Plaza Manuel Tolsá

Calle de Tacuba 8, Centro Histórico, Centro, 06000 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico

The smallish Plaza Manuel Tolsá—at the end of Calle de Tacuba—is an all-but-perfect urban conglomeration that will thrill architecture fans. To the south lies the 18th-century Palacio de Minería (a former engineering college) whose solid, sober mastery of imposing volume is leavened by the wavy effects of the city’s sinking soils; to the north is the former Palacio de Comunicaciones, now Mexico’s National Art Museum. The collection here is a winner—but some of the structure’s soaring neoclassical spaces will leave you agog. At the corner with the Eje Central thoroughfare stands the city’s beloved old post office, noted for its eclectic, Venetian-style facade and coruscating interiors in marble, bronze, and iron (don’t miss the grand staircase). A recently restored equestrian statue of a somewhat dopey-looking King Charles IV of Spain is a marvelous finishing touch.

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Saturday in Mexico City is a people experience. After a week of grey days and evening thunderstorms in early September, it seemed that the city’s 20 million people decided to celebrate the sun. Over the space of two hours, my husband and I saw Chapultepec Park come alive with hundreds of vendors, families, bikers, and joggers. Later, taking the metro, which goes nearly everywhere and is used by nearly everyone, we got caught in a true urban experience, with riders squeezing into and tumbling out of packed train cars. Wandering through the Plaza Manuel Tolsá we came across a group of drummers led by a dancer wearing a straw hat with a red ribbon. By the time we reached the scene, flowers, herbs, and bowls of fruit had been laid out to encircle the chalk images on the ground. Two women lit fires in small, blackened pots, which we interpreted to be incense to accompany the offerings that had been presented. We felt the gift of a special day, one that gave us an unabridged glimpse of leisurely life in a bustling metropolis.

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