On an unassuming corner in the Coyoacán area of Mexico City, you see a blue house with a long line of people outside. That is the Frida Kahlo Museum, or La Casa Azul. Frida Kahlo, the now world renowned artist, known for her bright, bold art and colors, a feminist icon, her tumultuous relationship with Diego Rivera, and her strength through the numerous health issues after a tragic trolley accident at 19, was born, lived and died in La Casa Azul in Mexico City. After her death, the home was turned into a museum to celebrate all she is and is now one of the most popular tourist attractions in Mexico City. Check out our family visit to The Frida Kahlo Museum, and why everyone should visit once and bask in the glory that was this icon.
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About the Museum
La Casa Azul was the home that Frida lived in from her childhood. This house was her home and you feel it in every corner. She lived here from childhood until her death. Through her turbulent marriage, she lived at various times with Diego in this house, but they had their own bedrooms. Frida needed her space and preservered fiercely. Upon her death, the house was preserved and turned into a museum celebrating her works, in a way that were not celebrated during her life. As you walk through each room in the house you see both her works of art, but also the way some of the rooms were preserved to help you understand Frida herself, and how it supported her in life. The kitchen has the stove, and original earthenware that her cook used to make the delicious meals Frida raved about and entertained with. Her art studio has her wheelchair, which was especially designed to move up and down for her. It also had the mirror she used to look at herself for self-portraits. Her bedroom has the artwork she hung on the ceiling, so she could look at it when she was in bed, often recovering from an ailment or surgery. You are guided through the home, walking through a path to let you first see the art, then learn about the person, putting Frida and her life in full perspective.
The Art of Frida Kahlo
The first-floor rooms of Frida’s home are dedicated to her art. The first rooms have several of her smaller, lesser-known paintings (Many of her more major works are with major museums throughout the world). However, one of the jewels of the collection is Viva la Vida. This is the last painting she ever finished before dying. In it she painted, “Viva La Vida”, which translates to “Live Your Life”. It was apt considering the end was near.
The next rooms are filled with photographs. Little known fact is that Frida’s father, Guillermo Kahlo, was a photographer. The exhibit has several photos of the family taken by Guillermo. However, besides painting, Frida also gained the photography bug from her father, and played with photography as well. You can find many of her photos here. One of my favorites were the many photos of Frida herself. She was a beautiful woman and considered a captivating subject by photographers. She took photography as seriously as she took painting and loved to participate in photo shoots. She directed the photos, knowing exactly what she wanted to portray. I loved the photos of Frida looking in the water in the canals of Xochimilco and really wanted to try and repeat that photo with me (however, it’s way too crowded now-a-days to try it).
Many of the homes in Mexico are built with a central courtyard and La Casa Azul is no different. Frida, due to her many disabilities, spent much time at home, so the gardens of the courtyard were where always bright and beautiful. She could admire them when outside, or from her window. After touring the house, you go into a covered courtyard where you see sculptures and a poem by Patti Smith, inspired by a butterfly collection Isamu Noguchi gave Frida Kahlo. This collection hangs on the ceiling of Frida’s night bed.
Around the gardens are beautiful plants and flowers from around Mexico and the world. They are labeled so you can understand what flowers and plants were there. At the time when Frida lived there, it would have also been filled with her bird and monkey pets, as well as butterflies and other animals that came to the garden. The garden also has beautiful reflecting pools and even a red stoned pyramid designed to look like the Aztec architecture of the Mexican people. The gardens are cool and colorful, so you can walk around and feel the atmosphere that Frida used to inspire her great works. Like everything Frida, it is unapologetically bright and loud, inspiring you with the color and artistic feel in the air. There are several benches where you can sit, relax, and just take a moment to soak in the surroundings.
Towards the opposite end of the museum is a room for special exhibits. At the time we were in Mexico City (February 2023), the special exhibit was on the clothing of Frida Kahlo. We had actually gotten the chance to see this exhibit when it was touring in San Francisco at the DeYoung Museum, but it was amazing to see it again, and see how it was presented as opposed to a US audience. The exhibit was filled with her bright and embroidered skirts and shawls, traditional Mexican dresses, inspired by the culture of her mother’s people. But there were also her cast and corsets. After her trolley accident at 19 years old, she had many surgeries throughout her life that required her to wear medical corsets or casts to keep her spine straight and upright. Where I might doodle, and the kids might just sign their names these days, Frida started her artistic journey here. She used a mirror to create elaborate paintings and designs on her casts, and many are preserved for you to see. You can also see how even medical additions to footwear didn’t stop her from creating fun, funky shoes that fit her unique style. Check the website for the latest special exhibits.
Logistics for the Visit
Tickets – You need timed entry tickets and they will sell out fast! We made the assumption we could just go up and buy tickets, but thankfully someone early in our trip asked if we had purchased tickets yet. I looked online and saw that the only tickets available were for the next to last day we were in Mexico City at 2 in the afternoon! I jumped on the tickets and purchased them. You can purchase the tickets off the museum website.
Arrival – Make sure to arrive at the museum about 15-30 minutes BEFORE your timed entry. Entry windows are 15 minutes apart, and there are 2 lines outside clearly marked with the timed entry slot to wait. There are attendants of the museum who hand out large umbrellas you can use for shade. Depending on the volume in the museum, they may allow your time slot in earlier, so getting there earlier is better. Note that if you miss your timed entry, you will not be permitted to enter at a later time slot, so be sure to arrive on time. Once you leave the museum, you will not be able to reenter.
Coffee Shop – Once you leave the museum, you cannot reenter, but thankfully there is a café in the museum, in case you want to continue exploring the museum but need a little snack.
Gift Shop – There is a very nice gift shop in the museum with many high-quality souvenirs to purchase. This shop is on the pricier side. If you are interested in more valued Frida Kahlo souvenirs, you can find many at the Mercado Artesanal Mexicano that is walking distance from the museum.
Kids Visiting – If you have a kid with a device, there is Wi-Fi in the museum, and QR codes in different parts of the museum that are designed for children. We had some trouble with Wi-Fi in spots, but when we could get it, it led to a kid friendly lesson on Frida. The QR code was in the same room that the paintings were. My oldest, 13, decided to just read the plaques. My youngest, 11, preferred the kid friendly lessons.
Also note that Frida was known for being provocative and some of her art and photos did have nudity (mostly just breasts) in the pictures and paintings. It’s not generally prominent, but it is in some of the art, so be sure to be aware when taking children if it’s a concern.
Accessibility – There are stairs you need to go up to see the second floor, and I found the walkways a bit narrow. However, remember that Frida herself was wheelchair bound towards the end. In that spirit, you will find many ramps, and an elevator for those who need it. There is also braille for the plaques, and guides trained in Mexican Sign Language.
I, personally, have had a love of Frida Kahlo and her art since I was a budding teenage feminist. The way she let herself be loud and take up space was something I strived to be. The fact that she was Latina, like me, made me admire her even more. As I got older and got to understand art better, I was always attracted the rawness of her art, and I could see the symbolism and meaning even more. As I learned of her difficult life, I only became more obsessed with her. Visiting la Casa Azul was a dream come true. But what was even more amazing was seeing my daughter learn and admire Frida Kahlo for the same reasons as I. My daughter took in all that she could in the Frida Kahlo Museum. My daughter is not afraid to be loud and take up space. I’m so proud. Frida, you are still inspiring, so many years after your death.