One Week (7 Day) Mexico Itinerary: Things to Do in Mexico City and Central Mexico For First Timers
Only have 7 days in Mexico and wondering what to do? This one week in Mexico itinerary and travel guide is perfect for a first time visitor to explore Mexico City and Central Mexico to find the best things to do in Mexico.
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Mexico is a fun and colorful country to visit and I wish I had done it sooner. Actually I can’t believe it took me so long to visit Mexico, especially since I used to live in California.
From the beach to the mountains to large metropolitan cities, Mexico’s diverse geography really appeals to all types of travelers. Coupled with its rich culture and amazing food, Mexico’s really got it all.
You probably know you can spend 3 months in Mexico and not see it all, but let’s just narrow it down to 7 days for your first trip to Mexico. And yes I know there are so many potential 7 day Mexico itineraries but this particular one will focus on Central Mexico and Mexico City.
This one week Mexico itinerary will also give you useful Mexico travel tips that I learned while on the trip so let’s get started!
Is one week in Mexico long enough?
One of the first thing you may wonder is if 7 days is enough for Mexico. Well the answer is complicated.
One week in Mexico is perfect for a taste of the country, especially if it’s your first time.
Yes there is so much to see and do in Mexico and one week cannot possibly cover everything (you will need at least 2 to 3 months I would say), but 7 days is great to explore a few places in Mexico to see how you like it.
Personally I cannot travel to a country for more than 2 weeks at a time, I just get…kinda bored and need a break. So I like to break up my travel into 7 – 10 days at a time. Since Mexico is so close to the United States, it’s so easy to just keep going back and explore different areas.
So essentially all I’m trying to say is that one week in Mexico is great for exploring a few places but you would need to keep going back to Mexico to visit other areas.
Where to go for the first time in Mexico?
So we’ve established that there is a lot to see in Mexico, so now let’s talk about exactly where you can go as a first timer in Mexico.
You literally cannot visit Mexico for the first time without going to Mexico City, the capital and largest city of Mexico.
Mexico City is a cultural and historical hub in Mexico. It has museums that are not only world renowned but also have historical and cultural significance.
There are numerous colorful and nice neighborhoods to explore in Mexico City. You will find some of the best restaurants and bars in Mexico City. The city is also a gateway to nearby archaeological sites like Teotihuacan.
Guanajuato is famous for its colorful colonial architecture, cobblestone streets, beautiful viewpoints and cultural festivals.
The city is home to the Diego Rivera House Museum, the Alhóndiga de Granaditas, and the iconic Callejón del Beso. Its unique tunnels and silver mines add to its distinctive charm and historical significance.
San Miguel de Allende
This Central Mexico town is another UNESCO World Heritage Site and it is one of the cutest towns in Mexico. Its beautiful colonial architecture, narrow and hilly streets, art community and of course amazing food let it become one of the most popular cities for Americans to retire in.
This artsy city is another popular city to visit in Mexico. Known for its indigenous culture, art scene, lively markets, colorful streets, iconic architecture and amazing food, Oaxaca is a magical place to consider for your Mexico itinerary.
Located about 3 hours from Mexico City, Puebla is another city to add on your list, especially if you plan to visit Oaxaca as well (since it is located between the two).
This colonial town is one of the oldest colonial cities in the Americas. It is famous for its architecture, colorful streets, UNESCO historic center and it is very close to the Great Pyramid of Cholula.
If you are flying from the East Coast and love beaches and cenotes, then Yucatan would make a great one week Mexico itinerary.
Located in Southeastern Mexico, Yucatan is known for its natural landscapes and beaches. I’m sure you have heard of Cancun, Holbox, Playa del Carmen, Tulum and Merida, the largest city in Yucatan.
If you are on social media, I’m sure you’ve also seen numerous photos and videos of cenotes and the instagram-famous Cenote Suytun.
I wish we could cover all of these places during one week in Mexico! But for the purpose of this first timer’s Mexico itinerary, we will be focusing on Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende, and Mexico City.
General Mexico Travel Information
Before we jump into our itinerary, let me just give you some information to help you plan your trip to Mexico.
- Money: While many large restaurants, cafes and hotels all accept credit cards, especially in Mexico City, you definitely want to have some cash with you to pay for street food and shopping at markets. You also need cash to pay for bathrooms!
- Best Apps: Google Translate, Google Maps, Uber and Didi are all good apps to have in Mexico. I would also recommend download the offline map from Google Maps just in case you have no internet. We found Didi more useful than Uber in San Miguel de Allende.
Where to stay in Mexico in 7 days
Mexico has a wide range of accommodations, from budget hostels to luxury resorts. Therefore you will find something that fits your budget in all of the places on this itinerary.
There are many chain hotels, especially in Mexico City, but we really loved the smaller and more boutique hotels. We are not budget travelers so we picked hotels based on location, review, and if they could fit 3 people in a room (a lot of hotels only have king size beds).
Just as a summary, here are the hotels we stayed at during our one week in Mexico.
7 Day Mexico Itinerary for Mexico City and Central Mexico
This one week Mexico Itinerary covers the following places:
- Guanajuato (1 day)
- San Miguel de Allende (2.5 days)
- Mexico City (2.5 days)
This does not include the travel day when we first arrived.
There are many places you can visit in Mexico for a week, so why did we pick these three cities instead of some of the other ones mentioned above?
For one, we wanted to visit Mexico City, so we wanted to stay in Central Mexico for ease of traveling. So the choices were either going southeast to Oaxaca or going northwest to Guanajuato and San Miguel and we chose the latter. Yucatan is too far away from Mexico City and deserves a separate trip by itself.
Day 1 of Mexico Itinerary: Fly into Mexico City + Bus to Guanajuato
Your first day will be a travel day, and a long one potentially.
Since the itinerary actually starts in Guanajuato (we will come back to Mexico City towards the end), you can either fly directly to an airport near Guanajuato (Leon Airport) or fly to Mexico City.
Depending on where you are flying from, there are some direct flights to Guanajuato/ Leon Airport from Texas and other parts of Mexico. You will need to take an Uber or taxi from the Leon Airport to your hotel in Guanajuato.
We decided to fly into Mexico City since we would have to transit in Mexico City anyway (no direct flights from New York City to Guanajuato unfortunately!).
If you land in Mexico City, you will need to take a 5 hour bus ride from the Northern Bus Station (Central de Autobuses del Norte) to Guanajuato and then take a taxi from the Guanajuato bus station to your hotel (not possible to walk there).
Depending on what time your bus is, you can stop by Condesa or Roma (neighborhoods) in Mexico City to grab lunch. Since traffic in Mexico City is really bad, you should definitely give yourself at least 3 hours from when you land to when the bus departs.
Once you reach Guanajuato (again, depending on the time), you can grab dinner in town or just go to the hotel and rest.
Day 2 of 7 days in Mexico: Guanajuato
You have a full day in Guanajuato on your second day in Mexico.
Guanajuato is largely off the radar for foreign visitors (at least not as famous as Cancun or San Miguel de Allende). This little town was once one of the richest cities in Mexico thanks to its rich silver mines.
Known for its UNESCO World Heritage historic town, colorful buildings, cobblestone alleys, underground tunnels and historical significance, Guanajuato is the perfect place to start your trip to Mexico.
Start your day early, grab a coffee from a local coffee shop and head out to the Funicular. The funicular will take you to Monumento Al Pipila, an observation deck on top of a hill. You could walk there but I would suggest taking the funicular up and walking down.
After enjoying the view, walk back down to the town center. The historic town area is not very large and you can see it within a few hours. Some of the most noteworthy buildings, museums and square in Guanajuato include:
- Templo de San Francisco: a beautiful pink Catholic church that can be seen from the observation deck
- Museo Iconografico del Quijote: a museum dedicated to the story of Don Quijote
- Teatro Juarez: One of the most beautiful performance arts theaters in Mexico
- Jardin de la Union: a large local park with beautifully trimmed trees surrounded by restaurants and hotels
- Basílica Colegiata de Nuestra Señora de Guanajuato: the most famous church in Guanajuato. It has the statue of Virgin Mary inside and it is featured in every photo of Guanajuato
- Callejón del Beso (the Kissing Alley): a narrow alleyway with a tragic love story that draws couples to visit and exchange kisses
- Mercado Hidalgo: a vibrant indoor market selling fresh produce, cooked food, clothes, shoes, and other souvenirs and handmade crafts
- Plaza de San Roque: the cutest square in Guanajuato with tons of restaurants and some nice photo spots
- Museum of the Mummies: a museum displaying naturally mummified bodies from the cemetery next door
You will need to leave Guanajuato around 5pm to take the bus to San Miguel de Allende. San Miguel is about one and half hours away. After getting off the bus, take an Uber or taxi to your hotel.
San Miguel is super lively all day long. It is pretty safe to walk around the historic town center at night, grab some tacos from Andy’s Taco Truck (or eat at a sit down restaurant if you can get in). We found all the good restaurants to be fully booked in San Miguel so plan ahead and make reservations!
Day 3 & 4 of One Week in Mexico: San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel de Allende is one of the most popular towns in Central Mexico among American tourists. It is obvious why it’s so popular.
From colorful colonial buildings to its vibrant nightlife to the amazing gastronomy scenes to beautiful sceneries to its hot springs, San Miguel de Allende is a haven for those seeking a relaxing vacation (or even retirement).
San Miguel de Allende has been voted as the best small city in the world by Travel + Leisure and Condé Nast. That says a lot and it well deserves this recognition.
During your two days in San Miguel de Allende, you get to fully explore its UNESCO World Heritage historic town center, otherwise known as El Centro.
Compared to Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende’s historic town feels bigger and more refined, lined with gourmet restaurants and luxury boutique hotels. In fact most restaurants and hotels we walked by were so beautifully decorated and fully booked!
Some of the best things to do during your 2 days in San Miguel de Allende include walking around the historic town center.
Check out the famous pink Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel and all the street vendors and stores at the square. Or you can get breakfast on a rooftop bar overlooking the church to start your day.
A cool thing to do in San Miguel is to see all the beautifully decorated doorways, streets and eventually stop by Casa de los Soles, instagram famous for its courtyard decorated with hundreds of colorful suns (hence the name) before continuing to Mercado Ignacio Ramirez, one of the largest market in San Miguel de Allende.
Being the artsy town that is, you simply cannot leave without checking out the Mercado de Artesanías (an artisan market) as well as the art center Fabrica la Aurora. You will find art pieces, galleries, sculptures and other artsy stores here and can spend up to half a day there to see everything.
San Miguel de Allende is known for its food and rooftop bars, so you should definitely spend your time going to different restaurants and rooftop bars (keep in mind that many restaurants do have a rooftop terrace).
Some of the rooftop restaurants and bars I would recommend include Rosewood Hotel, Restaurant Cielo, Trazo 1810, Quince, Zumo Rooftop Restaurant, Luna Tapas Bar just to name a few.
You need to make a reservation a few days in advance (at least) if you want to visit these rooftop bars/ restaurants, otherwise you probably cannot get in.
Lastly, if you want relaxation, be sure to check out the hot springs in San Miguel de Allende, such as La Gruta Spa, the Mayan Baths, Escondido Hot Springs, etc.
Day 5 in Mexico: San Miguel de Allende + Mexico City
If you want to spend more time in Mexico City and just feel like you saw enough of San Miguel, then take the bus to Mexico City in the morning. But if you still want to walk around San Miguel de Allende a little more, then take a noon or afternoon bus to Mexico City. You have a little more flexibility here.
We decided to walk around San Miguel a little more in the morning to get some more photos (if you haven’t noticed, I am very big on photos).
We found some really nice photo spots just in random alleys up the hill (and in front of our hotel actually). Grab a nice breakfast and take your iconic photo on Aldama street before heading out to the bus station.
The bus from San Miguel de Allende to Mexico City North Station takes about 4 hours (depends on traffic conditions). Once you get to Mexico City, grab a Uber or Didi from the bus station to your hotel in Condesa or Roma, the two best areas in Mexico City.
Depending on what time you get to Mexico City, you should explore the Condesa neighborhood, check out Parque México, known for its beautiful architecture and flowers, grab tacos at Taqueria El Greco or Tacos Hola El Güero, stop by the cute art gallery Mooni, grab a drink at a local bar, and end your night at Lardo, an AMAZING Mediterranean restaurant in Condesa.
Day 6-7 in Mexico: Explore Mexico City
Mexico City is the capital of Mexico and it is on every first time in Mexico itinerary. You can spend a week in Mexico City by itself if you want to fully explore it. But in this 7 day Mexico itinerary we will spend 2-3 days to see the essential attractions in Mexico City and eat at some of the best restaurants (there are so many!).
First day in Mexico City
You can spend the first full day in Mexico City to explore Bosque de Chapultepec, a large city park featuring a zoo, museums and most importantly, the famous Chapultepec Castle. The castle itself houses the National Museum of History and has a sweeping view of Mexico City.
You can spend a few hours to even half a day at the park depending on what you like to do.
Once you are done, stop by two of the most colorful casas in Mexico City: Casa Estudio Luis Barragán & Casa Gilardi. These are must sees for anyone into architecture or just want those Instagram photos. Both require reservation at least a week or two in advance if not more.
In the afternoon, head over to Polanco, otherwise known as the Beverly Hills of Mexico City.
Polanco is an upscale and expensive neighborhood in Mexico City, known for its luxury residences, high end boutiques (think Chanel and Hermès), fancy restaurants, cafes and bars.
While in Polanco, don’t forget to check out Parque América for the view of St. Augustine Church, walk by Parque Lincoln, and stop by the famous bookstore + cafe, Cafebrería El Péndulo.
Second Day in Mexico City
During your second full day in Mexico City, you will be exploring Centro, a busy area with tons of museums, monuments and markets.
Some of the best things to see in Centro include Zócalo, the main square in Mexico City, Templo Mayor Museum, Metropolitan Cathedral. Be sure to not miss the CDMX sign at Zócalo.
Walk west and check out Palacio de Bellas Artes, one of the prettiest buildings in Mexico City. This building is best seen from the Finca Don Porfirio cafe on top of the Sears department store. Or if you want to go up an observation deck, go up the Mirador Torre Latino right across the street from Sears.
If you have time, stop by Palacio Postal, a super beautiful post office in Mexico City, as well as The House of Tiles for the architecture, mural and the restaurant inside. Also be sure to stop by the beautiful Gran Hotel for a quick photo of its ceiling.
If you want to spend the day in Centro, you can visit Museo Franz Mayer, a beautiful art museum nearby and also stop by Mercado de San Juan, a large indoor food market dating back to 1955 or the Mercado de Artesanías La Ciudadela, a large handicraft market with clothes, bags, and other art and handicrafts.
My suggestion would be to spend half a day in Centro, then head down to Frida Kahlo Museum (reservation required) to learn more about the life and work of Frida Kahlo at her former home. It is also a popular Instagram photo spot in Mexico City.
Lastly you can go down to the Xochimilco neighborhood, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and take a ride on its famous boats.
Day 8 in Mexico: Teotihuacán (Optional)
I know I said this is a 7 day Mexico itinerary BUT if you do have one more day, then I would recommend that you take a day trip to see the pyramids from Mexico City in Teotihuacán.
Teotihuacán, meaning “birthplace of Gods”, was one of the largest and powerful cities in Mesoamerica. It is now a famous archeological site the Mesoamerican pyramids and ruins of other temples.
The most famous pyramids at Teotihuacán are the Pyramid of the Sun (Pirámide del Sol) and Pyramid of the Moon (Pirámide de la Luna) and you should also visit Quetzalcoatl Temple (Templo de Quetzalcóatl). Keep in mind that you cannot climb the pyramids at Teotihuacán anymore.
Alternatively, you can take public buses from Mexico City North Station to Teotihuacán.
This would give you more freedom to explore the pyramids and temples, and also allow you to go to the beautiful restaurant La Gruta. The restaurant is all over social media due to its uniqueness; it is literally located in a cave lit by candles.
This concludes your awesome one week in Mexico trip! If you want to fit in the pyramids in 7 days, I would suggest spending less time in San Miguel de Allende in this sample itinerary.
Best (and Worst) Months to Visit Mexico
Mexico is one of those countries that you can visit all year round. It never gets too hot or too cold, at least in Central Mexico mentioned in this itinerary. There is not a “worst” time to visit Mexico but there is a rainy season in Mexico.
The warmest months to visit Mexico City and central Mexico are April and May, with temperatures going up to the 80s (keep in mind that Mexico City is higher in altitude so it is slightly cooler than Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende).
The most popular time to visit Mexico is in December during the holidays as well as the end of October to early November for the Dia de los Muertos celebrations.
June to September is the rainy season in Mexico. While it doesn’t rain all day everyday, you can expect thunderstorms if you plan to visit in the summer, especially in the late afternoon and at night.
When we visited in July, we had perfect weather in Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende, but it did thunderstorm everyday in Mexico City starting at 5pm sharp. Although we did have rainy days starting at noon the last two days we were there (and my plane got hit by lightning upon taking off but clearly I am fine).
In summary, you won’t go wrong visiting Mexico any time of the year, but if you absolutely have to choose one, I would recommend visiting at the end of October and early November.
Getting Around During 1 week in Mexico
It was easy for us to get around Mexico during the one week we were there. As tourists, we used a combination of buses, taxis, and share ride services.
Flying in Mexico
Taking Buses in Mexico
For mid – long distance travel in Mexico, it is super convenient to take a bus! As mentioned previously, ETN and Primera Plus are two really well reviewed bus companies. Mexico City North Bus Station (Central de Autobuses del Norte) is where many buses depart from, including the bus to Teotihuacán.
Besides the two companies above, there are many other bus companies to choose from. Once you get to the bus station, you will see ticket counters and buy your tickets there.
Bus travel in Mexico is generally safe, but definitely keep an eye on your bags and pockets, especially at the bus station and if the bus is crowded.
Note that if you are in Mexico City, there are local buses and subways you can take to get around. But most tourists do not take local buses and opt for Uber/ Didi instead. But if you speak Spanish, are on a budget and feel comfortable navigating the public transportation system then you can take those!
Taxi and Rideshare Apps in Mexico
If you are traveling to bus stations and airports, you will see a ton of taxis waiting for you right outside. While I generally am reluctant to take taxis since you don’t know if they are legit or not, during our 7 days in Mexico we didn’t have any problems.
In places like Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende, it was a lot more convenient to grab a taxi instead of calling an Uber from the bus stations. We asked the hotels ahead of time how much we should be expected to pay for taxis, so we knew the price before talking to the taxi drivers.
Rideshare services are also a transportation option for you. I found that Didi (the Chinese ride-share app) worked better than Uber for us in San Miguel de Allende.
While an Uber would take 15-20 minutes to arrive, Didi came a lot faster. However keep in mind that you may need to pay cash for Didi (at least the app did not take my payments).
Other Questions You May Have about Traveling to Mexico for a Week
Is it safe to travel to Mexico
Mexico seems to have a bad rep when it comes to safety. In fact before my trip to Mexico so many of my friends who have never been to Mexico were worried and told me stories of someone their friends know got kidnapped or got mugged.
I felt Mexico was perfectly safe during our trip. However the places we went were known to be touristy and safe. If you follow this itinerary, go to touristy areas and cities, stay in the nice parts of Mexico City, don’t wander around late at night in bad neighborhoods or get into unmarked cars, I think you should be fine.
Do I need to speak Spanish to visit Mexico
Your trip to Mexico will be a lot more convenient and comfortable if you speak Spanish, even just some basic Spanish enough to check in with bus counters, restaurants, ask about reservation, and talk about prices.
If you really don’t speak Spanish, I would suggest you download Google Translate so you can use it offline. Also make sure you have the translate photo function so you can translate menus and signs!
I don’t speak any Spanish and my friends spoke some basic Spanish and we got around fine! There were blank looks a lot of times on our faces but we survived, so will you!
Travel Insurance for Mexico
I always get travel insurance before any trip as you never know what could happen (hiking injuries, theft, flight delays, lost baggages, etc) and you don’t want to end up paying for everything out of pocket.
To get that peace of mind and not worry about all these unfortunately things from ruining your trip, you should consider getting travel insurance.
World Nomads provides travel insurance for travellers in over 100 countries. As an affiliate, we receive a fee when you get a quote from World Nomads using this link. We do not represent World Nomads. This is information only and not a recommendation to buy travel insurance.
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