layover can be so much fun? It was definitely the best quickie trip we’ve ever had. If you have more time in Mexico City, check out this city guide, and if you’re with visiting Mexico City kids in tow, this Mexico City with kids will have you covered.
Hello, I think your post was colorful and funny, and I am glad you got to see the Alebrijes because they are here just for a few munths. Just a comment… 'Día de los muertos' IS NOT the Mexican version of Halloween. It is a completely different tradition that comes from the times of the Aztecs, even before the Spanish people came to my country. It used to be celebrated for a month and it honored the dead, their journey, and it is believed that every year our dead come back to visit us. There are complete rituals about it like the dead's altar, AMAAAZING traditional food (the most popular one is the 'pan de muerto' which means bread of dead that is absolutely delicious (and is of course not made out of dead people haha), and colorful sugar candy skulls with the name of dead people or even your name). I cannot attempt to explain all of it here lol, but I hope you get even a vague idea. And the thing is since the arrival of the Spanish people and Cristianity, it has morphed with time, and most recently, since we definetly have influence from the US, both traditions ('Día de Muertos' AND Halloween) have come to merge in a very strange way in the center and south of Mexico. Yet, in the north of Mexico, they don't collapse and each tradition is celebrated completely apart. Hope you can get to come back soon because as other posters have commented, the food here is rich and amazing, and I am sure you'd have an amazing time. Greetings from sunny Mexico!
We're currently in Mexico City…great tips…we'll definitely try get to that plaza in the next few days!
PS: love the skull pic haha and your writing is very funny! Loving your blog, can't believe I only found it today! 🙂
Jack and Jill:
WOW….were you truly lucky on your timing and your choice to visit the main square during your trip to DF.
We are long time supporters of the Museum Arte Popular in DF and we have always wanted to see the Alebrijes Parade from the main square to the Museum. This was the 6th year for the parade. We hope you took lots of photos – the creativity is fantastic!
Gracias chiquillos! You guys have just convinced me to do a full-day layover in Mexico City on my way back to Chile after Christmas. Looking forward to it. I am totally obsessed with Mexican food, since I grew up with a Mexican babysitter who spoiled me and taught me Spanish from birth to age 5. I've also never been to Mexico City. And I saved a lot of money by booking this flight. I'll see if I can write a similar post about my experience.
Saludos desde Santiago,
Looks like you had a nice layover in Mexico City! Food sounds amazing.
Our most memorable layover goes to Cairo. Had already spent a week there just months before and left disenchanted. Our second stop was a mere 24 hours on our return from Africa. Second time around Cairo captivated us. This layover reminded us that every destination deserves a second chance.
Great pictures! Mexico City is a beautiful city, it's so unlike what a lot of people think of it.
Hey there, really enjoy following your adventures. Have fun on the East Coast! Hope to see you guys back here soon in Cali.
These pics are very nice. I really love Mexico city. such a great place.
The giant alebrijes are really something, I've been over to the zócalo a few times to check them out along with the Nuestros Silencios installation. Glad you were able to squeeze in a visit! 😉
We've never really explored a city during a layover, but we're flying through Qatar soon and now I seriously wish we had left ourselves more time! Never been to Mexico City, but looks pretty cool… aside from all that spicy food, lol.
That does seem like an awesome layover! Good for you for making such good use of your layover time. Thanks for sharing and for the great pics!
Cool idea! I would be too afraid of missing my next flight to leave the airport, but I'm glad you guys did it!
You guys are so lucky to have a 10-hour layover in Mexico City just at the same day as the Dias de Los Muertos. Those alebrijes with weird and colorful features look really cool!
[…] Mexico City – All the Fun You Can Have in 10 Hours Long layover sucks. On the way to New York from South America, we had a 10 hour layover in Mexico City. But getting out of the airport to enjoy a little bit of the city definitely beats moping around at the airport. Source: jackandjilltravel.com […]
Layovers do suck. It's fortunate that you got to go outside and see the city. The worst kind of layover is the ones when they're not long enough to go out of the airport, but long enough to bore you to death waiting at the airport.
In two weeks, the same thing is going to happen to me. I have a long layover in Mexico City, when returning from Cancun. I kind of did it on purpose to have the oportunnity to see a little bit of the city. Now, I am psyched knowing you guys had a good time. I am going to follow your suggestions. I just want to eat and eat. I will get out of the airport just because of that.
I LOVED mexico city (lived there for 2 years). It's so vibrant and lively and not quite what a lot of first time visitors usually expect.
I'm glad you had a taste of Mexico, but the flavors and aromas are infinitely more sophosticated than you might imagine. You have left an enormous gap in your itinerary by not including more time in Mexico. It's too bad that your round-the-world experience will not be complete!
I loved Mexico City. A great place for a long layover!
Great layover! My craziest was in Sao Paolo Brazil. I was struggling with some sinus issues which made takeoff and landing uncomfortable. We had just come over from Santa Cruz, Bolivia an were heading back to the states. My wife went to the information desk to ask if they had any decongestant. She speaks Spanish, but in trying to explain the issue, she talked a lot about pressure in my head. The helpful attendent must have been a bit concerned because she made a phone call and the next thing we know, a paramedic is there taking my blood pressure, asking all sorts of serious questions and giving me a check up. I couldn't stop laughing and my wife kept kicking me as the paramedic left frustrated at being called down for this "emergency."
Mexico is one of my favorite countries to visit. Hopefully you guys will come back and do a proper visit?
I have been to Mexico a million times… and have YET to visit MEXICO CITY. I am so jealous… you don't know how much I love love LOVE Mexico and MISS IT as well. I miss the food, I miss the people, I miss the culture, but most of all I miss "FOOD THAT BITES BACK" I miss spicy food so much. I grew up with spicy food and am addicted to it and well in Europe I find NOOO spicy food. Looks like y'all had a great layover… and lucky y'all were there during El Dia de los Muertos… such a huge event all over Mexico.
Mexico does have the best food. Agree wholeheartedly!