Guanajuato or Queretaro (Mexico)
Mexico is the place of names I can’t remember or pronounce. On this trip I was visiting Guanajuato (the capital of the state of Guanajuato) and Queretaro (the capital of the state of Queretaro).
There’s one city I love, another that was just (for me) ok.
Guanajuato translates (from the indigenous Indian language in this area) as “hilly place of frogs”. It was the richest Mexican city in the 18th century because of the mining of silver in the hills surrounding the town. The approach to the historic center is really unique; cars have to go through the old, and quite long, mining tunnels to get into the old city.
It’s a very picturesque town (it’s technically a city. But the old town is small and I can’t help referring to Guanajuato as a town). It actually reminds me of Vernazza in Italy because of the winding stairs, colorful houses, and wonderful views. I had to pinch myself a few times to remember that I was actually in Mexico. And for such a small city there is an abundance of impressive churches and some very pretty plazas. Another thing that makes the town attractive is that many of the streets are closed off to car traffic; it makes the center a great place to walk around. Note however that Guanajuato is a lot less ‘walkable’ as you stray from the center. That’s because of the hills. Remember what I said about Guanajuato meaning “hilly place of frogs”?
Guanajuato is a university town and there’s lively air to the place. The large student population means a lot of cafes, bars and food stalls. You’ll see young people sitting in the very shady zocalo (watch your head, lots of low trees) or on the steps of the impressive Juarez theatre.
There is a funicular in the center of town that goes up to the Pipila lookout where you get some great views looking over the city.
Most of these photos were taken on the first of three days in Guanajuato. I woke up in the middle of the first night cold, shaking and feeling as if a Dementor had sucked the life out of me. I spent the next 2 days in bed.
Where to stay in Guanajuato? A few recommendations:
Casa de Pita (tons of charm, fantastic location).
Villa Sueño Azul B&B (also very nice)
Casa Lupita Hostel (budget option – centrally located, dorms and private rooms)
My return to Guanajuato: Guanajuato, Mexico. One of the most beautiful towns in the World?
I knew that anyplace after Guanajuato would most likely be a disappointment in comparison. I was right.
Queretaro, like Guanajuato, has a Centro Historico that’s been designated a World Heritage Site by Unesco. It’s a much bigger place than Guanajuato and has a big city vibe (the city has a population of about 800,000 versus less than 200,000 in Guanajuato). Queretaro’s old town is impressive with the usual Mexican prerequisites: lots of impressive churches, colourful streets and large plazas packed with restaurants and bars. It’s a city that’s very walkable with lots of pedestrian-only zones. And, unlike Guanajuato, the terrain is flat in the Centro Historico. No hills.
Queretaro is nice. But for me it lacks the charm or magic of Guanajuato.
We stayed at the Hidalgo Hotel (pictured above), right in the heart of the old town. Good value with a very nice courtyard.
I’ve been to back to both cities since the above (which was my first trip to Mexico back in 2013).
Guanajuato is still one of my favorite cities in Mexico. And I’m still not in love with Queretaro. It’s ok, but I’m not in love with it.
BUT: if you come through Queretaro, make sure to visit some of the Pueblo Magico towns in the vicinity. Bernal is one of my favorite Pueblo Magicos in the country and hiking the Peña de Bernal is reason alone to come here (it’s one of Mexico’s 13 natural Wonders). Tequisquiapan is another pretty Pueblo Magical and is famous for wine and cheese (and to my surprise, both are excellent).
Related: A roadtrip through Mexico’s most beautiful towns and cities (by bus)
Related: Places to Visit in Mexico
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I love both cities but, of the two, I favor Queretaro. But this is only one guy’s opinion/preference.
Everyone is entitled to an opinion, we don’t have to agree 🙂
My husband and I are going to spend the month of January in Guanajuato. We would like to leave the US, and we have already eliminated PV, San Miguel and Lake Chapala from the list, as well as all the other conventional retirement spots (Costa Rica, Panama, etc.). I am looking forward to having a wonderful time. Thanks for the beautiful photos. Tips and suggestions are appreciated. 🙂
It’s a beautiful place to be. I haven’t lived there so I have no tips except that you should make sure not to live up a steep hill. My mom lived there for a few months and made the mistake of doing that and it was all uphill/downhill every day to get to the main town square to do her shopping.
I actually went back to Guanajuato a few months ago for another visit: https://bbqboy.net/guanajuato-mexico-prettiest-town-ive-ever/
Have a wonderful time and feel free to write more when your visit is done with your impressions after a month there.
I know you were there a while ago, but do you have contact information for Casa de la Luna? It looks like a great place! Thank you.
It was a really nice place. I found this on the internet:
Tel: 01 473 73 2 address: Callejón de Perros Muertos No 57 Zona Centro, Guanajuato, Guanajuato
Sorry, can’t find an email address though. They’re an older couple and I don’t know if they even have a computer.
I’d just show up and try my luck. Worst case they would probably refer you to someone else in town.
Travel with Kevin and Ruth
We loved Guanajuato as well. We had only spent one day there but plan on returning again some time in the future. We are hoping to make it to Queretaro this winter. We love Mexico, it has stolen our heart and it is a place that we return to often. We definitely like being inland and in the mountains opposed to the beach.
Guanajuato is special and most people have never heard of it. San Miguel is nice – but Guanajuato is spectacular.
Glad to hear that you are also big fans of Mexico. I’ll make sure to check out your blog.
Thanks for taking the time to comment.
Sand IN My Suitcase
We fell in love with Guanajuato too! We’ve linked to our post on the Juarez Theater. Sorry you got ill, though. After Guanajuato, we visited San Miguel de Allende and Morelia, both lovely also, but Guanajuato’s museums, maze of tunnels, hilly pedestrian streets and classy colonial architecture captured our hearts.
Very good post you have on the Juarez Theater! I felt the same as you – Guanajuato’s crazy geography really stands out and we also loved the town. Beautiful place.
Hi guys, I’m glad you enjoyed México, I understand why you felt in love with Guanajuato ’cause to me is the most beautiful estate of México but, we have more nice places to go as Oaxaca, Chiapas, Puebla, etc, etc. I promise you gonna love them too.
As a mexican can tell you “the border” have nothing to do with all the beauties México have to offer to tourists and, besides de paradisiac beaches (and I can tell you about it ’cause I’m from Acapulco) we have many colonial towns whit those great churches and cobblestone streets. The only recommendation (as you aready know) have to be careful where you eat 😉
Anyways, I feel good for you guys and if you ever visit Acapulco you can let me know and I’ll be more than happy to help you in case you need it or have a drink or coffe or whatever…take care and keep travelling and sharing your experiences with the world 😀
Rossy Avila 🙂
Thank you very much Rossy for the comment. It’s funny you mention Oaxaca and Puebla – I’ll be going there in 6 weeks to visit my mom again! Look forward to some Mexican food, love it. I’ll just make sure not to eat any salads; nothing that’s not fried, boiled, or baked! 🙂
I ever we go to Acapulco I’ll let you know. Thank you for the invitation, it’s always very nice when readers want to meet us – unfortunately we won’t be in Acapulco. Maybe one day! If so we’ll make sure to contact you.
Looks like a fun trip!
Y la violencia? Te preocupa mucho?
It looks pretty. Mexico is just one of those countries I really have no desire to go to. I’ve been across the border and that was enough for me.
The thing is that sometimes you never know. I felt the same way about Mexico but would go back anytime now. Great food and great people, very few tourists. Some of my biggest disappointments were in places that everyone “loves” (Costa Rica, Brazil, Greece). I like to go places where the tourist hordes haven’t been and the towns we visited in Mexico fit that bill.
That’s too bad it’s gorgeous and the people are the best you’re the only one missing out!!
Ha, yes Trish. Fortunately I was back just a year or so ago and it was even more beautiful the 2nd time! https://bbqboy.net/guanajuato-mexico-prettiest-town-ive-ever/
Thanks for taking time to comment!
Marina K. Villatoro
It looks very colonial! I’ve been through a lot of Mexico, not these towns, so places are as colorful as these towns and definitely colonial but almost abandoned.
I am a huge fan of Mexico, it’s so huge and has sooo much to offer and see.
Thanks Marina. You probably know Mexico better than I do! I was very impressed by everywhere we went and loved the cheap prices too!