If you are planning on shopping crafts in Mexico you have probably heard of San Angel neighbourhood before. This beautiful area is a great place to go when you are looking for authentic arts and crafts in Mexico City, but this is not the only thing to see and do in San Angel.
This area is a Barrio Magico, one of the best preserved areas of Ciudad de Mexico in which you will discover the spirit and essence of the city but also is a way to scape the city without leaving the City: Colonial houses, cobblestone streets, the sound of the water fountains… but also some secrets that make worth spending a day exploring it:
- What to see in San Ángel
- How to go to San Angel
- Where to eat in San Angel
- Where to sleep near San Angel
- What else can you see and do nearby
- When should you visit San Angel
What to see and do in San Angel, Mexico City
1. Museo del Carmen
The museum Museo del Carmen or ex-convent of El Carmen was an important spot for the Discalced Carmelite friars at old Mexico City. Once a school in the XVII century, it keeps its rooms, patios and acueduct almost intact.
It is home to an important collection of sacred art with paintings from Cristóbal de Villalpando or Luis Juárez, among others. But has become world famous for its mummies.
The story says that during the Zapatista revolution, the revolutionaries where searching the place and found under its cript twelve mummified corpses, they put them aside and once they left, the friars found these mummies, which they had never heard of. A different story says it was the revolutionaries who took them to the convent to bury them in sacred land, but nobody know what the truth is.
You can visit the cript and the mummies when you go there (I’m not much into mummies but the cript I found interesting, although not my favorite part of the convent which I enjoyed).
Logistics: Closes mondays, free on sundays (might only be free for mexicans, they didn’t ask us much as we were speaking Spanish). Other days: 80 pesos.
2. Centro Cultural San Angel
Accross the street from the convent Museo del Carmen, you will find this cultural center which was built to be the town hall. Today hosts a theatre and a good art collection. And they organice some crafts and arts fairs.
It marks the entrance to the Art Market Jardín del Arte.
3. Jardín del Arte: Plaza del Carmen and Plaza San Jacinto
I am assuming that you are not planning on buying paintings on your trip to Mexico City (airline weight limits just wouldn’t allow much room for it) but if you were, this would be a nice place to stop by.
Every saturday, about 500 artists take their most recent creations to Plaza del Carmen square and Plaza de San Jacinto square to show the world what they do and sell their art. It is an open gallery in the gardens where you can explore or just sit and enjoy the views.
Extra: No, this is not the crafts part of the visit, but you will also find some crafts shops around these squares, some hiding from view inside beautiful colonial houses.
4. Museo Casa del Risco
One of the hidden gems of San Angel is Casa del Risco. A yellowish house from the XVIII century which is home to one of the only examples of what is called the Mexican Ultra-baroque (ultrabarroco mexicano): the Risco fountain.
Two storey-tall, it is decorated with the dishes, cups and pieces of porcelain that arrived to the “New Spain”. These chinaware items were highly valued by the inhabitants of Mexico and, when by the end of the XVIII century they couldn’t get as much of these pieces, they started keeping the pieces that broke and used them as a decoration item for gardens, fountains and patios, creating this unique style.
The museum also has a nice exhibition of decoration and house items from the XVIII, XIX and early XX centuries, many of them from the last owners of the house, the Fabela (he was a Mexican diplomat in Europe at the beginning of the twentieth century).
Ticket is free. Closes on mondays.
5. Bazar Sábado
Bazar Sábado is probably the most famous spot in San Angel today for buying traditional crafts (altough not the only one). It is located inside an old refurbished house whose patio hosts a restaurante and whose rooms welcome artisans and resellers of good artisan products from around the country.
It is not the most expensive place to buy true artisan crafts and you will find traditional textiles and clothing, clay, cardboard crafts… and some modern items inspired by traditional crafts and designs, including jewellery.
It only opens on saturdays and some crafters come from far away and don’t have another spot where you can buy their items in Mexico City, but all of them accept credit or debit cards. Entry is free.
Extra: If you are planning to buy crafts (or enjoy window shopping for crafts) you will find a few more spots with beautiful quality items:
- shopping malls Villa San Jacinto and Mercado del Carmen for a more modern and less bohemian feel
- the shops Toca madera and Casa del Obispo de Madrid which are like small museums.
6. Plaza Tenanitla and the artisan market
About 10 meters north of Bazar Sábado at Plaza Tenanitla square, also on saturdays, you will find an open air market. A small labyrinth of shops that seem to have just gathered for the day: textiles, jewelery, iron, wood…
It is as crowded as the Bazar and I found it to be of less quality but worth taking a look and comparing prices and likes.
Extra: While you will find some artisans here, you will also find some more surrounding Plaza del Carmen, in front of Casa del Risco and opposite. You will see many of the crafters creating their designs there.
7. Parroquia de San Jacinto
Plaza de San Jacinto takes its name from the old convent that used to be here (XVI century). The only remains from that convent now is the old church of San Jacinto which now has its entry by the end of Tenanitla square.
It is a national monument and while it is of a simple design, it is one of the locals favorite.
Entrance is free as long as the church is open.
8. Mercado Melchor Muzquiz Market
This small neighbourhood market might not be old (it was opened on 1958) nor has unique products, but it is a nice spot to see how a local market looks like in Mexico City. Fruit, fish, meat, food stalls…
Also it has a very interesting mural art from Ariosto Otero Reyes with some of the most relevant Mexican personalities of the past and the present. A nice proof that wall painting did not die with Rivera, Siqueiro and Orozco.
Extra: Museo casa Estudio de Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo (studio house of Rivera and Kahlo)
After he got married to Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera asked their friend Juan O’Gorman to build a home for him and Frida. A house that had to be both a home and a studio where each of them could create their unique art.
That house is known as the Casa Estudio of Diego Rivera (and Frida Kahlo) and was the place where the lived after coming back from the United States. Frida would go back later to her family home, famous Casa Azul in Coyoacán, but Diego chose to live here until his own death.
Impossible architecture, a unique collection of crafts and prehispanic art, the story of Diego and Frida, there is a lot to see at this small but colorfull house.
Tickets: Closes mondays and is free on sundays. Luckily enough it is harder to get there (no public transport connects easily with this area) so it is easy to get tickets on the spot. 50 pesos.
Extra: Right next to the museum is the first rationalist hous from Juan O’Gorman, which can be visited too.
How to go to San Angel from Mexico City center (and other areas)
San Ángel is located at the southwest of Mexico City at the sub-city of Alvaro Obregón, one of the biggest units of the city. If you are visiting from other areas, you have a nice access by public transport if you don’t mind walking:
- Top choice is taking the Metrobus that goes down Insurgentes avenue (which connects with Reforma, Zona Rosa, etc.) and step down at La Bombilla. You will travel safely and fast for just a few pesos and it takes only 5 minutes from La Bombilla to the center of San Angel area (or less).
- If you prefer the subway, the closest stop is Miguel Ángel de Quevedo, which runs line 3. Then you will need to walk for about 20 minutes through Chimalistac, which is a nice visit.
Some guided visits take you there, so I would check out something like this half day visit which includes Chimalistac and the tickets to Museo del Carmen from your hotel.
Once there the best way is to wear some comfy shoes and walk your way through the shops and restaurants. I’ve also found a few guided tours at San Angel, walking tours:
- This tour de una hora por San Angel in Spanish but with a English speaking guide, so I’m shure they offer the equivalent in English. Doesn’t get in the museums but is a good explanation of the place
- This food tour also in Spanish but including the visit to Casa del Risco, plaza San Jacinto and some tasty treats.
Where to eat in San Ángel
San Ángel is one of the top places for a tasty lunch in Mexico City. It has all sort of options, from local taquerias to luxury restaurants, and many of them are located in beautiful historical buildings.
One of the most iconic, although it is not easy to go there by public transport, is San Angel Inn (close by the Casa Estudio Diego Rivera). Mexican cuisine at what was once an old hacienda (Hacienda Goicoechea) with beautiful gardens and a long tradition. Not cheap but stunning and with great tradicional dishes.
Closer to San Angel Center, next to Avenida de los Insurgentes avenue and only a few steps from Museo del Carmen you have a few options to consider. We chose El Cardenal (which has another location near the Zocalo square and we liked it so much we went there twice). Not cheap either and also traditional mexican cuisine.
On the “cheaper” side (but a bit crowded on saturdays and less of a true mexican experience) is SAKs. This is a great option if you don’t have a good breakfast option at your hotel or woke up too early. Their breakfast set runs up to noon and offers fruit, sweet bread, fresh juice, coffee and a full mexican dish (including some vegetarian options) of your choice for about 300-500 pesos.
Of course, there are cheaper options, more expensive options and more international options. These were the ones we tried and enjoyed.
What to see and do nearby San Angel
A few steps from the center of San Ángel you will find the museum Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil (aka MACG). This small museum was created from the private collection of mexican art that belonged to Alvar Carrillo Gil and Carmen Tejero de Carrillo Gil. This collection was the biggest private collection with pieces from Orozco, Siqueiros and Rivera but it has grown over the years with pieces from other mexican artists, which makes it the place-to-go from Mexican Contemporary Art (although not the only place in the city). It closes on mondays, has free sundays and general entrance with temporary exhibitions is only 65 pesos.
Also only a few steps from San Angel is one of the best kept secrets of Mexico City: Chimalistac. What once was the orchard of Convento del Carmen is now a protected area with beautiful houses and a completely different atmosphere. You will not find cafes, museums or shops here, but it is worth a visit.
Not far either you will find the Shopping Mall Plaza Loreto, which was once a paper factory and is home to one of the locations of Museo Soumaya. You will find here a smaller collection, mostly dedicated to photography and the prints and tools of printing house Galas de Mexico (which was the first company to use offsett printing for advertising calendars in Mexico and whose iconic designs are highly valued by collectors). Closes mondays but entrance is free.
If you bring a car or feel like taking an Uber/Cabify ride, there are two extra spots you will like too:
- The ecological park of El Batán, which is home to the last monumental piece from Diego Rivera (el Espejo de la Estrella fountain)
- Coyoacán, whose center is farther away than you will see on the map. However, the hop on hop off Capital Bus buses connect both San Angel and Coyoacán, so it is worth checking them out too.
When to visit San Angel area in Mexico City
Most visitors plan their visit to San Angel on Saturday as it is the day you will find Bazar Sábado and the Art Market. It is the reason why most guided visits are planned on this day of the week.
However, San Angel makes a nice visit any other day of the week too and you will find many museums have free tickets on Sundays (such as Casa del Risco, Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera) and most shops (but Bazar Sábado) will also be open on Sunday. Mondays, on the contrary, most museums of the city are closed, including the ones in this area.
On the other side, if you are planning you trip to Mexico for the summer, you should write this down: Feria de las Flores (Flowers Fair). This festival takes place in July (dates change each year) but has been running for more than 160 editions. Historians connect this festivity to Xiuhtecuitl, the prehispanic god of flowers, but later was transformed into a religious celebration dedicated to Virgen del Carmen. It was listed for protection on the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Mexico City List in 2013 and is a unique way to enjoy the city and live its traditions.
Where to sleep near San Angel
The best spot to enjoy San Ángel from within are San Angel Colonial and Casa San Jacinto. They are not hotels but location is top, although they are hard to book online as availability is scarce.
But you have at a walking distance the Krystal Grand Suites,a serviced apartments hotel at Insurgentes Sur avenue. Also at this avenue, although you will need a longer walk to get there (or taking the Metrobus buses which pass every 3 minutes), you will find two other hotel options that combine good service and more affordable prices: City Express from Marriott and Fiesta Inn Insurgentes Sur.