Planning a trip to Guanajuato, Mexico and wondering what the top things to do in Guanajuato area? You’ve come to the right place. Our trip to this amazing city started off rocky (more on that later) but it quickly became one of our favorite cities in all of Mexico.
Even after visiting 23 Mexican states over a year and a half it still remains one of our top cities in Mexico. If you’re planning a trip, here are 7 essential things to do in Guanajuato, Mexico to help you make the most of this wonderful city.
1. Go to Hidalgo Market
Mercados are the heart of most Mexican towns. Guanajuato is no exception. Hidalgo Market (Mercado Hidalgo) has everything you can think of. Whether you are in search of souvenirs, clothing, fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, or incredible food. It’s got it.
This market is not just a tourist hot spot, but is a common stop for locals because of their delicious food. This market is most famous for carnitas. Carnita is slow roasted pork finely chopped then typically served with freshly made tortillas.
Many people come here to enjoy delicious carnitas tacos with nopales (cactus) salad. It will sell out during the lunch rush hour (around 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm), so try to get there around 1:00 at the latest. We aren’t able to share the exact carnitas stall we went to (you’ll have to go on a tequila and food tour for that secret).
However, look for the stall that has the most people patronizing, and that’s typically a good hint as to which one has the best food.
2. Walk or ride up to El Pipila
Guanajuato played an important role in the Mexican revolution and the start of independence from Spanish rule in the 1800’s. One of things you’ll first notice when arriving to the city, is a large statue of a man on the top of the hill. This is El Pipila.
He is the supposed hero of the War of Independence for Mexico and helped burn the gate of Alhóndiga de Granaditas which began the start of the war.
While the story of how he burnt the door to the ground is somewhat of a legend, many believe el Pipila was a real person, Juan José de los Reyes Martínez. However, there is little evidence confirming El Pipilas existence.
Whatever the truth may be, this figure stands tall and proud in above the city offering the best views of Guanajuato. One of the most common things to do in Guanajuato is to take a ride on the funicular to the top ($60 pesos roundtrip), or if you don’t mind getting a little exercise taking the stairs and windy alleys up to the top. No matter which method you choose, the view is worth it!
3. Relax in the Jardin de La Union
I’m a sucker for gorgeous parks. The Jardin de La Union in the center of Guanajuato is a dream. This incredible square is perfect for a relaxing break under the tree lined streets. There’s often live music, fountains, great restaurants, and gorgeous views. It just feels right to stop and enjoy.
Check to see if the Theatre which adjoins the plaza is having a symphony while you’re visiting. Tickets are affordable and seats are issued on a first come first serve basis. Unfortunately, we tried to get our tickets a day too late and it was sold out.
Jardin de La Union is adjacent to the Plaza de la Paz, the largest square in Guanajuato. It’s also where you’ll find the Basílica Colegiata de Nuestra Señora de Guanajuato. This church is the largest in Guanajuato and stands out as centerpoint of the city.
4. Walk the cobblestone streets
One of the best things to do in Guanajuato is just get lost in the colorful streets.
Guanajuato, Mexico is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It gained this title due to its rich history and unique beauty. Nearly every home in Guanajuato is painted a bright color. Giving it the title of being one of Mexico’s most colorful cities.
There are endless windy streets to explore with bright colored doors adorned with beautiful flowers and intricate doors. However, it wasn’t always this way.
Most homes were actually white. But as tourism increased the city started offering incentives to make the area more attractive to visitors. Today the government still offers monetary incentives for the most brightly colored homes.
5. Go on a history and food tour
The best way to be able to appreciate Guanajuato’s unique history, vibrant culture, and incredible food is on a food and history tour. We took our tour with GTO walking tours. Our guide was so knowledgeable and passionate about Guanajuato.
He shared his favorite spots to get food (like a local). And gave us a really great overview of Guanajuato’s unique history. If you’re looking for things to do in Guanajuato this should be at the top of your list.
Up until around the 1970s much of the city did not have running water, electricity, or sewage. This is especially true for the homes on the hills.
On the tour, you will see certain homes have small rooms that jut out over the cobblestone roads. These were originally used as bathrooms because they had access to the street (which was previously a river). This allowed them to wash away their waste with ease.
Guanajuato uses a unique series of tunnels to navigate the city. It’s mountainous terrain means there is only one way in and out. The Spanish developed the city in the 1600s because of its location along the river. They used this river for drinking water, irrigation, navigation, bathing, and more. Eventually, a dam was built to redirect the river below and allowed roads to be built instead.
These tunnels are really fun to drive or walk through. However, be warned. If you are traveling here in a big car or bus (like an RV) we highly recommend avoiding driving here. We hit our RV on one of the tunnel walls, and some are completely in-passable in large vehicles.
6. Visit Kissing Alley
Kissing Alley, or El Callejon del Beso is one of the most famous things to do in Guanajuato. This narrow alley is located just off of the Plaza de Los Angeles. The story behind the Kissing Alley is part romance, part tragedy.
The daughter of a wealthy family that lived in this alley fell in love with a young man the family would not approve of. The young man rented a room across from this alley so they could meet in secret and kiss across the alley. When the father discovered their secret romance he stabbed his daughter to death. No one knows of this story is true, but it does make for a unique photo opportunity.
Make sure to get here early or be prepared to wait in line for your iconic photo. As this is a very popular spot for visitors to grab a photo.
7. Attend the International Festival Cervantino
Every October visitors can attend the world-famous International Festival Cervantino. The festival is a celebration of culture and art. It commemorates the history of live theatre, which was performed by Miguel de Cervantes in Plazas around the city for entertainment. This event attracts tens of thousands of visitors from 30-plus countries and is a must-visit event if you enjoy art, theatre, music, or dance.
As you can see Guanajuato City is a unique place that is rich in history with amazing food. We absolutely loved our time here and cannot wait to return. If you have visited we would love to hear your favorite things to do in Guanajuato in the comments below.