“Just love the chaos and tackiness.”—Jo Tuckman, writer, The Guardian. Boozy weekend jaunt on florid barges along the chinampas (floating gardens) of the Aztecs. Waterborne entertainment and sustenance from paddling mariachis and taco sellers in canoes. In the far south of the city.
Bar La Opera
Try some tequila in this classic watering hole in the heart of Mexico City. Accessible and authentic. The opulent mirrored bar is straight out of Manet. Ave. Cinco de Mayo 10, Col. Centro. Tel. 55 5512 8959.
"A place the urban jungle couldn’t quite swallow, with walled gardens, Franciscan churches, cobblestone streets and shaded plazas."—Catherine Dunn, managing editor, Inside Mexico. Busy church, markets, dancers, clowns, balloons, fountains, old- and new-age hippies, craft stalls, and drums, Jarocho coffee and los famosos helados (ice cream), all in the quaint streets that lead between the two squares and Frida Kahlo’s Blue House. www.coyoacan.df.gob.mx
Chapultepec Park, Castle, and Zoo
Go strolling, boating, and take the mini train to get a sense of the size of the mammoth park, one of the city’s pulmones (lungs). Renovated with an eye to tourism and education, the National Museum of History inside the castle is a beautifully designed introduction to Mexican history (www.visitmexico.com). Zoo highlights include pandas, snakes, and butterfly house.
The Museums of Chapultepec
Divide the day between the Museo Rufino Tamayo (Tel. 52 55 5286 6519, www.museotamayo.org), the Museo Nacional de Antropología (Tel. 52 55 5512 3224, www.mna.inah.gob.mx) and, if you find time, the Museo de Arte Moderno, with a leisurely break for lunch in one of neighboring Polanco’s stylish restaurants.
The former Aztec Temple has been expertly excavated and converted into the most accessible museum about the capital’s pre-conquest past. Near the cathedral on the Zócalo. Tel. 52 55 5542 4943; www.templomayor.inah.gob.mx
Board the bus at any of the many historical, cultural, and architectural monuments that serve as stops on the route, from the Zócalo and Anthropology Museum to the Angel of Independence and Chapultepec Park. The ticket is valid for 24 hours. www.turibus.com.mx.
Plaza Garibaldi and Bar Tenampa
Where locals come, often inebriated, to pay for a tear-jerking tune, or also to hire a band for a fiesta. Tip: This is not the safest area late at night. Tenampa, Plaza Garibaldi 12, Col. Centro; tel. 52 55 5526 6176.
The Pyramids of Teotihuacan
The mammoth pyramid of the sun and its neighbor, the moon, are the best known highlights of one of the largest Pre-Columbian city in the Americas, but the most spectacular is that of the Plumed Serpent (Templo de Quetzalcóatl). Get an early start for the long haul northeast to clamber around in the morning and take shelter in the museum and covered areas during the midday sun. Bring a good guidebook to make the most of this visit. 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tel. 52 55 595 60052; fee.
Museo Leon Trotsky
Everybody goes to Frida Kahlo’s museums, but most ignore Leon Trotsky who gained asylum in Mexico in 1936 with the help of Kahlo’s husband, painter Diego Rivera. Four years later he was murdered with an ice axe inside his fortress-house here in Coyoacán. The museum offers a real sense of how Trotsky was hemmed in at the end. Río Churubusco 410, Coyoacán; tel. 52 55 5658 8732; fee.
Palacio de Bellas Artes and The Alameda Park
An architectural gem as well as a treasure trove that unites murals of Orozco, Rivera, Tamayo, and Siqueiros, and a Tiffany glass mosaic curtain. Stroll in the adjacent park among the fountains and monuments, and look for the policharros (a mounted policeman dressed like a mariachi). 1 Avenida Hidalgo, Col. Centro; tel. 52 55 5512 2593; fee. www.bellasartes.gob.mx