In the footsteps of Mexico City’s movers & shakers

Helen Alexander

Senior Contributor

The captivating capital city has played host to hundreds of famous people over the decades – and centuries – so, if you want to add a few star attractions to your sightseeing itinerary, here’s where you should head.

Immerse yourself in Frida Kahlo’s world

An oasis of calm away from the hustle and bustle of Mexico City’s major roads, the charming neighbourhood of Coyoacán is home to Museo Frida Kahlo. Often referred to as the Casa Azul (or the Blue House) it’s the place where Latin America’s most celebrated woman artist was born and died. It’s filled with some of her most important works as well as many of her possessions, including elaborate dresses, pre-Hispanic pieces and colourful Mexican crafts. A second house – Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo – which Frida shared with husband Diego Rivera between 1934 and 1940 contains more of her belongings. As one of the earliest examples of Mexican functionalist architecture, the property is a star in its own right. Finally, the former home of Dolores Olmedo Patiño – one of Diego Rivera’s muses – is packed with more of the famous couple’s artworks. 

Uncover Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma

The acclaimed director was not only born in Mexico City, he used his childhood home as a base while shooting the film Roma. Head to Tepeji 22 in the now very fashionable Roma Sur neighbourhood to see where the majority of the 2019 Academy Award-winner for best Foreign Language Film was shot. Elsewhere in and around Mexico City, it’s possible to recreate a number of memorable scenes from the movie. For example, you can walk past the art deco façade of the Teatro Metropolitan and tuck into turkey tortas (sandwiches) amid the old-school surrounds of La Casa del Pavo (Calle de Motolinia 40). Travel 35km south-west of Mexico City and you’ll reach Parque Nacional Insurgente Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla. Referred to as ‘La Marquesa’ by locals, this stunning national park is home to the hacienda that featured in the fictional family’s New Year’s Eve celebrations. 

Walk passed Paseo de la Reforma’s monuments

Nearly 80 monuments and statues of people of historical significance line this wide avenue that runs diagonally through the heart of Mexico City. One of the most recognisable landmarks is the Angel of Independence that was built in 1910 and is today a mausoleum for heroes of the country’s War of Independence. There are also monuments dedicated to Christopher Columbus and the last ruler of the Aztec Empire, as well as large-scale public artworks, which include 13 pieces by local sculptor Jorge Marín. 

Diego Rivera and his marvellous murals

The city is dotted with murals by Mexican artist Diego Rivera that chronicle key events in the country’s past. Start your tour of some of the most eye-catching examples of his work at the grand Palacio Nacional, where you can take in 2000 years of history as depicted in the Epic of the Mexican People in their Struggle for Freedom and Independence. Located close to the Plaza de la Constitución (one of the largest public squares in the world) it’s a short walk from here to the Ministry of Public Education, where Diego’s works are spread over three floors and around two patios. There are also more works to see at the European-style Palacio de Bellas Artes. In addition to creating art, Diego also collected it in huge quantities – he even had a house called Anahuacalli designed to hold 50,000-plus pieces of pre-Hispanic art that he accumulated over his lifetime. 

Explore the remains of an ancient empire

Perhaps the city’s most famous inhabitants made a home for themselves here over 700 years ago on an island called Tenochtitlán that sat in the middle of Lake Texcoco. As the capital of the Aztec Empire, the city was home to the towering Templo Mayor – an impressive relic that was unearthed by archaeologists in 1978. Today, wandering around the Spanish-built Catedral Metropolitana, which is surrounded by the submerged stone walls of Tenochtitlán, offers a fascinating glimpse into Mexico City’s past. For more pre-Columbian sites, Teotihucán sits a short distance away to the northeast of CDMX and impresses visitors with its enormous, 200-foot-tall Pyramid of the Sun.

Bed down with A-listers at Hotel Geneve

When big names come to Mexico City, they only have one address in mind – Hotel Geneve in the buzzing Zona Rosa neighbourhood. In fact, the property’s A-list credentials were clear from the beginning – when it opened in 1907, Guillermo Kahlo – father of the famous artist Friday – took the first photos. From its light-filled European-style atrium to its sumptuous suites and secret cinema, past guests have included Gabriel García Márquez, Sir Winston Churchill and Malala Yousafzai. As you might expect from the venue where general and politician Porfirio Díaz had breakfast with his whole family on 20 November 1910 – just hours before the Mexican Revolution started – the lobby and London-inspired Phone Bar are filled with interesting artefacts. 

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