Is Morelia one of Mexico’s best-kept secrets? It may be.
While exploring the beautiful pink stone colonial architecture of Morelia’s historic center, we couldn’t help but feel like we stumbled into yet another place in Mexico that is clearly flying under the radar.
Anchored by the glowing cathedral, this historic city is one of Mexico’s 34 Unesco World Heritage Sites and deservedly so. Much of Morelia was built back during the 1700’s and the city remains well preserved and absolutely stunning today! There are over 200 historic buildings scattered throughout the alluring historic center. (More about Morelia’s Unesco criteria can be found: here.)
Morelia is the capital of Michoacan and the largest city within the state, with a population of over 600,000 people in the city proper. So although Morelia proudly boasts its historic charms, it also has all the modern amenities of any sizable city in Mexico. Nice hotels, great restaurants, and interesting tours all abound.
The city is well set-up for tourism and there are plenty of things to do in Morelia. Yet it appears that most people who are visiting this special place travel here from within Mexico, rather than from abroad.
We found there to be very few foreigners visiting Morelia. Despite a fairly central location in Mexico, a Unesco designation, and being a stunning city with so much to offer, the city has somehow eluded many international travelers from enjoying all the great things to do in Morelia.
In fact, as we perused through the visitor ledger of one of Morelia’s many free museums, I had to flip back through six pages, filled with hundreds of names, before finally spotting a listing outside Mexico.
Despite this lack of outside visitors, we found Morelia to be particularly welcoming. Morelians are well-known for their friendliness. As we explored this enchanting city, we found that certainly holds true.
We now want to help spread the good word about this striking Mexican city that tends to go underappreciated. So we want to show off what we found to be the most interesting, fun, and unique things to do in Morelia! This picturesque place is very worth traveling to and spending at least a few days to soak in all its charms. So here is what we can suggest as some of the best things to do in Morelia.
The Best Things To Do in Morelia Mexico
1) See the Morelia Cathedral
You really can’t miss it.
The Morelia Cathedral is the city’s shining star that ties the historic center together. It’s not just another church in Mexico. The Morelia Cathedral stands out.
We may even dare say that this Baroque-style cathedral is the most beautiful in all of Mexico. The Morelia Cathedral took 84 years to build until completion in 1744.
You can venture inside the Morelia Cathedral to see notable paintings, sculptures, and a massive German-made organ. It was the largest organ in all of Latin America when it was installed in the early 1900’s and remains of importance in Mexico today. Linger here long enough and you may even hear the organ in action!
If you do take a look, be sure that your dressed modestly and remember to be silent in this place of worship. The Cathedral is still actively used today and there’s a fairly good chance that there will be some sort of service occurring at any time.
While it’s worthwhile to take a look inside, the Morelia Cathedral shines brightly from the outside. Literally, at night the cathedral is beautifully floodlit and illuminated. So be sure to take a stroll by the cathedral after the sun goes down to see this grand cathedral in a completely different light.
Venture over to the Cathedral on a Saturday night for a particularly interesting display! There’s a new LED display that occurs each Saturday, with fireworks overhead to complete the sound & light show. Don’t miss it if in Morelia over the weekend.
Morelia Cathedral Information:
🕒 Hours: Daily, 6:00am-9:00pm
💵 Cost: Free, there is a donation bin
2) Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth at Morelia’s Candy Market
Morelia is well known throughout Mexico for its local sweets. It’s a tradition in Morelia that dates back to the city’s colonial times when these candies were produced in the convents around town. They may not be produced there anymore, but thankfully the candy-making in Morelia continues today! So trying these unique regional candies is certainly an advisable thing to do in Morelia!
So where exactly do you go in Morelia to try these local treats?
You can find all the Morelian candies being offered from the many stalls inside Mercado de Dulces, or Candy Market. From fruit-based candies to chewy caramels or nutty indulgences, you can pick up a wide assortment of local candies, many of which are unique exclusively to Morelia. While the market is known for its candies, there are also crafts and sweet liquors on offer too.
There’s also a Museo de Dulce, or Candy Museum, in Morelia centro. It’s really more of a candy store than it is a museum. There is somewhat of a museum in the back, but most people just come here to shop for candy from the store clerks who are dressed in period clothing.
Many of the same famous Morelian sweets can be found at the Museo de Dulce as the Mercado de Dulces. Yet we prefer and recommend the local vendors at the mercado. We found that the Candy Market tends to have better prices and homemade specialties abound.
Mercado de Dulces Information
🕒 Hours: Open daily, 9:00 am to 9:00 pm
💵 Price: It’s free to visit the Candy Market. Small candies range from as little as $5 pesos into hundreds for larger quantities.
3) Go for a Sunday Bike Ride in Morelia: Ciclovia Dominical
Every Sunday, starting at eight in the morning, Morelia shuts down a scenic two-kilometer stretch of roadway that slices right through the historic center of the city. This segment of streets becomes off-limits to vehicular traffic. Instead, bicycles are able to fill the picturesque streets.
Rollerbladers, skateboarders, joggers, and dog walkers all join in the fun. Joining the Ciclovia is THE thing to do in Morelia on a Sunday morning. There’s always such a fun & relaxing mood filling the air as families come out for a day of leisure.
The Morelia Coclovia is such a great concept that fosters community, friendship, and fitness! This bike route passes by some of Morelia’s most famous points of interest, so it’s a fun way to see many of the city’s sights that we further elaborate on in this post of things to do in Morelia.
It’s easy to take part in the Ciclovia too and you don’t need to arrive to Morelia with a bike. Instead, there are rental stations available where a mere $10 pesos, which gets you a bike loaned for 45-minutes. That’s plenty of time to ride the entire length of the Morelia’s Ciclovia and back.
You must have identification to rent the bikes though, so don’t forget to bring an id. There is a bike rental station located adjacent to the glorieta (roundabout) at the location of the famous Fuente de Tarascas (Tarascan Fountain).
Morelia Ciclovia Dominical Information:
🕒 Hours: 8:00 am to 1:00 pm
💵 Cost: $10 pesos to rent a bike for 45-minutes
4) Stroll Along the Morelia Aqueduct
It’s an odd sight to find an attractive Roman-style aqueduct running down a street in Mexico. Yet while roaming around Morelia, that’s exactly what you’ll find. A nearly 2-kilometer aqueduct with over 200 arches stretches outward from the center of Morelia.
The Morelia aqueduct has become nearly as iconic to the city as the Cathedral and the city founder. In fact, the Morelia aqueduct can even be found depicted on the back of a 50-peso note.
It makes a pleasant stroll to walk alongside this the 300-year old aqueduct to admire it. We suggest starting at the Tarascan Fountain and taking a stroll that follows the aqueduct for roughly a half-kilometer to Plaza Morelos.
There are some great photo ops along the way. The aqueduct runs between some notable monuments and is also the location of the Morelia sign.
Morelia Aqueduct Information:
🕒 Hours: It’s always there. We suggest going during daylight hours, although portions are lit up at night.
💵 Cost: Free
5) Check Out Some of Morelia’s Best Museums
There are many museums to visit throughout Morelia. The city holds lots of history yet Morelia has also become an artsy place too. So galleries highlighting history, art, culture, and more all abound in Michoacán’s capital.
We visited all of the most popular museums throughout Morelia and landed on these five as our favorites:
Centro Cultural Clavijero
This free museum in Morelia has interesting contemporary art pieces. Yet we found that the column-filled 400-year-old building is an attraction unto itself. Even if you’re not into the artwork that lines the interior halls, it’s still extremely worthwhile to pop in to wander around the open-air halls of this former monastery and university.
💵 Free. 🕒 10:00 am -6:00 pm. Closed Mondays.
Museo Casa Natal de Morelos
There are two different museums dedicated to the city’s namesake, José María Morelos y Pavón. The Museum of Morelos Birthplace allows visitors a glimpse into the home where he was born. It’s now filled with documents and a Disney-esque animatronic version Morelos himself that comes to life to give an impassioned speech (in Spanish, of course).
💵 Free. 🕒 9:00 am – 7:00 pm. Daily.
Museo Casa de Morelos
The Museum of Morelos’s former home provides a more complete picture of this Mexican hero. The centuries-old mansion is full of information (in English too) and exhibits to provide a nice background of the man himself while touring the period furnishings of his former home.
💵 $45 pesos. 🕒 9:00 am – 5:00 pm. Closed Mondays.
Museo Regional Michoacano
The Michoacan’s Regional Museum houses a wealth of regional artifacts throughout another atmospheric building.
💵 $50 pesos. 🕒 9:00 am – 5:00 pm. Closed Mondays.
Museum of Contemporary Art
See some funky exhibits and sculptures scattered throughout a beautiful old mansion.
💵 Free.🕒 10:00 am to 8:00 pm. Daily, although closes early at 6:00 pm during weekends.
6) Explore Morelia’s Architecture from Inside the City’s Public Buildings
Morelia has many interesting historic structures to discover while exploring the city. These spectacular colonial buildings are now public spaces, most of which are free to wander into. You’ll even see historic buildings that have been transformed into businesses, such as modern commercial banks. Don’t hesitate to pop inside and see where old meets new.
Yet there are a handful of public buildings that are worth seeking out specifically. Admire Morelia’s emblematic pink stone architecture and step back in time. Be sure to take a wander into these structures in Morelia.
The Palacio de Gobierno is a stunning palace with some detailed murals depicting Mexican independence. The two-story building is filled by spacious patios and has the practical function today as the seat of Michoacan’s executive branch of government. Yet the Government Palace further holds historical significance as the place where Morelos was ordained as a priest. There is also a tourism office and public bathrooms too.
💵 Free.🕒 Open Monday to Friday, 9:00 am to 8:00 pm.
Public Library of the Michoacan University
The Biblioteca Pública de la Universidad Michoacana is an impressive historic building on its own merit. Yet the treasure here is the volumes of ancient books that date back to the 15th century. In fact, it’s the third largest of its kind in Mexico. Don’t bypass perusing through this distinctive library as a thing to do in Morelia.
💵 Free. 🕒 Open Monday to Friday, 8:00 am to 8:00 pm.
The Palacio de Justicia is another impressive building within Morelia’s historic center with more stairwells containing elaborate murals of Mexican history. The building also holds some historical documents relevant to the state’s supreme court.
💵 Free. 🕒 Open Monday to Friday, 8:00 to 6:00.
The Rose Conservatory
The Conservatorio de las Rosas name may be misleading. This former convent is much more about music than it is flowers. While wandering through the airy halls, you may hear tunes blaring from the interior rooms as musicians practice. The Rose Conservatory is a music education institute. This former convent is actually touted as the first music conservatory in the Americas.
7) Go To Church in Morelia
While a visit to the Cathedral takes a top position of things to do in Morelia, there are many other historic churches throughout the city that are likewise worth seeing from the inside and out. There are 21 historical churches within the Morelia’s historic center. The following are some of the must-see churches to check out while ambling around town:
Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe
If you only visit one other church in Morelia after the Cathedral, make it the Santuario de Guadalupe. What looks like just another regular Mexican church from the outside, dazzles on the inside. Lavish displays of color and gold line the ornate interior.
The Temple of the Roses
This pretty church lining the garden of the roses is worth popping into to see the elaborate interior and the baroque wooden altar.
Templo de San Francisco
Founded in 1536, this is the oldest church in Morelia.
Templo del Carmen
This pretty baroque church has an attractive bell tower and often hosts cultural events.
8) Take Day Trips from Morelia
There are a handful of fantastic day trips to embark on from Morelia to explore further around the state of Michoacán. Whether you’re seeking nature, culture, or adventure, there are some awesome excursions to pursue from Morelia. Local tour operators within Morelia each offer day trips to the following fascinating locations!
See the Monarch Butterfly Migration
For anyone who happens to be roaming around Morelia between October-March, you must take a day trip out to the Reserva Mariposa Monarca, the Monarch Butterfly Reserve. It’s here where millions of monarch butterflies migrate during the winter. Several tours from Morelia are on offer to witness this specular natural event.
Explore the Magic Town of Patzcuaro
The pueblo magico, magic town, of Patzcuaro is only about an hour away from Morelia, which likewise makes for a great day of exploring. This town is renown in Mexico for its Day of the Dead celebrations, yet is a charming setting year round. In addition to discovering the town itself, the most popular activity here is taking a boat trip out to the mystical island of Janitzo. It’s easy to get from Morelia to Patzcuaro by taking one of the regular buses. The trip takes about an hour each way. But day tours can provide a more convenient way to go, with a set itinerary that easily hits all the main sights once in the Lake Patzcuaro area.
Summit the World’s Youngest Volcano: Volcan Paricutin
Did you know that the youngest volcano in the world is just a stone’s throw from Morelia? Seeing this natural wonder and the lava-covered church that laid in its path, is an awesome journey to embark on from Morelia. While it would be difficult to reach Volcan Paricutin as a day trip utilizing public transportation (due to timing), there are a number of day tours from Morelia to Volcan Paricutin that’ll get you there on a full day of adventure!
9) Amble Through a Forest Within the City: Cuauhtémoc Forest
The Bosque Cuauhtémoc, or Cuauhtémoc Forest, is a great place to take a stroll, feed the ducks, or grab a snack from the food vendors. It’s a broad park space that’s a great place to be able to connect with nature from within the city center.
The Cuauhtémoc Forest is more of a city park than a true “forest.” It serves as a nice place to relax, picnic, or simply soak in local life in Morelia.
10) Roam Around Morelia’s Pedestrian Alleyways & Plazas
Simply wandering around the picturesque city itself is a great thing to do in Morelia. Yet there are some particularly charming alleyways to seek out while exploring the city.
Jardin de las Rosas – The Rose Garden is a long & skinny plaza in Morelia that is a tranquil space in front of the church and conservatory that shares its name. Benches under leafy trees, flower gardens, and a fountain adorn the pleasant thoroughfare. Lining one side of the Rose Garden is a row of outdoor cafes that make a most perfect spot to stop in more a coffee or beer.
Callejón del Romance – The Alley of Romance is a romantic little alleyway to stroll down. Fountains and flowers add charm to the alleyway that is entrapped by Morelia’s historic buildings. At the end of the alley is a new food hall with some tempting options for a snack or meal.
Calzada de Fray Antonio de San Miguel – The Walkway of Fray Antonio de San Miguel is a pedestrian street that stretches nearly a half kilometer and connects several sights in Morelia. On one end of the walkway Morelia’s most famous sculpture, the Tarascan Fountain. Meanwhile, the walkway flows into Plaza Morelos on the other end, with a monument to the city’s namesake hero. The walkway itself runs almost perpendicular to the aqueduct and is shaded by a canopy of trees.
Plaza de Armas – This big festive plaza surrounds the Morelia Cathedral acts as the heart of the city and its main square. There are plenty of benches along the nicely landscaped plaza to relax amidst the historic setting and admire that grand Cathedral. Many street vendors pass through here offering everything from paletas (popsicles) to balloons.
11) Eat and Drink All the Local Morelian Specialties!
Oops, did we say 10 best things to do in Morelia? Let’s add one more.
As in most cities in Mexico, eating is a thing to do! In addition to delicious Mexican food, there are some interesting dishes local to Morelia and Michoacan to taste while in the area.
Here are a few specialties to keep an eye out for while roaming around Morelia:
Morelian Gazpacho – Don’t expect the Spanish tomato-based cold soup. Morelian gazpacho consists of a fruit and cheese! Plastic cups are filled with chopped fruits like jicama, mango, and pineapple, which is then mixed with citrus juice, chili, and a local white cheese.
Corundas – Corundas are a regional type of tamale that is popular in Michoacan. So we suggest trying them here in the capital city. Corundas are made from corn flour and steamed for about an hour and a half while wrapped in cornhusk or banana leaves. They come out of the pot hot, moist, and even a bit buttery. Also look for uchepos, another tamale that’s also a specialty in Michoacan.
Paletas – Did you know that these popsicles are said to have originated in Michoacán? So what better place to try this frozen treat than on the sunny streets of Morelia! There are many paleterias throughout Morelia and you’ll further find pushcart vendors hawking homemade versions throughout the city’s plazas. With origins of simply frozen fruit juice, now there are gourmet paleta shops with all sorts of interesting flavors and gooey fillings.
Pollo Placero – This chicken dish that originated in Morelia is topped with a deliciously spicy chile sauce and served with potatoes, carrots, and enchiladas. Don’t miss this tasty local dish!
Mexican Sushi? Oddly enough, there is an abundance of Japanese-style restaurants throughout Morelia. It’s a relatively new trend in the city that is now completely flourishing in Morelia. These sushi places have become so popular in Morelia that we think there may even be more maki joints than taco stands within the historic city center. These sushi rolls in Morelia are a very Mexican take on Japanese sushi. They’re often stuffed with common taco filling like arrachera (steak) or al pastor (pork), then topped with a ridiculous amount of mayonnaise or chipotle sauce.
Morelian Craft Beer – Cerveza La Bru is a local craft beer in Morelia that can be found in many popular restaurants and cafes. But if you like beer, then go directly to Taproom Nacional Morelos, where you can find two dozen taps of tasty cerveza artesanal (craft beer). Many of them are brewed on site in the historic building that also boasts a pleasant outdoor beer garden. In addition to typical offerings like lagers and pale ales, keep an eye out for beers that play up regional ingredients like stout with flavors of cafe de olla (a special local coffee with cinnamon and brown sugar).
The Best Things To Do in Morelia
So those pursuits are what we found to be the best things to do in Morelia. It’s a great place in Mexico to venture out to. There is so much wonderful local culture and Mexican history that abounds throughout this stunner of a city.
We hope this travel guide to Morelia helps to show why it deserves being added to a Mexico travel itinerary. And we hope this post may have provided some ideas of things to do in Morelia for those planning a trip to this historic capital city.
If you’ve been to Morelia, drop a comment below and let us know your favorite things about this city. Or feel free to ask us any questions if planning a trip to Morelia. Happy travels amigos!