Well, first, a small point of clarification. In my previous Guana-WOWto post, I said Guanajuato was now my most-favorite city. Mazatlán’s feelings got a little hurt! So, I’ll clarify to say that Guanajuato is my favorite inland city, and Mazatlán continues to be my favorite seaside city (how’s that for diplomacy?!).
I spent so much time photographing the city, that I neglected to spend any time touring it’s many museums. But blog readers, Scott & Jan, sent me this link to a wonderful photo book of their month-long visit here back in 2010 (that covers many of the things I had missed). My goal will now be to stay in-town at one of the colorful casitas on the hillside the next time I visit!
Unlike most Mexican cities that have a large, central plaza, Guanajuato’s tiny valley surrounded by steep hills doesn’t make that possible, so instead, they offer multiple smaller plazas (plazuelas) scattered throughout the town. Each has a unique character and design, and of the ones I explored, I found them all absolutely charming!
There’s Plazuela de los Ángeles, a nice spot along the main Juarez street to admire the colorful houses up the hillside, grab a quick bite from one of the food cart vendors, and sit on the stairs that surround the fountain, or on one of the benches in a quiet corner.
Plaza del Baratillo has a great “neighborhood” feel to it. Small shops surround it selling fruits, vegetables, flowers, and other sundries. You can also get a great fruit smoothie or coffee and hang out at an internet café. Women line one of the alleyways preparing for a day of making fresh tortillas and other homemade delights.
If a little nook is too small for a plazuela, Guanajuato still will usually have a few benches beneath an Indian Laurel tree from which to relax and read.
Plaza Allende in front of the Teatro Cervantes is a great place to admire more colorful hillside casas as well as the large sculpture of Don Quixote and his sidekick Sancho Panza.
Guanajuato is quite nuts over all things Miguel de Cervantes and hosts the very popular and renowned International Cervantino Festival each October to highlight theatre, music, literature, and art inspired by the works of Cervantes.
But to find the statue of Cervantes, you need to head down the street to the small plaza in front of the Templo de San Francisco.
The central place in town to see and be seen is the triangular shaped Jardín de la Unión with it’s smooth stone tile and iron benches shaded beneath a thick cover of Indian Laurel trees (more about this plaza in my next post!). During the day, this is a great place to people-watch, eat at one of the fancier restaurants, or just cool off. Millie REALLY enjoyed the smooth, cool tile!
A much quieter and peaceful area is the Jardín de la Reforma set behind a tall stone archway. A great place to feed the pigeons or watch them bathe at the fountain.
Plaza San Roque connects the Jardín de la Reforma with the Plazuela de San Fernando and is yet another lovely place for color and history.
The Plazuela de San Fernando was mentioned as a common favorite to enjoy a nice lunch or coffee, and people-watch. It’s large open cobblestone square is also features dancing on some evenings. I had a fabulous lunch at the Café Bossa Nova—delicious vegan Ratatouille with a side salad and limonada for only 75 pesos (US$5.75)! Millie fidgeted while I ate, wishing she could run out to play with the kids chasing pigeons in the square.
The spiritual heart of Guanajuato is certainly the Plaza de la Paz in front of the magnificent Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guanajuato. This is another place that looks equally amazing day or night, and at either time, you’re likely to see teenagers sitting beneath the plaza’s statue tapping away on their laptops or cell phones!
The Basilica was built between 1671 and 1696. It’s large bells are still rung by hand by a strong man and a very, VERY, long rope!
The main alter and side chapels feature many significant religious pieces, but most impressive, is the Basilica’s ceiling which dazzles with golden trim and painted details. This church could almost convert me to Catholicism!