Coyoacán & University City together make up what lots of international visitors to Mexico City are going to learn about the south of the city. Each makes a fascinating trip worthwhile, but for an only slightly more hectic journey, both can also be visited in just one day.
Coyoacán is famous in its own right. One of the classic pre-Columbian towns, it's been a home to a succession of famous personalities, and always a charming day in the country for visitors and city residents alike.
The Nahuatl name probably means “place of coyotes.” Hernán Cortés used the area as his headquarters during his conquest of the Aztec Empire, and it was the first capital of New Spain for those early years.
Coyoacán remained independent until well into the 19th century, only becoming part of the Federal District in 1857. By the mid-20th century, something of its Coyoacán's charm was tamed when farms, former lakes, and forests were turned into city. But lots of villages and small towns still have their original layouts, plazas and narrow streets.
Part of the larger alcaldia of Coyoacán, University City (Ciudad universitaria) is a city based on the universality of knowledge. Already a UNESCO World Heritage site, it's home to more cultural and historical sites than almost anywhere in the country. It's also home to UNAM, the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
The project was designed by architects Mario Pani and Enrique del Moral, and built beginning in the 1950s. At more than 1,000 hectares (2,500 acres), it's a very large part of the south of the city. Included within CU are some of the city's most important site
• The Biblioteca Central (Central Library)
• The Torre de Rectoría (Dean's Tower)
• Centro Cultural Universitario
• Estadio Olímpico México 68
• Sala Nezahualcóyotl concert hall
• Sala Migual Covarrubias & Carlos Chávez
• Espacio Escultórico or Sculpture Space
• The Universum interactive museum of science
Like any city university, University City makes Coyoacán into a dynamic and lively part of the city. Of course there are book shops and museums and art spaces to be visited too. That's all part of the fun. But to truly appreciate what it means to all of us, and to the world, a long reflective walk may just be necessary. There's no better place to do it.