The colorful architecture, constant festive atmosphere, and loads of things to do in Guanajuato all make this colonial town an awesome travel destination to pursue in Mexico. The leafy plazas and opulent theaters often give visitors the feel of a quaint European town surrounded by mountains. But Guanajuato is oozing with unique Mexican culture and history. Plus the great cuisine you can find all over town will remind you that you are most definitely in Mexico!
Guanajuato came to prominence as a prosperous silver-mining town with origins that go all the way back to the mid-1500’s! As the Guanajuato developed around the mines, the town wasn’t exactly planned. Instead Guanajuato was haphazardly built into the mountainside as the town grew with the silver boom, giving Guanajuato the unique and colorful Mexican-colonial architecture that you see today. The centuries-old alleyways and Baroque buildings remain as functional businesses and homes, now making for an extremely scenic setting to roam around.
The historic town of Guanajuato is even listed as one of Mexico’s 34 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It’s recognized as such for its architecture, mines, and deep history. After roaming around Guanajuato for a month, we found it to be an underrated travel destination in Mexico.
But Guanajuato is not exactly an undiscovered destination. The city seems to be a hotspot for domestic tourism. During our visit, we noticed many Mexicans flocking here to experience Guanajuato’s many charms. Yet the lack of international travelers made the city feel like we stumbled across someplace special that is perhaps underappreciated on a global scale.
We found Guanajuato to be very safe and the people here proved friendly and welcoming. Guanajuato is a university town, so it is full of young people. This youthful presence lends to the city’s fun and festive atmosphere.
Yet it’s all the fun things to do in Guanajuato that makes it such a worthwhile destination to travel to in Mexico. You can easily see the main sites within a few days, so we suggest staying for at least a night or two to do so. Yet our monthlong exploration allowed us to deeply discover all the treasures this colorful town has to offer. We now share that with you in this travel guide!
Best Things To Do in Guanajuato
1) Get Lost in the Historic Old Town
Lets begin this list with what we would argue to be the best thing to do in Guanajuato: simply stroll along the historic pedestrian streets of the Old Town. The center of Guanajuato is completely pedestrian-friendly with only a few streets where cars are permitted at all. Instead, you’ll find a labyrinth of walkable roads and alleyways that meander through this stunning town that’s built into the mountainside.
Getting lost in this maze may be one of the best things you can do in Guanajuato. We recommend ditching the map and GPS. You’ll gain a sense of discovery as you stumble across charming surprises around each corner.
Also, be sure to wander into Guanajuato’s elaborate network of tunnels. These subterranean streets were initially built as a means to divert flooding, but today they are instead used to divert traffic out of the historic city center. These tunnels all have sidewalks but we’d only suggest poking into the shorter ones. Leave the longer tunnels for the cars!
2) See the Super Creepy Mummy Museum
Mummies aren’t only associated with ancient Egypt. One of the main attractions in Guanajuato is the Museo de las Momias (Mummy Museum). In the 1800’s there was a cholera outbreak that led to an influx of deaths and hence burials. Decades later the cemetery enacted a tax that family members needed to pay to keep their loved ones in the ground.
Some didn’t pay and hence their relatives were dug up. It turns out that Guanajuato’s unique geology had created a natural mummification process. At some point curious visitors wanted to see these mummies. So cemetery workers began charging for entry. They eventually built a museum to display the mummies, which is a top attraction in Guanajuato today.
3) Visit the Basílica
This tall & towering church was constructed way back in the late 1600’s. If you’re properly dressed, pop inside the Baroque style church to catch a glimpse of the jewel incrusted Virgin Mary. For a real cultural experience, drop by on a Sunday and attend mass.
There’s no need to search for this grand cathedral. If walking around Guanajuato’s historic city center, you’ll undoubtedly stumble across the looming Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guanajuato.
4) Go Deep Into an Ancient Mine
Guanajuato is a mining town after all, so a quintessential experience here is to visit one of those silver mines that initially put the city on the map. Put on a hard hat to be guided into the dark depths of these old mines.
El Nopal Mina (the Nopal Mine) is the closest mine to Guanajuato city center. Here an engineering student will tour you around the old mine shaft. Another mine that is popular with bus tours is the Valenciana mining complex, but it is further to reach from the Guanajuato city center for those who need their own transport.
5) Take a Ride on the Funicular
You can’t spell funicular without “fun.” Guanajuato’s red funicular is indeed a fun way to get to the Pipila Monument. But it also boasts some great views during the steep ride up. We found it to be used more for tourism than as a means of transportation. Yet given the inexpensive ticket, you should definitely take a ride on it at least once while you’re in town. We enjoyed taking the funicular one-way (up) to the monument and then strolling down the maze of tight cobblestone alleyways.
6) Soak in the Views at the Pipila Monument
The Pipila Monument is an enormous statue that seems to watch over town. But Pipila is also the most notorious mirador (viewpoint) in town. You can get a birds-eye view of the entire historic city center from this monument. It makes for some fantatic photography opportunities to capture wide shots of this colorful city. The monument itself becomes somewhat of an afterthought once you see the sweeping views of Guanajuato.
7) Share a Kiss in the Callejón del Beso
While Guanajuato has many narrow alleyways, this particular alley has a story behind it that is just as colorful as this city itself. The local legend tells of a young girl from a well to-do family who fell in love with a poor miner boy that the family did not approve of. The boy rented the room exactly across this narrow alley from the girl’s room. At night they would sneak out to their balconies to kiss across this little alleyway.
The boy would sometimes climb into the girl’s room and one night her father caught them in the act. In a fit of rage, the father stabbed and killed his daughter. Meanwhile the boy tried to escape out the window but plunged to his death in the alleyway below.
Like most urban legends, there are a few variations of this tragic tale but they all follow this same theme. Today a superstition lives on in which couples who smooch in Alley of the Kiss are rewarded with seven years of good luck! So go check out this picturesque little alleyway and follow the tradition.
8) Take a Hike!
Guanajuato is surrounded by mountains and there are a number of great hikes throughout those peaks. But Guanajuato’s trails are not well sign-posted and in many cases you wouldn’t even realize there was a hiking trail there at all, if you didn’t know to look. But if you take the effort to seek them out, you’ll be rewarded with some nice treks around Guanajuato with some amazing views.
Arguably the best view is the hike to the cross at La Bufa. Yet, we also enjoyed a loop hike on the other side of town that circles around to the mining areas. On nice days you’ll find many people excising on the wide and scenic trails. Tip: Go in the morning hours, when it’s most cool out.
9) Go Back to School
The University of Guanajuato boasts a massive attendance of over 30,000 students! The campus is somewhat spread out across the city center, but you’ll see the main building just a block away from the Basilica. To find it, keep an eye out for the iconic staircase. Go ahead and walk up those stairs! You’ll get a nice view of the town.
10) Visit Guanajuato’s Many Art & History Museums
Guanajuato isn’t just the home to mining and colorful colonial buildings. The town was the first home to the country’s most famous artist: Diego Rivera. Guanajuato’s Diego Rivera museum shows off what the home was like at the time of Rivera’s infancy, when he lived in Guanajuato. It, of course, also showcases some of his artwork.
Yet the Diego Rivera museum ($25 pesos, 10:00-6:30) is only one of the many museums throughout Guanajuato. Here are some of Guanajuato’s other popular art and history museums to peruse through:
The Museo de Iconografico ($30 pesos, 9:30-6:45) pays homage to the iconic Spanish literary hero.
The history museum, gardens, and Ex/hacienda San Gabriel de Barrera ($22 pesos, 9:00-6:00) provides a glimpse into opulent life of the late 17th century with a look into lives of silver barons during that time.
At the Regional Museum of Guanajuato (Alhóndiga de Granaditas) ($49 pesos, 10:00-5:30) you can learn about Mexican history in the area, which particularly focuses on the Mexico’s War of Independence, given this was the very site of the first rebel victory.
11) Admire the Teatro Juarez
You can’t come to Guanajuato without pausing to appreciate the Juarez Theatre that sprouts up from the center of town. Built in the late 1800’s, the tall columns of the ornate structure helps to give the city somewhat of a European flair.
Today you can take a quick stroll to self-tour around the inside. But it is still an active theatre. So if you happen to be in Guanajuato while a performance is taking place, we suggest to simply get concert tickets instead of self-tour entry tickets.
12) Watch the Bulls Come Out at Night
No, not real bulls. It’s kids dressed in bull costumes that put on a street performance. Don’t stand too close though, because you may get a lashing from the whip that is loudly cracked to keep these bulls in line. It’s an interesting little routine to stumble upon while walking through the city at dusk.
On weekend evenings the bulls also join the parade that marches through town. Oh yeah, there’s a festive and loud parade that rolls through town on the weekends, so don’t miss that either!
13) Go Rowboating Around Presa de la Olla
A fun daytime diversion in Guanajuato is to take a quick paddle on the boats around Presa de la Olla. Stroll a bit outside of the city center and you’ll eventually come across a park surrounding the presa (dam). It’s here that you can rent rowboats to paddle around the manmade lake.
There’s also a small tower you can climb up to get a birds-eye view of the area. Several eateries also line the lake serving basic local fare. So work up an appetite with oars, then pop in for a snack and reward your efforts with a cold cerveza.
14) Join Guanajuato’s Famous Night Walk: Callejoneadas
Callejoneadas is a nighttime tradition in Guanajuato that’s been going on for over 50 years. It’s an evening stroll through Guanajuato’s alleyways and plaza in which you’re accompanied by strolling musicians in period costumes. It’s equal parts comedy show, cultural tour, and musical performance as you slowly make your way around town. It’s become somewhat of a quintessential experience in Guanajuato. Be aware that these evening strolls tend to be only in Spanish.
15) Find the Frogs of Guanajuato
Did you know that Guanajuato is named after frogs? The indigenous people here named the area Guanajuato, meaning “Land of Frogs.” There is some conflicting lore as to where the name originated from, but today Guanajuato embraces the frog theme. So be on the lookout for namesake sculptures found throughout town. Ribbit!
Top 10 Eating & Drinking Things To Do in Guanajuato
Whenever we travel, we find that eating and drinking can be as equally rewarding experiences as notable attractions. On that note, this next section of things to do in Guanajuato is all about food and drink! These recommendations are about the more unique and quintessential eating and drinking experiences in Guanajuato, rather than attempting to notate the best restaurants in town.
16) Eat Miner’s Enchiladas
There are many regional Mexican dishes to try in Guanajuato, yet perhaps the food the city is most known for is enchiladas mineras, or miner’s enchiladas. As Guanajuato came to prominence as a silver mining town, this dish was created as a quick & easy lunch used to fuel up the miners for a hard day’s work.
Miner’s enchiladas are composed of day-old tortillas that are dipped in a red chile sauce, flash fried, and then stuffed with ranchero cheese. Then the enchiladas are topped with onions, carrots, and potato along with more sauce and cheese.
Today it’s typically served alongside a piece of chicken, but traditionally the miner’s enchiladas were a standalone dish. You can find them on menus all throughout town and at street stalls too.
17) Relax in the Leafy Plazas of Guanajauto
A favorite pastime of locals and visitors alike seems to be chilling in the city’s leafy plazas. Jardin de la Union is the most popular and centrally located, near the theatre. Go to any of the cafes lining the plaza, order a few drinks, and soak in the beautiful atmosphere. Solo street musicians and full mariachi bands will pass by with offers to serenade you.
Our favorite café at Jardin de la Union was Bar Tradicional Luna. We found they tended to have the best prices on drinks, including promotions with buckets of beer. But the good value they offer, also seemed to draw the most customers, so sometimes their alluring patio would be completely full. So go early to secure a table.
Plaza de San Fernando is another great plaza to relax at outdoor cafes. It tends to be less busy, and frequented more by locals.
18) Eat Sopa Azteca Atop a Bridge Crossing an Alleyway
A visit to the Santo Cafe is another Guanajuato staple. The restaurant spills out onto a quaint bridge that crosses over one of the town’s many alleyways. It makes for a fantastic place to dine while people-watching. Considering this cafe’s notoriety and picturesque location, the menu is surprisingly affordable here.
There are only two tables on the bridge, so if they are both occupied, then you can take solace with a window table that also overlooks this charming alley. Santo Cafe is known for it’s Sopa Azteca. We can personally confirm it is, in fact, delicious; but do know they make some tasty crepes too!
19) Shop (and Eat) ’til You Drop at the Hidalgo Market
The Mercado Hidalgo is Guanajuato’s big indoor market. You can find loads of local specialties here, whether you’re coming here to eat or shop. You’ll encounter everything from fresh vegetables, to handicrafts, meats, souvenirs, piñatas, clothes, and complete home-cooked meals. Even if you’re not planning to buy anything, it’s still a fun detour to wander around the markets many stalls.
But you should certainly consider stopping at a stall for a meal. On one end of the market, señoras will aggressively compete with one another to try to woo you into their establishment. It can be a funny sight.
20) Try the Homemade Ice Cream: La Garrafa Nieves
This Guanajuato ice cream shop produces their own, fresh-chruned ice cream. They have dozens of unique local flavors too! You can taste everything from tequila ice cream to queso (cheese) ice cream. Or try the kiss of the devil ice cream if you dare. They have a few locations around the city center.
21) Go For A Pub Cantina Crawl
Guanajuato is full of friendly cantinas. So walk through the signature swinging doors, pony up to the bar, and tip back a cerveza. Perhaps most well-known in Guanajuato and popular with students is Bar el Indendio. But there are many other cantinas all around the city, so you can create a fun cantina crawl around town and stop into several.
Just realize that these cantinas are often popular afternoon drinking establishments and tend to close early. So don’t plan to do this at night.
22) Seek Out Some Microbreweries in Guanajuato
Somewhat surprising for this thriving college town, there are no craft brewpubs within the historic city center. But if you’re growing tired of yet another Corona or Victoria, it is possible to find some local cerveza artesanal (craft beer) in Guanajuato. However, you’re going to have to work for it a little. There are two breweries within the city, but they are both well outside of centro.
Cerveza Gambusino is in the middle of nowhere and only offered bottle sales to-go during our visit. Although the brewer told us he was renovating an onsite bar.
Also out of the way, is Tierra Adentro Cerveceria Artesanal, where you can find house-brewed beer. We found the food here and the bottle artwork to shine more than the cerveza itself. But if you’re looking for some different brews to drink, it may be worth the trek.
Alternative to going to these out-of-the-way breweries, you may also want to consider going to the Beer Company Guanajuato, which sells a wide assortment of local brews from all over the region and beyond. It’s more of a bottle shop than it is a brewpub. But the guy at the counter seemed to welcome cracking open a bottle in the store and lingering for a chat.
23) Go for the Botanas at Clave Azul
This legendary botanero is full of character and a friendly owner. Come here for some drinks between 2:00-5:30 and you’ll be treated with botanas as you sip your cervezas. Botanas are essentially the Mexican version of tapas, and Clave Azul does a great rendition on this tradition. With each drink you order, a mystery snack will come along with it.
Some say that Clave Azul is hard to find, but we found it with ease. Google Maps will lead you to the exact location, which is set only a few steps back from Plaza de San Fernando. We paid $180 pesos for 4 Victoria beers and three botanas during our visit.
24) Gorge Yourself on Street Food
There’s a great street food scene that occurs nightly in Guanajuato. You can find everything from tortas to miner’s enchiladas and everything in between. The food is priced well and made with love. Adventurous eaters will have some daring foods to seek out such as tacos loaded up with pig intestines. (We couldn’t do it!)
Instead, our favorite is the simple yet delicious esquites (cups of corn). Ask for it “con todo” (with everything) and they’ll construct a gut-busting corn kernel parfait that is full of sour cream and/or mayonnaise, loads of cheese, and hot sauce. It’s so good!
We found standards to be very clean throughout the many vendors, but you should take some modest precautions when eating Guanajuato’s street food. If the person who prepares the food also does the money exchange, watch for gloves to handle to cash. Look for flies around any open food containers. Perhaps most importantly, look for a line of locals. If they’re willing to wait in line, it must be for something good!
A large assortment of street food vendors tend to cluster around Plaza de La Paz in the evening. But you can find them all throughout town.
25) Discover Guanajuato’s Finer Side
We love the street food and little taco joints in Guanajuato, but sometimes it’s fun to splurge a little. There are a few great finer dining opportunities in Guanajuato. Some, like Mestizoa, are on the pricey side while others like, Los Campos, are very affordable. Consider making reservations, as these places do get booked up. Here’s a few of the best in Guanajuato, but we’re only scratching the surface here:
Mestizo – Often cited as one of the best restaurants in Guanajuato, Mestizo serves an upscale twist on local cuisine.
Casa Mercedes – The delicious dishes and reasonable prices lure people out of the city center to seek out this otherwise secluded restaurant.
Los Campos – Serving small plates of mouth watering local cuisine, this turned out to be our favorite restaurant in Guanajuato. It won us over not only by the excellent food, but the good value, great service, and fantastic drinks. A must.
Where To Stay in Guanajuato
Because we were visiting Guanajuato for a full month, we stayed in a one-bedroom apartment that we rented on an Airbnb. Many Airbnb hosts offer steep discounts when you stay for 28 days or longer, so this often works well for us. There are a few great Airbnb apartments throughout Guanajuato and we recommend it for longer stays and/or to live more like a local. If you’ve never used Airbnb before you can use our referral code to save $40 on your first booking.
Yet, if you’re coming to Guanajuato for a few days, we instead recommend staying in a hotel or hostel. While we were in the city, we scouted out a few that we can now recommend.
Hostels in Guanajuato
Hostels in Guanajuato are a great option for solo travelers and anyone looking for more of a fun/social vibe. Yet, couple travelers and groups will likely find better value sharing a room in a budget-friendly hotel. Here’s our hostel suggestions:
- Casa de Dante is often recognized as the best hostel option in Guanajuato. Clean & beautiful rooms, friendly staff, and even an amazing Mexican breakfast is included all for about $15-$20 USD per night depending on your room/bed preference. It’s no wonder the hostel has maintained a phenomenal reputation with its consistantly great hostelworld reviews, despite being a hefty 15 minute walk from the city center.
- If Casa de Dante is fully booked or you want to be more centrally located, try Corral D Comedias Hostel located within the historic center. It’s also clean, well-priced (particularly for dorm beds), and includes a great breakfast.
- Centro Bharati: If you can get past the somewhat hard beds, you’ll enjoy a very central location and an awesome rooftop patio. Check prices and availability for your dates.
Good Value Rooms in Guanajuato
These are some of the best private rooms you can find in Guanajuato that are also easy on the budget. These are smaller type accommodation, rather than large hotels. So you’ll receive a more personal touch in addition to great value at these cheap and cheerful places:
- Casa de Pita: These comfy rooms are located right in the heart of Guanajuato. With prices starting at about $30 per night including breakfast, Pita’s House is among the very best hotel values in town.
- Casa Tepozanes is well situated in the historic center and has a few bright and clean rooms for about $35 USD per person.
- La Alamedas: If you can afford to spend a bit more, try the spacious and well decorated rooms at La Alamedas.
Great Hotels with Great Prices
For a more traditional hotel with a bit of elegance, try some of these fantastic options in Guanajuato, that are all still under $100 per night!
- El Meson de los Poetas: Each of the rooms at “The Poet’s Inn” has been inspired by a different poet. Plus it has a great location, situated in a historic building that dates back to the 1700’s!
- Casa de la Paz: If you want a hotel with the most central location in Guanajuato, this is it. The La Paz Plaza right outside the front door is a always a happening scene right in the enter of Guanajuato. That and the big elegant rooms make this a smart choice.
- Casa Lunatta: For a more quiet location that is still within waking distance to the center of town, try the highly rated Casa Lunatta. Sylish & modern rooms await, as does an included breakfast.
- Hotel Santa Regina: The large suites here help to make this hotel a perfect option for families or groups.
Worth the Splurge
If you’re visiting Guanajuato to celebrate something or just want to stay somewhere luxurious, there are some incredible high-class boutique hotels scattered throughout the colonial city. Here are some of the better ones:
- Boutique 1850: You can’t get a much better location in Guanajuato than right on the Jardin. Boutique 1850 has artistic and classy rooms, a beautiful spa, and a rooftop bar with killer views.
- Alonso 10 Boutique: This well situated hotel comes with an artist’s touch. The elegant rooms and lobby features many artworks. Guests rave about the included breakfast.
- Villa Maria Cristina: After a long day touring around Guanajuato, you can plop down into the hot tub on the beautiful patio or go for a swim in the indoor pool. Rooms here are as spacious as they are stylish to aid in your relaxation.
Best Things To Do in Guanajuato?
Those are all of our favorite things to do in Guanajuato. If you go or if you’ve been, please let us know in the comments what some of your favorite things to do are. Also, don’t hesitate to comment with any questions if you’re planning a trip there.
It’s such a fun city to explore and roam around!