Frida Kahlos neighbourhood: exploring vibrant Coyoacn, Mexico City

Ahead of a major Frida Kahlo show at Londons V& amp; A we visit the artists bohemian district from her house to the cantina where she drank, and from artworks venues to fantastic markets and restaurants


Coyoacan was once a hard-to-pronounce place, little known outside of Mexico City. Now it is an almost-obligatory destination for most guests. Blame it on Frida Kahlo-mania. The artist’s birthplace and final mansion , now the Museo Casa Azul, is here on a quiet residential street between similar still-private homes built around the turn of the 20 th century. The folk art-filled museum, open as such since 1957 , now outlines queues that snake all over the tree-lined block( advance online buy of tickets is advisable ). But this is not just always the case.

Self-portrait with necklace by Frida Kahlo, 1933. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/ AFP/ Getty Images

On my first visit to this vast capital in 1978 as a student of art history, I wanted to visit the then little-known artist’s home. My guidebook didn’t mention it and my hotel concierge didn’t know of it- nor did the several taxi motorists I queried to help me find it. On that occasion I didn’t get there. And when I ultimately did, a few years later, “its been” dusty and forgotten; I was the only visitor that day.

A short walking from the Casa Azul is the home where Leon Trotsky lived– and was killed with an ice-pick. The house has been preserved in detail: Trotsky’s bathrobe still hangs on the hook where he left it. It’s the area’s other big draw.

Museo Casa Azul, the Frida Kahlo Museum in Coyoacan. Photograph: Alamy

But it’s worth investigating the neighbourhood beyond these famous homes as there is much more to discover. Coyoacan’s main plaza, cobblestoned and plant-filled, is divided in halves, called Jardin Centenario and Jardin Hidalgo. They form a typical colonial Mexican town square, complete with terraces for people-watching, gazebos for music and marketers selling balloons, playthings and traditional sweets.

At the eastern side sits the church of San Juan Bautista, a highly gilded baroque affair. Across the plaza to the left of the church is the Casa de Cortes, a large yellow edifice, which occupies the site of Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes’s 16 th-century country home. Corazon de Maguey is an informal restaurant provide Oaxacan and other regional bowls. In the evenings it becomes more of a saloon, with a large selection of mezcals. Outside seating affords a good opinion of the plaza.

Corazon de Maguey, Mexico

Frida and her husband Diego Rivera liked to knock back a tequila or 10 at Cantina La Guadalupana, which opened its entrances in 1932. But unlike the equivalent Hemingway hangouts around the world, La Guadalupana has not become an overpriced tourist trap: it retains its old-fashioned working-class appeal, bullfighting decor and good service. Free snacks are offered with liquors and there is a serviceable menu of Mexican dishes. The Mercado de Antojitos down the block, is a well known garage-like space; it’s open late and locals stop here for a rich pozole , the hominy-filled stew or a deep-fried quesadilla of cheese, squash bud or chorizo.

Cantina La Guadalupana. Photo: Alamy

Coyoacan’s market, a few blocks north( Calle Malintzin between Aguayo and Allende) is where Frida shopped, although the current structure was built in the 1950 s, after her demise. It still offers a colourful, folksy experience perfumed by blooms, fruits and bubbling pots of spicy mole sauce. In the middle of the market is the renowned Tostadas Coyoacan, with an abundant presentation of tostada toppings such as prawns, chicken, crab, and spicy pork, piled high and ready to be heaped on a crispy corn tortilla. Order one of the exotic fresh fruit boozes at the adjacent booth for a perfect Mexican lunch.

Heading west from the main plaza, Avenida Francisco Sosa is lined with spectacular colonial-era homes, such as the Italian Cultural Institute and the Casa de Cultura Jesus Reyes Heroles. Across the street is the leafy Plaza Santa Catarina, one of the loveliest places in the city.

La Casa de los Tacos, Mexico

For a knockout taco experience, psyche to La Casa de los Tacos. The owneds, Hector Ramos, a photographer who runs an art gallery upstairs, and Alejandro Escalante, author of the renowned Tacopedia, have created a thoroughly bohemian vibe. The tacos prehispanicos feature edible bugs and are astonishingly delicious. For the less adventurous, there are grilled chicken, beef and pork tacos.

Mercadaroma, meanwhile, is Coyoacan’s answer to the gourmet street market craze. Dozens of stands give multi-regional Mexican and international foods- and fusions of both- in a smartly designed three-storey building. Try the seafood tacos from the Pacific state of Sonora at Tetakawi or a torta ( Mexico’s version of the sandwich ), at La Barraca Valenciana.


Plaza de la Conchita, a few blocks east of the main plaza( walking down Higuera ), is another peaceful park, whose faith is one of the oldest in Mexico, dating to the mid-1 6th century. This architectural gem is a rare example of tequitqui style, which shows the influence of indigenous Indian craftsmen on Spanish baroque architectural ornament.

In addition to architecture-viewing and great eating, Coyoacan offers several other important cultural universities. The Cineteca Nacional is Mexico’s central cinema institute, housed in a rising modern complex where as many as 30 movies are shown on any committed period. The Centro Cultural y Social Veracruzano is home to a theatre, store and El Tajin one of the area’s best eateries. Down the same road, at no. 134 is the largest limb of Gandhi, Mexico’s major bookseller.

A stroll around Coyoacan attains for a peaceful- and delicious- day out. And a snapshot of Frida’s Mexico.

More Frida-related attractiveness in Mexico City, and beyond

Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo House-Studio Museum, San Angel, Mexico City

Photograph: Alamy

Designed by the couple’s friend, the designer and artist Juan O’Gorman, this was Kahlo and Rivera’s first proper marital home. It’s actually two houses joined by a bridge. They lived here from 1934 to 1939 and divorced in that year. Kahlo moved back to the Blue House and when she and Rivera remarried the following year, he moved to join her there, though he retained the San Angel house as his studio. Most interesting for visitors today is the bathroom in Frida’s quarterss, which inspired one of her most well known works: What the Water Gave Me – it’s a meditation on her life and her history, as she lay in the tub.
* Admission PS1. 30, under 13 s free,

Xochimilco and Museo Dolores Olmedo, Mexico City

Colourful crafts at the Swimming Gardens in Xochimilco. Photograph: Alamy

The floating gardens of Xochimilco have been Mexico City’s favourite lane to spend a Sunday for many decades, as shown by the photographs of Kahlo trailing her hand into the sea from her boat. It’s still the best place to soak up the vibrant, colorful and musical culture of the Mexico Kahlo desired. Rent a boat and be ferried through canals awash with mariachi bands, tortilla- and taco-makers, beer and tequila sellers. Subsequentlies head for the tranquility of the Museo Dolores Olmedo Patino, a 17 th-century mansion once owned by a pal and patron of Rivera’s. As well as many works by him it contains important paints by Kahlo, although they’re on loan to an exhibit in Milan until the summer.
* Admission PS3. 75, free entry on Tuesdays,

Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City

Photograph: Francesca Yorke/ Getty Images

Kahlo’s painting The Two Fridas features in the museum’s collection of 20th-century Mexican art. The museum is currently proving more than more than 200 operates by British artist Leonora Carrington( until 23 September ). Carrington arrived in Mexico City in 1942, and was based there until her demise in 2011. She knew Kahlo and was friends with English millionaire Edward James, a patron of surrealist artists and creator of Las Pozas sculpture gardenin the jungles of San Luis Potosi. The exhibition includes discoveries such as a colourful 22 -piece set of tarot cards, intricate paintings and tapestries never presented before as well as her best-known works including her self-portrait borrowed from the Met, and her 1947 painting The Giantess.
* Admission PS2. 40, free on Sundays,


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