What to Do and See

 

Here are some suggestions of places to visit around the house (see maps going East and West) and further afield. (Don’t miss the tips on transport above!)


Places you can walk to (the Metro stations close by are mentioned in case you prefer not to walk, or you can always book a taxi to take you there).


The Centro Histórico is to the east of the house, the Zona Rosa to the west, and the Colonia Roma to the south.


The house is located at the east end of the Colonia Juarez (where the Zona Rosa is). Across the road to the east is the Centro Histórico. There is a big avenue (Chapultepec) running south of the building that divides the Colonia Juarez from the Colonia Roma. All are within walking distance, and have interesting places to visit. Here are some recommendations.




A minute’s walk away you can find a good food market that sells fresh vegetables, fruit, fish, meat, etc. just outside the Cuauhtemoc Metro Station. There are also other shops and supermarkets within a short walk from the house.  


 

 

The Centro Histórico.


If you decide to walk to the Centre (See map going East) you can stop at different places of interest on the way to or back.


The Arts and Crafts market (by Metro Balderas) is a few blocks away. It is one of the best markets of its kind. It has a good selection of quality goods, and prices are definitely better than in other places. (However, there is also a very good crafts shop with a more trendy and elegant selection just a few blocks north of the house on Paseo de la Reforma)


The Alameda Central (Metro Hidalgo and Metro Bellas Artes) is a small, very beautiful central garden from colonial times, with fountains and pathways, and surrounded by fine buildings: the Palace of Fine Arts (see below), several churches to the north over the road on Plaza de la Santa Vera Cruz and west, across Reforma (San Hipólito) and the Museo Franz Mayer (where you can see a stupendous collection of colonial art). The park is a very popular destination particularly on Sundays.





The Palace of Fine Arts (Metro Bellas Artes) is on the east side of the Alameda. It an impressive art nouveau building (the best in Mexico of its sort) on the outside and a marvellous example of art deco inside. It is the most important theatre for classical concerts, opera and ballet. It also houses art galleries where you can see painting of the famous Mexican “muralistas” (Rivera, Orozco and Siqueiros), and others. It is also the site for special exhibits of art from around the world. It is definitely worth visiting, and it also has a very pleasant café where you can relax and have a light lunch, coffee or a drink. Even though the theatre is mostly for classical performances, the National Folk Ballet performs there regularly. It is worth seeing because they put on a good show with typical dances from all over the country. Also it is the only time (I think) when the enormous Tiffany glass curtain covering the whole stage is displayed before the performance and raised at the beginning.


Don’t miss the elegant Central Post Office, opposite the palace, and the Plaza Tolsá, with the Museo Nacional, the Palacio de Mineria  and the restaurant Los Girasoles (a good place for lunch or dinner—try the tequila served with sangrita in cucumber or tomato glasses).


If you take the road called Madero towards the Zocalo (the Central Square of the City), you will soon see the Colonial “House of Tiles” (Casa de los Azulejos). Originally a wealthy nobleman’s home, It is an exquisite example of colonial craftsmanship that unfortunately houses a shop, called Sanborns. However it is worth going in and looking at its formidable patio where the restaurant is located. You can also go up the stairs to more bars and restaurants. Food in Sanborns is nothing to be recommended, except that it is safe and cheap even if flavourless.


Opposite the House of Tiles on Madero you will see the Church of San Francisco, and further along the road on your left will be the Church La Profesa. Both are interesting and you can pop in to have a look at them. Another building worth seeing is the Palacio de Iturbide (a man who transformed Mexico into an Empire for one year in the early 1800s) on your right. It now belongs to a bank (Banamex), and parts of it are open to the public. There are sometimes exhibitions and other events in it. At the end of the road you will find the Zócalo.

The Cathedral will be on your left. It has one of the most beautiful organs I have seen. To the side of the Cathedral will be the Templo Mayor. These are the ruins of the pyramids that stood at the Centre of Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital. The remains and the well-designed museum are very well worth the visit. The National Palace will be to the right of the Cathedral, just in front of you at the far end of the square. Parts of it are open to the public, and you can see more Muralistas paintings. They all are worth visiting.





The whole area behind the Cathedral and around the Zocalo is full of interesting museums, colonial buildings, etc. A good travel guide will help you decide which to visit. A must is the Plaza de Santo Domingo, where the Inquisition had its main hold and prisons, and now is home to a row of out-door public typists and printers for hire. Another is the SEP (Education Ministry) building, with quadrangles full of Rivera murals. There is also an excellent Mexican restaurant just behind the Cathedral called “La Casa de las Sirenas” (The House of the Mermaids).


On the south side of the Zocalo you will find the local government buildings, to your right. And where you would be standing there will be an arcade with shops and hotels.

The Gran Hotel de la Ciudad de México, at the next corner if you turn right, is worth popping into to see its splendid stained glass and wrought iron roof. 

 

Other areas of the city well worth visiting are:


The Colonia Roma, just south of the house and to the west, is a late nineteenth century neighbourhood with some very beautiful streets. You can walk south along Orizaba Street to Alvaro Obregon Avenue, and visit the Casa Lamm for lunch or drinks. There are several restaurants on the way. Bordering the Roma to the west there is a trendy neighbourhood called Condesa also with plenty of restaurants and bars. It is a bit further and best reached by taxi.


To the South, either by Metro or taxi, you can visit Coyoacan, Chimalistac and San Angel, three beautiful colonial towns that are now part of the city. Coyoacán is the closest, and its square (also called zocalo) has a gorgeous church, one of the conquistador Cortez’s palaces, fine restaurants and cafés, bookshops, typical Mexican bars (Cantina la Guadalupana for example), and also the Frida Kahlo Museum and Trotsky’s house (with his tomb in the garden). Chimalistac, next to Coyoacán, is a labyrinth of beautiful cobbled streets with charming plazas and colonial residences. San Angel also shares the mansions, beautiful cobbled streets and churches (the mummies in the Convento del Carmen are interesting) and has a colourful bazaar every Saturday of arts and crafts. The plaza de San Jacinto has a very good Mexican restaurant (the Fonda San Angel).


Further south is the Ciudad Universitaria, (the National University ‘City’), that also has a Cultural Centre with concert halls and theatres).

The Zona Rosa


A lively area with plenty of night life and restaurants and hotels, and the centre of gay life in the City. I would recommend the following restaurants:

-The Focolare on Hamburgo Street is a great place for good Mexican food accompanied with folk dancing and shows for tourists that are enjoyable.

-the Cicero Centenario is another good Mexican restaurant (on Londres, across Florencia).

You will find here also several tourist agencies (e.g. Grey Line at 166 Londres Street) where you can take tours to more distant places, like the pyramids of Teotihuacan, Tepotzotlan (a wonderful Jesuit convent), or Xochimilco (the floating gardens where you take a punted boat-ride through the canals).


The Zona Rosa is a good place to walk to (just about 10 to 15 minutes from the house the shortest way, or the next Metro stop from Cuauhtemoc). You can walk up Bucareli to Paseo de la Reforma, the most beautiful avenue in the city, and then west (to your left). It will be a longer walk to the Zona Rosa, but very pleasant. Paseo de la Reforma is full of monuments along the sides and at its glorietas (roundabouts), shops, cinemas and restaurants. There is a new fountain (which I have not seen yet) at Bucareli and Reforma. Then you will find the statues of Christopher Colombus and Cuauhtemoc (The Aztec emperor), followed by the renowned Angel of Independence at the centre of the Zona Rosa, and further west the Fountain of the Goddess Diana and Chapultepec Park, the main park of the city. From the gates to the park, guarded by two lions, you will see the Castle of Chapultepec rising above on the hill in front of you, home of Mexico’s second emperor of the 19th century, the Hapsburg Maximilian. And across the road on Reforma, the Torre Mayor, the tallest building in Latin America, will be towering above you,. The top floor is open to visitors to get some breathtaking views of the city (on a clear day).




Chapultepec and the Museum of Anthropology.

This area is quite a walk from the flat. I would recommend that when you decide to visit it you book a taxi to take you there, mostly because otherwise you might find yourself too tired to visit the Anthropology Museum.

From the beginning of Chapultepec park further West you will find several museums, leading to the Museo de Antropologia, a must for anyone visiting the City. On the way to it you will pass the Museum of Modern Art, and the Tamayo Gallery (housing many of the famous painter’s works). The zoo will be on your left before reaching the Anthropology museum on the right of Reforma.


Polanco is the neighbourhood behind the Anthropology Museum. It is an elegant and upmarket area full of expensive restaurants and posh shops. Amongst the restaurants I would recommend in that area there is Los Almendros for a meal from the Yucatan peninsula. There is also a Hard Rock Café in an ornate mansion, plenty of international restaurants, and a charming marketplace with cafés, especially in the ‘pasaje’ (open arcade) behind the market.

 


Further afield I would recommend visiting:


Teotihuacan, the pyramids. An impressive must for every visitor to Mexico City.

Xochimilco with its canals, floating gardens and jolly atmosphere (better in a group with a picnic).

Tepotzotlan, the Museo del Virreinato (the Museum of the Viceroyalty): This Jesuit monastery is well worth a day’s visit and its chapel is considered the most exquisite example of the baroque in Latin America.


One-day trips to the following neighbouring cities:


Cuernavaca is 45 minutes by coach, Tepoztlan about 1 hour (different from Tepotzotlan above!) and Taxco (about 2 hours),  from the Southern Coach Station (about 45 minutes by Metro to the Taxqueña station).





Puebla is worth several days’ visit, but some highlights can be appreciated in a day trip. It is 1 hour and 45 minutes by coach from the East Coach Station (TAPO, San Lazaro Metro Station).  Nearby Cholula (20 mins by taxi) has the biggest pyramid in the world, covered now in grass and with a colonial church at its top.



Dancing in Cholula



 

© Juan Galindo