Guanajuato

Legends, ghosts and passion

Guanajuato, the capital of Guanajuato state, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a charming colonial-era city situated in a picturesque valley surrounded by the Sierra de Guanajuato mountains. Guanajuato is nicknamed “the place of frogs” because the shape of its mountainous terrain is said to have resembled a frog to the city’s early inhabitants. The region is known as the Bajio, or heartland of Mexico.

Founded in 1559, Guanajuato is a former silver mining city and home to the La Valenciana mine. Silver was first discovered in Guanajuato in the mid-1600s. La Valencia was opened a century later and quickly became one of the richest and most productive silver mines in the world. The adjacent Templo de San Cayetano (San Cayetano Church) stands as a monument to the wealth and riches extracted from the mine.

The historic center of Guanajuato has a distinct European flavor with hundreds of narrow cobblestone “callejones” (alleyways) running up and down the hillside. Shady plazas are dotted with sidewalk cafés, museums, theaters, markets and historic monuments. The buildings throughout the city are fine examples of neoclassical- and baroque-style colonial architecture. An underground network of tunnels runs beneath the city helping to control the flow of traffic.

Known as the birthplace of Mexican Independence, Guanajuato is an important stop along Mexico’s Independence route, which also visits the nearby towns of Dolores Hidalgo and San Miguel de Allende in Guanajuato state. You can tour the Alhóndiga de Granaditas, a historic building and monument located in the city center and the site of the first major victory over the Spanish in 1810.

Guanajuato is a city of legends and legendary places. One of the best known is the famous Callejón del Beso (Alley of the Kiss), an alleyway so narrow that couples can kiss from opposite balconies. Take part in a callejoneada, or walking serenade, led by student musicians who strum guitars, serenade bystanders and recite local tales.

San Miguel de Allende is a city that manages to be both quaint and cosmopolitan at the same time. It was once an important stop on the silver route between Zacatecas and Mexico City, its historic center is filled with well-preserved buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries. With its narrow cobblestone streets, leafy courtyards, fine architectural details and sumptuous interiors, San Miguel de Allende is arguably the prettiest town in Mexico.

In 2008 UNESCO recognized San Miguel de Allende and the neighboring Sanctuary of Jesus de Atotonilco as World Heritage of Humanity sites, citing the town’s religious and civil architecture as a demonstration of the evolution of different trends and styles, from Baroque to late 19th century Neo-Gothic.

Walking is undoubtedly the best way to explore San Miguel. A car can be more of a hindrance than a help in town, though it can be useful for day trips to the nearby cities of Guanajuato, Dolores Hidalgo or Queretaro. When your feet get tired, hop on the sightseeing trolley that departs from the tourism office on the north side of the Jardin Principal. After a tour of the main points of interest, it will take you to the Mirador, a lookout point where you’ll be able to have a panoramic view of the city.

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