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This Affordable City In Mexico That Feels Like Europe Is Perfect For A Summer Getaway

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Not every exciting trip to Mexico has to be anchored by a picture-perfect beach and upscale resorts. Many of Mexico's historical cities can be a trip of a lifetime.

No matter if you're a foodie, budget traveler, history buff, or simply just want to learn more about this fascinating country, over-crowded beaches isn't the place.

Scenic view of Guanajuato

Sure, it's right to wonder if Mexico's major cities are safe given the common mainstream narrative that Mexico is dangerous.

Any seasoned traveler will tell you that's not the case as millions upon millions of Western tourists visit Mexico and go back home unscathed.

There is one timeless city perfect for a summer getaway. Easy to reach, affordable, safe, and oozing European vibes, it's time to start planning your next vacation to Guanajuato.

The Anti-Mexico City

Teatro Juarez in Guanajuato

Mexico's most popular destinations aren't all beach getaways. Cancun is always the top spot, but Mexico city is consistently in the top 5.

While there is no place quite like Mexico's largest metropolis, there are definitely some frustrations and claustrophobia-inducing crowds to deal with.

Guanajuato is the anti-Mexico City, where traffic, elbow-to-elbow crowds, and Americanized chain restaurants are nowhere in sight.

Okay, there is one Starbucks, but with all the local cozy cafes packed into this city, it's easy to turn a blind eye.

Colorful cobbled streets of Guanjuato

Guanajuato is no longer a secret, but it's definitely one-of-a-kind. Its history runs back as late as 1554 and still shows today in the best of ways through endless cobbled streets, eye-popping architecture, and fascinating traditions.

No skyscrapers, no name-brand hotels, or inauthentic chain restaurants – not even a Chili's at the airport.

Guanajuato is timeless. It may be old, but never gets old to visit.

Budget-Friendly And Easy To Explore

There are so many affordable getaways in Mexico, but not all of them are as culturally immersive.
And there is unquestionably no other place in Mexico with such European flair.

Tourist in Guanajuato

Walking down certain streets feel as if you're in Spain rather than the country often deemed a danger zone anywhere outside of Cancun.

Guanajuato's streets are very pretty and you can spend hours wandering the city and not feel it's enough.

There are many hills here, but that's really the only downside. Despite seeming as if it's been in a time capsule, Guanajuato does have some modern amenities for tourists, like Uber.

This makes getting around the city easier, especially if the hills become too much. But one thing you don't have to worry about is traffic. It's easy to get lost with all the winding roads, but there is a surprisingly effective tunnel system alleviating the headache of traffic.

Tunnels running through Guanajuato

Less time on the road and more time spent enjoying your trip. Not only is Guanajuato easy to get around, it's very affordable.

What if you were told you could stay in a castle for under $50 per night? Well, consider this that moment…

There are some awesome stays from cheap Airbnbs to local boutique hotels like Hotel San Diego, but Hotel Castillo Santa Cecilia trumps them all.

Tucked away from the city center, but still very convenient, this historic property dating back centuries is Guanajuato's top hidden gem.

Tourist in Guanajuato

I've personally been here twice and this unique stay will always be at the top of my list when I go back.

A Solo Traveler's Dream

Even though solo travelers have the whole world at their fingertips, picking the right place can be a daunting task.

Good news is we've solved your problem – go to Guanajuato!

With multiple nonstop flights to Leon, a 30 minute Uber* from Guanajuato, getting here is a lot easier than one might expect.

Upon arriving, plentiful cheap stays away, especially if you want some extra space instead of hostels.

Woman sitting in a Guanajuato alley

It's easy to find Airbnbs and boutique hotels on a budget and you won't break the bank visiting the top sites, like the Museo de Mumias, and amazing restaurants.

Guanajuato is very underrated for its old-school, traditional cuisine and there's perhaps no more scenic city in Mexico to enjoy a rooftop bar, and there's a lot!

*Side note for Uber pickups at Leon's airport – you will need to walk to the Oxxo store just outside the airport for safe pick-ups due to Uber/Taxi conflicts.

Guanajuato City Is Very Safe

Don't let news headlines scare you; Guanajuato City is much safer than Guanajuato state where the U.S. State Department classifies it as ‘Level 3'.

Cathedral in Guanajuato on nice day

Once you're in the city limits, you are in a safe haven where both domestic and international tourists love to visit.

Especially, as great as the weather is year-round, you'll want to spend a majority of your time exploring.

I went as recently as February and never felt an ounce of uneasiness walking the streets late at night, bar-hopping, and joining in on the fun of the Estudiantina, a long-held tradition of storytelling and singing through the streets.

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John

Sunday 2nd of June 2024

Good article, Sam! Guanajuato is a special place. And responding to the comment above - it's quite safe in Guanajuato City. The State of GTO has some violence issues and is often written about in the press. However, that violence rarely enters the town and it's usually violence against other cartels and not random like the violence in the US.

Your article is generating a little discussion on the local expat FB group GTO-TQM! There is a bit of drought in many parts of Mexico including GTO these days. Rain has been scarce. TQM tracks water level in the local dam and it is quite low.

'European'? Probably not to someone who spends a lot of time in Mexico but to a Gringo who is not familiar with the older Spanish-influenced towns in Mexico 'European' is a fair comparison. In the US there's nothing to compare it to - just lots of strip malls and suburban sprawl. GTO certainly doesn't look Chinese or Indian, nor Moroccan. It reminds me a lot of southern Spain.

Lots of art and music in GTO as well - for up to the minute info or for answers to specific questions your readers could check out TQM at www.facebook.com/groups/gtomx

Safe Travels!

Eric

Sunday 2nd of June 2024

How incredibly irresponsible. I have traveled extensively throughout México since 1998 and have lived in a few of Mexico's regions since 2010. The country is increasingly dangerous. They no longer call the cartels "narcotraficantes", they call them the "mafia" because they have their hands in all parts of daily life including the police, military, political system to name an important few. To gloss over what life and tourism are like in GTO, especially, is irresponsible. It is dangerous as are several other states. I am not a paranoid outsider. I lived in the country many years and know the truth. Sadly the country is on a steep decline of safety and democracy. It would be almost impossible for them to overcome the insidious corruption and danger that is currently plaguing the country. This type of writing is glib, ignorant and rose colored, tequila fueled. Snap out of it and don't put others in danger.

Joe Lopez

Saturday 8th of June 2024

@Eric, you are right. Americans keep feeding the Mexican Mob. They’re everywhere, and getting stronger. Joe

Kashlee Kucheran

Sunday 2nd of June 2024

GTO is an absolutely fine area to travel to. My husband and I live in Mexico City and travel, by road, to both GTO and San Luis Potosi monthly and it's a normal part of our life, without incident. This article is neither irresponsible nor ignorant. Every city/country/area in the world has it's own issues.

Jay

Saturday 1st of June 2024

I could not agree more, you are so spot-on in your description. A Mexican friend recommended Guanajuato to be our first port of call in Mexico, because, as he put, "once you arrive, you'll never want to leave". 18 months later, we still don't want to leave. Have chased (& now secured) 'temporary residency' visa. Every day out is an adventure!

Randy

Saturday 1st of June 2024

How's the water? We love to visit CDMX and Oaxaca but CDMX is expected to run out of water at the end of the month and in Oaxaca you can't drink the water, all bottled water for brushing teeth etc., and no ice in your drinks. Aloha

Kevin M

Sunday 2nd of June 2024

@Louise Hewitson, I bought 10 garrafones at the water vendor on Tepetapa Saturday for 20 each.

Louise Hewitson

Saturday 1st of June 2024

@Randy,

We live in Guanajuato and right now we have a major drinking water crisis. We aren't having problems with tap water, but it is not possible to drink it under any circumstances. Everyone in GTO gets their drinking water in 'garafones', 20 litre bottles normally available in every tienda or by home delivery. For the past three weeks almost every shop has not had a single bottle available. Last week my husband and I walked around the whole city with our two empty garafones, it took an hour to find the one Oxxo that had a supply. We also placed orders for home delivery and never received one. Nobody can explain why this is happening. It is very localised to GTO, our friends in Leon (40 minutes drive away) say they don't have any issues. The other issue is the heat, the temperature has ranged from 33-37 degrees celsius every day for the past four weeks. Our historic May average is 28 degrees celsius. As a result, very few places have air conditioning. If you were planning a visit soon, seriously consider delaying your trip.

Kashlee Kucheran

Saturday 1st of June 2024

I live full time in Mexico City and in the areas most tourists will be in (Polanco, Lomas, Santa Fe, Condesa, etc) we don't feel the water shortage. I have never had no running water