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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Los Angeles
- San Jose (CA)
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com