I went to one of the world’s great cities for 40 hours this weekend. I’m not sure about the exact number of times I’ve visited Mexico City (CDMX), but I would imagine the number is now somewhere between five and ten.
The first several trips there were essentially bar hopping visits with friends. They have great bars in Condesa and very nice restaurants in Polanco. I was a younger man then, which probably explains why I chose to go that route, rather than actually sight-see and experience the plethora of culture CDMX has to offer.
Prior to this weekend, the last time I visited was in November to watch the NFL Mexico game, where my beloved Kansas City Chiefs defeated the San Diego Chargers at Estadio Azteca. It would be cool knowing I watched them live in their Superbowl winning season (fingers crossed).
I didn’t see much else that trip, as I wasn’t in the mood to, but I did manage to visit the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, which was incredible and is often thought of as the golden hen of museums (there are over 150 of them!) in Mexico City. You’d need multiple visits to even come close to actually soaking in all of the history there, and even then I don’t know if you’d be able to fully process what’s to be found in the 11 rooms of permanent exhibits, not to mention the temporary ones.
This time, though, with essentially only a Saturday to be spent in the city, I decided to dedicate the time towards crossing off some tourist attractions that I’d skipped in prior visits. While sitting at work on Friday, I did some research and decided on three attractions that I could fit in on Saturday: Museo Frida Kahlo, Parque La Mexico and Palacio de Bellas Artes in the Centro Historico.
I flew in on Friday night, met a friend at a house in the area of Coyoacan, which is in the southern part of the city, and ordered in some tacos al pastor (my favorite tacos in Mexico). I was dead tired from a bout of insomnia the night before so we didn’t do anything noteworthy on Friday night.
Museo Frida Kahlo
I woke up fairly early on Saturday and decided to make Museo Frida Kahlo my first stop, as it’s located in Coyoacan and was $50 peso Uber ride away from where I was staying, making it the closest of the three attractions. When I arrived there was a line that stretched around the corner of the museum. I ended up waiting in line for a little over an hour and paid $270 pesos to enter. Aside from knowing Frida was a famous artist and had one eyebrow, I entered without knowing much else about her. I listened to some of the other English speaking visitors and overheard them about her marriage to fellow artist Diego Rivera and found their love story to be very interesting. One woman pointed out an image of Diego and said he looked like such a nice man, while her friend said that he most certainly wasn’t. He was constantly unfaithful to Frida, even by having an affair with her younger sister, yet she stuck by him for some reason (I guess some people might call that love). She accepted his cheating and then became unfaithful to Diego in return, and had a well-known affair with Leon Trusky — an exiled communist from the Ukraine (she knew how to pick ’em).
They lived in the house where the museum is located from the year they were married in 1929 until 1954. During those years they divorced in 1940 but remarried the same year. Their love for each other seemed toxic when you read about it, but they were clearly never able to fully quit one another. A lot of Frida’s work are self portraits that reflect her personal trials, which if you read through some famous quotes by her, probably included bouts of depression.
Caza Azul was Frida’s childhood home and it’s where she was born and where she died. Walking through the property you get to look at not only her paintings, but personal objects that give a very close look at what her life was like and how well respected she was by fellow artists as her personal items included a lot of gifts she’d received from them. I walked through each room and soaked in as much as I could. The gardens outside were beautiful and on a pleasant January morning, were a nice place to sit and soak in the sun. It was more expensive than any other museum I’ve been to, which was surprising for its size, but it gives you such a close view of one of history’s most appreciated female artists, that it’s worth the price of admission.
Parque La Mexico
I did make it to Parque La Mexico in Condesa, albeit briefly. I was hungry when I arrived and my friend wanted to try some tacos al pastor himself (I have no idea how it was even possible he hadn’t yet). We ended up getting some which weren’t the traditional take on them, but were tasty nonetheless. A quick look at the park actually left me underwhelmed as I couldn’t help but compare it Parque Chapultepec, which is easily superior in size and attractions. A quick walk through, however, reminded me of the parks you’d find in Europe, with stone pathways, fountains, waterfalls and ponds. I’d compare it to some that I waked through in Paris and in Milan in the summer. If you’re staying in Condesa, it’s definitely worth checking out for a bit of an escape from the concrete jungle.
Palacio de Bellas Artes
Palacio de Bellas Artes is thought of as the “Cathedral of of Art” in Mexico. It’s an appropriate name when you see it in person. The architecture is impressively beautiful. I won’t pretend I know much about art styles, but I can say that it’s a fairly recent construct, with it being inaugurated in 1934. One thing I found interesting is that the palace has sunken 4 meters into the ground since it was built, all thanks to Mexico City’s construction on top of the drained lake bed of Tenochtitlan, the former capital of the Aztec empire. That’s the same reason the city is so prone to earthquake damage.
If you enter, you’ll see murals painted in the early-mid 20th century that pay tribute to the creation of Mexican identity (the mixture of Spanish and indigenous). The capacity of the theater is 1000 and it is the home to ballet and orchestra groups that perform there regularly.
While I was there snapping photos, I witnessed a few hundred Mexican women protesting the murders of a couple of other female activists earlier in January. They threw red paint at police officers (who were ironically mostly women as well) and chanted for justice in a country where, sadly, such a thing is hard to come by. One sad statistic that I read while researching what the protest was about stated that 10 women are killed in Mexico every day, making it one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a woman.
Wallace Whisky Bar
This is the first bar I ever visited in Mexico City, I think back in 2015 or 2016. It’s located in Condesa in an area full of bars and restaurants, making it a good spot for a night out. We stopped off after sightseeing for a couple of pints. It’s darkly lit, has a wide genre of music on its playlist and is a nice place to grab a pint or a cocktail. We had a couple and ended Saturday earlier than I normally would, but it was a nice way to end the day before the flight back to Monterrey the following day.
No matter how many times you visit Mexico City, a single day is an opportunity to make and tick off a list of a few things to see or do.