Coyoacán: The Magical Neighborhood Of The South
With a population of over 20 million people, Mexico City is the fourth largest city in the world. But don’t be intimidated by it’s size; it’s jam-packed with all kinds of incredible cultural and culinary experiences. Way too many to pack into one day trip alone.
So we’re going to do the hard work for you and in this article we focus on the first of two particular day trips you can take to explore some of the absolute highlights of Mexico City. When you’re ready to drag yourself away from the Rancho and all it’s rural luxuries, a day of metropolitan culture awaits…
First we go to the south of the city, to the area of Coyoacán, which was one of the first ever designated ‘Magic Neighbourhoods’, and incidentally it’s no surprise why. Here you will find the Frida Kahlo Blue House and many cultural galleries, the beautiful squares and churches of Coyoacán and San Angel, and the many artisan markets with vibrant goodies to take home. It’s the perfect trip for culture vultures, budding strollers, snap-happy photographers, avid shoppers and culinary adventurers.
So pull on those trainers, pack your bag and off we go.
There’s a plethora of great museums and galleries in Coyoacán, but even if this isn’t ordinarily your thing, we do suggest taking a stroll around the incredible Frieda Kahlo blue house. Begin your day here. A morning visit is usually much quieter and you won’t be faced with long queues in the midday heat. This is Mexico City’s most visited attraction after all.
If you’re not too familiar with the Frida Kahlo house, it’s a bright blue home dedicated to the life and work of the Mexican artist. She was born here, raised here, lived with her husband Diego Riviera here, and eventually died here. So when you step into the house, you really feel like you are experiencing a unique part of Mexico’s history by coming here. The blue house displays a number of her artworks, memorabilia and costumes, and many of the rooms are left just as they were after her passing in the 1950’s. You are simply walking back in time and into Diego and Frida’s lives.
The gardens and courtyards of the Blue House are serene and calming, and they lead you from room to room, allowing you to bask a little in the sunshine. It’s a timeless little world and it’s quite a surreal feeling when you step back outside onto the streets of Coyoacán, head filled with Frida’s life and art.
If you’re still thirsty for more historical houses, take a wander a few blocks away to the house and museum of Leon Trotsky. He and his wife originally lived at the Blue House with Frida and Diego, whom helped their asylum to be granted. After an alleged dispute they then moved just a few blocks away. This house and museum not only honors Leon Trotsky and his story of political asylum, but it is also home to an organization that works to promote political asylum in the world today.
After culture and houses, you may wish to liven things up a bit by visiting a modern day Mexican food market. Just walk south along Ignacio Allende from the Frida Khalo museum and you’ll soon come across the bustle, colors and fun. The closed-roof food market has a series of small shops lining the outside all the way along, but make sure to take a trip inside. Here you will find people selling fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers, seeds, sweets, fish… row upon row of vendors all with a variety of produce. This is great place to take photos as well as sample. The fruit stands offer some of Mexico’s most incredible fruit. Try a few unusual things and pick up a couple of pieces for a hot moment later in the day.
Coffee lovers will find a great little café around the corner from here. Café El Jarocho features teas and coffees that have won worldwide prizes. The people watching is pretty spectacular, too.
If you find the local scenery and people fascinating to observe, take a stroll down to the local squares. Here people sit around, relax and enjoy each other’s company and on the weekends music and entertainments often take place. In the Plaza Hidalgo, you will see the front of the church Temple de San Juan Bautista, it’s front façade still remains pretty much intact and this is definitely the time to start taking a few pictures.
If your thirst for more museums and culture continues it can soon be quenched with the Museum of National Popular Culture dedicated to Mexico’s ethnic and cultural diversity. Or the Jesus Reyes Heroles Cultural Center, a colonial estate hosting art and book presentations, that heralds some fantastic architectural beauty.
On this guided walk through Coyoacán, we are taking you in the direction of San Angel and it’s wonderful artisan shopping. The serious shoppers amongst you may feel the need for some serious sustenance and so Las Lupitas is a great option, a little off the beaten track you will find delicious local food that is both great value and superb quality.
There are even more cultural highlights in San Angel, and if watercolors are your thing, you’re definitely in luck. The world’s first museum devoted entirely to watercolor is right by the market and currently houses around 300 works in its private house and gardens. Or if you fancy visiting a wonderful old monastery, head to the Museo de El Carmen. It’s exterior and interior’s are exquisite and it’s home to an amazing gilded altarpiece in the chapel.
It’s time to find a few pesos in your pocket and explore the wonderful market of San Angel. Saturday sees this market really come alive with a huge amount of artisan stalls, street traders, music and performers. The weekdays might be slightly more leisurely but they certainly don’t disappoint, with a plethora of great craft shops and good food. The indoor market is also filled with traders but on a busy Saturday can sometimes be easily missed, so make sure to look out for the entrance and go inside.
All kinds of crafts and artifacts are celebrated in San Angel, the only thing we’ve never found is a suitcase shop as you may find you want to buy a second one to take all this wonderful stuff home. One particular shop with specially curated pieces is the Tianguis Artisanal San Jacinto. This is a wonderful store full of traditional and modern art and craft. You can buy something to take home for just a few pesos, but the larger items may have a heftier price tag. However the visual experience in itself is so rewarding, it’s definitely worth a visit.
If you’ve managed to take in all of this tour, phew, we suggest taking a stroll to the Plaza San Jacinto for a well-deserved margarita or other refreshing beverage. Fonda is a family owned restaurant which has been part of San Angel for years, the food is very good, the outdoor terrace a pleasure and it’s one of the few places you can try a special Mexican dish Chiles en Nogada all of year found.
Sore feet, bulging shopping bags, a head filled with culture and a camera with amazing images – you can see there’s so much to do just in Coyoacán, it’s a struggle to fit it all into one day. But you’re on holiday remember, so just choose the highlights you think sound best and enjoy all this wonderful and historic district has to offer.