The next town on our Mexico trip after a day in San Miguel de Allende was Guanajuato. Guanajuato City is about 1 hour northwest of San Miguel de Allende and is a colourful town dotted in the mountains. The bus terminal is not in the city centre so you will need to catch a cab into town if you come by bus as we did.
Guanajuato is a major tourist town. It wasn’t just international tourists but a lot of local tourism here too. Compared to Queretaro, this was just like Mexico City again (ok, not that busy). Little did I know that this would be one of my favourite towns on our Mexico trip. We did an orientation walk around town as it was late afternoon by the time we sorted ourselves out and then caught cabs into the city centre as we were staying outside the centre. The streets were filled with people as we also causually walked the bustling streets on our way to the Parroquia de Basílica Colegiata de Nuestra Señora de Guanajuato, this brightly coloured yellow and red church in the middle of town. We then walked some of the back streets where we passed the Universidad de Guanajuato which is a popular spot for photos of the sweeping staircase leading up to the white multistory castle looking building. After wondering the nearby plazas and past the Alhondiga de Granaditas (more on this later), it was time to head back to the hotel as the sun was beginning to set.
The next day, we had the whole day to explore the town. In the morning we went back into town nice and early and went to Callejon del Beso. The ‘alley of the kiss’ tells a tragic story of young lovers separated by class very a la Romeo and Juliet. If you stand on the 3rd step and kiss, you will be blessed with love for a lifetime together. Or so they say.
We then winded through the steep uphill streets passing coloured doors to get to the Monumento al Pipila which overlooks Guanajuato. Here, you will have a birds eye view of the town below. A furnicular also exists if you are not looking to walk up.
El Pipila is a local hero of Guanajuato. At the beginning of the War of Independance, the Spanish barricaded themselves in the Alhondiga de Granaditas which was fortress of sorts with an interior courtyard that was used as a grain warehouse in town. With the advantage of having high small windowns, the Spanish were positioned to have the upper hand against the insurgents until a wooden door was noticed.
Cue Pipila. Armed with a torch (known as the torch of liberty) and wooden slab as a shield, he set the door alight allowing the insurgents to storm inside.
On our way back down to the city centre, I couldn’t help but notice how colourful this town really was! There were murals leading us back down to town and coloured houses lined every street we stuck our heads into. No colour was left out and the palette of a spilled pantone truck. There were plenty of craft stores lining the streets both up where the El Pipila was and down in the centre with the neoclassical Teatro Juarez looking over us and plenty of people leisurely strolling this laid back city.
We then went to find a chocolate store called Xocola-T which sells handmade chocolate. Located at Callejon Baratillo 15, we marvelled over the available flavours and settled for blocks of chocolate with nopal (cactus) and also tried single squares of chocolate with tequila and another with chapulines (crushed grasshoppers). I highly recommend stopping by this local store!
After lunch, we went into the Alhondiga de Granaditas. After all, this was the centre of the independance battle in Guanajuato. There was a queue to get in but it went by quickly. There was a great mural detailing the history of the city. When we went, there was a temporary exhibition of the history of Mexico with small figurines depicting each scene. This was great to bring together the history that we had been hearing about on our trip and see this in a timeline. There was a hall of heros which paid tribute to the independent freedom fighters of Mexico including Miguel Hidalgo, José María Morelos and Ignacio Allende.
Next on our list that we wanted to see was the Museum of Mummies (Museo de las mommias) which was on the complete other side of town from El Pipila. The walk was about 20-30 mins following the main street Calle Tepetata across town. The buildings quickly changed from coloured to sand and we seemed to be in the rough end of town walking uphill steadily. It was still quite safe as there’s still a lot of people around. We took a “short cut” which brought us through some back streets and found a very scenic view of the city centre behind us. As you get closer to the site, you can just follow all the other tourists.
The line was enormous and the waiting time was estimated to be 2 hours to get inside! Not keen to wait this long to get in, defeated and hot, we slowly made our way back into town to have some ice cream instead.
When wondering the streets, you may be approached by someone dressed as though they’ve come out of the medieval times. They are known as the Callejoneadas Guanajuato, students of music who give night tours telling the stories (and playing music) of the town. This is only available in Spanish but would be an amazing experience to see Guanajuato by night.
Have you been to Guanajuato and what would you recommend?
Other Mexico related blog posts: Top 8 things to do in Mexico City My first impression of Mexico Day trip from Mexico City to Teotihuacan Day Trip to Bernal A day in Queretaro