Mexico City is having a magic moment, thanks to its formidable art scene and extraordinary food culture. Amy Wilentz visited recently to explore the great capital, and came back with these five favorite things to do—and what thing to avoid.
What To Do
This compact park at the edge of Polanco is a great place to go for a calm morning run. You can stop at the aviary and peek in at the birds. The statue of Honest Abe will make the Yanquis in town feel right at home. And Café Europa is just across the street for a strong morning double espresso.
A great Friday lunch place. All the important businessmen get here around two or later; it’s empty at noon. The crowd here is middle-aged and conservative and well aware of its own standing. There are paunches among them, and mustaches of a certain proud grandeur; there are ladies in tight-fitting dresses, and an impressive amount of lipstick and décolletage. It’s a place where people who’ve worked hard can wind down from their week—waiters circulate with complimentary mezcales. The duck tacos are highly recommended. Reserve absolutely, and don't dress down. (Praga 14, Zona Rosa; 52-55-5208-4290).
These regularly scheduled street markets are today’s continuation of Mexico’s ancient open-air fairs. Scores of small food stalls serve fantastic tacos and other authentic delights. Wander through, taking special notice of the vendors who come from all sorts of outlying areas, and often wear typical dress. In addition to food and produce, there’s also hardware, clothing, antiques, and junk.
Condesa: Tuesdays: Augustin Melgar near Pachuca.
Roma: Sundays: Alexander Pushkin.
Polanco: Saturdays: Aristoteles between Emilio Castelar and Luis G. Urbina on the Parque Lincoln.
The Diego Rivera Mural Museum
Arguably Rivera’s masterpiece, his mural “Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda Central” was moved to this building after the Hotel del Prado, for which it was painted, was badly damaged in the 1985 earthquake. To come upon it here, even though you know what you’re about to see, is almost heart-stopping; it’s like entering another world. And not only that! The park in which all the action of this mural takes place is located, not by accident, only a few steps from the door. So first you see it as Rivera saw it, and then you can see it for yourself, though reality is a little less colorful. Best spent dollar fifty ever. (Plaza de la Solidaridad at Balderas y Colón, near the metro Hidalgo, Centro Histórico-Alameda; 52-55-5512-0754).
Museo Dolores Olmedo Patiño
This amazing institution in Xochimilco at the southeastern end of Mexico City was once the home of Olmedo, a wealthy businesswoman, philanthropist, divorcee, and mother of four. She was a patron of the great Mexican painter Frida Kahlo and a patron and close friend of Kahlo’s husband, Diego Rivera, as well as the model for one of his revelatory portraits. Some of Kahlo and Rivera’s greatest paintings hang here in this grand hacienda whose first stones were laid in the 1600s. Go early in the morning or late in the afternoon, so you can walk slowly through the magnificent gardens and experience the glory of the plantings and the animals, especially the parade of peacocks and the sheer weirdness of the legendary hairless Mexican dogs called Xoloitzcuintles with which Rivera was obsessed. There’s also a large archaeological collection and a folkloric section that showcases the playful, imaginative folk art still being produced in Mexico. Olmedo’s personal hoard of porcelain and ivory from around the world is worth its own museum, but that too can be seen here. The collection includes more than 100 Riveras, not all of which are on display. (Avenida Mexica 5843; 52-55-555-1016).
What Not To Do
Never hail a taxi—many drivers are unlicensed, unmonitored, and unsafe. Instead, ask your hotel to call a reliable cab company for you. Or, if you’re out and about, go to a stand labeled Sitio de Taxi, or ask the doorman of a nearby hotel to get a cab for you.
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