Guanajuato, the hilly capital city in Mexico’s Colonial Highlands, is often overshadowed by San Miguel de Allende, at least among gringos. And the 500 or so expats living in Guanajuato probably wish it would remain that way…for this beautifully-preserved Spanish-Colonial city—a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1988—offers an enviable quality of life.
To start with, the city is physically beautiful. Nestled among hills, Guanajuato has winding streets and steep, stair-laden passageways that twist and turn. Colorfully-painted colonial buildings hug the hillsides, while imposing neoclassical structures like the Teatro Juárez dot the centro histórico. Many streets in the centro are pedestrian-only, so it’s easy to stroll the city and savor the sights.
You’ll have a busy lifestyle in Guanajuato
There’s no shortage of things to do here, either. On weekends you can watch mimes perform outside the Teatro Juárez or listen to a band play marches in the gazebo across the street in the Jardín de la Unión (Union Garden). This entertainment is free—though for the price of a cold drink or coffee you can watch the show in style from a nearby terrace café.
A look at the monthly arts calendar shows a schedule filled with plays, concerts, film festivals and more. And that’s not even counting Guanajuato’s cultural claim to fame: the annual International Cervantes Festival in the October/November period—one of Latin America’s most important arts festivals.
Looking to take a class? This is a popular place to study Spanish, with several language schools available. And the University of Guanajuato—considered one of the best in Mexico—offers plenty of activities as well.
With a sophisticated local population—as well as a good tourist trade (national as well as international)—Guanajuato also has plenty of shops, restaurants and other hangouts. Get the best coffee in town at Café Tal—a double espresso or a coffee will set you back about $1.50—on Sóstenes Rocha Street at the corner of Temezcuitate. Or try scrumptious tacos or gorditas right off the griddle in the neighborhood Mercado Embajadores or the main market, Mercado Hidalgo, as you pick up the week’s supply of fresh fruits and vegetables. (The state of Guanajuato is Mexico’s strawberry capital, by the way. You can pick up a kilo—2.2 pounds—for as little as $1.15 in town—and for even less at stands on the highway into town.)
If you prefer a sit-down, fixed-menu lunch called a comida corrida (two courses plus beverage), you’ll find them all over town starting at about $4.50.
Guanajuato: Easy to get to…but you might not want to leave
Guanajuato also has its share of large supermarkets, such as the Mexican chain Mega Comercial. And while it’s short on warehouse-style stores like Costco, Walmart and Home Depot, you can find these in León, less than half an hour away.
Getting to Guanajuato isn’t hard. You have two international airports to choose from—one to the west near León (El Bajío), about half an hour away, and another to the east in Querétaro (just over an hour away).
But don’t rush to buy your ticket here. Like many who come to Guanajuato, I’m starting to think I’d like to keep it as my little secret.
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