Is the city of Querétaro worth visiting?
I’ve been to Querétaro 3 times now, all for different reasons (most not of my choosing). It’s not a city that I’ve ever really liked. I always thought the city paled in comparison to the neighbouring cities of San Miguel de Allende or Guanajuato.
Ironically it took a shitty stay in Guanajuato (a place I’ve been many times) for me to gain an appreciation for Querétaro.
I’ll explain that below.
I’ve mentioned that Querétaro pales in comparison to San Miguel de Allende or Guanajuato. Both these cities have the “wow” factor that Querétaro doesn’t: they’re insanely colourful, they have a high concentration of historic buildings in a small area, they’re hilly with scenic viewpoints.
Querétaro is flat, the historical center is spread out, buildings are much more subdued in both their colouring and flamboyancy.
Despite that, Querétaro has 3 or 4 very impressive highlights: highlights which you could argue surpass those of either San Miguel or Guanajuato.
1. Museo de Arte de Querétaro
Although an impressive building from the outside, you appreciate the beauty of the Museo de Arte de Querétaro when you step inside the building and see the incredible inner courtyard. A former convent built in the early 1700’s, it is considered one of the most beautiful baroque buildings in all of Latin America. It is particularly impressive on a sunny day when the sun brings out the pinkish highlights of the building (we didn’t have very good weather in Querétaro as you see below)
Today the building houses the city’s art museum which is, incredibly, free. While the art is interesting (permanent exhibits featuring religious art, historical paintings and temporary exhibits that change frequently), the building is the highlight. It’s a place that you have to visit if coming to Querétaro.
2. Templo de Santa Clara
It’s nothing special on the outside, but it has one of the most beautiful church interiors in Mexico. It is example of the churrigueresque style of the time (also called by some “ultra baroque”). The highlight are 6 altarpieces: with shelves and niches holding Franciscan saints, all burnished in fine gold. It is mesmerizing.
The church is all that is left of a 17th century convent built by Don Diego de Tapia, son of the founder of Querétaro, Don Fernando de Tapia.
3. Museo Regional de Querétaro
Right next to the church of San Francisco, this museum covers the history, culture and art of Querétaro. The museum is good, not great, and you might have a hard time if you don’t read much Spanish. But, again, the highlight is the building which was previously the Convento Grande de San Francisco. Built in the mid 1500’s, it is a phenomenally beautiful building.
4. Templo de Santa Rosa de Viterbo
This church, named after a 13th century Italian saint, is another great example of Baroque style. The highlights are 5 large altarpieces. Outside are (unusual) curling buttresses and Moorish influences in its façade and tower.
Querétaro has other highlights:
- Querétaro’s aqueduct (built in the early 1700’s) is one of the longest and highest in Mexico. It’s best seen from the Mirador de los Arcos.
- The Templo y Exconvento de la Santa Cruz is close to the Mirador de los Arcos. It marked the end of the aqueduct and was the final destination for water (from the hill on the other side of the city). It has a very pretty church and you can visit the convent by tour, cost 20 pesos. We weren’t very impressed by the tour to be honest so be forewarned.
- Casa de La Corregidora (also known as the Palacio del Gobierno or the Government Palace of the Corregidora) has beautiful murals in its interior courtyard. Unfortunately we couldn’t visit them due to protests going on outside the building when we were visiting.
- Templo de San Francisco de Asis, the huge church across from the Jardín Zenea.
- Templo de San Antonio de Padua. Dating from the early 1600’s, it is quite plain from the outside but beautiful inside.
As I say, Querétaro as a whole won’t wow you with its overall beauty the way Guanajuato or San Miguel de Allende do. But the highlights are there and they’re quite impressive. You just have to look a bit harder in Querétaro.
General impressions of Querétaro
Crowds. Everyone knows San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato. Weekends in each get crazy. Even with that, SMA maintains a certain level of class…but were surprised by what a shitfest Guanajuato has become.
Querétaro is more subdued, more understated. It’s not full of nightlife options, it doesn’t get crazy on weekends. We really liked that.
Restaurants. Querétaro has some great eating options. It doesn’t have all the high-end options in the city center that San Miguel de Allende does but it has tons of restaurants and there’s a lot of diversity and options in different price ranges. We ate well in Querétaro and found restaurants reasonably priced. Compare that to Guanajuato where it seemed you had to choose between expensive high-end places with bad food and inexpensive low-end places with bad food.
Culture. I had read about all of Querétaro’s museums and had the tough job of trying to decide which we had to visit on a 3-day trip (we ended up with the Museo de Arte de Querétaro and Museo Regional de Querétaro). But there are many other museums and many are free. A few examples:
- The Contemporary Art Museum of Querétaro
- The Mucal Calendar Museum (which is very popular)
- The Museo de Bichos (if you love insects)
- The train museum
- Museo Casa de la Zacatecana (a mansion owned by a couple from Zacatecas, full of old art and furniture)
- Museo de la Restauración de la República (about the history of Mexico and Querétaro)
These are a few of many and, as I say, many are free including the incredible Museo de Arte. I always think that says a lot about a city.
Cleanliness and safety. Querétaro is clean and we never felt nervous going out at night. We would stick to Centro and Calle 5 de Mayo (where our Airbnb was located – a nice street with lots of restaurants, cafes and bars).
Accommodation: We stayed in this Airbnb for 3 nights. One of the best value options we’ve had on this trip: nice apartment, super comfortable, great location. Nearby (and a bit closer to the center and a bit fancier), is the Hotel Casa Once. Very nice. If you want to splurge on something special, stay at La Casa De La Marquesa (see the photo below. A gorgeous place).
Eating: Restaurant 1810 was recommended by our host and had very good food and a great atmosphere (on Plaza de Armas, so it’s a great place to people watch). If tired of Mexican food and looking for a good (and inexpensive) option, BÜSRA cocina árabe is excellent. Cinco M Café had good coffee and they make excellent snacks including small pizzas. La Piccola Italia is a very popular pizza spot and has excellent pizza.
So is Querétaro worth visiting?
I won’t tell you that Querétaro is incredible and that you should put it on the top of your Mexico itinerary. While it has some very worthwhile highlights, I just don’t think it has that “wow” factor that many travellers are looking for in a destination.
But we spent 2 months travelling in Mexico, visiting cities like Morelia, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Aguascalientes, Zacatecas, Oaxaca and Puebla. And of those cities Querétaro was one of our favorite bases – a place we enjoyed “being”, where the people were friendly, a place that felt safe and comfortable. Let me put it this way: if we had to be in a Mexican city for a month I think Querétaro would be a good place to be. It is a city that has a lot going for it.
Note: Querétaro also has a couple of very interesting Pueblo Magicos nearby: Bernal is one of my favorite Pueblo Magicos in Mexico and has one of the 3 largest monoliths in the world (which you can hike). Tequisquiapan is another pretty town and is known for wine and cheese.