Guanajuato, Mexico

  • Visited November 2018

Guanajuato, a university city a few hours drive north of Mexico City, is an absolute gem of a place. Getting here is easy and comfortable with Primera Plus buses (which can be booked online, unlike ADO buses in the south). I had read about the colourful houses stacked up the hillsides that make this city so picturesque and instagrammable before arriving but only allocated two nights to explore the compact historical centre – you can get around the main sites in two days but with hindsight I really wished I’d given myself more time to spend here as I was so charmed by it, and actually liked Guanajuato more than crowd-pleaser San Miguel de Allende.

The historical centre is stunning and primarily arranged around one long main street, two popular plazas – Plaza de la Paz, which is always packed with tourists and tourist-priced restaurants, and Plaza de San Fernando, a great spot for people-watching and enjoying food at more-reasonably priced eateries, plus the Jardin de la Union, opposite the beautiful Teatro, with its hoardes of tourists. Though you will want to take a look at these areas, the real beauty of Guanajuato is to be found amongst its narrow alleyways where you will find art galleries, boutiques, bars and street food, and by exploring its hillsides.

I saw my first Mexican funeral procession here in Guanajuato – a musical affair that entails a mariachi band and the mourners following behind the funeral car in a parade around the city. What I love most about the Mexicans is their passionate celebration of all aspects of life – birth, marriage and death – and the funeral parade is a public celebration of the life of the soul lost. Mexicans live life in colour.

There are lots of great places to eat in Guanajuato – my advice would be to avoid the main tourist areas to find the best food at good prices. I was recommended TragaLuz for breakfast (especially the chilaquiles) but as my hostel breakfast was so good (and free), I didn’t try it out for myself. I don’t often focus on negatives in my destination posts but I am going to make an exception in this one – do not bother eating at El Canastillo de Flores. Don’t be fooled into eating here as it looks busy, that’s just because of the prime location. I experienced terrible service and mediocre food at an inflated price. One to avoid.

Must do experiences in Guanajuato:

  • Take the funicular up to La Pipila monument for spectacular views of the city. It only costs 25 pesos for a single ride (you can ride back down if you wish or walk down) but you will see the whole city in all its glory from here. There are also lots of street food trucks to be found at the base of the monument if you want to relax and spend some time up there.
  • Visit Museo Diego Rivera – Guanajuato was the birth place and childhood home of this celebrated Mexican artist. His home has been lovingly transformed into a modern museum that showcases work from Diego and other Mexican artists. On the bottom floor of the museum you will find restored rooms from the family home.
  • Visit Alley of the Kiss, a narrow alleyway with a romantic history – the Mexican Romeo and Juliet.
  • Visit Museo Iconografico del Quixote – Guanajuato was Cervantes’ Mexican home and the city pays homage to Quixote in this excellent museum.
  • Visit Museo de las Momias – this museum displays the mummified remains of the city’s inhabitants. Under local law, if families do not maintain payments for grave plots, then bodies can be dug up and put on display in this macabre museum.

Selection of pictures from my stay: