Guanajuato, the capital of Guanajuato state, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a charming colonial-era city situated in a picturesque valley surrounded by the Sierra de Guanajuato mountains. Guanajuato is nicknamed “the place of frogs” because the shape of its mountainous terrain is said to have resembled a frog to the city’s early inhabitants. The region is known as the Bajio, or heartland of Mexico.
Founded in 1559, Guanajuato is a former silver mining city and home to the La Valenciana mine. Silver was first discovered in Guanajuato in the mid-1600s. La Valencia was opened a century later and quickly became one of the richest and most productive silver mines in the world. The adjacent Templo de San Cayetano (San Cayetano Church) stands as a monument to the wealth and riches extracted from the mine.
The historic center of Guanajuato has a distinct European flavor with hundreds of narrow cobblestone callejones (alleyways) running up and down the hillside. Shady plazas are dotted with sidewalk cafés, museums, theaters, markets and historic monuments. The buildings throughout the city are fine examples of neoclassical- and baroque-style colonial architecture. An underground network of tunnels runs beneath the city helping to control the flow of traffic.
Known as the birthplace of Mexican Independence, Guanajuato is an important stop along Mexico’s Independence route, which also visits the nearby towns of Dolores Hidalgo and San Miguel de Allende in Guanajuato state. You can tour the Alhóndiga de Granaditas, a historic building and monument located in the city center and the site of the first major victory over the Spanish in 1810.
Guanajuato is a city of legends and legendary places. One of the best known is the famous Callejón del Beso (Alley of the Kiss), an alleyway so narrow that couples can kiss from opposite balconies. Take part in a callejoneada, or walking serenade, led by student musicians who strum guitars, serenade bystanders and recite local tales.
The city hosts the annual Cervantino Festival, a festival of performing arts that’s named in honor of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, author of Don Quixote. You’ll also find a museum dedicated to Don Quixote and statues of him and his sidekick, Sancho Panza, in the Allende Plaza just outside the Teatro Cervantes (Cervantes Theater).
Famed Mexican muralist Diego Rivera was born in Guanajuato where his former home has been converted into an excellent museum. The city is also home to a large student population, many of whom attend the Universidad de Guanajuato (Guanajuato University), one of the oldest universities in the state. Located next door to the university is an art museum.
Guanajuato is a great place to sample regional Bajío cuisine. Favorite local dishes include enchiladas mineras (tortillas filled with meat, beans or cheese and topped with a sauce made from guajillo and ancho chiles) and pacholas Guanajuatenses (ground beef with spices).
You may enjoy bird’s eye views of the city and surrounding mountains and valleys in Guanajuato state while hang gliding or floating in the basket of a hot air balloon. Bring a sweater as the weather in Guanajuato is comfortable year-round, but evenings can get chilly.