Forever on the verge of being the next big target of gentrification, the district known as Santa María la Ribera—northwest of downtown—retains its neighborhoody, down-at-the-heels charms. Its streets are home to a mix of old-school cantinas (all perfectly visitor-friendly) and mom-and-pop restaurants, alongside some neglected architectural gems, hipster coffeehouses, and standard-issue, sometimes grimy local businesses—in short, it’s still real. The district’s centerpiece is its central plaza, known as the Alameda, and its exuberant Moorish-style gazebo (it started life as the Mexico Pavilion at a long-forgotten world’s fair). Recently restored and awash in color, the kiosk is a gem—and the proud emblem of the barrio. Note some amazing old mansions and the spooky Institute of Geology lining the plaza. The nearby Museo Universitario del Chopo—housed in a glass-and-cast-iron former natural-history museum—is a renowned center for avant-garde art that leaves no viewer less than provoked.