The Heart of Mexico: 5-Day Itinerary to Mexico City & Oaxaca

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Curated By

Melissa Franco

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  • Mexico

  • Mexico City

  • Oaxaca

  • Arts & Culture

  • Boutique Travel

  • City Travel

  • Food & Wine

  • International Travel

  • Luxury Travel

  • Local Culture

  • Sightseeing

  • Museums

Statue with a beautiful gold angel at the top.
Curator’s statement

Right in the middle of Mexico, you'll find beautiful Mexico City - or D.F. as the locals call it. This sprawling metropolis is home to world-class museums and restaurants, along with beautiful parks, national monuments and the friendliest people you could hope to meet. A bit further south you'll find the vibrant city of Oaxaca, considered by many to be the true heart of Mexican food and culture. While much smaller than Mexico City, Oaxaca is also home to several museums and fantastic restaurants and has an abundance of attractions sure to impress a variety of visitors. Visiting these two vibrant cities would make for a fantastic vacation and a great way to get a taste of the real Mexico.

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Where to stay

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Sofitel Mexico City Reforma

A foodie favorite in Reforma, with a sleek, modern style, five restaurants and knockout city views.

Fora Perks
  • $100 food / beverage credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Casa Polanco

Mexico City's newest boutique hotel in the swanky neighborhood of Polanco with impeccable, monochromatic style and located just a walk away from the main shopping street Masaryk.

Fora Perks
  • $25 hotel / resort credit.

  • Welcome treat on arrival.

  • Upgrade & guaranteed 3pm check-out.

Four Seasons Hotel Mexico City

Close to Chapuletepec Park, this polished hotel is a standout for the unflappable service and gorgeous public spaces, from the courtyard restaurant to the rooftop pool.

Fora Perks
  • When you book Four Seasons through Fora, you will enjoy exclusive Four Seasons Preferred Partner benefits. Your advisor will be pleased to give you more details.

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Unlock perks by contacting Melissa to book your trip.

Day 1: Arrive in Mexico City

aerial view of buildings with mountains in the background

Upon arrival in Mexico City, you'll likely want to make your way to your hotel to freshen up. Most hotels will assist with booking an airport transfer, saving you the trouble of looking for a taxi. If you've arrived in the early afternoon, there are many places in Roma/Roma Norte where you can sit down to enjoy a great lunch. There's the well-known seafood restaurant Contramar, though you may have to wait for a table unless you reserve in advance. For vegetarians, Gold Taco has lots of delicious options.

Explore Chapultepec

Spend some time walking through the beautiful Chapultepec Park, where you can visit the Museum of Modern Art and the National Museum of Anthropology. A little farther north is the Polanco neighborhood, where you'll find luxury boutiques along with the department store Liverpool.

Not far from Polanco is the Soumaya Museum, offering free admission to all visitors. Also a non-profit cultural institution, Soumaya houses an impressive and varied art collection, from Pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica to European old masters, and modern western masters, including a large collection of casts and sculptures by Auguste Rodin. You're sure to find something of interest to everyone!

Day 2: Xochimilco and Coyoacan

colorful boats in body of water during daytime

Enjoy a traditional Mexican breakfast at your hotel then meet your private guide for a tour of Xochimilco and Coyoacan. If you've never heard of Xochimilco, you're in for a treat! Located in the southern end of Mexico City, you'll find the famous canals, what's left of a water transport system built by the Aztecs. Here you'll board a gondola-type boat called a Trajinera, which will steer you through the colorful canals and around artificial islands. This entire area was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987, but conservation efforts continue to this day to try to preserve as much of this ecologically sensitive area as possible.

After exploring the canals, your guide will take you to the nearby Coyoacan neighbourhood, known for its cobblestone streets and colonial architecture. Stop for lunch at one of the many restaurants - Los Arcos offers great seafood, La Mansion is known for its great food and excellent service - then visit the Frida Kahlo Museum, also known as Casa Azul (the Blue House). Note that tickets must be purchased in advance.

Mexico City is home to many world-class restaurants, and Pujol is probably the most famous of these. Led by Chef Enrique Olvera, the menu showcases Mexican gastronomy at its finest. But, you'll need to make reservations well in advance, this place is in high demand!

Day 3: Cultural sightseeing

large white building with blue skies

After a delicious breakfast at your hotel, head to the historic centre of Mexico City to explore the Zocalo (or main square) - the largest plaza in all of Latin America. The Spanish colonial cathedral at one end was built on top of the Aztec Templo Mayor, and is also the largest in Latin America. Built over two centuries, it is a mix of Renaissance, Baroque and Neo-Classical architecture. Art lovers will also want to visit the nearby Ministry of Education Building, to see the incredible murals by Diego Rivera, depicting the history of Mexico.

Just a block away from the Zocalo you'll find the Templo Mayor (main temple), the centre of the ancient Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. All that remains today are stone ruins, but they are impressive nonetheless.

A short walk from here is the Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts), a beautiful white marble palace and performing arts centre. Construction of the palace began in 1905 and finished in the 1930's, so it is an incredible combination of art nouveau and art deco styles. On the 2nd and 3rd floors, you'll find murals by Rufino Tamayo, Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros and Jose Clemente Orozco.

After a day out exploring, dinner at a great restaurant like Ticuchi, a vegetarian restaurant by Chef Enrique Olvera of Pujol fame. Since this is not as well known, it's much easier to get a table, and the food is fabulous!

Day 4: Travel to Oaxaca

Street lined with buildings and people during a daytime cultural event.

After an early breakfast, catch your flight to Oaxaca and get ready for more exploring. After checking in at your hotel, head out to one of the many centrally located restaurants for a delicious lunch. Casa Oaxaca El Restaurante features traditional Mexican flavours with a contemporary twist, and most of their ingredients come from their own organic gardens or local producers.

Spend the afternoon exploring central Oaxaca's many shops, museums and markets. Great options include the Contemporary Art Museum and the Textile Museum; Mercado Benito Juarez, just off the zocalo, is one of the state's most popular indoor markets, where you'll find mole powders, delicious local coffee, flowers and baskets.

For local handicrafts walk to nearby Colectivo 1050, where you'll find beautiful hand-made pottery and jewelry. Colectivo 1050 is a not-for-profit group working to preserve the traditional pottery skills of Oaxaca's artisan communities.

Day 5: Hierve el Agua

body of water with mountains in the background during daytime

After a good night's rest, start the day with a delicious traditional breakfast at your hotel before meeting your driver/guide for the day. Today you'll be exploring some of the incredible natural wonders around Oaxaca, starting with Hierve el Agua. Approx. 1.5 hrs south of Oaxaca's city centre you'll find these amazing rock formations that resemble waterfalls.

Hierve el Agua, which means "the water boils", consists of several formations of calcified water formed over thousands of years, and is one of only a few calcified water formations in the world. At this site, you'll also see springs and canals built by the Zapotecs around 2500 years ago. There is a great hiking loop that takes you below the falls to see the incredible formations.

Back in Oaxaca city, time to rest and freshen up before dinner at Criollo, a well-known restaurant serving local and seasonal dishes inspired by traditional Oaxacan cuisine. After dinner, sample Mezcal-based cocktails at the open-air bar at Casa Oaxaca El Restaurante, followed by a good night's rest before your trip home.

A note from Melissa

If you have an extra day to spend in Oaxaca, a trip out to Teotitlan del Valle is in order. Approx. 45 min. drive from central Oaxaca, this community is well known for its textiles, especially its beautiful wool rugs made on hand-operated looms, and dyed with local and natural colours. Local artisans are available to take you on a tour of family owned workshops and give you a crash-course on Zapotec history. In town you'll also find a lovely church and community museum worth visiting.

Need to Know

For more travel tips, check out Fora Advisor Zoe Schaeffer's guide to Mexico: Family-Friendly Adventures, from Mexico City to Oaxaca.

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Travel Advisor

Melissa Franco

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Mexico.