LiteratureMexico

A Literary Tour of Roma and Condesa, Mexico City

For any book lover, exploring the literary heritage of Mexico City is an absolute must. While it doesn’t have the literary reputation of, say, New York or Paris, it really should, given that it’s produced some of the best Mexican authors, including controversial writers like Valeria Luiselli, Octavio Paz and Jorge Ibargüengoitia, as well as nurtured the talents of many more – Elena Poniatowska, Jack Kerouac and Roberto Bolaño, to name but a few. As the capital of Mexico, it’s littered with beautiful bookstores, impressive libraries and lots of quirky, underrated and under-visited literary interest sights. And, because I’m a ruthless list maker and renowned philanthropist, I’m going to give you the most detailed rundown you’ve ever read into the literary world of Mexico City, starting with a literary tour of Roma and Condesa (plus a bit of the Zona Rosa, because I’m just that generous). Essential reading for book lover’s in Mexico City, this is your comprehensive walking tour round the literary highlights of these popular Mexico City neighbourhoods.


A LITERARY TOUR OF ROMA AND CONDESA, MEXICO CITY

Now, I’m not going to beat around the bush, researching this piece took me far longer than I ever expected, given that I’m 1) prone to getting lost even with a regimented route planned out on my iPhone notes, and 2) there is so much to see. Literally, I did not anticipate the amount of stop off points I would have to hit in the two-hour window I had between my Catalan class and having to go to work in the afternoon. But, I’ve worked myself to the bone to plan the perfect route through the literary highlights of Roma-Condesa (and a bit of Juárez) so you don’t have to.

It’s worth mentioning that none of these mentions are sponsored in any way. I really rate all of the places, establishments, bookstores and literary points of interest mentioned on this guide and hope you enjoy them too!

Literary Tour of Roma and Condesa

Aeromoto

The best place to start your literary tour of Mexico City neighbourhoods Roma and Condesa is at the Cuauhtémoc station of the metro (which is on the conveniently central pink line). From there you can make your way to the first destination on my guide – Aeromoto (Venecia 23, Juárez).

I’ll be totally honest, it wasn’t my cup of tea in a lot of ways, but in other ways this quirky, tucked away little lending library on the fringes of the Zona Rosa was exactly to my taste. I mean, for one, it’s stuffed with books which is an instant win in my eyes and it’s also suitably decked out in hipster fashion – bare walls, rag-tag postcards and posters everywhere, masking tape labels marking what you’ll find on that particular shelf. Plus, it’s the kind of place where you find two-year old New Zealand fanzines entitled Incredibly Hot Sex With Hideous People.

Literary Tour of Roma and Condesa

If you’re an art lover or just a fan of anything quirky, then the niche appeal that this artsy hideaway, suitably off-the-beaten track destination has may be right up your street.

Literary Tour of Roma and Condesa

Casa Bosques

Once you’ve rifled through Aeromoto’s shelves, make your way to Avenida Chapultepec and head to the intersection of Calles Puebla and Córdoba, where you’ll find stop number two, Casa Bosques (Córdoba 25, Roma Norte). This bookstore is actually hidden away in the hipster haven of Córdoba 25 (which is also home to some of the neighbourhood’s best fashion boutiques). Anyway, you just ring the bell and someone will buzz you in. Again, it’s mostly filled with lesser-spotted artsy books which are a touch overpriced for my liking, but it’s definitely aesthetically pleasing and the ideal place to browse and/or take photos.

Literary Tour of Roma and Condesa
Literary Tour of Roma and Condesa

Wiser Books & Coffee

Walk towards Plaza Rio de Janeiro and turn left on Durango until you hit Morelia. Turn right and keep going til you find Wiser Books & Coffee (Morelia 76, Roma Norte). Although this place was closed when I went a-researching, I still recommend it because 1) books and 2) coffee. I mean, you can’t really go wrong.

Literary Tour of Roma and Condesa

After you leave Wiser Books & Coffee, continue your literary tour of Roma and Condesa by turning left until reaching Colima and making sure you give yourself five minutes to soak up the fragrant flower shops that line this street. If you’re into music, pop into Revancha Record Store (Colima 110, Roma Norte) too.

Literary Tour of Roma and Condesa

Casa del Poeta

The next stop is also the first literary attraction/ mini lending library, which even I stumbled across by accident as I was walking down Álvaro Obregón. The Casa del Poeta (Álvaro Obregón 73, Roma Norte), which is the former residence of Mexican poet Ramón López Velarde, is super quiet and a welcome relief from the bustling street it’s situated on, with a courtyard just to the right of the main door where you could happily sit and read or enjoy a coffee. It’s also this courtyard that you need to enter to get into the building.
Literary Tour of Roma and Condesa

Simply follow the stairs until you hit the top floor (you’ll know you’re there when you see the super unsettling black glove sculpture) and that’s where you’ll find the tiny lending library. It’s not one of the best libraries in Mexico City, don’t get my wrong, but the staff were super friendly and it’s definitely a charming destination.

Literary Tour of Roma and Condesa Literary Tour of Roma and Condesa

Cafebreria El Péndulo Roma

Once you’ve tired of the Casa Del Poeta, turn right when you leave and walk down Obregón (I recommend walking in the tree-lined central reservation) until you spot the legendary Cafebrería El Péndulo Roma (Álvaro Obregón 86, Roma Norte). Of all the El Péndulo bookstore branches in the city, this was the first I ever visited and I’m still convinced it’s actually the best one, and easily one of the best bookshops in Mexico City. Polanco’s version is pretty but this one has my heart after I enjoyed my first agua fresca and chat of a lifetime on the balcony, with a gal who would later become one of my best mates.

Literary Tour of Roma and Condesa

Plaza Luis Cabrera

After El Péndulo, keep going to Calle Orizaba, at which point you need to turn left towards Plaza Luis Cabrera, one of the best places to read in Mexico City.

This is another literary highlight that I accidentally found and it was perhaps one of my favourite discoveries. Aside from being quite a quaint little park with some photography exhibitions and fountains, at the bottom end there’s also a bench designed to look like the iconic elephant-swallowed-by-snake imagery of The Little Prince. I don’t know if it’s a temporary installation, but I couldn’t not mention it.

Literary Tour of Roma and Condesa

Librería URBE

Once you leave the Plaza behind, or have finished exploring the drinking and dining options that run the length of Calle Orizaba, you want to turn left onto San Luis Potosí where you’ll find Librería URBE almost immediately.

Literary Tour of Roma and Condesa

I’ll be honest, I’d heard so much about Librería URBE (San Luis Potosí 105, Roma Norte) and the fact it was one of the best bookshops in Roma that I was kind of expecting more from it when I visited. Instead, it looks like quite a dingy store from outside (and had boxes full of cut price used books on sale). However, inside the range of titles was pretty good and it strikes me as the perfect browsing book store, you know what I mean?

Literary Tour of Roma and Condesa

Fruta Editorial

This is one of my favourite places in Roma because, while it verges towards the pretentious, the coffee is great and the place is tiny, so it’s awesome to go and read a book. Fruta Editorial (San Luis Potosí 180, Roma Norte) also sell fresh fruit juices and even though Google says it’s permanently closed, that is not the case.

Plus, they sell tea with suitably quirky slogans printed on the packaging, and anyone that knows me knows I can’t resist a good slogan.

Literary Tour of Roma and Condesa

Under The Volcano

Now it’s time to move into Condesa and pay a visit to what many consider the best English language bookshop in Mexico City and perhaps the best bookstore in Condesa – Under The Volcano books (Celaya 25, Hipódromo). Located in the American Legion building, the beautifully tiled arch doorway leads you into a gloomy passageway. Go upstairs and you’ll find a tucked away room that this small used bookstore calls home.

While I’m not really in the market for English language books myself, if you are then this is undoubtedly the place to go. There was a squishy looking sofa, mood lighting and shelf upon shelf of top quality titles that really did cover all genres and tastes.

Once you’ve made your purchase, go read it in the nearby Plaza Popocatépetl.

Literary Tour of Roma and Condesa Literary Tour of Roma and Condesa

Librería Rosario Castellanos

The final stop on the Roma-Condesa literary book tour is the slightly more out of the way Librería Rosario Castellanos (Tamaulipas 202, Hipódromo), which is down near Metro Patriotismo. To get there though, you can enjoy a very pleasant walk through the charming Parque México (which incidentally has a small book and magazine, street-side lending library in the centre).

Literary Tour of Roma and Condesa

Literary Tour of Roma and Condesa

This is admittedly the only spot I haven’t been to on this guide, so I can’t give you my first-hand experience. However, the status of Rosario Castellanos and her literary work makes this entry one that can’t just be forgotten, and the fact that this is allegedly Latin America’s largest bookstore makes it must-visit material.

Literary Tour of Roma and Condesa

Librería Rosario Castellanos is now a well-oiled machine that has both Spanish and English language titles, and is regularly classed as one of the best bookstores in Mexico City. Plus, the building itself is a Charles Lee designed Art Deco masterpiece of the Condesa neighbourhood.


Bonus Sights

If this gargantuan literary tour of Roma and Condesa just wasn’t quite enough for you, then here are some bonus points of literary interest in Mexico City that might be right up your street. I didn’t include them in the main guide simply because they’re of far more niche interest and, there’s nothing tangible there to explore.

For example, Orizaba 210 is the spot where Jack Kerouac allegedly wrote to of his greatest pieces based in the Mexican capital, Mexico City Blues and Tristessa, whereas Monterrey 122 was the place William Burroughs accidentally shot dead his wife Joan Vollmer. You really can’t make this shit up. While there’s nothing to see, it would still make for pretty good anecdote material to say you stopped by both of these addresses.

books about mexican culture

© Penguin

Where To Eat

As you can see on the map below, I’ve added in a few points of interest for when you inevitably get hungry on this epic walking tour of Roma and Condesa’s literary heritage.

For lunch, I recommend La Bicindad (Yucatán 93, Roma Norte), where I had some honestly amazing chilaquiles (and I’m quite the chilaquil aficionado) topped with an oddly delicious cranberry sauce.

Literary Tour of Roma and Condesa Literary Tour of Roma and Condesa

If you’d rather check out one of the city’s many gourmet markets, then Mercado Roma (Querétaro 225, Roma Norte) is in spitting distance from most of these literary sights. You can find everything from obscure spices, Butcher and Son burgers and Turkish coffee here, so it’s ideal if you have no idea what you’re in the mood for.

Literary Tour of Roma and CondesaLiterary Tour of Roma and Condesa

For ice cream, there’s nowhere better in Roma than Helado Obscuro (Orizaba 203, Roma Norte), which makes some intriguingly named alcoholic flavours. My personal favourite is the Dark Vader (vodka, chocolate and more chocolate), which honestly made me a bit tipsy. I think it was a psychological thing though.

Before you start the tour, you have to get tamales from the stand on the corner of Marsella and Dinamarca in Juárez though. They are hands down the best tamales in Mexico City.

Literary Tour of Roma and Condesa

Where To Drink

If you’d rather just have a beer, craft beer favourite Graciela is located on Orizaba, just down from Plaza Luis Cabrera (Orizaba 163, Roma Norte) and there’s also La Chicha bar on that same street (Orizaba 171, Roma Norte), which I recommend simply on the basis of the glimpse I got of the artwork on the interior walls.

Literary Tour of Roma and Condesa

If you’d rather have a coffee, I go all the time to Café DO12 Cerezas in Juárez (Marsella 52, Juárez), and considering that it’s right near the first stop on the guide, you could easily grab a latte pick me up there before starting the tour. Alternatively, plenty of the bookstores listed have built in cafes, so you’ll never be short on caffeine laden options for the duration of this mammoth tour.


The essential literary tour of Roma and Condesa in Mexico City. Quirky neighbourhoods full of beautiful bookstores, vibrant street art and tons of literary interest sights. This is the comprehensive guide to what to do and see, and where to eat and drink in Roma and Condesa. The essential literary tour of Roma and Condesa in Mexico City. Quirky neighbourhoods full of beautiful bookstores, vibrant street art and tons of literary interest sights. This is the comprehensive guide to what to do and see, and where to eat and drink in Roma and Condesa.

 

13 comments

  1. Erika 10 May, 2017 at 17:21 Reply

    Wow this is really cool! I love Mexico City and this will definitely be an afternoon guide on my next visit. What a moment stumbling upon the tribute to the Little Prince! Love that.

  2. Anita 10 May, 2017 at 18:08 Reply

    This is such a great list, Lauren! Mexico City is one of my top places to visit and this will come in handy. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Janie 11 May, 2017 at 00:17 Reply

    I just absolutely love the blue gates from the Under the Volcano books, that picture is amazing!!! Lovely pictures and great post, it’s now added to my ever growing travel bucket list! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  4. Stella the Travelerette 11 May, 2017 at 03:02 Reply

    This was perfect to read! I love books and Mexico City so I can’t wait to try this tour. I would definitely like to visit the Under the Volcano bookstore. And I’ve studied French my whole life so I’d really want to see the Little Prince bench!

  5. Kat 11 May, 2017 at 04:00 Reply

    This is an excellent list of local bookstores in Mexico City! The chilaquiles look delicious too. 🙂 I really want to visit Mexico City someday. When I do, I will check out your recommendations!

  6. Veronika 11 May, 2017 at 09:14 Reply

    I love all these places, such a cute little bookstore. Also liking the new design, it’s really clean and easy on the eye 🙂 May I ask you what website/app you use for creating the map?

    • Lauren 11 May, 2017 at 20:47 Reply

      It’s just Google My Maps 🙂 You create the app, make it public and then you can use an HTML embed code to add it to the site!

  7. Ufuoma 11 May, 2017 at 14:38 Reply

    MEHICOOOOOO! Looks so beautiful and never been more accessible living in Canada. Everyone seems to be going there and I see why. Love it. Thanks for sharing Lauren.

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