Surrounded by majestic mountains, Guanajuato nestles in a narrow gorge full of rainbow-coloured toy box houses, winding cobblestone streets and pretty tree-lined plazas dotted with pavement cafes and colonial buildings. In the heart of Mexico’s Colonial Highlands, Guanajuato showcases Spanish Baroque flair and artistry at its best.
The old colonial city of Guanajuato hidden in the Sierra de Guanajuato Mountains, is the capital of Guanajuato State and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. The city is beautiful with many historic buildings, monuments and churches and to help preserve these, a network of underground roads has been built to reduce traffic flow and pollution. This means the city is a wonderful place to walk around and explore for both locals and visitors alike.
The city developed from the wealth generated by the bountiful seams of silver that run through the mountains. These riches gave Spanish colonials the means to construct lavish buildings and churches to remind them of the Spanish cities they had left behind. But while other colonial cities in this region were planned and built on a grid system, owing to its topography Guanajuato’s expansion was by necessity, more organic. So, buildings appear to tumble down hillsides and the cobblestone streets twist and turn in maze-like fashion. But we think this just adds to the city’s charm.
A former mining town, Guanajuato’s historic monuments and buildings, as well as the delicate Baroque architecture, serve as a reminder of the state’s silver industry. Most of the colonial buildings have been beautifully preserved which adds to the old-world charm and this is a lovely place to relax in the tree-lined plazas or wandering the cobbled streets crammed with brightly-coloured houses. Highlights include the magnificent Templo La Valenciana, with its golden altars, filigree carvings and striking façade; the Teatro Juarez, an impressive theatre with stunning stained-glass windows and bronze statues coated in gold leaf and the Museo y Casa de Diego Rivera, which honours the famous artist who was born here. Visitors can also enjoy great city views from the top of the Sierra de Guanajuato Mountains, but if the climb doesn’t appeal, we’d recommend taking the funicular up to the monument to El Pipila for panoramic views.
There is a lively but relaxed vibe to Guanajuato where the streets hum to the chatter of the markets, the live music and the buzzing arts scene, which for us, makes it a great place to unwind. We’d recommend a stay here for anyone interested in Mexico’s colonial past.