Granted. Tijuana, or TJ as know locally, had been famous for two things:
- an easy way to enter Mexico, have your passport stamped, drink some margaritas and get back to San Diego, asap.
- a city suffering a heavy toll of narco violence.
However, in the last 5 years many things have changed. Life is back to the streets, new restaurants are opening, hipster vibe is engulfing it and has become a small mecca for artist and designers. Even one of the most important dron companies in the world was started in Tijuana. The town is booming for better. Recently, The New York Times ranked TJ as one of the 52 places to go in 2017 (spot number 8). And that is not all, they also dedicated an article about the new design concept stores in town. LA Times had its share of Tijuana love with this fine article about night life in the city.
The city will not only surprise you. It also surprises us Mexicans that expect to find that chaotic border town and find so much more. Last time I was there, I was surprised to find so many new buildings, fancy residential areas, a nice collection of stylish restaurants, a reinassance of old Revolucion Street, and may fast roads.
It is not a city easy to walk. You either need über or hire a special tour. Public transport is still slow and noisy. However, many nice places to visit are located in the Rio district along Paseo de los Héroes, Agua Caliente Blvd and Sánchez Taboada St.
My top recommendations for this city are:
1. Spend some time in CECUT (the cultural center of the city) and visit Dos Californias Museum, a space dedicated to show the Californian culture (at both side of the border).
2. Visit Jai alai Palace, a beautiful arabesque building where jai alai and frontenis were played. These sports of Basque and Chilango origin, were a magnet for Hollywood tourists in the 1950’s. Currently it is mostly used as a concert venue. BTW, you pronounce this sport as as “hai-ah-la-ee”
3. Give a chance to Ave. Revolución (la Revo) and La Sexta. It is here where bars and cafes are located. Seems a little bit ruined, but it is also here where renaissance is most obvious with some crazy places such as Dandy del Sur (the most iconic of this Renaissance), La Mezcalera (Ever tried mezcal? It is the new tequila. This joint will make you feel you are in your Oaxacan grandmother’s house), Black Box Tijuana (and get to know more than 20 local beer brands), Bar 20 (a mixologist paradise), La Chope and so many other along la Sexta (6th Street and Revolución).
4. Take a tour along the Vía Internacional up to “La Monumental”. This avenue runs along Mexico-US border. It offers the unique feeling to drive just where these two countries collide and share so “mucho”. La Monumental is the Tijuana bullring. I would never suggest you to attend a bull fight (I used to love them as a child, but as an adult I despise the cruelty in such a spectacle). However, the Monumental sits just by the sea, where the border ends. There is even a wall next to the Monumental that gets into the sea dividing both nations.
5. Cross by foot to the US side through San Ysidro and have a look at the crazy madness of rush hour in the most crossed customs gate in the world. You can see a live update of crossing time here.
6. Attend a Mexican baseball or football match. Tijuana has a Baseball team playing in the Liga Mexicana de Beisbol, Tijuana Bulls. They own a splendid small ball park. If this is your first in Latin America, try watching a baseball match at Gasmart Stadium, seating 17,000 beisbol fans. Football has been recently introduced in the city. Despite few years in LigaMX, Xoloitzcuintles (or Xolos, pr. /sholos/) have already seen the joys of a championship. Both teams are always fighting for top places.
Ok, I might not stay a full week in the city, but a couple of days will be very well spent before venturing deeper into Baja Peninsula. And with the new Tijuana Cross Border Express, you seamlessly cross from San Diego (California) into Tijuana Airport. Did I mention about weather in Tijuana? Always nice, never above 28ºC, never below 8ºC. So, now you know why Tijuana is back into the world travelers radar.