Even finding your way from Glorieta to the Avenida is tricky, because of the strange lay-out of the junction. But once you have placed yourself on the avenue, an endless straight row of impressive modern skyscrapers awaits you. Designed to wow you by their scale and expensive materials, they look as if not made by humans.
The human element is what a lot of architects tend to forget in their grand ambitions. But Mexican life is all built on filling in on the empty, cold spaces left by modern architecture. Everywhere in the country you will find portable kiosks, food cars and trucks, where people have a quick bite or lunch. It’s not different along the office blocks of Insurgentes.
And the great thing is that, if you make the effort of making a 200 metre detour, you can actually find beautiful residential neighborhoods. This is the area where Roma, the beautiful film by Cuaron, was made. And a bit further south you can find the Parque Mexico, also known as Parque San Martin.
The area, officially known as Colonia Hipodromo but more commonly referred to as Condesa, is a trip down memory lane. Here you can find colonial villas. Leafy cafes where Starbucks took over. And the park itself, with lots of art deco elements, is an unlikely refuge in a city that is continuously in overdrive mode. Just a pity it is at the start of this off-the-beaten track walk.
World Trade Center and Polyforum Siqueiros
Estadio Azul / Plaza de toros mexico
A great retreat, not far from both stadiums, is the Parque Hundido. It started as part of a forest more than hundred years ago, when this was still not Mexico City. Those days have long gone. Nowadays it is a rather pleasant, lively and huge green space with a flower clock.
One of the many great aspects of Latin American life is the big theatre tradition. It has always been a bedrock of critical societal thinking, and therefore takes a pivotal place in Mexican lives as well.
Just over halfway Insurgentes Sur the colorful facade of the Teatro Insurgentes is a stark reminder of this. It is probably the most famous Mexican one and an institute that definitely still ruffles the feathers of authority.
Museum Arte Carrillo Gil
San Angel village
The grand finale of this crash course for CDMX. And a destination in its own right, with some smart planning enough for an entire day as well on this huge site.
The obvious, undisputed, heavyweight champion here is the iconic Olympic Stadium. The main site for the historic 1968 Olympics and Bob Beamon’s world record longjump, that stood for 23 years. The uncovered concrete bowl has been constructed dug into the hills, giving it some beautiful curves. It is still the home of the Pumas de UNAM, the rather successful football club of the university.
After crossing a tunnel that must resemble some dystopian nightmare at night, you get to the much bigger eastern section. This is where the actual Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) is located. And the first highlight, the central library (biblioteca) with its colorful (probably Aztec) illustrations on the outside.
There is much more to see. One of the more interesting of several museums is the MUCA (Museo Universitario de Artes y Ciencias), but venture around the area and you can also see Olympic swimming pools, another stadium and many more exhibitions.
Wow. The legs hurt, the skin is almost red by now. But what an incredible amount of impressions, gathered during this seemingly endless walk. From the urban chaos of Glorieta to the colonial village of Condesa, the modern architecture of Torre Manacar or the art of the three great muralists. Too much almost one one day.
Not too far away from here is the Casa Azul, the former house of Frida Kahlo, and another project of Diego Rivera. But leave that for another day. The fastest way home is to subway Universidad, on the eastern edge of the area. Not recommendable at night by the way in the weekends…