Artists paintings at Coyoacan Sunday market

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Coyoacán, said to mean “place of the coyotes,” oozes old-world charm with cobblestone streets, small plazas, churches, bars and restaurants. Today it is a neighborhood of Mexico City but until 1928, when it became a borough, it was considered a separate entity.

Getting To Coyoacán from Downtown Mexico City

Garden at Watercolor Museum
Garden at Watercolor Museum. Photo by Mari S. Gold

Filled with wonderful places to visit, Coyoacán requires a little effort to get there. The efficient Metro takes about twenty minutes to transport you from downtown Mexico City. Travel by city bus, Uber or the Hop on/Hop Off Turibus can take over an hour because the city’s traffic is horrendous.

A note of caution: for the bus, you need a ticket that must be purchased at special bus stops; Metro tickets are available at every Metro stop. On all public transport watch your belongings as pickpockets abound.

Frida Kahlo Museum and Other Coyoacán Attractions

Frida Kahlo Museum painting at Museo de Art Modern
Frida Kahlo painting at Museo de Art Modern.
Photo by Mari S. Gold

For many the main attraction in Coyoacán is the Museo Frida Kahlo (Frida Kahlo’s house), the famed Casa Azul, which requires tickets that are best booked ahead.

The two-story Mercardo (Market) Coyoacán is a popular place to see, buy and eat wonderful food from local vendors. The market also sells artisanal goods ranging from cheap souvenirs to higher-end jewelry, clothing for all ages, leather goods, pottery and much more.

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On Sundays, the outdoor plaza in front of the building is full of artists selling their works with local musicians adding to the festive feeling. I bought a painting for a very reasonable price and spent a long time browsing works in different media, sculpture and weavings.

MUAC, Amazing Art in a Gorgeous Setting

Side of MUAC building with logo
Side of MUAC building with logo. Photo by Mari S. Gold

The Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo (University Museum of Contemporary Art), popularly called MUAC, is well worth visiting. The building, on the university grounds, is spectacular. The art is displayed with ample space around pieces so that each can be fully appreciated.

Exhibits change but, when I was there, a show devoted to the work of Beatriz González caught my attention. In particular, this riff on Picasso’s Guernica, set off by itself in a large room. Outside the museum is a sculpture garden with works by contemporary Mexican artists.

The Museum’s café, Nube Siete, (Cloud Seven) serves excellent food in a dramatic setting with a glass floor so you can look down and see the volcanic rock beneath.

Nube Siete restaurant with volcanic rocks underneath
Nube Siete restaurant with volcanic rocks underneath.
Photo by Mari S. Gold

Your spirit may be elevated by the Museum of Popular Culture which covers all forms of folk art. When I was there the ceiling was hung with huge crafted flowers and fanciful animals and the lobby displayed a highly decorated Volkswagen. 

Although the museum is fairly small, between eye and foot fatigue visitors may enjoy it more on a day other than one spent exploring MUAC and the Coyoacán market.

Little Known Museum of Watercolor

Watercolor by Alfredo Guati Rojo at Watercolor Museum
Watercolor by Alfredo Guati Rojo at Watercolor Museum.
Photo by Mari S. Gold

Whether or not you are a watercolor fan, the free Museo Nacional de la Acuarela (watercolor) is delightful. Founded in 1964 by Cuernavacan-born Alfredo Guati Rojo, the original downtown space was wrecked by the 1985 earthquake and relocated to its present site, C. Salvador Novo 88, in Coyoacán. There are six galleries in the main house with works by many watercolor artists including Guati Rojo.

A separate building holds temporary exhibits. There is an outdoor café for coffee and snacks and a souvenir area. The Museum holds classes for adults and children in various media. The entire area is surrounded by a beautiful garden filled with cacti, flowers and sculpture.

Artist working at Market Coyoacán Mexico City
Artist working at Market in Coyoácan. Photo by Mari S. Gold

A Beautiful Walk Past Old Mansions

The lovely Jardín Centenario is a park at the center of Coyoácan. From there, heading to the watercolor museum, was a half-hour trek on cobblestoned Francisco Soro Avenue. The walk passes beautiful old mansions. Some are marked with plaques like the house lived in by Mexican poet and diplomat Octavio de Paz, Nobel Prize winner for Literature in 1990.

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I also passed The Instituto Italiano de Cultura, (Italian Cultural Institute). This adobe and stone mansion was built in the 17th and 18th centuries and remodeled in the 20th. Many of these gorgeous old houses drip with bright purple bougainvillea. In addition, some have inviting center courtyards and several have been turned into Airbnb’s.

Along the way, window displays in cafes and bakeries beg you to drop in. Mexican sweets are delicious and often small works of art in their own right.

There are many sites to explore in Coyoácan Mexico City. The well-known places are terrific but by branching out you are likely to have far less crowded, highly rewarding experiences.

Beatriz Gonzalez mural at MUAC Coyoacán Mexico City
Beatriz Gonzalez mural at MUAC. Photo by Mari S. Gold

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Author Bio: Mari S. Gold is a freelance writer whose work has been published in The New York Times, American Profile, Go Nomad, www.newyorkarts.com, Passport, Davler Media’s City Guide, Stratton Magazine, Go World Travel and other outlets. A lifelong New Yorker and avid traveler, she also writes on food, theater, dance and cultural events. Her blog, But I Digress… is at www.marigoldonline.net

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