I was so pleased to find Mexico City as number 1 in a recent National Geographic article on places to visit in 2019. I have another 9 months or so left here, so I am even more eager to explore my temporary home. This past weekend my boyfriend and I revisited a neighborhood that is often overlooked by tour guides, and even more disregarded by tourists. Going for the most popular neighborhoods like the city center, La Roma, Condesa, and Polanco, it is easy to dismiss a ride South to San Angel neighborhood. A little farther than all the previously mentioned areas, San Angel just moved up to the top of places I will be taking my friends and family to when they visit.
San Angel is quaint, and full of cultural activities that could keep your itinerary completely full for an entire weekend. But of all the days of the week to visit this colonial part of Mexico City, make sure you go on a Saturday. San Angel is best known for its Saturday market, full of painters, musicians, jewelry and clothing artisans. Of course, the streets will be a little more crowded on Saturdays, but it does not compare to the chaos of more urban areas like the city center.
Here are a few activities to stimulate your senses, and maybe motivate you to take a second look at Mexico City when browsing cheap flights for the New Year! After all, you’d be going to National Geographic‘s top choice for 2019.
1. Bazaar del Sabado
Located in the Plaza San Jacinto 11, this bazaar is full of luxurious and traditional Mexican goods, especially jewelry. While the bazaar is inside a colonial house, the surrounding plazas and streets are lined up with equally worthy stands. I like the outdoor area much more, the prices are lower, and there is more variety of both taste and quality. I love just looking at all the paintings, making the square look like an unbelievable outdoor museum. As far as paintings go, there is something for everyone’s taste.
Mexico City is the #2 city in the world for having the most museums (following London). While choices can be overwhelming, and you will most likely not get to see all the important museums in one trip, I highly recommend Diego and Frida’s studio in San Angel. It is an interesting architecture. Two buildings joined together by a bridge on the rooftop, which allowed the artists to have their own separate work space, and come together only when they really wanted to. Of course, there is the more popular Frida’s house museum in Coyoacan. However, if you are not a fan of waiting in line for 2+ hours, the Diego’s and Frida’s studio is a nice and quieter alternative.
If you are less of a Mexican pop culture fan, you could head to the Museo del Carmen, which was an old monastery. Aside from a big number of religious paintings, this museum has an impressive mummy exhibit. The bodies were found underground, and due to the type of soil in the area, the bodies were preserved in such a perfect way that you can even see the nails and the exact facial features of these people. No one knows who they are or how they died exactly.
While you might be able to grab a bite at the gourmet Mercado del Carmen, built in a beautiful colonial house, chances are you won’t find a satisfying vegan meal without breaking the bank. Instead, I recommend a place a bit more hidden from the tourist chaos: 1944 Vegan Coffe (yes, with one ‘e’). This cafe/restaurant on Avenida de la Paz 40 is a welcoming and cozy place to have a homemade Mexican meal. I highly recommend their vegan tacos made with jamaica flower. Jamaica is typically used to give flavor to plain water, but cooked as a topping for tacos was the most pleasant culinary surprise I have had in a while. If you are feeling less adventurous, you can order their lentil or quinoa-based burgers. Accompanied by a side of real french fries (the kind that feel like real potatoes), you will not be disappointed. Plus, from all that walking in Mexico City’s sunshine, you will need an energy boost. Their coffee is made with love.
4. Theater and cocktails
To end your day’s activities with a touch of class and excitement, check out a play at the beautiful Centro Cultural. Or catch more well known plays like Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House in the more modest Teatro Helenico. If plays are just not your thing, or you find that theater in Spanish may be too big of a challenge for a relaxing vacation, then I invite you to splurge on cocktails at one of the many bars and restaurants on Avenida Revolucion. I highly recommend Loretta (Avenida Revolucion 1426) for a fine dining experience or just a few margaritas.
So there you have it, your perfect Saturday in Mexico City, away from the more mainstream attractions and deeper into the cultural and colonial side of Mexico I have come to cherish myself. Make sure to reach out to me on social media if you are ever in town, and I might just meet you in 1944 for vegan tacos. Happy exploring!
Photo: Vanessa Lynn Uzcategui