Colonial Mexico: Guanajuato’s Unique Physical Appearance
Built into an irregular and narrow mountainous ravine, Modern Guanajuato is a colorful stacked landscape. Sprinkling its hilly terrain are brick bridges, cobblestone streets, gardens, small alleyways (called callejones) and plazas. Additionally, steep, narrow staircases curiously lead up to an alleyway or a door. Also interesting, cars access the city via an underground street system of tunnels with only one road entering and exiting the town.
UNESCO declared Guanajuato a World Heritage Site in 1988
Soon after the Spanish founded the city in 1548, they discovered silver. For the next 250 years, Guanajuato supplied one-third of the world’s silver. The “plata” (the Spanish term for silver and a slang term for money) is reflected in its churches, mansions and theaters. A popular tourist attraction is the 17th century La Valencia mine due the impact silver had on the city historically. As varied as the terrain and contributing to the UNESCO designation, is Guanajuato’s architecture, including churrigueresque baroque, neoclassical facades and other Spanish colonial styles. At times, the city’s beauty appears less Mexican and more a European mash-up of a medieval village, colonial settlement and Walt Disney World.
What to do in Guanajuato
Historic architecture, young residents and fresh energy are met with rich culture. There is no shortage of cafés, bars, street food, markets, galleries, concerts, theater and other performances year-round. Exclusive to Guanajuato are performances by young people called callejoneadas. Estudiantinas (university groups) dress in renaissance-era Spanish troubadour costumes, sing popular traditional songs and lead strolls in the evenings throughout the city. If you participate in a callejoneada, the estudiantinas will pour tequila in your mouth from a flask while telling tales and serenading you, a serenade happy hour! Arguably one of Latin America’s largest and most important art festivals occurs every October for three weeks in Guanajuato. To learn more about El Cervantino go here and here.
A perfect spot to study and practice Spanish for a few weeks
When visiting Guanajuato, you’ll need plenty of time to explore the urban labyrinth. It boasts many top rate museums, such as Diego Rivera’s childhood home and museum, Museo Iconografico del Quijote (Don Quixote Museum), Museo de las Momias (Mummy Museum) and Alhondiga de Granaditas (public granary and Regional Museum of Guanajuato). Another memorable experience is taking the funicular to the Monumento al Pípila (revolutionary hero) for picture-perfect views of the city on the way up and down and at the top.
Stop by the The University of Guanajuato during a walking tour. It’s main building in the Neoclassical style is known for its 113 steps leading up to the building. Another can’t-be-missed place is the famous Callejón del Beso (Alley of the Kiss), a 27-inch-wide alley. The legend of Callejón de Beso states if you kiss on the third step, your love will last forever.
Located only five hours from Mexico City, Guanajuato is easy to get to! Rent a car or take a fancy bus but don’t miss one of Mexico’s most interesting destinations!