Walking around Tijuana.

by Michael Thomas

Danial and I enjoy walking more than any other mode of transportation. The freedom to linger and explore is maximum. The pedestrian experience in Tijuana can fascinate you, entertain you, and give you a taste of Mexico on its frontier of time and space. Or it can sprain your ankle if you step in a hole. So enjoy, but always watch your step. Don't fall. (We quote ourselves.)

Go ahead. Indulge yourself. Just take the time to walk about and look and catch the vibe — agarrar la onda (literally: "to grasp the wave" but in usage it means catch the vibe) — take that most simple, yet excellent, indulgence in Tijuana afoot, an adventure for gringoes. Walk. As you perambulate you will see that Mexicans here are always walking whilst they go about their shopping (ir de compras). The downtown sidewalks, often crowded with passersby and lots of booths and street-sales tables, but are rather good quality cement, all things considered, and reasonably safe. They even have cut corners for wheelchair athletes — just don't slip on the steep ramps, eh? Ej. And keep an eye out for open water meter-boxes, etc.

Danial's REMINDER: The new sidewalks on Revolution Avenue, and the freshly rebuilt (2001-2005) corredor turistico — paved pathway over the river between downtown and border gate — are almost perfect walkways now; never mind it already looks like the changes've been here for thirty years (but only the pedestrian bridge has been around that long). What with the pavement all freshly spotted/stained with gum and spit (welcome to Tijuana, tequila, sexo, and ). But although some bemoan the loss of "seediness of the old walk" well, (and they bemoan it quite well), well, pues, now even the pissy drunks can more easily stagger back toward the border — if they ever manage to get out of the bars!

Mikey: Please watch your language, we'll lose our "family" rating with godzilloogle censor service. –Danial ]

Dano: Sorry; my conceit. –Michael ]

Out and about the more real parts of town — i.e., off of Revolution Avenue — you only need a comfortable pair of walking shoes, a little bit of money, and open eyes to give you an excellent adventure — with lots of snacks or things to buy along the way.

Only on foot can you have the freedom to just stop and look in a shop window, or pick up a frozen fruit-or-icecream popsicle-bar (una paleta available at the little open air paleterias on many corners — they also sell ice-cream cones & cups, yummy Mexican drinks "waters" [aguas] in multiple flavors), or dawdle over the racks of magazines on the corner newstand, the kid on the corner with his unfolded card-table selling used books in English and Spanish. {Mikey: it's you who's Dawdling Digression now!} Sorry. Back on track, but I can't extoll enough the feeling you get being right in the middle of action and social life... there is no better way to cop a fast feel (?!?!) for Tijuana and its living Mexican culture than walking around downtown or adventuring to some nearer destinations like Zona Rio or Parque Teniente Guerrero.

El centro — downtown — is a dense, life-filled place to walk and shop. Late at night (i.e. between one and five a.m. [except weekend nights on Revolution])  ;-)  it gets a little quiet, but all day and into the evening the streets are full of pedestrian life.

As for walking into other parts of town, well, no one likes diesel fumes blowing in your face, so it's generally better if you don't try to walk along the highways — especially the double via rapida that stretches on both sides of the river levee. Stick to the regular streets.

Oh yes, and always watch your step for broken sidewalks, pieces of metal, glass, holes, open meter boxes, dogs, beggars, hustlers, whores, and thieves. You know, just like in New York.

Some suggested walks are forthwith described:

tur.info pages:

  1. From Border to Downtown/Revolución (click for long description of route) -- walk into Mexico! Tread the quintessential tourist path, from border turnstyle past the Sea of Taxis and Island of Tacos, through the postmodern huckster pharmacy & curio bar shopping center of Plaza Viva Tijuana, then up onto the pedestrian bridge over the stinking river and up the little old hill into downtown Tijuana; the best known walk in this "world's most visited city." Since the building of the Millennial Clock Arch over the corner of Revolution Avenue and 1st Street smack at Plaza Santa Cecilia, pedestrians from the border have had to do little less than walk toward the big silver parabola. "Follow the silver parabola road...." We won't bother telling you here what local critics think of that giant postmodern monument.


  2. Up Revolution Avenue to Old Agua Caliente tower park - twelve blocks (one mile).

    To get to the old Casino tower, rebuilt in its park closer to downtown in 1986, just walk straight up Revolution Avenue to its upper end, by the edge of the hills, where the big street bends to the left and finally comes to the park with trees and old tower. This is also where Agua Caliente Boulevard begins. And Fundadores Boulevard goes up a canyon into the hills.

  3. From Downtown/Revolución to Zona Rio (and across the river, scroll below through exploring zona) -- wandering from tourist madness through the world of auto repair and reupholstery ("I just love a good tuck & roll..." American Graffiti) past the produce and meat/fish market zone, to reach Mercado Hidaldo (tons more produce, candy, souvenirs, etc) and enter the "new" Tijuana.

    To begin this walk from downtown, walk east from Revolution Avenue on any street above Third, like on 4th, 5th, 6th. You will go downhill past bars and shops and eventually enter the market zones. Along third and fourth streets the mechanic shops are repairing, painting and upholstering cars. Around sixth and Pio Pico are many blocks of vegetable, fruit, produce, meat and fish markets. You can pick your own zig-zag route up from 3rd-4th-5th-6th and Madero-Negrete-Ocampo-Pio Pico. One of the funiest street-literature sights we ever saw used to be near here -- next door to an "abastador de huevo" was located the "Tacos Viagra" stand. "Huevos" of course are slang for proof of masculine virility.

    As you walk through this area you will pass a goodly selection of small and large restaurants, especially seafood ("Mariscos"). If you're hungry, remember to trust your nose whether good or bad. Your body usually knows.

    Across the big street Sanchez Taboada, near 9th, comes the mother of all markets, Mercado Hidalgo, "the" central produce market. Now you have reached the River Zone, Zona Rio #1 (#2 and #3 zones stretch more miles upstream toward Cerro Colorado).

    Return to top of page.

    You Continue with walk #3.

  4. Exploring Zona Rio (and across the river, just below) -- The Cultural Center of Tijuana (CECUT) with its Museo de las Californias (history of Baja California museum), galleries, theater, and OMNIMAX film dome, and then the mall (Plaza Rio), hotels, nightclubs, restaurants, the Mercado Hidalgo produce market (mmmmm).

    River Zone area number one, the part most people think of the word "zona rio," fills about twenty blocks up and down the tree-lined Paseo de los Heroes, full of offices, stores, restaurants, hotels, nightclubs, apartments, etc. This paseo has several traffic circles along its length. At the north end, toward the border, it feeds into the spaghetti snarl of highway ramps that twist their cars in four or five directions. You can't walk there north of 3rd street. Ninth comes out onto Taboada near the Mercado Hidalgo; Eighth has the Cafe Juglar with its mellow ambience, art, and performance, behind the bicycle mirror gym in the two-storey beige building. That is also near where the busses arrive from Nayarit, a uniquely moving sight, if you chance upon the crowds meeting their relatives from the South. One of them told me the bus service is good. By their painted office on the corner they go to Tepic.

    Crossing the big street Sanchez Taboada, we approach the Mercado Hidalgo with its many bulging stands wrapped around the parking lot, and all its shops bursting with food, cookwares, and little restaurants. Wander along the sidewalk but remember to buy something. This place may be a tourist attraction available for free, but it is firstly a working marketplace and they value their customers. Pedro Lopez said the cafe on top the island building in the center of the parking, is good, but neither Daniel nor I have been there. Yet.

    CECUT and Plaza Rio mall are a ways beyond and to the left of Mercado Hidalgo. Go towards the big brown ball or the world's largest scissors clip sticking up in the middle of wild traffic. Remember when you cross the street (WITH THE LIGHT, hopefully, maybe) in Mexico, make sure you see that everyone sees you. Eye contact with drivers will tell you. On the right before the mall is the "Spanish" village of clubs and boutiques and a cafe or two and our friend Marcos' and Lupe's naturalist shop. Plaza Fiesta, which eventually gives way to the Plaza of Shoe Stores. These clubs are very popular for loud music. Young Mexicans like to party here.

    Across the Paseo is the big shopping mall with two movie plexes. CECUT with its galleries, museum, theater and omnimax, is around that big brown ball left of the giant scissors. Up the paseo to your right is another Sanborns (ubiquitous they), then the luxurious Cuerno Real Hotel and clubs around the statue of Aztec Cuautemoc, and on, beyond, the famous nightclub Baby Rock.

    Return to top of page.

    ACROSS The RIVER

    There is another part of Zona Rio, across the river, where the City and State palacios sit in their gardens, with, tucked in-between them, a public library and the Instituto Cultural de Baja California (ICBC) with its gallery and small auditorium. To get there, walking, take the sidewalk on the Independencia street bridge (from the giant scissors), or the pedestrian bridge that leaves behind the shopping mall.

    On Fiesta nights, when there be events in the plaza outside the palacio, the gardens may be filled with booths and people eating and walking. Especially the night of September 15th.

  5. From Border to Pueblo Amigo and Zona Rio -- under the superhighway to Pueblo Amigo, a cute reproduction Spanish village of shops, one big store (Ley), nightclubs and a big, swank hotel, then (if you dare) over the river to CECUT & Plaza Rio mall.

    After you leave the sea of taxis and island of tacos at the border gate, comes the tricky part: getting safely under the freeway snarl. Do Not EVEN Think about walking up Onto it... what do you think you are? Road kill? No. Crossing the busy streets where busses roar is bad enough.

    Make eye contact with drivers, stay on ground level, and go around and behind the right hand side of the "Lloyds" tower building and adjacent hospital. Then take the underpass with painted folkloric walls. Nice sidewalks, too. Paving bricks like an old village. Sometimes Daniel tells me there is more life in those paintings than in the fake village beyond. He is too cynical methinks.

    When you come out from under the curving pass, the hotel tower on your right begins Pueblo Amigo. This is a complex covering several blocks, with big luxury hotel tower, fancy betting salon, famous nightclub with plenty of pickup action, a quaint fake crumbling concrete Spanish village of shops and a cafe or two. (This village is generally quieter than the Plaza Fiesta across the river near the mall). There are like pet stores and the like here, as well as a few cafes, and some club about a Frog and the one remodeled to look like a Maya ruin with fountain pouring down its front wall. In the back of the village, you will find a big SUPERSTORE by the name of LEY — an excellent place to stock up on supplies, food, everything. Behind the Ley superstore, a pedestrian bridge climbs up its stairs to cross the river. DO NOT TALK WITH STRANGE MEN HUDDLED ON THE RIVER BANKS -- many of them only want money for drugs. This pedestrian overpass will take you over to the very beginning of Zona Rio development, two blocks before CECUT.

    Alternate river crossings can be made by the Palacio Municipal, a further walk through the modern concrete neighborhood. You may cross either on the sidewalk side of Independence Avenue bridge (where we saw death...) or linger on this side of the river by the "palaces" to enjoy the gardens and ICBC (gallery, cafe, and library next door), to cross via the pedestrian bridge that will drop you smack dab into the Plaza Rio mall, with its multiplex movies, available restrooms (hallway door outside Burger King), and a variety of food purveyors whom you may consult.

    Return to top of page.

    Teniente Park sits on a full block of land in its neighborhood five blocks west of Revolution.

  6. From Revolución to Parque Teniente Guerrero. Five blocks west of the tourist madness, to an oasis of popular culture and street life. Family zone in the daytime, but not at night.

    The walk from Revolution to Parque Teniente goes through the business west end of downtown. 3rd (Carillo Puerto) or 4th are the most direct routes, but a zig-zag from 7th or 8th and Constitution lets you enjoy a certain random discovery. Good taco corner at 5th & D. El Nopal -- a cafe/bar with evening entertainment (cover charge on weekends) waits with its gardens halfway up the narrow little street from 6th & F (the Teniente park starts at 4th & F). The neighborhood around the park is full of doctors' offices and private hospitals, numerous small restaurants -- several large ones including very popular fish place at 3rd & H, or tipicos on 2nd between F & G, where El Rey taco stand is open into the hours after midnight (they make their tortillas hand-fresh from masa).

    The park is a fabulous place to rest and watch the wonderful parade of human life. You will find yourself a world apart from the madness of Revolution Avenue. Here in the park you can feel the soul and heart of Mexico beating with fresh energy. Families come to picnic and play on the playground. Lovers come to stroll and sit entwined on the benches. Friends walk or sit around chatting and socializing. Plenty of snacks available from daytime vendors, tacos, popcorn, fruit, ice cream bars, drinks. Entertainment on the weekends. Restrooms available for thirty cents (in 2002). A library at one end for those who wish to study Spanish reading (9-5 or 7). Across Third is the San Francisco Church (please be respectful -- don't go inside wearing shorts and tank tops). This neighborhood is reasonably safe in the daytime, but the park has a shady reputation at night -- be warned (even with police presence).

    Return to top of page.

  7. From Parque Teniente Guerrero to the tomb of Juan Soldado. An accused rapist murderer, a soldier shot by other soldiers in 1938; his tomb has become a controversial cult site. The cemetery is only open daylight hours. The way there from Parque Teniente Guerrero drops down along G or H from Third to First (Articulo 123). Even the cops eat the tasty burgers at 1st & I. Go down I street beyond First to the diagonal turn left -- Avenida Carranza -- that runs several blocks to the cemetery walls on your left. Straight in along the entrance road you will find the tomb halfway back. The cemetery is NOT open in the evenings or nights. Also closed on ____day... {MICHAEL... check this one out, will you???}.

Return to top of page.


Gringo  :  Touristic Information


Send Daniel or Michael e-mail at tijuanagringo@yahoo.com
Copyright 2001-2003 Daniel Charles Thomas
  • under constructionExploring Avenida Revolución -- the delicious "calle de locura" -- street of madness, with its stores, restaurants, passageways, nightclubs, etc.

  • under constructionConstitución, Ninos Heroes & Downtown -- Centro (downtown) markets, the City Gallery, two old movie theaters, and a zillion places to shop and eat.

    Return to top of page.

  • under constructionA Longer Walk: From Revolución to la Torre de Tijuana park, Boulevard Agua Caliente, Colonia Cacho, the "downtown" bullring, las Torres de Agua Caliente and the racetrack (hipodromo). The title says it all. The first site, the old Agua Caliente Tower, is only a couple blocks from the head of Revolución. From there....

  • under constructionFrom Parque Teniente Guerrero to Casa de la Cultura on the hill. Up the old outdoor staircase, past the canyon where the zebra-painted burros (zeburros) go to sleep at night, to arrive at one of the city's best gallery and classroom spaces, in a beautiful old converted school building.