MEXICO CITY - One of my favorite places to visit in my hometown of Mexico City is the district of Coyoacán. Founded in the seventh century by the Colhua people and later conquered by the Mexica, the "place of coyotes" retains its small-town charm. With its narrow, cobbled streets, colonial churches, vibrant markets, world-class museums and sidewalk cafes, its historic center is a popular destination for residents and tourists alike.
Here are a few highlights, all within walking distance of one another.
Centenario Garden, Hidalgo Garden and San Juan Bautista Cathedral
The former atrium of the San Juan Bautista Cathedral is now the lovely Centennial Garden, a plaza with formal gardens surrounding a fountain where two coyotes appear to play in the water. Across the street is the cathedral, dating to the early 1500s and one of the oldest in Mexico City, although it has seen numerous modifications throughout its history.
The nearby Jardín Hidalgo is known for its beautiful French kiosk and the House of Cortes, which is now a government building. On weekends and evenings, the square is packed with visitors, and it's the hub of activities during the annual Independence Day celebrations on Sept. 15.
Coyoacán is home to a variety of museums, from the National Watercolor Museum - the first museum in the world dedicated to this art form - the Trotsky House. The standout is the Frida Kahlo Museum, also known as the Blue House, where the famous painter was born.
The house looks like it did when Kahlo and husband Diego Rivera lived there, offering a window to their everyday lives On display are a few pieces by the painters as well as collections of Mexican folk art, pre-Hispanic artifacts, Kahlo's personal art collection and working studio, and items such as photographs, books, clothes and jewelry.
Traditional canteen La Coyoacana is an absolute must visit. Stop by midday for a cold beer and an inexpensive bite from a classic canteen menu. The patio is lush and cozy, but it can be boisterous during peak hours.
Next door, the food market buzzes all day with stalls selling tacos, pies, sopes and more. It's especially popular at night.
For something more sophisticated, Los Danzantes serves contemporary Mexican cuisine paired with an outstanding selection of mezcal (the owners produce Los Nahuales and Alipús mezcal) and an impressive 100-percent-Mexican wine list.
For a more informal experience, try sibling Maguey's Heart, right across Centennial Garden, where you'll find upscale antojitos, mezcal cocktails and artisanal beer. Both restaurants feature sidewalk tables facing the plaza as well as intimate indoor seating.
If you need your java fix, visit to Cafe El Jarocho is traditional, and if you're looking for something different, try the excellent organic teas and desserts at Cafe Silk Road. And do not miss an ice cream cone from the legendary Ice Cream Siberian, where you can find unusual tropical fruit flavors.
A visit to Coyoacan is not complete without a stop at The market Neighborhood residents and visitors stroll the crowded aisles shopping for fruits and vegetables, meats and cheeses, housewares, piñatas, fresh flowers, fresh roasted coffee and pottery.
For a larger selection of traditional handcrafts, try the Handcrafted Bazaar When you go
VirtualTourist.com has a good guide to Coyoacan. Also check visitmexico.com for information.