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GUANAJUATO TRAVEL GUIDE

Places to Stay - Click here for price key

If you want an intimate hotel at a reasonable price, try Al Son de los Santos ($-$$, Calle San Sebastián #94, centro, tel. 473/731-3368), with just six rooms. Near Embajadores Park, it’s a short walk from the main sights in the historic center and the university. Some of the compact but cheerful rooms have balconies with city views. Free Wi-Fi, no parking.

At Hotel San Diego ($$$, Jardín de la Unión #1, centro, tel. 473/732-1300, www.hotelsandiego.com.mx), you’re paying for the location in the heart of the city. Rooms are smallish and plain, but the restaurant---with Italian, Mexican, and international dishes---is quite nice; its balcony tables overlook the action on the plaza below. Room service and free Wi-Fi; the offsite parking lot is sometimes full.

If money is no object and you want to be a little outside the historic center, why not book the lovely Villa María Cristina ($$$$, Paseo de la Presa #76, tel. 473/731-2182, www.villamariacristina.net), with rooftop dining and Jacuzzi, and a full-service spa. Each large guest suite has a steam bath or whirlpool tub.

Less expensive than the María Cristina and situated in the heart of the historic district, Hotel Boutique 1850 ($$$$, Jardín de la Unión #7, centro, tel. 473/732-2795, www.hotel1850.com) has a spa, free Wi-Fi, pillow menu, room service, and modern rooms in white-on-white décor. Surrounding the hotel are many cafes, bars, and restaurants with both indoor and outdoor seating.

Places to Eat - Click here for price key

For a casual bite try the little stalls near La Presa de la Olla. The specialty is enchiladas mineras: corn tortillas rolled around cooked potatoes and carrots and topped with red sauce and cheese.

Another place, more centrally located, to get great enchiladas mineras as well as pozole and other Mexican standards is Bar Luna ($--$$, Jardín de la Unión #6, centro, tel. 473/732-5054), a lively place with drinks and live music (mariachi, norteño) on weekend evenings.

Truco 7 ($$, Calle Truco #7, centro, tel. 473/732-8374) is a longtime favorite with students. It’s in all the guide books, but doesn’t stop it from being packed with locals ordering up sandwiches, coffee, Mexican favorites, pasta, and desserts. Open early (8 a.m.) til late, which is part of its charm.

Students and others on a budget also eat at El Tapatio ($--$$, Calle Lascurain de Retaña #20, centro, tel. 473/732-3291), across from the university. Order the economic daily special or off the menu, including: shrimp, tostadas, enchiladas, salads, and appetizers. Open daily 9 to 9 except Sundays: 10 to 5.

Ask any local where to eat downtown and he or she is likely to recommend Casa Valadez ($$--$$$$, Jardín de la Unión #3, tel. 473/732-0311, www.casavaladez.com), with indoor tables as well as those outside facing the plaza and Teatro Juárez. The extensive menu offers Mexican as well as international dishes.

El Gallo Pitagórico ($$$$, Calle Constancia #10, centro, tel. 473/732-9489, www.elgallopitagorico.com.mx), behind Teatro Juárez, serves Italian and Mediterranean food with a view.

For a nice dinner, frequent visitors to Guanajuato recommend La Capellina ($$$$, Sopeña #3, centro, tel. 473/732-7224, www.lacapellina.com), about a block from Teatro Juárez. They serve Italian food mainly, and on weekend evenings offer up live jazz, blues, or flamenco.

Cafés

Santo Café (Puente del Campanero #4, centro) is a fun place that has good coffee, breakfasts, and snacks. The best seats are right on the bridge, overlooking the street.

Café Tal (Temezcuitate #4, centro, tel. 473/732-6212) serves absolutely delicious, thick, Spanish-style hot chocolate as well as house-roasted coffee, fruit salads, and yummy pastries.

Festivals

The Festival Internacional del Organo is held at churches with organs throughout the city, in May.

In June, there’s the Festival Internacional de Cine de Guanajuato (GIFF). For the current or upcoming film schedule, see www.guanajuatofilmfestival.com.

Now in its fourth decade, the Festival Internacional Cervantino (www.festivalcervantino.gob.mx) presents national and international theatrical groups, musicians, and other events.

Things to Do

Most visitors like to make a stop on el Callejón del Beso (off Avenida Juárez east of Mercado Hidalgo), one of the narrowest of Guanajuato’s many steeply inclined alleys. There are several souvenir shops along this iconic street. Its name, which translates as “the Alley of the Kiss” comes from a legend about lovers who kissed from balconies on opposite sides of the lane, allegedly only 70 centimeters apart.

Visit the dried-out and deceased at the Mummy Museum (Esplanada del Panteón Municipal s/n, tel. 473/732-0639, www.momiasdeguanajuato.gob.mx). Found at the local graveyard, it is open every day of the year for your viewing pleasure!

La Hacienda del Cochero Galeras de la Inquisición (Antiguo Camino a Valenciana s/n, tel. 473/734-0381), better known as the Torture Museum, shows instruments of torture used during an unofficial Inquisition beginning in the 16th century.

Diego Rivera’s childhood home is now the Casa-Museo Diego Rivera (Positos #47, tel. 473/732-1197) with a some of the artist’s notes and sketches and finished paintings as well as personal effects. Closed Monday; short hours on Sunday.

Learn about the Independence movement and the end the end of the colonial era at Museo Regional de Guanajuato Alhóndiga de Granaditas (Calle Mendizábal #6, tel. 473/732-1180). There are salons with ethnographic and pre-Hispanic displays, and traveling art shows. Closed Monday; short hours on Sunday.

A fine art museum whose theme is Don Quijote de la Mancha and the writer of this 17th-century opus, Museo Iconográfico del Quijote (Manuel Doblado #1, tel. 473/732-3376, www.museoiconografico.guanajuato.gob.mx) has work by amateur as well as professional artists. Closed Monday; short hours on Sunday.

The main house of the 18th-century silver processing hacienda San Gabriel de Barrera (Carretera Guanajuato—Marfil km. 2.5), is now a museum, with extensive and impressive gardens. Open daily 9 to 4.

City tours: Most of the tour operators offer similar tours, which you can book through your hotel or with touts prowling tourist-oriented spots throughout the city. Costing roughly US$10 or about 120 pesos, tours are usually in Spanish and take visitors to a former mine, the Mummy and Torture museums, underground streets, the Pípila monument with views of town, and a sweets shop to taste and purchase locally made candies.

Among the most impressive churches in Guanajuato are the Mannerist Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Guanajuato, at la Plaza de la Paz, and el Templo de San Diego de Alcalá, facing the Jardín de la Unión. Outside the city center, visit el Templo de la Valenciana, el Templo de Mineral de Cata, and the less-well-preserved Templo de Mellado. These three, not too far from one another along the Panoramic Highway northwest of downtown, were all associated with mining operations; their interiors are lavishly endowed with gold and silver. In this area there are several miradores, or lookout points, with great views of the city.

Shopping

At shops throughout the capital, you’ll find ceramics from Dolores Hidalgo and Santa Rosa (both in Guanajuato state) and pottery by well-known local artists such as Gorky González. Also available are wool rugs as well as handicrafts from elsewhere in Mexico. There are several art galleries near the university, on Calle Positos.

Visit Mercado Hidalgo (Avenida Juárez near Calle Mendizábal) for clothing, fruits and vegetables, juice and hot food stalls, and some souvenirs, including sweets. Dating from 1910, it was inaugurated by President Porfirio Diaz just before the onset of the Mexican Revolution.

With two downtown locations, Dulcería La Catrina (Sopeña #4 or Plazuela de los Angeles #74, centro, tel. 473/734-0203) has a store full of traditional Mexican sweets, and gives samples, too.

The fanciest shop in town, La Casa del Quijote (Sopeña #17, tel. 473/732-8226) has high-quality textiles, silver jewelry and housewares, and ceramics, among other high-end handicrafts. It’s located right around the corner from Jardín de la Unión.

Bars/Music/Nightlife

The state band provides free entertainment in Jardín de la Unión Thursdays at 6pm and Sundays at noon.

Behind the Hotel San Diego, Guanajuato Grill (Alonso #4, centro, tel. 473/734-0278), is a disco currently popular with university students and visitors.

Across the street from Juarez Theater and above the bar-restaurant El Café, El Bar (Sopeña #10, centro, tel. 473/734-5666), is a casual favorite for canned salsa and Latino tunes.

Facing el Jardín de la Unión in Hotel Boutique1850, One Bar and Lounge is more upscale, with more expensive prices, modern décor, great city views, and a better-dressed (but still young) clientele.

More Info

There are tourism kiosks throughout the historic center, including at El Jardín de la Unión. The state tourism office is at Plaza de la Paz #14, tel. 473/732-1982. For more web info about Guanajuato city and state, visit www.gtoexperience.mx (Spanish only) and www.guanajuatocapital.com (in Spanish and so-so English).

Bus and Airport Info

The closest airport to Guanajuato is the León-Guanajuato or Bajío Airport (code: BJX), about 12 km outside the city. Taxis from Guanajuato aren’t too expensive, but settle on the price before you go. Many of the tour operators in the city, including Grupo Minero (www.grupominero.com.mx) offer airport shuttle service.

The bus station (“Central de Autobuses”) is found at the southeast entrance to town on the road to San Miguel de Allende, Celaya, and Juventino Rosas. First-class bus lines serving Guanajuato are Primera Plus (www.primeraplus.com.mx) and ETN (www.etn.com.mx). Flecha Amarilla has second-class bus service to Dolores Hidalgo, Querétaro, Celaya, and other nearby destinations.


Photo by John Keegan

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