top ten by Frida Escobedo

The iconic young architect takes us on a cultural tour of her hometown.

reading time 26 minutes

Frida Escobedo is what is popularly known as a badass. The young architect from Mexico City runs a flourishing architecture and design firm with her name on it, builds and renovates iconic structures throughout Mexico, teaches at UC Berkeley, and does experimental work for biennials all over the world in her spare time. But, worldwide renown aside, Frida is also a connoisseur of her hometown Mexico City. In her calm, friendly, unassuming way, she offered us a detailed guide to the Mexican capital in ten recommendations, covering architecture, art, food, and her favorite markets.

1. Juan O’Gorman Houses

1. Juan O’Gorman Houses
If you were visiting me, I’d first have to take you to the south of the city where I grew up, for an architectural tour in San Angel. I would take you to the houses Juan O’Gorman built for Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, and the one nearby he built for his father Cecil. Then we’d go to the Fonda San Angel Inn right across the street, which has the best margaritas in town and a beautiful courtyard. (Photo: Erika Manning)

2. Rosetta Restaurant

2. Rosetta Restaurant
We would get hungry at some point and I’d have to take you here. The chef here is Elena Reygadas, the most talented cook in Mexico in my opinion. Her cuisine is strictly seasonal, which means the menu is always changing. She is always experimenting and sourcing her ingredients from different places, which means you can find a dishes that uses traditional cooking methods, but also some daring—even atypical—ingredients and flavors. (Photo: Rosetta Restaurant)

3. Tlatelolco

3. Tlatelolco
Then we would go to La Plaza de las Tres Culturas (Plaza of Three Cultures) in Tlatelolco, one of the most interesting places in Mexico City because so many layers of history are compressed into one space. It was once the commercial heart of Aztec civilization, leaving the ruins of numerous temples preserved within the square. Then it became an emblem of colonial domination, leaving behind a 16th century church and the ruins of a Franciscan convent. In the middle of the 20th century, it became a nexus of the state-endorsed drive towards modernity, bounded on two sides by Mario Pani’s Conjunto Urbano Nonoalco housing complex (1964) and Pedro Ramirez Vazquez’s Secretariat of Foreign Affairs building (1965). Because of its associations with the student movement of 1968—and the massacre of several hundreds of students in Plaza de las Tres Culturas on October 2nd, just 10 days before the inauguration of the Olympic Games—the Plaza reminds us of a somber moment in Mexican history. (Photo: Erika Manning)

4. Central de Abastos
A probably less obvious place to visit in Mexico City would be Central de Abastos, which is the main wholesale market in Mexico City. The scale of the enterprise is mindblowing: it is the size of a small city. It’s so interesting because you get to see these huge blocks selling just one ingredient. One area is just tomatoes. One is just avocadoes. This place has its own economy, its own dynamic. All markets in Mexico City and the metropolitan area source their food from here. They start at early in the morning, so it’s worth waking up very early if you really want to see what’s going on. (Photo: Moritz Bernoully)

5. Mercado de Jamaica

5. Mercado de Jamaica
The markets inside the city are much smaller but no less interesting. This is a beautiful one close to the city center that specializes in flowers, but also has a great food and fruit selection, houseware and even a clothing section. I like it especially in the holiday season, when you can see people preparing for Posada. (Photo: Erika Manning)

6. joségarcía, mx

6. joségarcía, mx
I would have to take you to see some of the city’s famous art galleries, starting with joségarcía, which I think is the best contemporary art gallery in Mexico. It’s a young institution but they have truly great artists. They just moved to a beautiful historical house  in Calle Sabino, in Santa Maria la Ribera. (Photo: Erika Manning)

7. Galeria OMR

7. Galeria OMR
This gallery is located in Colonia Roma, in a beautiful building designed by talented young architect Max Von Werz. From here, I would take you to Colonia Ampliación Daniel Garza, a hidden pocket of the city that contains three amazing spaces in close proximity: Casa Luis Barragan, Labor Gallery, and Archivo. (Photo: Erika Manning)

8. Restaurante Nicos

8. Restaurante Nicos
Nicos is a cantina far from the touristy areas that’s been here forever, and is one of the best in Mexico City. They prepare the salsa right in front of you in a molcajete—a volcanic rock mortar—and you can pick the ingredients, so everything is superfresh. I would recommend trying the special traditional plates, like escamoles (ant larvae) or taco de lengua (beef tongue tacos). (Photo: Restaurante Nicos)

9. Xochimilco
This area has an incredible plant market, with unusual plants that look like they’re from another planet. The nice thing about Xochimlco is that it’s a part of the city where they still have Chinampas, a method of agriculture developed before the Spanish came. Chinampas are rectangular areas of fertile arable land to grow crops on the shallow lake beds in the Valley of Mexico. It’s a very effective method, which includes crop rotation as a way to keep soil fertile. Each chinampa is a little island, so the landscape becomes quite surreal, a mix of ornamental plants and crops surrounded by channels of water. (Photo: Erika Manning)

10. Salon Rios

10. Salon Rios
My office is located on a very small building one block away from Reforma, one of the main avenues in the city. There’s a nice Cantina two blocks away that’s called Salon Rios, where I like to go. They have fantastic tacos and great drinks, and it’s always busy and fun. When you’ve finished your drink, we can go do a salsa session in the dancing salon upstairs.

As told to Amanda Vincelli. Cover Photo: Moritz Bernoully

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