Morelia (Michoacán) and why even UNESCO listed world heritage sites can leave you feeling blah

Morelia (Michoacán) and why even UNESCO listed world heritage sites can leave you feeling blah

I guess it was my fault. When planning my trip to Mexico I had mentioned to my mom that we should visit Morelia. She had told me that she hadn’t heard great things about the city. “But mom, the historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage site”. It had to be impressive, right?

Morelia left us “feeling blah” but it’s not because of a lack of sights. There are plenty of sights, a few quite impressive. First a few photos…then I’ll go into what we just didn’t like about Morelia.

Below: The Morelia Cathedral, right in the center of the city.

Morelia Cathedral, mexico


Below: Looking at Plaza de Armas (the main square) and Morelia Cathedral right behind it.

views towards morelia cathedral

Below: the Sanctuario de Guadalupe. With an INCREDIBLE church interior, this church was my highlight in Morelia.

Santuario de Guadalupe

Santuario de Guadalupe, morelia, mexico


Below: The Morelia Aquaduct, built in the late 1700s, 1600 meters in length with 253 arches.


The Morelia Aqueduct

Below: Morelia Cathedral

Morelia Cathedral views

Morelia Cathedral facade

morelia cathedral interior

Below: Del Carmen convent.

del Carmen Convent, morelia, mexico

Below: Casa de la Cultura

Casa de la Cultura, morelia, mexico

Below: The ex-convent of San Augustin.

ex-convent of San Augustin, morelia, mexico

Below: The Church of Santa Rosa de Lima

The Church of Santa Rosa de Lima, morelia

The Church of Santa Rosa de Lima, morelia, mexico


What we didn’t like about Morelia

The problem with Morelia is that it just isn’t a very pretty place despite the historical sights. Much of that has to do with the lack of greenery. The Historical Center features street after street of cement and stone, most in a monotone of grays and beige. Streets are busy with cars and minivans and crossing every block is a negotiation (very few traffic lights in Morelia, so lots of honking and aggressive drivers). But as I say, most of the unattractiveness has to do with the lack of greenery. You’ll see block after block of this:

streets in morelia

Below: stone and cement in grays and beige.

square in morelia, mexico

I love the UNESCO sites of Puebla, Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende. All are colorful, full of parks, and very walkable. Morelia isn’t.

Is there a tourist information office in Morelia? If there is we never found it. There was a small booth on Plaza de Armas manned by an uninterested teenager. When I asked for a map of the city and sights he gave me a map showing shops and businesses. “Do you have one showing the tourist highlights?” I asked. No he didn’t. But he proceeded to start marking the map with X’s and scribbles to indicate places in town where he thought we should go. Not very impressive. Walking around, you would sometimes see tourist maps but all would look like this:

signs in morelia


There’s one other thing I have to mention about Morelia. I’ve never been anywhere in Mexico where you get such horrible service in restaurants. Not even close. Morelia seems to have a lot of restaurants and cafes with an incredible number of staff. In one place I counted 15 waiters. But the more staff a restaurant has the more useless service seems to be. The 3rd photo from the top (facing the square) is Trico restaurant. They proved that yes, you can wait 20 minutes for a coffee and still have it served cold. El Campanario Restaurant overlooking the Cathedral? Another place with self-important staff that somehow managed to serve up the worst margaritas in Mexico. When everything else goes wrong, you can at least usually count on good food and drink in Mexico. Not in Morelia. Why? It’s a mystery.

 Below: Views from El Campanario, home to the worst margarita in Mexico.

el campanario morelia restaurant

So we ended up doing the unthinkable:

burger king, morelia

Yes, we picked up some burgers at Burger King, a place I haven’t gone to in over 20 years. Was excellent.


So, should you go to Morelia? If you’re a big fan of colonial Spanish architecture and impressive churches then maybe a quick one day visit is ok. I honestly wouldn’t recommend more than that. There are much more impressive places in Mexico.


Have you been to  Morelia? What did you think of it?


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  1. Love that first photo and the cathedral is gorgeous! Too bad about the terrible service. Things like that really can ruin your impression of a place. We went into a cafe in Hallstatt (Austria) and waited forever to be given a menu. We noticed they were sitting beside our table, so just helped ourselves. When the waiter finally came by, he ripped the menu right out of Mike’s hand and refused to let us order anything other than a drink!
    Rhonda Krause recently posted…Boat Tour of Islamorada- Visiting Bloodline Filming LocationsMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Oh, that’s pretty bad! I would have told the guy off and walked out. That’s typical of some of the tourist spots in Europe, these waiters get inflated heads and start acting like they’re the ones paying your salary.

  2. Why do you keep visiting boring buildings?

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Well, you don’t know if a place will be boring before visiting it. Have seen many more interesting places than boring places but sometimes it just doesn’t work out. But check out my post on Puebla or the next one I’ll have on Guanajuato, just beautiful places that I also took the chance on visiting. Sometimes you just never know…

  3. I was going to call you a hardass for not liking this beautiful place. Until l got to the bad margarita!!!! Unforgivable..absolutely unforgivable 😉 . I will not be visiting 🙂
    Kemkem recently posted…How to spend a day in Madrid, SpainMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      HA! You know what, I actually didn’t finish it. It was all crushed ice, like a damn slushie. I can take many things but a bad margarita is like warm beer – ugg.
      As for the restaurant, my mom got up twice to give the waiters shit. Have never seen her do that, so that was pretty bad…

      Sometimes photos don’t give a place justice, for either good or bad. And it’s easy to put up a couple nice photos and say how great a place is. But neither of us were very impressed, not at all…

      I’ve got a whole bunch of posts coming up and they’re all positives, no more Mr. Hardass. At least for a while 🙂

  4. Yes, we have been to Morelia twice. I think we enjoyed it the first time because we had locals that showed us around one night and then the next day we wandered around on our own. The second time was just this past spring and again it was ok but not spectacular. There are some pretty little places but we do agree that there isn’t enough greenery around and it definitely isn’t a favourite city of ours. The one thing we definitely didn’t like was the amount of graffiti around. In the historical center it is kept under control because it is a UNESCO site but as soon as you step out of that zone, there is unsightly tagging EVERYWHERE!

    You didn’t try the Gaspachos?! Morelia is famous for this and it is delicious.

    Not all UNESCO sites live up to their reputation. We went to one in South Korea and tried really hard to get our money back, such a disappointment!
    Travel with Kevin and Ruth recently posted…The nearest town to the parkMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thanks Kevin and Ruth.
      You’re right about graffiti. Overall it just doesn’t seem kept and cared for. Again, surprising for a UNESCO site.
      About the Gaspachos – yes, they love serving them mixed with fruits. Saw them but didn’t try (although in hindsight should have)

  5. That church looks beautiful. But I hear your frustrations. UNESCO is usually a good starting point for exploring a country, but every now and then I have been dissapointed with some of my visits to UNESCO sites.
    Gaz recently posted…Henrik Jeppesen – 193 countries … at age 27!My Profile

  6. 20 years with no Burger King?…now that hardcore Frank! Actually its been a while for me too.
    Barry recently posted…Sleeping at Brisbane AirportMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Yes, in Montreal we have a lot of good food and we have plenty of non-chain alternatives. That’s really why I didn’t go to Burger King. But now travelling I have to admit we sometimes get the craving for a burger and Burger King has always been my favorite of the chains 🙂

  7. No kfc in that time?

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Actually they do have a KFC…that’s something else I haven’t had in a really long time.
      On that note, KFC is incredibly popular in Thailand and I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a large concentration on KFC restaurants anywhere else. Did you notice that Tom? That’s why all those Thai kids suddenly getting fat…
      Frank (bbqboy) recently posted…Guanajuato, Mexico – the prettiest town I’ve ever seenMy Profile

  8. This is my third attempt at commenting on this post, for some reason your site is not accepting my url?
    Gilda Baxter recently posted…La Digue, a Brief Love AffairMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Hi Gilda!
      Hmmm, I’m not sure…but seems to have gone through this time 🙂

      • Yes I am back on the list now…you can’t get rid of me that easily hahahaha. I like visiting the Unesco sites and some are definitely better than others, but I value the fact that these sites are protected for future generations. I am not a great fan of the fast food chains, but Brian likes them and do accompany him occasionally.
        Gilda Baxter recently posted…La Digue, a Brief Love AffairMy Profile

        • Frank (bbqboy) says:

          Oh, I’m not a fan at all either Gilda. I never go.
          I’m not quite sure what the UNESCO rules are and why some are so much better maintained than others. Heather above is so right – Morelia could be much better and it’s only because of lack of attention and neglect that it’s not better then it is. But I like the principle as well.
          Frank (bbqboy) recently posted…Guanajuato, Mexico – the prettiest town I’ve ever seenMy Profile

  9. Chicken is very popular there. Foreign brands are very popular in Thailand whether its food or clothes. You can buy better tasting chicken on the street but they line up for KFC due to some fascination with brands. The big name icecream brands are popular as well as coffee chains. Not cheap either. Coffee is expensive for locals there.

  10. I think it’s ok that not everywhere turns out to be amazing. It makes you appreciate the places that are. Shame that your grievances are all the little things that could so easily be put right and would make such a big difference to the experience (and perhaps bring in more tourism, not that they sound like they want to encourage that!). Beautiful church though, reminds me of the domes inside St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican. Amen for Burger King. One of our guilty secrets is stopping at a McDonalds in Cusco many years ago (you get sick of guinea pig and llama after a few weeks). But don’t tell anyone 😉
    Heather Cole recently posted…Treehouse sleeping at Garden Village BledMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      You are exactly right Heather, it’s the little things. They have everything needed to make Morelia a really nice place.
      I’m thinking of where we are right now, Skopje (Macedonia) where they’ve been on a building frenzy the last few years. In many ways a construction site. But give this place 3-5 years it’s going to be a very attractive city.
      In Morelia they just have to grow some trees, get rid of the graffiti, maybe block a few streets from traffic in the old city to make it pedestrian friendly. You just get a feeling that they don’t care which is weird…see what tourism has done for some other towns and cities in Mexico.
      Ha, guinea pig and llama. I can imagine 🙂
      Frank (bbqboy) recently posted…Guanajuato, Mexico – the prettiest town I’ve ever seenMy Profile

  11. We’ve also experienced some incredible UNESCO WHS as well as those that have left us feeling, “THAT was it?” so I can definitely relate to your ho-hum. It’s amazing how much parks, open spaces, restaurants and friendly people can contribute to your overall impression of a place, too. In fact, a lot of times when we rave about a place, those are the things that stick with us. That said, wow! I can definitely see why the Sanctuario de Guadalupe was a highpoint for you and I enjoyed my virtual visit of the other incredible buildings as well. Onward to the next place and here’s hoping that the next UNESCO WHS will live up to its promise!
    Anita recently posted…The Pursuit of Happiness: First Impressions of CopenhagenMy Profile

  12. sounds like a great burger king! truly though frank – your pics make it look amazing!
    Andrew recently posted…A Stop in CasablancaMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thank you very much Andy. Yes, photos don’t always give the full picture. I don’t want to make it sound horrible – I just don’t want to set the city up as that perfect UNESCO city that many others are (see Guanajuato or San Miguel de Allende).

  13. I would have also expected a place whose historical center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site to be more overall beautiful. The cathedral and the church are indeed impressive, but I understand that if the rest of the city is all grey cement it loses its charm. And terrible service doesn’t help either, finding nice and friendly people can make a place more interesting.
    Laia recently posted…Lake Leman to lake Neuchâtel, an introduction to the beauty of SwitzerlandMy Profile

  14. Thank you, Frank.
    Now, I am warned. I will share this post in social media.
    By the way, very impressive photographs.
    Victor recently posted…Zell am See, Austria: Après Ski instead of Ski PassMy Profile

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