Suggestions for what to do on a 12-hour layover in Mexico City?
November 26, 2013 3:29 PM   Subscribe

I have an upcoming trip that includes a stopover from about 6AM to late evening in MEX. We'll be traveling with a 3-year-old, so we will probably spend the first few hours trying to get some sleep at an airport hotel. I'm wondering if anyone has an idea for something to do with the rest of the day that won't cause a lot of stress about making it back for our flight? I've never been to Mexico City. What are the usual tourist attractions? Is traffic so bad that we could only fit in something really quick and nearby? Is it even worth it to leave the airport area? Thanks!
posted by mmc to Travel & Transportation around Mexico City, Mexico (6 answers total)
I did this 3 years ago on the return leg of a trip to South America. We did one of those hop on, hop off bus tours, staying on the bus for most of it but hopping off at the main square and walking around for a while. We were pretty tired from our trip, and this ended up being a mellow way to see part of the city.

The city is supposed to have some fantastic art/museums with work by Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. At the time they were closed Mondays so we didn't get a chance to go and I'm not sure how kid-friendly they are.

I do remember that we took a bus or metro in to the city center, and even though it was supposed to be close to the airport it took forever and was a huge thing. With a kid I'd definitely just take a cab.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 4:39 PM on November 26, 2013

I don't really have any specific suggestions for you. I visited Mexico City once in 2007, but we were three mid-20s guys so our activities probably weren't very relevant to a family with a 3 year old (mainly a lot of bars and drinking, and we went to a futbal/soccer game at Aztec Stadium which was amazing!).

But, I did want to recommend this - if you do decide to leave the airport area and you decide to take a cab, use one of the official taxi kiosks at the airport. Don't just flag one down. Maybe things have changed since then, but at the time there were a lot of reports of crooked drivers taking foreigners to out of the way places to rob them (or worse).
posted by mannequito at 5:26 PM on November 26, 2013

I love Mexico City. I think the thing to do would be to take a cab to the Zocalo, which is like Mexico's version of the National Mall. You can go to the Palacio Nacional -- the president's residence -- and look at the beautiful Diego Rivera murals that narrate the history of Mexico. Also right there is the Templo Mayor, the remains of the main Aztec temple. Across the alley from that is the Catedral Municipal, the main cathedral in Mexico City. Also, find something to eat. Won't be hard.
posted by chrchr at 5:26 PM on November 26, 2013

I hear repeatedly that Mexico City is quite dangerous. Quite. Also, the traffic is the #1 worst in the world. So, when you asked "[i]s it even worth it to leave the airport area?" due to the traffic, I suggest no, especially when you factor in customs, baggage, the nap you want to take in the hotel, and getting back to the airport and through security, and my feeling of the danger level for tourists. I would suggest enjoying the day around the hotel and getting some much needed rest.

If you do venture out, I have heard good things about the Metro Cathedral, as well as the pyramid of the sun, but the latter may be a bit far away.
posted by juliagulia at 7:56 PM on November 26, 2013

Seconding taking a taxi from a taxi kiosk at the airport. On peak hours (6:30-10 am, 6-9pm), you could take about 40 minutes, at least, to reach the Historic Center. Metrobús takes less, but I haven't taken it myself, so I don't know how cramped it is.

There's not much to see around the airport area. The Sun Pyramid is a day trip outside of the city.
The Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo museums are beautiful, but they are in the city's south.

I think chrchr's post is spot on. I really like the Templo Mayor, and it is very close to the Zócalo and Catedral.

Mexico City is about as dangerous as other international cities. You do have to take some precautions, such as not taking cabs from the street (there are unauthorized cabs that might take you for a ride, in both senses), and being careful with your stuff.

Feel free to Memail me if you have more questions or need any help.
posted by clearlydemon at 8:25 PM on November 26, 2013

If you do decide to venture out, consider extra time to get back to the airport. Like a LOT of extra time because traffic really is terrible and there could be a "marcha" (basically like a protest in the street) at anytime or anyplace that will make traffic even more messed up. Also consider the extra time you need to check in and go through airport security again and such.

As for what to do, chrchr's suggestion sounds good, or also do a little research on the Turibus, sort of like a red tourist bus thing to look at the sights.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 1:59 AM on November 27, 2013

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