Guanajuato is a colorful and vibrant city situated in the Mexican state of the same name, not to mention it is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. It's an exciting destination that offers plenty of activities to keep you entertained during your stay! From exploring the cobblestone streets to sampling the amazing local cuisine, there's something for everyone in this colorful city in Mexico. If you're looking for a unique experience, this is definitely the place to visit and we have made this Guanajuato travel guide just for you!
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Best time to visit Guanajuato
The best time to visit Guanajuato would be in September or October to take advantage of the Mexican Independence (from Hidalgo) celebrations and the Cervantino Festival. There are plenty of things to see around Guanajuato, below I will list the top things that we enjoyed and places worth visiting.
Museums: Museo de las Momias
Guanajuato is home to one of the world’s most unique museums - the Mummy Museum. The Museo de las Momias is located in a former hospital and it houses more than 100 mummies from Guanajuato and nearby areas. This is one of the top things I would suggest to anyone visiting. The mummies were naturally preserved due to extreme dryness in the region and they have been studied extensively by scientists. This museum provides visitors with an interesting glimpse into Mexican history and culture.
The Mummy Museum showcases several important figures from Guanajuato who lived between 1865 and 1958, including a miner, a soldier, and even a female criminal! You can also view various artifacts such as clothing, jewelry, photographs and medical equipment that belonged to the mummies on display. The museum also features interactive exhibits which allow visitors to learn more about how each mummy was discovered as well as their age at death. This has to be one of the most interesting museums found in Mexico.
Museums: Diego Rivera Museum
One of the best attractions in Guanajuato is the Diego Rivera Museum, where you can explore the life and works of one of Mexico's most famous painters. Built in 1982, this museum is dedicated to preserving the legacy of Diego Rivera and his impact on Mexican culture.
At the museum, you can experience some of Rivera’s most influential pieces firsthand. From early sketches to larger-than-life murals, visitors are able to immerse themselves into the world created by one of Mexico’s most beloved artists. There are also interactive displays that explain deeper aspects of his art such as symbolism and technique. Along with these exhibits, there are special events throughout the year for guests to learn more about this renowned painter.
Historical Sites: Alhóndiga de Granaditas
Alhóndiga de Granaditas in Guanajuato, Mexico is a treasure trove of history and culture. Located in the heart of San Juan de Dios plaza, the Alhondiga was originally built as a granary by the Spanish colonial government. Now it serves as an iconic landmark and museum that allows visitors to learn about Mexico's past.
The building is a classic example of 18th-century baroque architecture, with ornate columns and detailed sculptures adorning its exterior walls. Inside its doors lies an interesting collection of historical artifacts from different periods of Mexican history. Visitors can explore exhibits on the country's struggle for independence, religious icons, weapons used during battles and much more. The Alhondiga also features art galleries showcasing works from local artists and regular events like concerts, workshops and movie screenings.
Historical Sites: Cathedrals and Churches
The Basilica de Guanajuato is one of the most important religious sites in Mexico. Built in 1747, it features stunning architecture with its majestic towers and intricate carvings. You can't miss it's vibrant yellow walls located in the city center. Inside you will find beautiful artwork from renowned artists such as Miguel Cabrera and Francisco Antonio Vallejo. Visiting the Guanajuato Basilica is easy and will likely be on your way since it's located in the heart of the city.
For those looking for something more colorful, they should visit San Cayetano Shrine which was established in 1691 by Franciscan monks. It is located a little further outside the city near the mines.
Historical Sites: Silver Mines of Guanajuato
The silver mines of Guanajuato, Mexico, have been renowned for centuries as a source of wealth and riches. In its heyday, it was estimated that Guanajuato yielded nearly one-third of all global silver production between 1779 and 1823.
Keep in mind Guanajuato's mines were first discovered by Spanish conquistadors in 1558 and quickly became an important part of New Spain’s economy and culture. The region's mineral wealth was so great that it helped fuel Spain's imperial ambitions on an international scale for centuries.
El Nopal Mine is the closest to Guanajuato and the second larger mine in the area is La Valenciana. It is approximately 5 kilometers away from the city. Costs to visit the mines are only 30 pesos.
Experienced tour guides, all of whom are university students currently studying the field, will offer visitors the opportunity to explore the area. Though many of these tours will be conducted in Spanish, non-Spanish speakers are still welcome and encouraged to come.
The Mines are on the outskirts of Guanajuato and offer visitors the opportunity to explore hundreds of miles of meandering underground passageways, tunnels and galleries. The silver veins inside these mine shafts are still visible today and provide a unique insight into the city's rich mining heritage.
You can experience first-hand some of the oldest tunnels in Mexico, which were used to extract millions of ounces of precious metal from deep within the earth's crust over centuries past. In addition, you will be able to witness how miners worked with primitive tools such as picks, shovels and wagons to transport ore back up from below ground level.
Outdoor Activities: Parque Bicentenario
Parque Bicentenario in Guanajuato is one of the premier natural attractions in Guanajuato. Located just north of the city center, it offers a variety of outdoor activities for visitors to enjoy. From bike paths and walking trails to wildlife observation and bird watching, there’s something for everyone at Parque Bicentenario!
The park covers over 200 acres of land, providing plenty of space to explore. The area is stunningly beautiful with rolling hills, lush vegetation, and plenty of scenic views. There are also several biking routes that offer stunning views of nearby mountains and other landmarks. Visitors can also take part in guided tours where they can learn about local flora and fauna as well as get an up-close look at some amazing species like ocelots, coatis, armadillos and more!
Outdoor Activities: Explore the Cobblestone and Alleyways
This colorful city unlike any other city I have visited in Mexico, its uniqueness adds to its charm. I will say, if you are not fond of walking this may not be the city for you. Keep in mind that Guanajuato is a mountainous town that has many tunnels and small alleyways to walk through and plenty of hills.
With its unique historical sites and buildings, Guanajuato commonly draws visitors from around the world who come to explore its intricate web of stone pathways. The city's narrow alleys offer a peek into its colonial past, while also providing locals and tourists alike with hidden gems tucked away in the vibrant streets.
Outdoor Activities: Walk thru the Heart of Guanajuato
The interesting thing about meandering around Guanajuato city center is that it is completely walkable, thanks to the tunnels below most of the car traffic is removed from the center. The tunnels were originally built to protect the city from flooding when the nearby Rio Guanajuato would overflow. Today, you can take advantage of the pedestrian areas and explore the alleys and streets. Getting lost is one of the best things that can happen to you here. You can find plenty of tour guides selling their services along with street vendors, small tiendas and of course amazing food and restaurants.
Outdoor Activities: Alley of the Kiss - El Callejon del Beso
Speaking of narrow streets, I highly suggest taking a night walking tour around the city. If you don’t speak Spanish this may not be as enjoyable. However, even if you can’t understand it is still interesting (at least it was for me). You cannot miss the tour groups and the scouts that will ask you to join during the day. They are dressed in …. We paid they guy and he gave us tickets for the event and told us the time and place to meet (in front of the church). Cost is about 80 pesos a person.
There will be plenty of singing and laughing and they will lead you through the alleys. I suggest if you are going to drink, either bring some with you or get some at the bar they will stop by along the way. We ordered a tequila/margarita through the group, with a guy and a girl going around taking orders from patrons before the walk started. Let’s just say it tasted just like Squirt. Lesson learned jaja.
We also got a reenactment of the story of the city’s own Romeo and Juliet. A story of forbidden love of Ana and Carlos.
The romantic story of El Callejon del Beso is one that has been passed down through generations. This alleyway of cobblestone was once the site of an old convent and it is believed that two young lovers who were separated by their families fulfilled their love promise to each other every night at this secret location.
Legend says that these two star-crossed lovers would kiss each other goodbye from opposite ends of the tiny alley. Their balconies were only inches apart in the narrow alleyway. It eventually became known as El Callejon del Beso or “Alley of the Kiss” to honor their story and remind us all about the power of true love that stands the test of time.
Today, you too can take a walk down memory lane at El Callejon del Beso and experience for yourself a true Mexican fairy tale full of passion and romance. As a small warning, with our without the tour, at night there will likely be lines leading to the stairs and alleyway. From there you can pay to have your picture taken on the steps and even at the top of the balcony. Have a picture kissing your significant other at this famous story setting and relive the love story together.
Sightseeing: Funicular de Guanajuato
Sightseeing in the Mexican city of Guanajuato is always an enjoyable experience, but taking a ride on the Funicular de Guanajuato is an absolute must. This funicular railway has been providing entertainment and transport for locals and tourists alike since its opening in 1896. It operates between two of Guanajuato’s most spectacular attractions – the El Pípila Monument and La Valenciana Church – traversing breathtaking landscapes with stunning views along the way. I can't think of anywhere else in Mexico you can have this type of experience and the view of Guanajuato is spectacular.
The train is powered by a hydraulic system that has been operating without interruption for more than 120 years, making it one of the most reliable forms of transportation in Mexico’s colorful history. As you ascend or descend into town, you can admire some of Guanajuato’s finest colonial architecture while gaining insight into its fascinating culture. From the top Guanajuato looks so colorful and you can see across the city, from side to side, something truly breathtaking. At the top there are plenty of street vendors with food, drink and good times abundant. If you have a drone, this is the perfect place to fly and capture the city.
Shopping & Eating: Mercado Hidalgo
Visit Mercado Hidalgo in Guanajuato for a truly unique shopping experience, this traditional Mexican marketplace is one of the most renowned open-air markets in all of Mexico. With over 400 vendors offering everything from jewelry and clothing to food and crafts. Here you can find the best deals and there's something for everyone at Mercado Hidalgo.
The market is also known for its colorful atmosphere. Visitors will be dazzled by vibrant stalls filled with spices, fruits, and vegetables as well as local crafts like pottery and leather goods. Even if you don’t plan on buying anything, it’s worth a visit just to take it all in! The locals are friendly and always eager to show off their unique wares.
Cultural Events & Festivals: Cervantino Festival
Guanajuato is also know worldwide for its International Cervantino Festival, an annual celebration of culture and art, featuring music, theatre, folklore and more. It has been officially named the "Cervantes Capital of America'' in recognition of the city's yearly hosting of this event. The festival takes place each October for two to three weeks.
Beginning as self-produced student performances of short works by 16th century Spanish playwright Miguel de Cervantes in Guanajuato's plazas and open spaces in the 1950s, the International Cervantino Festival has developed over time to become Latin America's biggest celebration of the arts. Starting officially in 1972, this three-week event has since been unstoppable.
Take a day trip to San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel de Allende is a charming colonial city located in the central highlands of Mexico. It is only a short drive away from Guanajuato, making it the perfect spot for an amazing day trip. It is also located in Guanajuato state and only 1.5 hours away. From traditional Mexican cuisine to breathtaking views of its old-world charm, San Miguel de Allende has something for everyone.
Here you can stroll through the cobblestoned streets and explore local markets full of handmade crafts and art galleries exhibiting vibrant pieces from talented local artists. Explore centuries-old churches like La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel or take in the amazing sights at El Jardín Principal. Enjoy a delicious lunch at one of the many traditional restaurants scattered throughout this mesmerizing town before indulging in some shopping and sightseeing around Santuario de Atotonilco or along Calzada de la Presa Street.
Make a trip to see the Pyramids at Cañada de la Virgen
View the majestic Pyramids of Cañada de la Virgen and experience a true marvel of Mesoamerican architecture. Just a little over an hour away from the city and located in the state of Guanajuato, these ancient pyramids are part of a complex system of structures believed to be built by tribes kin to the Toltecs between 800 BC and 900 AD. They are believed to have served as temples and astronomical observatories, with artifacts from this era still being found on site today.
Visitors to Cañada de la Virgen can explore the two main pyramids located here, as well as numerous other ruins spread throughout the area. The larger pyramid is known as El Castillo (The Castle), standing over 30 meters tall and featuring steps along all four sides leading up to its peak.
Where to Stay in Guanajuato
I would be amiss if I didn't mention a good location to stay. On my visit to Guanajuato we stayed at the Mason de San Juan Hotel, which is just next to the Diego Rivera Museum. Please be aware that the "valet" parking isn't controlled by the hotel and it can take 30 minutes or so before your car arrives, so leave plenty of time. The parking isn't at the hotel but in a nearby lot. But that didn't dampen the trip, the rooms were great and very clean and the hotel is really centrally located to walk around the beautiful city.
Summary of this Magical City
We absolutely enjoyed our time here and there are so many places to visit in Guanajuato. It is truly something special! Located in the heart of Mexico, this magical destination has something for everyone. From its colorful colonial buildings to the winding cobblestone streets, Guanajuato really is a sight to behold. It's no wonder why it's one of Mexico's most popular tourist attractions.
As a note of caution, I would be remised if I didn't mention more about Guanajuato state. It is one of the deadliest states in the territory due to narcos and other violence. This really doesn't reflect in the city and I didn't encounter any odd situations but nonetheless it's best that I share this information. You can read more about that in our next article, is Guanajuato safe to visit?
Frequently Asked Questions about Guanajuato include:
How many day's should I plan on my trip to Guanajuato?
You could visit for just a day but I this would only allow you to see just a couple of sites in the city. I would definitely say at least 2 or 3 days is worth your time in Guanajuato. You can read more in our article here.
Best way to visit?
You can drive from Leon, Mexico City or Guadalajara (which is what we did). The closest airport to historic Guanajuato is Bajio International Airport, which is about an hour away and located just southwest of Leon. Drive time from Guadalajara is approximately 4 hours and 7 hours from Mexico City.