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Guanajuato, Mexico: Travel Memory #6


by Rheta Sawicki



Welcome to Guanajuato, a vibrant city nestled in the heart of Mexico. With its rich history, colorful architecture, and lively cultural scene, Guanajuato offers a unique travel experience that will leave a lasting imprint on your memories. Whether you’re a history buff, an art enthusiast, or simply looking to immerse yourself in the charm of a bustling Mexican city, Guanajuato has something to offer for everyone.


Guanajuato is located in the central part of Mexico, about a four-hour drive from Mexico City. It was founded in the 16th century and quickly grew into a prosperous mining town during the Spanish colonial period. Today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site renowned for its well-preserved colonial architecture and vibrant Mexican culture.


One of the city’s most distinctive features is its unique layout. Guanajuato is built on a series of steep hills and narrow winding streets, adding to its charm and giving it a sense of adventure for visitors. As you explore the city, you’ll come across picturesque plazas, historic churches, and colorful houses that paint the streets with a vibrant tapestry.


Beyond its architectural beauty, Guanajuato is also known for its thriving cultural scene. The city is home to numerous theaters, art galleries, and museums, showcasing the rich artistic heritage of Mexico. Whether you’re attending a traditional Mexican folk dance performance at the Teatro Juarez or marveling at the works of famous Mexican muralist Diego Rivera at the Museo Casa Diego Rivera, there is no shortage of cultural experiences to be had in Guanajuato.


In addition to its cultural offerings, Guanajuato is also a hotspot for culinary delights. From traditional Mexican street food stalls to upscale restaurants serving gourmet Mexican cuisine, the city has it all. Don’t miss the opportunity to savor local specialties such as enchiladas mineras, chiles en nogada, and the iconic cajeta, a sweet caramel sauce made from goat’s milk.


Whether you’re strolling through the picturesque alleyways of the city center, exploring the wealth of museums and cultural sites, or venturing out on day trips to nearby attractions, Guanajuato promises to be an unforgettable destination. So pack your bags and get ready to embark on a journey filled with history, culture, and authentic Mexican experiences in the charming city of Guanajuato.


History of Guanajuato

Guanajuato has a rich and fascinating history that dates back to its founding in the 16th century. Originally settled by the indigenous peoples of the region, the area was later discovered by Spanish explorers in the early 1500s. However, it wasn’t until the discovery of silver deposits in the nearby mountains that Guanajuato truly began to flourish.


In the 16th and 17th centuries, Guanajuato became one of the wealthiest and most important mining towns in Mexico. The abundance of silver veins attracted miners from across the country and even from Europe, leading to a rapid population growth and the development of a vibrant colonial city.


During the Spanish colonial period, Guanajuato became a hub for silver production and trade. The wealth generated from the mines funded the construction of grand colonial buildings, including churches, mansions, and government buildings. Many of these architectural gems can still be seen in the city today, adding to its unique charm.


One of the most significant events in Guanajuato’s history is the Mexican War of Independence, which began in 1810. Guanajuato played a crucial role in the early stages of the uprising, with insurgent leader Miguel Hidalgo capturing the city and igniting a wave of rebellion across Mexico.


The city was later recaptured by Spanish forces, but the memory of the battle and the fight for independence remains an integral part of Guanajuato’s identity. Today, visitors can explore the Alhóndiga de Granaditas, a historic grain storage building that was turned into a fortress during the war and now serves as a museum dedicated to the struggle for independence.


In recognition of its historical and cultural significance, Guanajuato was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988. The preservation of its colonial architecture and the wealth of cultural institutions in the city contribute to its status as a must-visit destination for history enthusiasts and curious travelers alike.


Step back in time as you wander through the narrow streets of Guanajuato, marveling at the colonial facades and soaking in the ambiance of a bygone era. Immerse yourself in the stories of the silver barons, revolutionaries, and artisans who shaped the city’s history, and discover the unique blend of Spanish and indigenous influences that make Guanajuato a true treasure of Mexico.


Attractions in Guanajuato

Guanajuato is a city that is brimming with attractions and sights to explore. From historical landmarks to cultural hotspots, there is something for everyone to enjoy in this picturesque Mexican city.


The city center of Guanajuato, known as the historic district, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a must-visit for any traveler. The colorful facades of the buildings, cobblestone streets, and the winding alleyways create a charming and vibrant atmosphere. As you stroll through the narrow streets, you’ll come across quaint plazas and beautiful colonial architecture that will transport you back in time.


One of the most famous landmarks in Guanajuato is the stunning Teatro Juarez. This elegant theater, built in the late 19th century, is an architectural masterpiece and a symbol of the city. Take a guided tour or catch a live performance to experience the grandeur and beauty of this historic venue.


An absolute must-visit in Guanajuato is the magnificent Basilica Colegiata de Nuestra Señora de Guanajuato. This stunning church, with its intricate baroque facade and lavish interiors, is a sight to behold. Step inside to admire the ornate altars, beautiful artwork, and soak in the tranquil atmosphere.


If museums are your thing, you won’t be disappointed in Guanajuato. The Museo Iconográfico del Quijote is dedicated to the iconic character Don Quixote and features a vast collection of artwork inspired by Miguel de Cervantes’ famous novel. Another must-visit is the Museo Casa Diego Rivera, the former home of the famous Mexican artist. Explore the rooms where Rivera lived and see his original artwork on display.


No visit to Guanajuato is complete without a visit to the Callejón del Beso, or the Alley of the Kiss. This narrow alleyway is famous for its romantic legend that states that couples who kiss on the third step of the alley will have seven years of happiness together. Take a stroll with your loved one and embrace the romance of this iconic spot.


For a taste of Guanajuato’s subterranean wonders, head to the La Valenciana mine. Take a guided tour deep into the bowels of the earth to learn about the city’s rich mining history. Marvel at the intricate underground tunnels and gain insight into the hardships faced by the miners.


These are just a few of the many attractions that await you in Guanajuato. Whether you’re a history buff, an art lover, or simply seeking a unique and vibrant destination, Guanajuato offers a treasure trove of experiences that will leave you in awe.


Exploring the City Centre

The city center of Guanajuato is a vibrant and bustling area, perfect for exploration and immersion in Mexican culture. Here, you’ll find a plethora of attractions, shops, restaurants, and charming plazas that showcase the vibrancy and charm of the city.


Start your exploration in the heart of the city at the iconic Jardín de la Unión. This central plaza is a popular gathering place for both locals and tourists. Grab a seat on one of the benches and take in the lively atmosphere as street performers entertain passersby. Be sure to admire the Jardín de la Unión’s stunning gazebo and the surrounding colonial buildings, which act as a backdrop to the festivities.


As you wander through the streets of the city center, you’ll come across a wide array of shops, boutiques, and artisan workshops. Guanajuato is known for its silver jewelry, leather goods, and handmade crafts. Take the time to explore the local markets and shops to find that perfect souvenir to remember your trip by.


Make sure to visit the Mercado Hidalgo, a bustling market housed in a stunning historic building. Here, you can browse through a variety of stalls selling fresh produce, handicrafts, clothing, and more. It’s a great place to soak up the authentic Mexican atmosphere and try some delicious street food.


While exploring the city center, you’ll also come across several beautiful churches and religious sites. The Templo de San Diego and the Templo de San Cayetano are prime examples of the colonial architectural style in Guanajuato. Step inside these churches to admire their intricate altars and beautiful artwork.


An unmissable attraction in the city center is the famous Callejón del Beso, or the Alley of the Kiss. This narrow alleyway is so close that it is said that couples can lean out of their windows and exchange a kiss. It is a popular spot for couples and a symbol of romance in Guanajuato.


As you immerse yourself in the city center, take a moment to sit at a sidewalk café and indulge in some people-watching. Grab a cup of rich Mexican coffee or savor a delicious street food snack as you soak up the lively atmosphere and appreciate the unique charm of Guanajuato.


Whether you’re strolling through the lively plazas, shopping for artisan crafts, or simply observing the day-to-day life of the locals, exploring the city center of Guanajuato is a delightful experience that allows you to truly feel the pulse of this captivating Mexican city.


Museums and Cultural Sites

Guanajuato is a city steeped in history and culture, and it is home to a wide array of museums and cultural sites that offer a glimpse into its rich heritage. Whether you have an affinity for art, history, or Mexican folklore, there are plenty of museums and cultural sites to explore in Guanajuato.


One of the most significant cultural sites in Guanajuato is the Alhóndiga de Granaditas. This historic building played a pivotal role in the Mexican War of Independence and now houses the Regional Museum of Guanajuato. Step inside to learn about the region’s history, view exhibitions on Mexican art and culture, and immerse yourself in the events that shaped the country’s independence movement.


If you’re interested in Mexican art, a visit to the Museo Casa Diego Rivera is a must. This museum is dedicated to the renowned Mexican painter and muralist Diego Rivera, who was born in Guanajuato. The museum showcases a collection of Rivera’s works and provides insight into his life and artistic contributions to Mexican culture.


For a unique and immersive experience, head to the Museo de las Momias (Museum of the Mummies). Located in the Municipal Pantheon, this macabre attraction houses a collection of naturally mummified bodies that were discovered in the local cemetery. It offers a fascinating, albeit slightly eerie, glimpse into the burial traditions and the passage of time in Guanajuato.


Guanajuato is also home to various museums dedicated to exploring different facets of Mexican culture and history. The Museo del Pueblo de Guanajuato offers exhibits on the city’s history, traditions, and crafts, providing visitors with a comprehensive understanding of Guanajuato’s cultural heritage.


For art enthusiasts, the Museo de Arte e Historia de Guanajuato is a treasure trove of Mexican art. This museum showcases works from both Mexican and international artists, giving you the opportunity to immerse yourself in diverse artistic expressions.


Additionally, the Museo Iconográfico del Quijote is a unique museum that celebrates the iconic Spanish character Don Quixote. The museum features sculptures, paintings, and other artistic representations inspired by Miguel de Cervantes’ famous novel.


As you explore these museums and cultural sites, you’ll not only gain knowledge about the rich history and culture of Guanajuato but also develop a deeper appreciation for the artistic and intellectual contributions of Mexico as a whole. Immerse yourself in the stories, art, and traditions preserved within these cultural institutions, and let them transport you to the heart and soul of Guanajuato.


Day Trips from Guanajuato

While Guanajuato itself offers a plethora of attractions and activities, it is also conveniently located near several other captivating destinations that make for excellent day trips. From charming colonial towns to natural wonders, there’s plenty to explore just a short distance away from Guanajuato.


One popular day trip option is a visit to the town of San Miguel de Allende, located just 90 kilometers from Guanajuato. This UNESCO World Heritage site is renowned for its well-preserved colonial architecture, colorful facades, and vibrant art scene. Take a stroll through the cobblestone streets, visit the historic Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, and discover the many art galleries and shops that make San Miguel de Allende a haven for artists and artisans.


If you’re seeking a glimpse into Mexico’s ancient past, a day trip to the archaeological site of Cañada de la Virgen is highly recommended. This pre-Hispanic site, located about an hour away from Guanajuato, features stunning pyramid structures and ceremonial plazas dating back to around 540 AD. Explore the grounds, guided by an archaeologist, and learn about the Toltec influence on the region.


For nature lovers, a day trip to the Sierra de Guanajuato is a must. This mountain range is located just outside of Guanajuato and offers breathtaking natural beauty. Embark on a hiking or biking adventure, or simply enjoy the serene environment and stunning panoramic views. Be sure to visit the charming town of Mineral de Pozos, known for its picturesque landscapes and abandoned mines.


In contrast to the tranquility of the Sierra de Guanajuato, the town of Leon offers a vibrant and bustling experience. Known as the leather capital of Mexico, Leon is famous for its leather goods and shoes. Explore the many leather shops, visit the neo-Gothic-style Leon Cathedral, and indulge in delicious local cuisine.


If you’re interested in tequila, consider a visit to the town of Tequila, located in the neighboring state of Jalisco. Tequila is recognized as the birthplace of Mexico’s iconic spirit. Take a tour of a tequila distillery, learn about the production process, and sample different types of tequila.


These are just a few examples of the day trips you can take from Guanajuato. Whether you’re looking to immerse yourself in Mexican history and culture, explore stunning natural landscapes, or simply discover charming towns nearby, the region surrounding Guanajuato offers a range of options for unforgettable day trips.


Festivals and Events

Guanajuato is known for its vibrant and lively festivals and events that showcase the rich cultural heritage of the region. Throughout the year, the city comes alive with music, dance, parades, and culinary delights, offering visitors a chance to join in the festive atmosphere and create unforgettable memories.


One of the most famous events in Guanajuato is the International Cervantino Festival, held annually in October. This renowned cultural festival celebrates the arts and literature, with a focus on the works of Miguel de Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote. The festival features theater performances, musical concerts, dance shows, art exhibitions, and much more. Artists and visitors from all around the world come together to celebrate creativity and culture.


Semana Santa, or Holy Week, is another significant event in Guanajuato. This religious festival takes place in the week leading up to Easter and features processions, reenactments of biblical scenes, and religious ceremonies. The city is adorned with colorful decorations, and the streets are filled with locals and tourists participating in the celebrations.


La Calaca Festival is a unique event that takes place in November, celebrating the Mexican holiday of Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos). During this festival, the city transforms into a vibrant celebration of life and death. Decorated skulls, intricate costumes, and theatrical performances create a lively and immersive atmosphere where locals and visitors honor and remember their loved ones who have passed away.


Guanajuato is also known for its lively music scene, and various music festivals and events take place throughout the year. The Festival Internacional Cervantino also features a wide range of musical performances, including classical, jazz, and traditional Mexican music. The Festival Internacional de Jazz de Guanajuato is another much-anticipated event for jazz enthusiasts, showcasing talented local and international musicians.


Food lovers will find their bliss at the Festival Internacional de Cervantino, as well as the Festival Internacional del Globo, an annual hot air balloon festival held in the nearby city of León. Visitors can enjoy a variety of culinary delights, including traditional Mexican dishes, street food, and globally inspired cuisine.


These are just a few examples of the many festivals and events that take place in Guanajuato throughout the year. With its vibrant cultural scene and enthusiastic locals, the city offers a year-round calendar of celebrations and festivities that highlight the spirit and traditions of Mexico.


Local Cuisine and Dining Options

Guanajuato is a culinary paradise, offering a wide array of delicious dishes that reflect the vibrant flavors and traditions of Mexican cuisine. From street food stalls to upscale restaurants, the city has dining options to suit every taste and budget.


One iconic dish that you must try in Guanajuato is enchiladas mineras. These mouthwatering enchiladas are filled with seasoned meat or cheese, topped with a flavorful tomato and chili sauce, and garnished with onions, cheese, and sour cream. They are typically served with rice and beans, creating a satisfying and classic Mexican meal.


Another popular dish is chiles en nogada, especially during the summer months when fresh pomegranate is in season. This delightful dish consists of roasted poblano peppers stuffed with a mix of ground meat, fruits, and spices, topped with a creamy walnut sauce, and garnished with pomegranate seeds. The combination of savory and sweet flavors makes it a unique and delicious choice.


Asado de bodas is a traditional wedding dish that you can find in some restaurants in Guanajuato. This slow-cooked pork stew is flavored with a variety of spices and served with rice and tortillas. The tender meat and rich flavors make it a comforting and hearty option.


No visit to Guanajuato would be complete without trying the iconic cajeta, a sweet caramel sauce made from goat’s milk. You can find it drizzled over desserts like churros or as a filling in pastries. Its creamy and rich taste will satisfy any sweet tooth.


If you’re looking for a quick and flavorful snack, be sure to try tamales. These steamed corn dough pockets filled with various ingredients like meat, cheese, or vegetables are a staple of Mexican cuisine. Look out for street vendors selling tamales, as they are often made using family recipes passed down through generations.


When it comes to dining options, Guanajuato offers a range of choices, from casual street food eateries to elegant fine dining establishments. Explore the markets and food stalls where you can sample a variety of local delicacies at affordable prices. Alternatively, indulge in a fine dining experience at one of the city’s upscale restaurants, where skilled chefs create innovative dishes using traditional Mexican ingredients.


Don’t forget to pair your meal with a refreshing beverage. Try a margarita made with local tequila, a refreshing horchata made from rice and cinnamon, or the iconic Mexican soft drink, Jarritos.


Guanajuato’s diverse and flavorful cuisine is a reflection of its rich cultural heritage. Whether you’re savoring street food, dining at a traditional restaurant, or indulging in fine dining, the local cuisine of Guanajuato is sure to tantalize your taste buds and leave you craving more.


Accommodation and Lodging

When visiting Guanajuato, you’ll find a variety of accommodation options that cater to different budgets and preferences. Whether you’re looking for a luxury hotel, a cozy bed and breakfast, or a budget-friendly hostel, Guanajuato has something to suit every traveler’s needs.


If you prefer luxury and indulgence, there are several upscale hotels in Guanajuato that offer exquisite amenities and top-notch service. These hotels often feature elegant rooms, spa facilities, swimming pools, and on-site restaurants. Many of them are located in historic and renovated colonial buildings, adding to the charm and authenticity of your stay.


For those seeking a more intimate experience, bed and breakfasts (B&Bs) and boutique hotels in Guanajuato are a great option. These accommodations often provide a cozy and personalized atmosphere, with unique decor and thoughtful touches. They tend to be smaller in size, allowing for a more personalized experience and giving you the opportunity to interact with fellow travelers.


If you’re traveling on a tighter budget, Guanajuato also has a range of affordable accommodation options, including budget hotels and hostels. Hostels offer dormitory-style rooms as well as private rooms, making them a great choice for backpackers and solo travelers looking to connect with other like-minded individuals. Some hostels even organize social activities and events to enhance the communal experience.


Regardless of your choice of accommodation, it is advisable to book in advance, especially during peak travel seasons or popular festival dates, to ensure availability and secure the best rates.


When deciding on the location of your accommodation, consider staying in or near the city center of Guanajuato. Being centrally located will allow for convenient access to the main attractions, restaurants, and cultural sites. Plus, you’ll have the opportunity to soak in the vibrant atmosphere and charm of the city at any time of the day or night.


Lastly, don’t forget to read reviews and check the amenities and services offered by each accommodation option. This will help you make an informed decision and ensure a comfortable and enjoyable stay in Guanajuato.


Whether you’re seeking luxury, cozy comfort, or budget-friendly options, Guanajuato offers a wide range of accommodations that will make your stay memorable and enjoyable. So, choose the one that suits your needs and preferences, and get ready to immerse yourself in the history, culture, and vibrant energy of this enchanting Mexican city.


Transportation in Guanajuato

Getting around Guanajuato is relatively easy, thanks to its well-connected transportation network. Whether you prefer to explore on foot, use public transportation, or rent a vehicle, there are plenty of options available to suit your needs.


Within the city of Guanajuato, walking is often the best way to navigate the narrow and winding streets of the historic center. Many of the main attractions, restaurants, and shops are within walking distance of each other, allowing you to soak in the charm of the city as you stroll from place to place.


For longer distances within the city or if you prefer not to walk, taxis are a convenient and readily available option. It’s recommended to only use authorized taxis, which are typically marked with a taxi sign on the roof and have official identification displayed in the vehicle. Uber is also available in Guanajuato, offering a reliable and often cost-effective alternative to traditional taxis.


Another popular mode of transportation in Guanajuato is the local bus system. Buses are an affordable and efficient way to travel within the city and beyond. They cover various routes and can take you to popular tourist destinations, such as the nearby town of San Miguel de Allende. Be sure to have small change on hand to pay for your fare, as bus drivers often don’t provide change for larger bills.


If you plan on exploring more of the region surrounding Guanajuato, renting a car can be a convenient option. Renting a car gives you the freedom to explore at your own pace and to venture further afield. However, keep in mind that driving in Guanajuato’s narrow streets and steep hills can be challenging for inexperienced drivers. Additionally, parking in the city center can be limited and expensive. It’s advisable to choose accommodations that offer parking facilities if you decide to rent a car.


For those looking to travel to Guanajuato from other cities in Mexico, the city is well served by a network of buses and has a major airport, the Del Bajío International Airport (BJX), located approximately 30 minutes away by car. From the airport, you can hire a taxi, use a ride-sharing service, or take a prearranged shuttle service to reach your final destination in Guanajuato.


Overall, transportation in Guanajuato caters to the needs of travelers, offering options for both convenience and affordability. Whether you choose to walk, use taxis, buses, or rent a car, you’ll find that getting around Guanajuato is a breeze, allowing you to fully enjoy all that this captivating city has to offer.


Tips for Traveling in Guanajuato

Traveling to Guanajuato can be an exciting and fulfilling experience. To make the most of your trip and ensure a smooth journey, keep these valuable tips in mind:

  1. Stay in or near the city center: Opt for accommodations in or near the city center to have easy access to the main attractions, restaurants, and cultural sites. This will allow you to immerse yourself in the charm of Guanajuato and avoid long commutes.
  2. Take comfortable walking shoes: Guanajuato is a walkable city with its narrow streets and hills. Bring comfortable walking shoes to explore the city’s sights and attractions without discomfort.
  3. Practice caution with your belongings: As with any tourist destination, be mindful of your belongings and keep an eye on your personal belongings, especially in crowded areas or tourist hotspots. Use a money belt or a secure bag to keep your valuables safe.
  4. Sample the local cuisine: Guanajuato is known for its delicious and diverse cuisine. Be adventurous and try traditional dishes such as enchiladas mineras and chiles en nogada. Don’t forget to indulge in the sweet caramel sauce known as cajeta.
  5. Engage with the local culture: Guanajuato is a city rich in history and culture. Take the time to engage with the local people, learn about their traditions, and participate in festivals and events to get a deeper understanding of the vibrant Mexican culture.
  6. Carry cash in small denominations: While many establishments accept credit cards, it’s a good idea to carry cash, especially in small denominations, for smaller shops, street vendors, and transportation. Keep your cash secure and avoid displaying large amounts of money in public.
  7. Learn basic Spanish phrases: While many people in Guanajuato speak English, it’s always helpful to learn a few basic Spanish phrases. Locals appreciate the effort, and it can enhance your interactions and experiences during your trip.
  8. Be mindful of altitude: Guanajuato is located at an altitude of approximately 2,000 meters (6,500 feet) above sea level. Take it easy during your first few days to acclimate to the altitude and stay hydrated to avoid altitude-related symptoms.
  9. Respect local customs and traditions: Guanajuato has a rich cultural heritage, and it’s important to respect local customs and traditions. Dress modestly when visiting religious sites, ask for permission before taking photos of locals, and be aware of cultural sensitivities.
  10. Be open to spontaneous discoveries: Guanajuato is a city full of surprises. Allow yourself to wander the streets and alleys and embrace the spontaneity of the city. You never know what hidden gems or unique experiences you may stumble upon.

By following these tips, you can navigate Guanajuato with ease, immerse yourself in its culture, and create lasting memories of your travels. So pack your bags, embrace the spirit of adventure, and get ready to embark on a remarkable journey through the charming streets of Guanajuato.



Guanajuato is a destination that captivates travelers with its rich history, vibrant culture, and breathtaking architecture. From its winding streets and stunning colonial buildings to its lively festivals and mouthwatering cuisine, Guanajuato offers a truly immersive experience that leaves a lasting impression on visitors.


Whether you’re exploring the enchanting city center, delving into its intriguing museums, or embarking on day trips to nearby attractions, you’ll discover a destination that is brimming with charm and authenticity. The city’s deep-rooted history, inspired by Spanish colonialism and shaped by the Mexican War of Independence, provides an intriguing backdrop for your explorations, offering glimpses into a bygone era.


Guanajuato’s cultural scene is second to none, with its festivals, art galleries, and theaters showcasing the vibrant artistic heritage of Mexico. The International Cervantino Festival, Semana Santa, and the Day of the Dead celebrations are just a few examples of the incredible events that bring the city to life each year.


The local cuisine of Guanajuato is a gastronomic delight, with its flavors and unique dishes showcasing the best of Mexican culinary traditions. From enchiladas mineras and chiles en nogada to the irresistible sweetness of cajeta, your taste buds are in for a treat.


As you navigate Guanajuato’s narrow streets, interact with the friendly locals, and participate in the city’s vibrant festivities, you’ll find yourself immersed in the captivating culture and warmth of Mexico. The city’s accessibility and range of accommodation options make it an excellent choice for travelers of all budgets and preferences.


So, whether you’re a history enthusiast, an art lover, or simply seeking a memorable travel experience, Guanajuato is a destination that will exceed your expectations. Pack your bags, explore its wonders, and embrace the spirit of adventure as you create unforgettable memories in the heart of Mexico.