The Comeback: Tijuana

Until recently Tijuana, Mexico, was best left to kids looking for trouble. But a blossoming cultural scene is helping the busy borderland 17 miles south of San Diego turn a sophisticated corner.

La Casa del Túnel — named for an illicit tunnel that was once underneath — now traffics in contemporary art, and galleries along the subterranean Pasaje Gómez beckon visitors off main drag Avenida Revolución.

“TJ” still breaks a few rules — at sizzling restaurants innovating “Baja-Med” fusion, such as Misión 19 (an Anthony Bourdain pick), El Taller, and La Querencia, with specials like seared beef tongue with chipotle cream. Then there are octopus tacos at the Kokopelli street stand and 30-plus Mexican brews at BCB Tasting Room (just don’t ask for a Corona).

On a Turista Libre tour aboard a school bus departing from the Mexican side of the border, day-trippers discover many layers of “beautifully bizarre” Tijuana (in the words of guide Derrik Chinn). At Playas, the U.S.-Mexico fence plunges into the Pacific — a photo op as well as a reminder of the constant exchange of people and ideas in this land where cultures meet.

This piece, written by David Swanson, appeared in the May 2013 issue of Traveler magazine. There’s a lot you can’t get online. Subscribe to have the print edition delivered to your door.



  1. Bonnie
    Merida, Mexico
    June 12, 2013, 11:09 am

    At In Ka’an B&B ( in Merida, Yucatan, we always point people to the best ‘tacarias’ around and yes, one of our recommendations is octopus tacos, but you should also definitely try brain tacos or morcilla tacos as well are excellent. They may not SOUND great, but trust me, you won’t regret it!

  2. The Real Tijuana
    May 28, 2013, 1:13 pm

    Can’t say your lead fills us with warm feelings. Derrick Chinn is not the first gringo to decide to live here. Gringos have been coming here for more than trouble for many generations now.