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5 Reasons To Visit This Beautiful Cultural City Next Time You’re In Mexico

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Mexico is one of the top destinations for Americans seeking to combine both culture and a sunny break into a single trip.

Other than stunning Caribbean and Pacific coastlines, it is home to a plethora of historical cities that stand among the oldest in the American continent.

Colorful Houses In Guanajuato, A Colonial City In Mexico, Latin America

Needless to say, there is no shortage of manmade wonders and incredible historical sights to explore, and if you're ready to see a different side of Mexico beyond the glitzy resort zones and trendy beach bars, you may be wondering where to start.

Next time you're South of the border, you should make it your top priority to visit the charming city of Guanajuato.

Here are 5 reasons why:

The Most Beautiful City In Mexico

Yellow Colored Church In Guanajuato, A Colonial City In Mexico, Latin America

It only takes a five-minute stroll around the Centro Historico in Guanajuato to enthusiastically agree with the following statement: it is undoubtedly the most beautiful city in all of Mexico.

Having been awarded this title numerous times before, and yet again late last year, Guanajuato is perhaps Mexico's most unique city in the sense that much of what you see standing today has been left intact from the colonial period.

It is a complex maze of narrow alleyways, underground tunnels, and protective walls, similar to any Spanish city in Iberian Europe, but while Spain's townscapes are mostly ocher in nature, Guanajuato is an explosion of colors.

Iberian Style Plaza Del Baratillo, Guanajuato, A Colonial City In Mexico, Latin America

The most famous view in town is certainly that of a cluster of tiny, rainbow-colored houses perched on top of one another on a hillside, but all around the Downtown Area, you will find charming Instagrammable corners, with the romantic ‘Alley of the Kiss' and the colonial-era Calle del Truco to name a couple.

Guanajuato Is A UNESCO World Heritage Site

Other than its beautiful colors, Guanajuato is known for its rich colonial past, with an Old Town so preserved and with such an inestimable cultural wealth that it was proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage Site as early as 1988.

Very few American cities are renowned for their preserved historical architecture, with Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic, and Quebec City, in Canada, being two other examples of colonial gems that have been kept mostly intact, and Guanajuato is one of those rare exemptions.

Historic Colonial Era Tunnels In Guanajuato, Mexico

Walking around town, you will find numerous small plazas bounded by leafy trees and colonial mansions, the landmark, bright-yellow Basílica Colegiata de Nuestra Señora de Guanajuato, richly-decorated churches built by the Spanish settlers as early as the 16th century, and impressive civic buildings carved out of pink sandstone.

Guanajuato's mining History is also highlighted by UNESCO, as it was once one of the most important mining centers in the world, rivaling Ouro Preto in Brazil.

At one point, two-thirds of the world's silver production was attributed to mines in Guanajuato.

Colorful House In San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico

Fascinating Cultural Scene

Needless to say, culture plays a huge part in Guanajuato's tourist offer.

While Cancun, Los Cabos, and the like excel at being tropical resorts, this inland state capital flexes its muscles as a cultural behemoth, boasting world-class museums and one-of-a-kind traditional events.

At the Mummy Museum, tourists can see mummified corpses up close, as well as learn more about burial practices of pre-Columbian Mexico and the indigenous culture; in the hugely popular Museo Iconográfico del Quijote, they can admire a restored 19th-century house where the items exhibited are inspired by the Spanish epic Don Quixote.

Colorful Houses Of Guanajuato, Colonial City Of Mexico, Latin America

Guanajuato's love for Cervantes truly knows no bounds, as every year it hosts the Festival International Cervantino, which pays homage to Don Quixote‘s author, with short plays taking place across the city's plazas, and entertainers flocking into the streets in traditional medieval attire.

The 51st El Cervantino is starting October 13, with celebrations set to continue until October 29.

Furthermore, Guanajuato is the birthplace of Diego Rivera, one of Mexico's most famous revolutionary painters. Art enthusiasts can pay his house a visit, where he spent most of his upbringing.

The Alhóndiga de Granaditas is not to be missed, either, as the fortress-like structure played a key role during the Mexican War of Independence, providing the stage for the first major victory of Mexican revolutionaries against the Spanish.

Colonial Era Buildings In Guanajuato, Mexico

Vibrant Nightlife

A colonial gem with a History so fascinating it gives many European cities a run for their money, it's easy to forget there is more to Guanajuato than the imposing palaces and collegiates, golden shrines, and cobbled streets, but it is just as highly sought-after for its vibrant nightlife.

The Old Town is the place to go for experiencing la noche Guanajuatense, as it concentrates a majority of the tourist-friendly tapa bars and pubs, where tequila and mezcal never stop pouring, and beer lovers can pick from a selection of locally-brewed rubias mexicanas.

People Partying In A Club

The Beer Company seems to be a favorite among American customers, collecting rave reviews online.

However, the rustic Oajillo Bar, with its white-and-wood interior and extensive tapa menu, and the Nigromante Rooftoop, commanding a sweeping panorama of the historic district, are worthy of a mention.

Guanajuato is certainly no Tulum:

It is a more traditional mountain city that originated as a Spanish stronghold during the colonization of the Americas – ‘Tulumers' are unlikely to stumble upon wild bachelorette parties and jungle raves – but this doesn't mean it is any less fun.

Women enjoying beers in an Irish pub

There are several nightclubs and music venues in town where you can dance the night away, with the student fave Rey Compadre being your best bet at socializing and meeting young, like-minded locals, and Los Mojitos Tropical Club is famous for its energetic bachata performances.

Incredible Cuisine

Last but not least, there is Guanajuato's delightful cuisine.

Famous all over Mexico, it combines native American ingredients and Spanish influences, with regional favorites being enchiladas mineras, a variation of the nationwide-famous dish, stuffed chiles, pacholas, cecina, and more.

Mexican Chef Cooking Mexican Food, Unspecified Location

According to TripAdvisor, the best restaurant for fine dining is Casa Mercedes, described as ‘authentic' by customers. Dishes are based on recipes passed down through generations in the Cárdenas-González family, and there are plenty of vegetarian options available.

The upscale La Virgen de la Cueva, where you can find all your Mexican classics with a modern twist, and El Jardin de los Milagros, an alfresco dining spot set in a lush garden, round out the top three.

When it comes to local cuisine specifically, Casa Mercedes once again takes the crown, though it is closely followed by Mestizo, for both Mexican and international cuisine, and Los Campos Restaurante.

Wherever you choose to eat on a night out in charming Guanajuato, rest assured you'll have an unforgettable experience.

mexican tacos on a restaurant terrace in Mexico

Guanajuato Is Easy To Reach From The States

Guanajuato is served by the Bajío International Airport, which handles air traffic for the wider Guanajuato Metropolitan Area, as well as the smaller historical city of León.

From the United States, nonstop flights are available from Houston-Intercontinental with United Airlines, or their regional branch United Express, and the following departure hubs, all served by budget carrier Volaris:

  • Chicago-Midway
  • Chicago-O'Hare
  • Los Angeles
  • Oakland
  • Sacramento
  • San Jose (CA)

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Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.


Ken Richter

Wednesday 8th of November 2023

The Most Beautiful City In Mexico: It has its charms, but I don’t think it’s the MOST beautiful city. But, yes, pretty beautiful. ONE of the most beautiful.

Guanajuato Is A UNESCO World Heritage Site: Much more should be done by the Tourist Board to highlight that GTO is one of the most famous, most historical cities in Mexico. Outside of Mexico, hardly anyone has ever heard of it. So, I'm happy to see articles like this one.

Fascinating Cultural Scene: Yes, there are a lot of events, year round. But there may not be enough infrastructure to support such events.

Vibrant Nightlife: That’s a lie. 95% of the nightlife is poor university kids buying cheap beer cheap antros. It’s not even close to being in the same class as San Miguel. Let alone Mexico City. Or any resort town, for that matter.

Incredible Cuisine: Absurd. Guanajuato, both the state and the city, have some of the least inspired food in Mexico. There is no culinary tradition here. Except for a tiny handful of restaurants, this place is a food desert.

To continue on that last one, the article states:

“The upscale La Virgen de la Cueva, where you can find all your Mexican classics with a modern twist, and El Jardin de los Milagros, an alfresco dining spot set in a lush garden, round out the top three."

These two restaurants are embarrassments to fine dining. The owners must have paid to get their names in this article. Or the author knows nothing about food and service. I would pay NOT to eat at these places.

Guanajuato Is Easy To Reach From The States: This is very true.

On balance, GTO should be much more recognized as a tourist destination than it is. It should also work to attract more expats, as San Miguel has done, which would bring in more money, which could be used for renovation and beautification and a stronger infrastructure, which would attract more tourists and expats, which would bring in more money, etc.

The article, which is about tourism, DOESN’T mention that GTO is utterly and totally unsuitable for those older people who may have limited mobility or for people with physical limitations. The streets and callejones are too narrow, the hills are too steep, very few restaurants or hotels are equipped to support the handicapped, etc. (And no-one pays any attention whatsoever to parking spots supposedly reserved for the handicapped!)