The Librería Octavio Paz, named for one of Mexico’s most iconic writers, is a branch of the Fondo de Cultura Ecónomica publishing house which can be found just outside of San Ángel, in Chimalistac. Aside from being a great place to pick up some light reading, it’s also one of the singularly most beautiful bookstores in the capital. A modernist masterpiece, the front of the building is encased in sheets of glass that allow you a sneak peek inside.
A delightful quirk of life in San Ángel is the presence of one of the city’s (in fact, perhaps the only) 24-hour flower markets. A little down from Plaza San Jacinto, on Avenida Revolución, you can pick up lilies and roses, amongst other pleasantly scented floral treats at all hours of the day or night. Even if you don’t pay a visit on foot, it makes a great place to whiz past at night when all the surrounding area has been plunged into darkness.
Less somewhere you need to dedicate half a day to, and more somewhere you can simply wander past and snap a quick picture of, the 17th century Casa Blanca in San Ángel is an entrenched feature of local myth and legend. As the story goes, the wrought-iron balcony you can see from the street was the spot where a local woman grew old and eventually died waiting for her lover to return. A local curiosity that’s worth ten minutes of your time, for sure.
With an aesthetic inspired by traditional indigenous clothing, the pieces at Amanoarte make for a socially conscious and beautifully handcrafted souvenir to pick up in San Ángel. If you’re not a fan of clothing though, you can also pick up some pieces of art. The great thing is that some proceeds of sales in Amanoarte go towards preserving the traditions associated with the clothing and art’s production and helping the indigenous communities they come from.
A beautiful and peaceful colonial building, in the same style as that of Museo del Carmen, the Centro Cultural Fertilizando El Esfuerzo offers all manner of classes designed to promote sustainability and social development, from flamenco dancing to gymnastics. The workshops offered here are open to all and usually have a small cost associated with them, they are a great way to meet the locals and try out something new when in San Ángel. If you don’t want to take a class, you can always go there for lunch!
While Coyoacán’s Casa Azul grabs all the Frida tourism attention, the neighbouring San Ángel has one of the most architecturally interesting edifices associated with Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo – the Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo. Alternatively known by the name Casa O’Gorman, it has some beautifully minimalist yet functional architecture and makes for a quieter alternative to the somewhat overrated Casa Azul.
Not exactly a lesser known destination in the neighbourhood, the Museo Casa del Risco (alternatively known by the name Centro Cultural Isidro Fábela) is still worth popping by just for the unique ultra-baroque Risco fountain that can be found in the courtyard. Made from Talavera tiles from Puebla, Chinese porcelain and abalone shells, it overshadows the admittedly excellent collection of art that is also exhibited in Casa del Risco.
If you prefer contemporary art, especially when it’s housed inside an architecturally fascinating building, then Museo Carrillo Gil would make for a better San Ángel option. This museum houses some of the best 20th century Mexican artworks from big names like José Clemente Orozco and Diego Rivera among others. Their rotating temporary exhibitions are also not to be sniffed at.
Not a market in the traditional Mexican sense, but a collection of separate restaurants and cafes located in a refurbished colonial house just off the Plaza San Jacinto. Mercado del Carmen is the place to eat while you’re in the area, given that it has everything from a restaurant dedicated solely to baked potatoes (La Papería) to a spot which sells the classic Yucatec treat, marquesinas (La Marquesería). Another particular standout is Milk Bar.
If you’re just looking for a place to grab a coffee though, then Borola Café might be more up your street. Tucked away, it isn’t super frequented by visitors but it is well worth stopping by – here they offer a range of coffee blends and brewing methods from Chemex to Aeropress. Overall, this well-recommended spot offers a truly immersive coffee drinking experience, all served up by competent and informed baristas.
Borola Café, San Jacinto 12, San Ángel TNT, Ciudad de México, México, +52 55 5550 7275
The sweet tooths amongst you will want to stop by Yunik Helados de Autor as a rite of passage when in San Ángel. Described as a gourmet ice cream parlour, everything from alcoholic delights to savoury scoops can be found here; in fact, they offer a ridiculous 140+ flavours. That’s not all, the presentation of their imaginative desserts and dairy-based treats is pretty impressive too.
Yunik Helados de Autor, Amargura 17, San Ángel, Ciudad de México, México, +52 55 5504 1854
Finally, if you fancy a very Spanish treat whilst you’re in Mexico City, Mesón Del Carmen serves up some of the best in San Ángel. Rivalled only by Churrería El Convento, at Mesón Del Carmen you can stick to the traditional sugary version or go for a churro relleno, one filled with chocolate, caramel or other equally delicious sauces. If all that doesn’t sound sweet enough, you can wash it down with a Spanish inspired mug of hot chocolate.