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Coyoacan District Walking Tour (Self Guided), Mexico City

Coyoacán, or “The Land of Coyotes” in Nahuatle, is a relatively quiet neighborhood in the heart of Mexico City, one of its 16 boroughs. Formerly a rural village, over the years Coyoacán has become a rich pocket of art and history in the Mexican capital. Iconic figures like Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky, great artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera sought refuge and inspiration in this area. To uncover the history and to explore the unique spirit of this typically Mexican neighborhood reflected in its picturesque parks, many museums, colorful market, and lovely cafes lining the peaceful plazas and narrow 16th century streets adorned with unique murals, embark on your own adventure using this self-guided tour.
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Coyoacan District Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Coyoacan District Walking Tour
Guide Location: Mexico » Mexico City (See other walking tours in Mexico City)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 6
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.6 Km or 1.6 Miles
Author: doris
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Frida Kahlo Museum (La Casa Azul)
  • Leon Trotsky House Museum
  • Coyoacan Market
  • Parroquia de San Juan Bautista
  • Centennial Garden and Fountain of the Coyotes
  • Francisco Sosa Avenue
1
Frida Kahlo Museum (La Casa Azul)

1) Frida Kahlo Museum (La Casa Azul) (must see)

The lifestyle of affluent Mexican Bohemia is vividly portrayed in this historic U-shaped house with high blue walls, called La Casa Azul (The Blue House). The place is also known as a museum dedicated to the life and work of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, and is the most visited among museums in Mexico City.

The Casa Azul is the home where Frida Kahlo lived with her husband, muralist Diego Rivera, until her death in 1954. Located in the Coyoacán district, the house originally belonged to Frida’s parents and is where she and her sisters were raised.

The former sitting room is filled with paintings of Frida’s family and her last work 'Viva la Vida', a vibrant still life picture of watermelons. Other exhibits within the museum include masks, colorful and elaborate costumes worn by Frida, idols and giant papier-mache Judas masks. The kitchen preserves the utensils used by the household, while the lush courtyard contains a small pink stepped pyramid designed by Rivera, pre-Columbian idols and tropical paintings.

After Frida's death, Rivera donated the house to the Mexican people and four years later it became a museum. The latter is now open for viewing Tuesday through Sunday and, for the visitors' convenience, has a gift-cum-tea shop at the back.

Why You Should Visit:
Colorful, intimate, fascinating museum in an awesome area! Since Frida Kahlo was a bright, colorful and eclectic decorator, the home is a joy to tour through and see how the artist designed and lived in her private space.

Tip:
The Coyoacán neighborhood has a beautiful central plaza and square with great restaurants, adorable coffee shops, a large market, beautiful and colorful homes, and great energy on weekends with plenty of activity in the parks and people walking around. If you visit the museum, it would be great to dedicate some time afterward to explore the surrounding area!

Opening Hours:
Tue, Thu-Sun: 10am-5:30pm; Wed: 11am-5:30pm; closed on Mondays
Sight description based on wikipedia
2
Leon Trotsky House Museum

2) Leon Trotsky House Museum

The Leon Trotsky House Museum in Coyoacán honors Leon Trotsky and the organization that promotes political asylum. The core of the complex is the house in which Trotsky lived from 1939 to 1940 together with his wife and teenage grandson while in exile, and where the Russian communist dissident was murdered, on 20 August 1940, by Stalin's NKVD agent, Ramón Mercader.

The entire complex is encompassed by high outer walls with watchtowers, which give it a sort of fortress-like appearance. This measure was necessitated by an earlier, failed attempt on Trotsky's life made on 24 May 1940 by a group of NKVD agents assisted by Mexican painter David Alfaro Siqueiros.

The house, and especially the study in which Mercader killed Trotsky with an ice axe blow to his head, is kept exactly as it was at that moment, including the papers and the books in their exact positions. Other rooms within the museum display photographs, newspapers, and personal effects of Trotsky, including his trademark small round glasses. The guards’ house contains a permanent photographic collection featuring images of Trotsky's family and his participation in the Russian Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. There are also temporary exhibit halls that host showings by various artists each month.

The outside garden is maintained with tropical flowers and other plants, such as rare cacti, which Trotsky collected. In the center of the garden is the tomb of Trotsky and his wife marked by a stone stele and a flagpole with the Soviet flag. The complex was turned into a museum and asylum institution in 1990, marking the 50th anniversary of Trotsky's assassination.
Sight description based on wikipedia
3
Coyoacan Market

3) Coyoacan Market

They say, if you want to get to know the daily life of an area, dive deep into its market. Established in 1921 (although the location has moved since), the Coyoacán Market, one of the icons of the Coyoacán neighborhood, is also one of Mexico City's most iconic shopping destinations. Whether you want to gawk at the rows of colorful products or snag some affordable textiles, this market is good for anyone who wants a truly local experience.

Particularly famous for its color, folklore and tradition, the Mercado Coyoacán has been selling everything under the sun for the better part of the 20th century through the 21st. Over this period, hundreds of artists have walked its halls, including the likes of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, for whom Coyoacán was their hood. In addition to every Mexican market's staples, like fresh fruits and veggies, meat, groceries, etc., here you can find loads of snacks, full meals, juices and smoothies, crafts, costumes for all occasions, traditional Mexican clothing and toys, plants, gifts and even small birds (you name it).

In time for every seasonal festival, it has everything you can possibly need for decorating, cooking and celebrating the event. In December, for instance, it is common to find here numerous stalls selling romeritos, candy and piñatas, whereas in early November here are flowers and costumes for the Day of the Dead, while in September – hats, flags and everything else necessary for the national holidays then. There are also tonnes of souvenirs to choose from, and at the rather affordable prices too.

The complex covers an entire block of Del Carmen colony and has three large shops and a roof arch type of structure that once housed a flea market.

Tip:
Although not particularly great a place for handicrafts, if you are interested in seeing how the locals do their everyday shopping, this is your place. But be warned that the shopping alleys are narrow, so stay away if you're not a fan of tight, crowded spaces.
Souvenir prices here are much MUCH lower than elsewhere, e.g. the El Sabado Bazaar, so don’t even bother going there if you need lots of souvenirs.
4
Parroquia de San Juan Bautista

4) Parroquia de San Juan Bautista

Parroquia de San Juan Bautista, aka Iglesia de San Juan Bautista or Iglesia de Coyoacán, is a 16th century Catholic church and former mission dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, presiding over the south side of Plaza Hidalgo. To build this church, eight years after the conquest was completed, Hernán Cortés granted to a group of friars of the Roman Catholic Order of Preachers, better known as the Dominicans, a vast plot of land which he, in turn, had received from the native Ixtolinque chief baptized into the Catholic faith under the name of Juan de Guzmán.

Going in fits and starts between 1522 and 1552, the construction took place on the site of a calmecac, a school for the sons of Aztec nobility, whose ruins still remain beneath the cloister. In the course of over four centuries since, the original basilica has been remodeled several times, including in 1804 and from 1926 to 1947. In front of the church entrance is a cobblestone square that originally extended into what is now Plaza Centenario. A four-story bell tower, added in the 18th century, stands to the west of the main church and was once topped by a dome, lantern and cross. Sadly, the dome collapsed during an earthquake in September 2017.

The relatively plain facade of the church features the Herrerian style, named so after the Spanish architect and mathematician Juan de Herrera, and is almost entirely devoid of ornamentation. An inscription in Latin above the door translates to, “There is none other but a house of God, and this a gate of the heavens.”

Contrary to the plain exterior, the interior is quite exuberant in Baroque style, with gorgeous archways and illusion-inducing ceiling frescoes depicting scenes from the life of Jesus Christ and the saints of the Franciscan order. A single nave flanked by seven small chapels culminates in the magnificent Chapel of the Rosary, with its lavishly decorated high altar embellished with the glow of gold leaf and the Dominican order's coat of arms bas-relief featuring fleur-de-lis cross whose petals symbolize the 12 apostles.

In 1934, the church was declared a national historic monument, and in the 1980s became the site of an alleged Apparition of the Virgin of Guadalupe. If you can’t go to a city without exploring a few churches, the Parroquia San Juan Bautista will surely not disappoint!
5
Centennial Garden and Fountain of the Coyotes

5) Centennial Garden and Fountain of the Coyotes

If you seek to escape the bustle and clamor of Mexico City for a few hours for a chance of great lunch/dinner or a nice stroll in the park, or to enjoy some classic Spanish colonial architecture, or to find some cute, easy streets for a walk and photo shooting, you can find it all in the historic part of Coyoacán centered on two large plazas filled with Indian laurel trees, called Plaza del Centenario and Plaza Hidalgo, also known as Jardin del Centenario (Centennial Garden) and Jardín Hidalgo.

The two plazas cover a vast space of 24,000m² and were thoroughly renovated, paved with red and black volcanic stone, back in 2008, along with the surrounding streets. For decades, prior to the renovation, these plazas, especially Plaza Hidalgo, had been filled with vendors, most of which are now gone.

Plaza del Centenario, to the west of Hidalgo, is slightly smaller and originally formed part of the very large atrium that used to belong to Parish of San Juan Bautista during the colonial period. A stroll through Plaza/Jardin del Centenario is a must when visiting Coyoacán. In the center of it, there is a fountain featuring a bronze sculpture of two coyotes surrounded by jets of water, referring to the etymology of the borough's name (Aztec: “Land of the Coyotes”). Historians say, these animals were once commonplace in this part of the Mexican valley and, as such, bore a great significance in the Aztec cosmovision. The iconic Fountain of the Coyotes was built in 1967.

Another notable landmark here is Los Arcos del Jardin Centenario (the Arches of Centennial Garden). Together with the fountain they create a perfect setting for the weekend fun enhanced with various attractions such as music, craft markets, mimes, and street vendors. The garden was inaugurated in 1921 to commemorate the centenary of Mexican independence. The south side of the garden is lined with restaurants and a wide range of bars and cafes, including the well-known Café El Parnaso, offering a choice of Mexican food, ice creams and more.
6
Francisco Sosa Avenue

6) Francisco Sosa Avenue

Probably the cutest street in the Coyoacán, if not the whole Mexico City, and one of the oldest in Latin America, Francisco Sosa street is named after a writer, poet and journalist Francisco Sosa. As if pursuant to his legacy, the street has a truly poetic atmosphere manifested in colorful historic architecture, narrow sidewalks, painted address tiles and signage, cobblestones, huge trees and lush vegetation alongside. Thanks to the very little motor traffic, a stroll here feels like walking centuries back into the colonial period, when the road linked the then Coyoacán village to the village of San Ángel.

Today, the iconic street starts at the Centennial Garden Arcade and ends at the Panzacola Street bridge, lined along the way by as many as 65 listed monuments, including: Casa del Sol, the place where the Constitution of Mexico was written in 1917; Fonoteca Nacional, a former house of Octavio Paz, the laureate of the Nobel Prize for Literature; an extremely cute Plaza de Santa Catarina, with a chapel and colorful paper decorations hung across the place; the Italian Cultural Institute and many others. One of the most notable buildings, sitting on the corner of Calle Francisco Sosa and Plaza de Centenario, is the Casa de Ordaz, long thought to have belonged to conquistador Diego de Ordaz, who died in 1532, but in reality built sometime around the 18th century. For those interested in art, there are Galleria El Circulo Azul and Museo Nacional de la Acuarela “Alfredo Guati Rojo” also worth checking out on the side street, called Salvador Novo.

Pretty quiet compared to most places in Mexico City, this avenue has a charming old world vibe, and is a great way to discover Coyoacán, especially in the morning, if you walk it West to East and then sit at a cafe on the lovely main plaza. The neighborhood abounds in nice cafes and restaurants, and has a great number of fruit carts along the way, so you can eat as you walk. It is also cool for a memorable photoshoot!

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