Is San Luis Potosí worth Visiting?
San Luis Potosí is a place that doesn’t get a lot of foreign visitors – we were here 4 days and didn’t see another foreigner. What we did see was some impressive colonial architecture and some incredible churches.
This post covers the highlights of San Luis Potosí, including a few unique museums that should be visited. I’ve included a tourist map below. I’ll give you some accommodation and eating recommendations (we had some good – and inexpensive – food in SLP).
Most importantly, I cover the big questions: What’s San Luis Potosí like? And is it worth visiting?
First a video
Attractions in San Luis Potosí
Plaza de Armas
As I say in the video, you should start your visit of San Luis Potosí in Plaza de Armas, SLP’s main square. It’s a pretty square with the imposing Cathedral on one side and colonial buildings on all the others – you’ll see City Hall, the State Government Palace and the Posada de Virrey restaurant (which is a good place to go for a drink. I’ll refer to it again in the restaurant section). The Octagonal kiosk in the center of the square is pretty and a commemoration to great Mexican musicians (you’ll see their names engraved along the trim of the kiosk).
San Luis Potosí Cathedral (built starting in 1670, completed in 1730) looms over the square with its beautiful blue and yellow domes. An interesting piece of history: the Cathedral is dedicated to Saint Louis IX, the King of France from 1226 to 1270 and later a saint (the only French king to be named a saint – this for leading the Crusades into the Middle East in the mid-1200’s). Four hundred years after his death the Spanish built this Cathedral in his honour. In fact, the name of the city and the state (San Luis Potosí) is the combination of King Louis IX (“San Luis”) and “Potosí” – the Bolivian silver mines which rivalled this city in its wealth.
Plaza del Carmen
A large square considered as one of the most beautiful public spaces in Mexico. You’ll see a gorgeous fountain, the Teatro de la Paz (a 19th-century theatre which looks more suited to Paris then Mexico), and the incredible Templo de Carmen.
The Templo de Carmen is considered by many the ‘pride of the city’. Built starting in 1743, it’s a jewel of Churrigueresque art with its incredibly ornate altarpieces. “The Virgin’s dressing room” is a chapel featuring a scallop-shaped altar plated with gold. Wow! It is a stunning church.
San Augustin Temple
The Augustinian order was established in San Luis Potosí in 1599 – the goal being to create a hostel for travellers on their way to Zacatecas. The church was built in 1615 and is known for having the most stunning belltower in the city. It’s another stunning church (don’t miss the colourful domes in the back of the church).
Temple of San Francisco
Built in Baroque style by the Franciscans starting in 1591 (the Franciscans were all over Mexico and built many architectural wonders, including aqueducts. See my post on Tepotzotlán). Besides admiring the paintings and colourful dome of the Temple of San Francisco, you’ll see an oddity – large chandeliers shaped like boats. Dating back to 1788 and attributed to Joseph Antonio Otaegui, they are thought to be models of the 3 vessels used on Christopher Columbus’s first trip to the Americas (La Pinta, La Niña, and La Santa María).
Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe
Dedicated to Mexico’s most famous saint, the Basilica was built starting in 1772. Again, a beautiful church with a blue ceiling and walls and a large mural of the Virgin of Guadalupe and – if you look closely enough – another boat-shaped chandelier (the Basilica and Temple of San Francisco hold the only two surviving works by Otaegui. It is thought that 7 were originally constructed).
Aranzazu Square and Aranzazu Chapel
This popular square lies behind the Temple of San Francisco. The large yellow building houses the Museo Regional Potosino (the regional museum of San Luis Potosí), the highlight of which is the glorious Aranzazu Chapel, a chapel built by the Franciscans in the 18th century. It is located on the 2nd floor of the building which is unique in all of Latin America.
Note: The Museo Regional Potosino is free. Security will ask to take any bag you may have to put in a locker. Otherwise you are free to roam the museum (which is very small) and the chapel.
Plaza de Fundadores (Founder’s Square)
This large square was the spot chosen by the Spanish to build the city of San Luis Potosí in November of 1592. The spot was first called “Puesto de San Luis” (“Outpost of San Luis”) and was chosen for its proximity to newly discovered silver and gold mines as well as to water.
Around the square you’ll see a few historic buildings: The Jesuit Temple (1675), Loreto Chapel (1700), San Luis Potosi University (built in parts, the earliest from 1623) and the Ipiña building – a large building inspired by Parisian palaces and built in the early 1900’s. In keeping with the French theme, there is a statue of French King Louis IX who is the patron saint of San Luis Potosí as well as the inspiration for the name of the city and the state.
San Juan de Dios Church
A very popular church built by the Hospitaller Order of Saint John of God. To this day, the order has hospitals and clinics helping the poor all around the world.
The great thing is that the historical center of SLP is incredibly compact – I was able to walk from one side to the other within 15 minutes (either east-west or north-south). Within that space you’ll see a lot of historical buildings. San Luis Potosi is incredibly rich in colonial architecture.
See the tourist map below (click to enlarge) – thanks to the SLP Tourist Office
Museums in San Luis Potosi
San Luis Potosi has some interesting museums that are really worth a visit (and which are all either free or inexpensive).
The Leonora Carrington museum is dedicated to the British sculptor/painter/writer and is located in the San Luis Potosi Center for the Arts (a former prison inspired by French fortresses). If you like sculptures, you’ll really enjoy this museum. You can walk there from the center in about 20 minutes (located next to Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe)
Potosino Regional Museum. I’ve mentioned it above: free, it is a small museum with the highlight being the extraordinary Aranzazu Chapel on the 2nd floor.
The National Mask Museum (Museo Nacional de la Mascara) is supposed to be fantastic. I didn’t get a chance to visit. It has about 1300 masks and is the 2nd largest mask collection in Mexico (after the Rafael Coronel Museum in Zacatecas).
Railroad Museum is a popular museum located in a train station which unfortunately burned down. It is just outside the old town across from the Alameda.
The Museum of the Viceroyalty is dedicated to colonial art with much of the collection donated by the Franciscans. It is located in a beautiful convent next to the Templo del Carmen.
There are many other museums, SLP is a city rich in culture.
Where to stay in San Luis Potosi
We stayed in this Airbnb apartment which was very good: comfortable with the perfect location. I’d give it an 8/10. Hotels: I’d recommend the Gran Hotel Concordia San Luis Potosi which is excellent value (and located right in the center). The City Centro by Marriott also gets great reviews.
Where to eat
We had some good eating experiences in SLP. For inexpensive breakfast/lunch/dinner, Café Cortao close to Plaza Aranzazu. It’s huge and everyone goes there. We enjoyed Café Bostonia for breakfast/coffee. La Posada del Virrey for an upscale eating experience – beautiful place that used to be a palace on Plaza de Armas (but their coffee sucks). Excellent pizza at Buba’s Pizza. Tacos El Vaquero for a good, simple taqueria.
How to get to San Luis Potosi
We took the Primera Plus bus from San Miguel de Allende – a direct bus that took 2 ½ hrs. But they have buses from all kinds of destinations including Mexico City, Guadalajara and Queretaro. Have a look at the ETN or Primera Plus website.
So is San Luis Potosí worth visiting?
Darn tootin’ it is! I think SLP is a worthwhile visit and think that 3 days is just about ideal to visit the highlights of the center and to take in a couple of museums. The architecture is stunning, the people are friendly, it’s safe and it’s a good value location. It’s definitely worth visiting San Luis Potosí.
Related: 3 Must-see Markets in Mexico City