Santiago of Queretaro, to give it its official name, has over 460 years of history. One way of getting to know the city is to set out on a walk in the city center, where one can see the city’s historical monuments, a collection of treasures that is part of the 1996 declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Among the tourist attractions in this city, it is definitely worth mentioning those from the 17th and 18th centuries. These are wonders made of stone, with Baroque altarpieces inside; there are also Neo-classical buildings from the 19th century, colonial mansions, and a vast amount of pre-Hispanic heritage. To get to know this city, a good option is to take a tram ride and drive past all of the outstanding tourist attractions.
The city’s main plaza, Jardin Zenea, features a large wrought-iron bandstand. The plaza’s beautiful Church of San Francisco is one of Mexico’s oldest buildings. Note the colored tiles on the church’s domes that were brought from Spain in 1540. Inside are some fine 17th to 19th century paintings.
Housed in a wing of the San Francisco Church, the Museo Regional is an exquisite assembly of Pre-Columbian, Colonial and post-independence treasures. Also here is the Museo Pio Mariano, displaying one of Mexico’s finest collections of Colonial-era relics. Open 11am to 7pm; closed Mondays.
Plaza de Armas, formerly Plaza Independencia, is a lovely square which is particularly pretty at night when it is softly lit. The Palacio Municipal, also known as the Casa de la Corregidora, is an important historic site. It is here that plans to revolt against Spain were developed. The wife of the city’s mayor (Doña Josefa Ortiz), upon overhearing that her husband planned to arrest the conspirators, managed to sneak a message to Father Hidalgo. He avoided capture and three days later declared Mexico’s independence from Spain from the nearby village of Dolores. To one side of the Plaza is the ornate and beautiful Casa de la Cultura.
The Aqueduct is an excellent example of colonial engineering; it brought water to the city for centuries. Its 74 towering arches (some standing 100 feet tall) are dramatically lit at night, stretching 8 km across a broad valley on the City’s eastern edge. Work was completed between 1726 and 1738.
The Fuente De Neptuno is a beautiful neoclassic fountain built in 1797 by Eduardo Tresgueras, the “Michelangelo of Mexico” and a native son of El Bajio.
The beautiful monastery of Convento De La Santa Cruz is about a 10-minute walk from the center of town. It served as a fortress for the retreating Spanish army and later housed Maximilian while he awaited execution. Fascinating tours (in English) recount the convent’s colorful past. Other interesting buildings in the historic city center include the Templo de Santa Rosa de Viterbos (displaying strong Oriental architectural detail), and the Templo de Santa Clara (founded in 1633, noted for its ornately carved interior).