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Frida Kahlo Museum Director Hilda Trujillo Soto's Guide to Mexico City

Hilda Trujillo Soto shares her insider tips to Mexico City, from what to eat and drink to where to visit.

Plants in the Frida Kahlo House courtyard.
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Brooke Porter Katz is a Brooklyn-based writer, editor, and content strategist. She is currently a senior editor at The Muse, and previously held editor roles at Martha Stewart Living and Travel + Leisure. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including The New York Times, WSJ. Magazine, AFAR, Surface, Bloomberg Pursuits, and Wine Enthusiast.

Hilda Trujillo Soto has spent most of her life in Mexico—and after stints in both the US and France (studying political science at the Sarbonne), she’s happy to call Mexico City home. “This megalopolis is cosmopolitan because of the diversity of its people, who come from all over the country and the world,” she says.

Since 2003, Trujillo has been in charge of running both the Anahuacalli Museum—which houses Diego Rivera’s personal collection of pre-Hispanic artifacts (of which there are tens of thousands)—and the Frida Kahlo Museum, where visitors line up around the block for a chance to tour the blue home where the famed artist lived, worked, and, ultimately, died.

It’s thanks to Trujillo that special exhibits such as “Frida Kahlo, Her Photos”—which featured more than 200 pictures from the artist’s personal photo albums—exist. Other exhibits have even highlighted the library of Kahlo and Rivera. “Frida would draw in her books, making them a living object, so this is a fascinating subject,” she says.

Below, she gives us a tour of her favorite neighborhood, reveals her go-to restaurants, and the best spots to take in history and art around the city.

Local Neighborhood to Explore

Trujillo’s favorite Mexico City neighborhood is Coyoacán—no surprise, since that’s where the Frida Kahlo Museum is located. A few miles south of the city center, this historic neighborhood served as the headquarters for colonizer Hernán Cortés; later, it attracted writers, artists, and other creative types.

“Every place here is full of stories, such as the house of Indio Fernández, an important icon and director of Mexican cinema,” she says. “It’s said that Marilyn Monroe, Frida Kahlo, and Dolores del Río frequented the beautiful building—and some even say that Che Guevara hid in the basement.” (The privately-owned home opens its doors to the public every year for a Day of the Dead event.)

Take Trujillo’s advice, and meander up and down Francisco Sosa street, which is lined with colonial-era mansions, as well as restaurants like the classic La Pause (grab a seat on the patio) and cultural centers such as OFCA Centro Cultural. On Coyoacán’s main square, Trujillo suggests Los Danzantes for dishes like duck mole enchiladas and fish ceviche.

Must-Try Restaurants

From modern temples of gastronomy to decades-old spots, there are countless dining experiences to be had in Mexico City. One of Trujillo’s top picks is the award-winning Pujol in the upscale Polanco neighborhood. “Set in a minimalist space with a quiet atmosphere, it’s one of the best restaurants in the country and an excellent representative of the versatility of Mexican cuisine,” she says.

When it comes to the city’s classics, Trujillo is a fan of the seafood restaurant Danubio (don’t miss the prawns, she says) and the original El Cardenal (where you can try pozole, mole, and other traditional dishes), both in the historic center.

Two people walk a dog through Polanco, Mexico City.
Many of Mexico City's best fine-dining restaurants are in Polanco.Fotograf: Suriel Ramzal / Shutterstock

Under-the-Radar Place to See Art

Most visitors don’t realize that the UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico) campus is one of the city’s most culturally rich places. “Its architecture in itself is a work of art, designed by Mario Pani and Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, among other important architects of the time,” Trujillo says. Here, you can visit a sculpture garden, attend a concert, and see buildings adorned with murals by the likes of Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Juan O'Gorman. You’ll also find the MUAC (Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo), which hosts boundary-pushing exhibits by contemporary artists from around the world.

Historic Center Highlights

The area around the zócalo, or main plaza, is always a scene, especially on weekends. Locals head there to shop for everyday items from light bulbs to shoes, while out-of-towners can see some of the city’s most iconic sites.

“I suggest taking a tour of the neighborhood’s churches and museums,” says Trujillo, including the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Church of Santo Domingo, and the Temple of San Felipe Neri (known as "La Profesa"). And don’t miss the 12th-century archaeological ruins of the Templo Mayor, the Mexica people’s most sacred building.

The ruins of the Templo Mayor in Mexico City.
The Templo Mayor is a highlight of the historic center.Fotograf: WitR / Shutterstock

Don't-Miss Day Trip

If the weather is good, plan to spend a day in Xochimilco, about an hour south of the city center. (Uber is the best way to get there.) This area is known for its canal system, which dates back to pre-Hispanic times. “You can hire a trajinera, or boat, with a guide to explore the canals,” Trujillo says, who always comes hungry so she can enjoy traditional dishes like salpicón and quesadillas, sold from floating “restaurants.”

Time permitting, she recommends pairing a trip to Xochimilco with a visit to the nearby Museo Dolores Olmedo, which has expansive gardens and an impressive collection of works by Frida Kahlo.

For a Night on the Town

When it comes to raising a glass, you can find Trujillo on the terrace of the Downtown hotel in the historic center. “The building dates back to the 17th century, and used to be the residence of the Count of Miravalle,” she says. “You’re guaranteed to have a good time there.”

If you’re in the mood to move to some music, “Salón Los Angeles is not to be missed,” she says. “Open since 1937, it’s a dance hall of yesteryear, and ideal for dancing danzón and salsa.”

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