UNAM Ciudad Universitaria (UNAM University City) is the main campus for the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (National Autonomous University of Mexico). This sprawling school in Coyoacán was developed by Mario Pani and Enrique del Moral in 1952, based on ideas from Teodoro González de León. The campus is an ideal tourist destination. It boasts amazing modern architecture, jaw-dropping murals, vast plazas, monumental outdoor sculptures, lush botanical gardens, elegant concert halls, and high-quality museums. The entire complex was built on top of the enormous El Pedregal lava field. Volcanic rock dominates the landscape. Many of the school’s patios, walls, steps, and terraces were carved directly from bedrock. The Central Campus earned an UNESCO World Heritage Site designation in 2007. So, it’s a great spot for a walking tour! This walk covers about 2 miles (3.2 km). And it’ll take around four or five hours to finish. The ground is almost totally flat. It’s a mix of concrete and grass, with a few easy steps to climb. There are also lots of bathrooms, and shady spots to rest, along the way.
Our tour starts off in Colonia Copilco Universidad. This tiny neighborhood borders UNAM’s northeastern corner. Get there via subway using station Metro Copilco (Line 3). If public transportation isn’t your style, use a ridesharing app like Uber instead.
From the metro, walk south down Calle Tres Zapotes for two blocks. Turn right on Calle Filosofía y Letras. Walk one and a half blocks, then turn left into the alley.
Walk south, then west down the alley for four blocks (the alley runs parallel to Circuto Escolar). This alley hosts a semi-permanent tianguis (street market), it’s lined with street vendors peddling goods and snacks.
Continue down the alley until you reach Acceso 3 gate, to the left. This is one of the entrances to UNAM. Cross Circuto Escolar (use the crosswalk) and you’ll be on campus. Walk under the covered walkway until you reach the plaza.
This plaza features two outdoor murals. Francisco Eppens created Life, Death, Miscegenation and the Four Elements in 1954. This striking glass mosaic dominates the curving western facade of the FACMED building. Unfortunately, when I visited, they were doing maintenance. Although it was disappointing, it’s nice to know the school takes care of this treasure.
To the left of the first mural is a second glass mosaic. Francisco Eppens created The Overcoming of Man Through Culture in 1952. This gorgeous work is at ground level, on the southern facade of the Facultad de Odontología building. It depicts the successful ascent of Mexican culture, both morally and intellectually, rising from the ruins of the Conquest.
Architects Félix Cándela and Jorge González Reyna designed the futuristic concrete Cosmic Ray Pavilion in 1952. Note the Eppens mural to the right.
Walk west across the plaza, until you reach the Torre II de Humanidades. Continue west past the tower.
To the left you’ll find another impressive glass mosaic mural. José Chávez Morado created The Conquest of Energy in 1952. It covers the elevated northern facade of Auditorio Antonio Caso.
Continue west through Parque Las Islas and Plaza Mayor, until you reach UNAM Biblioteca Central.
To your right you’ll see the iconic campus library. All four sides of the facade are covered by a monumental stone mural. Juan O’Gorman created the Historic Representation of Culture in 1956. It’s made entirely from colored native stone, and depicts a stylized version of Mexican history.
Continue walking west. Reach the open passageway leading to the pedestrian tunnel, running under Insurgentes Sur. Go through this tunnel to Estadio Olímpico Universitario. This historic sports stadium hosted the 1968 Olympic Games. It has a large stone mural on the eastern facade. Diego Rivera created The University, the Mexican Family, Peace and Youth Sports in 1952. If the stadium gates are shut, you can still see the mural from outside the fence.
Walk south, passing the flag poles. Turn left again south of the flag poles, into the pedestrian tunnel running under Insurgentes Sur. Right after exiting the tunnel, turn left. Walk up the steps. At the top of the steps is an elevated open plaza. Walk to the east side of this plaza. There, you’ll find the UNESCO World Heritage marker sign and a nice view of Plaza Mayor.
Walk down the steps on the plaza’s east side. Pass through the short tunnel and return to Plaza Mayor. The twelve-story Rectory Tower will be to your right. It has three impressive relief murals created by David Alfaro Siqueiros. The north-facing mural is called Las fechas de la historia de México (Dates of the History of Mexico). The mural facing east is called New University Emblem. It features a stylized condor facing an eagle.
The south side of the Rectory Tower features another Siqueiros mural called The People to the University, the University to the People. For a National neohumanist Culture of Universal Depth.
Walk south to the Museo Universitario de Ciencias y Arte (MUCA). This free science and art museum features rotating contemporary modern art exhibits.
Finally, walk to the Facultad de Arquitectura building. The building features a bronze sculpture called Embedded Cubes which was created by Mathias Goeritz in 1990. The German artist, architect, and UNAM professor died just a few days after it was installed.
Cap the tour off with an inexpensive lunch at Cafetería Diseño. This casual student cafe is located in the same building as the MUCA museum. For a more upscale meal eat at Azul y Oro or Nube Siete. Both are located at the southern end of campus. Or try Restaurante Casa Club del Académico, off campus just west of the stadium. There are several ways to leave the area, including Metro and Metrobús. However, ridesharing is the most convenient way to get back to your lodging. For an alternate UNAM walking tour, including map and in-depth analysis of each mural, get a copy of my book Mexico City: The Ultimate Travel Guide.
Read More: 7 Top Boutique Hotels In Mexico City