Last Updated on May 24, 2020 by Janine
Planning a trip to Guanajuato, Mexico? In this Guanajuato travel guide, I’ll help you make the most of your visit by sharing some of my favorite things to do in Guanajuato and tips on where to eat, drink, and sleep!
Guanajuato’s meandering callejones, cheerfully painted buildings, and lively, yet easygoing atmosphere, regularly draw travelers from all over the world.
In fact, Guanajuato is so pleasant that people commonly visit Guanajuato for extended periods, taking Spanish classes and trying out life in Mexico.
One of the most delightful things about Guanajuato is that, while it’s a very comfortable and traveler-friendly destination, it doesn’t feel like a “tourist trap.” Sure, some activities cater heavily to tourists (the Callejón del Beso being a big one), but overall everything feels genuine.
The city was once a major mining center, exporting silver, gold, other minerals found in the surrounding mountains. The wealth that once flowed from the mines is apparent in Guanajuato’s elaborate architecture and emphasis on cultural institutions, such as the Teatro Juarez.
These days, Guanajuato is still known as a center of arts and culture, largely thanks to the Cervantino Festival, a two-week international arts festival that takes place every October.
Of course, you don’t have to visit during Cervantino to experience the city’s art culture. Performances, exhibits, craft fairs, and small festivals occur throughout the year, meaning it’s always a great time to visit this beautiful city!
- Things to do in Guanajuato
- 1. See the sights on a tram tour
- 2. Wander the callejones
- 3. Photograph the yellow cathedral
- 4. Trek up to the Cristo Rey
- 5. Admire the architecture of the University of Guanajuato
- 6. Visit the Alhondiga de Granaditas, Guanajuato
- 7. Join a Callejoneada
- 8. Enjoy the panoramic view from El Pípila
- 9. Callejón del Beso
- 10. Tour Teatro Juarez
- 11. Wander around the Presa de la Olla
- 12. Scope out the network of tunnels
- 13. Visit the Diego Rivera House
- 14. Explore the gardens of the Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato
- 15. Catch a Performance or Attend an Event
- 16. Shop for Souvenirs at the Hidalgo Market
- 17. Cringe at the Mummy Museum
- Day Trips from Guanajuato
- Best Restaurants in Guanajuato
- Where to Stay in Guanajuato
- Getting Around in Guanajuato
- Getting to and From Guanajuato
Things to do in Guanajuato
If you’re wondering what to do in Guanajuato, look no further! Below are a few suggestions to help get you started.
1. See the sights on a tram tour
Departing from the Plaza de la Paz, directly in front of the main cathedral, these tram tours take you on a one-hour sightseeing expedition through Guanajuato. Along the way, the tour guide will share anecdotes from Guanajuato’s history and point out notable landmarks and buildings.
For just $100 MXN, this is a fantastic way to scout out the sights when you first arrive. The tour will give you ideas of attractions you may like to visit (many of which I’ve listed below). I really enjoyed hearing the “cliff’s notes” of Guanajuato’s history as we took in the sights!
There is one caveat, however: the tour is offered only in Spanish. I will say, though, even if you can’t understand the majority of what is shared, it’s still a great way to get to know the city!
2. Wander the callejones
Guanajuato is known for its extensive network of narrow callejones. A callejón is basically an alley, but instead of being full of stray cats and smelly dumpsters, they are just narrow pathways lined with colorful houses.
Part of the fun of Guanajuato is exploring these pedestrian streets, marveling in the charm, and pondering questions like “how would one move furniture into one of these houses?” Maybe that last one is just me…
Sometimes callejones lead to bars, restaurants, or even plazas, and some of them provide lovely, traffic-free shortcuts throughout the city.
3. Photograph the yellow cathedral
The Parroquia de Basílica Colegiata de Nuestra Señora de Guanajuato is one of the main images associated with Guanajuato City. It’s stunning in photos and trust me, it’s even more striking in person.
Whether you stop to simply snap the obligatory photo or actually take the time to appreciate the architecture, this cathedral deserves a spot in your itinerary.
I recommend wandering over to the entrance on the right-hand side to get a fresh perspective and a glimpse at the colorful sidestreet below!
4. Trek up to the Cristo Rey
The Cristo Rey is an enormous (the second largest in the world, in fact) statue of Christ the King, which resides on the top of a mountain just outside Guanajuato. The figure stands 22 meters tall and is said to sit on the exact geographic center of Mexico.
Even if you’re not interested in religious monuments, the site offers a panoramic view of Guanajuato and the surrounding areas.
5. Admire the architecture of the University of Guanajuato
If you’re interested in architecture, you can’t miss the University of Guanajuato. This building is another obligatory photo opp within the city, and for good reason. The university steps (and the building behind them) are a striking backdrop for your photos.
The University was first constructed in the 1700s (though it has been added to over the years), using locally sourced quarry stone. The green stones provide a compelling contrast to the pink and red stones used to construct many of the other buildings in the area.
The steps are a fun place to do some people watching, snap some photos, and marvel at the incredible architecture.
6. Visit the Alhondiga de Granaditas, Guanajuato
This grain storage building-turned-museum is an iconic landmark in Guanajuato’s (and Mexico’s) history. The building was the site of a bloody battle during the Mexican War of Independence and now serves as the Regional Museum of Guanajuato.
The museum features art and artifacts from throughout Guanajuato’s history. The articles inside include murals, textiles, furniture, paintings, and more! You will also find a monument commemorating the War of Independence and an exhibit highlighting the events leading up to and following the war.
If you’re interested in history, this is one of the best places to visit in Guanajuato. I recommend spending an hour or two exploring the exhibits and admiring the building’s neoclassical architecture.
I loved seeing the textiles and artifacts on display in this museum. When I visited, there was also an art exhibit highlighting the history of Mexico. The exhibition held a model train, and each train car was a diorama depicting an important event from Mexican history. It was cool to see the different artistic styles employed on each train car, and it was a fun way to learn about Mexican history!
7. Join a Callejoneada
One of the most typical Guanajuatense experiences you could take part in would be a callejoneada. These are essentially history tours that take you through Guanajuato’s streets and alleys while sharing historical anecdotes and legends through song and dance.
The following video is in Spanish, but it still gives you a good sense of what the callejoneada will be like.
As you wander the streets of Guanajuato, you will encounter individuals dressed in what I would describe as “court jester attire” (if you have a better description, please enlighten me). These men are the ones that lead the callejoneadas, and they will be happy to sell you a ticket to join one.
The callejoneadas take place at night (usually around 5 or 7 pm) when the sun starts to go down. They are led by a group of young musicians and last about two hours. The tours are conducted in Spanish, but even if you don’t understand what they’re saying, you’re sure to enjoy the music and the lively atmosphere.
8. Enjoy the panoramic view from El Pípila
El Pípila is a hillside statue commemorating a local Guanajuato miner who was instrumental in the battle of the Alhóndiga de Granaditas during the War of Independence.
According to legend, the man (nicknamed El Pípila) strapped a slab of stone on his back to protect against arrows and musket fire during the battle.
He then ran to the door of the Alhóndiga and set it on fire, granting entry to the Insurgent army. The Insurgents then proceeded to win the battle against the Spaniards, who had sheltered inside the building.
While the Pípila statue may not mean much to you, it is worth making the trek up the hill to take in a stunning panoramic view of the city.
I walked up to the statue through the callejones, but you can take a cable car to the top of the hill. The walk is pretty, but quite steep and can be punishing on a hot day. If you’re not feeling the trek, the cable car is undoubtedly a great alternative. You can always walk back down if you want a different perspective.
9. Callejón del Beso
The Callejón del Beso in Guanajuato (or, “alley of the kiss”) is one of the city’s narrowest callejones. It was also the setting of a tragic tale of star-crossed lovers.
According to legend, a wealthy young girl lived across the alley from the object of her affections, a poor miner boy. The girl’s father had forbidden their love, but at night she would meet her lover on their opposite balconies, and they would lean over the railings and share besos.
One fateful night, the girl’s father caught them, and in his rage, he stabbed her through the heart, and she died. (Why are the men in these stories always SO dramatic?!). The miner boy, unable to imagine life without his love, then took his own life by flinging himself down a mineshaft.
Naturally, the callejón is now a popular tourist spot and photo op. Whether or not you buy into the tale of the lovers, the setting is quite visually charming. It is a fun spot for a quick visit, but expect crowds.
Take note: Visiting couples are supposed to share a kiss on the 3rd step to ensure their love will last forever!
10. Tour Teatro Juarez
Guanajuato’s Teatro Juarez is one of the city’s most prominent landmarks. The ornate, neoclassical building is sure to catch your eye. Be sure to snap a few photos of the beautiful façade.
If you’re curious to see the inside, purchase a ticket for $25 MXN, or to get the full experience, attend an event!
11. Wander around the Presa de la Olla
La Presa de la Olla is a dammed section of the Guanajuato river (presa is Spanish for “dam”) surrounded by a park. It’s a popular spot for locals to go on the weekends (especially couples) to enjoy some time outdoors and snack on elote (corn on the cob). It’s certainly a scene on the weekend, but I think that’s what makes it fun!
You can rent pedal boats to go out on the water, or simply stroll the paths surrounding the presa. The walk to the park is quite pleasant as it will take you through a beautiful section of the city, lined with 19th-century mansions built in various architectural styles.
There are plenty of coffee shops and restaurants around the presa as well, so plan to spend a leisurely afternoon in the area.
12. Scope out the network of tunnels
While the center of Guanajuato is relatively compact, the rest of the city is connected through a network of tunnels. The tunnels were originally built to help divert water from the Guanajuato River away from the town to prevent flooding, but now they serve to redirect traffic away from the city center.
They may not sound intriguing on paper (computer screen??), but they add a sort of medieval vibe to the city. If you take a trolley tour, you’ll have a chance to drive through a few of the tunnels, but you can also explore them on foot (don’t worry, there are sidewalks!).
I wouldn’t spend a ton of time scouting them out, but they are a fun photography subject for sure!
13. Visit the Diego Rivera House
By now, you’re probably aware the Diego Rivera is one of Mexico’s most famous painters, but did you know he was born in Guanajuato?
His childhood home has been transformed into a museum featuring a range of his work. Some of the rooms are staged with period-furniture, while others are arranged gallery-style.
You’ll see a collection of artwork that highlights how Rivera’s style evolved throughout his career.
14. Explore the gardens of the Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato
If you’re ready for a change of pace, this gorgeous ex-Hacienda is a beautiful place to spend a few peaceful hours. If you’re a fan of hacienda-style architecture, have an interest in horticulture, or simply enjoy green spaces, this excursion deserves a spot on your itinerary.
Wander through the different styles of gardens, including the English garden, Roman garden, and Mexican garden.
Then explore the rooms of Barrera’s former home and marvel at the architecture and the tile work!
15. Catch a Performance or Attend an Event
Guanajuato’s arts scene is one of its biggest claims to fame, largely thanks to the Cervantino Festival, an international celebration of art that occurs in Guanajuato every October.
But you don’t have to visit during Cervantino to experience Guanajuato’s strong artistic culture. You may stumble across a film festival, a craft fair, or a performance art spectacle on any given day.
Be sure to scope out some local events during your visit. The Guana What Facebook group is a great place to start. Many of the members are fluent in both Spanish and English, so don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations.
16. Shop for Souvenirs at the Hidalgo Market
Mercado Hidalgo is the main market in Guanajuato’s Centro Historico. It’s a great place to shop for souvenirs or stop for a fresh juice and a bite to eat.
Inside, you’ll find everything from baskets, pottery, clothing, and textiles to fresh fruits, vegetables, and food stands.
If you’ve never visited a Mexican market before, this is a friendly place to start.
The building is quite impressive in its own right, but you’ll need to cross the street to fully appreciate its grandeur.
17. Cringe at the Mummy Museum
The Museum of the Mummies of Guanajuato is a super popular tourist attraction in the city…
Confession: I’ve never been here because it seems morbid to me, but I do seem to be in the minority.
I can tell you from experience that one of the first questions people will ask you about your trip to Guanajuato is “did you go to the mummy museum?”
As you can see, there are TONS of other things to do in the city, so don’t feel obligated to stare at mummified corpses… unless, of course, you want to. To each their own, after all.
Basically, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, a grave tax was implemented in Guanajuato, and many people neglected to pay on behalf of their deceased family members. These bodies were then “evicted” from the graveyard and held in an ossuary, which, as I understand, is now the museum.
If you’re into weird or eerie macabre attractions, this might be for you. Otherwise, allow me to redirect your attention to the suggestions listed above!
Day Trips from Guanajuato
While there is certainly no shortage of activities in Guanajuato, there are a couple of fun day trips that may be of interest to you as well.
Tour La Ruta de la Independencia
The Mexican Independence movement originated in the town of Dolores Hidalgo, about an hour and a half from Guanajuato City. From there, the revolters, led by Miguel Hidalgo and Ignacio Allende, moved to San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato City.
A daily tour of the Independence Route leaves from in front of the yellow cathedral in Guanajuato. For $250 MXN, a guide leads a small group from Guanajuato to Dolores Hidalgo and then on to Atotolnilco and, finally, San Miguel de Allende, before returning to Guanajuato in the evening.
Along the way, your guide will make stops at notable sites related to the independence movement. In Dolores Hidalgo, there is also a detour to the grave of famous Mexican composer Jose Alfredo, and then to his house (now a museum). While unrelated to the War of Independence, I did find this to be an interesting element of the tour!
This tour is conducted in Spanish. If you don’t understand Spanish you’ll still enjoy the sites, but the tour is pretty fast-paced, so you won’t have a ton of time to appreciate them fully. You’d probably be better off hiring a private tour guide who speaks English to help you understand the context of what you’re seeing.
Alternatively, you can retrace the Independence Route on your own terms, using this article for guidance.
Explore San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel de Allende is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to in Mexico. It’s kind of like an up-scale version of Guanajuato City.
There are tons of boutiques where you can buy high-quality clothing, textiles, and decorations. You’ll also find endless cafes and art galleries to poke around in. And of course, you will be in awe of the architecture.
San Miguel is only about an hour away from Guanajuato by bus, so it makes an easy day trip. A bus ticket will cost you about $160 MXN, and there are numerous buses each day. You can check the schedule on the Primera Plus website.
Best Restaurants in Guanajuato
There are tons of great restaurants in Guanajuato. I highly encourage you to scout out new ones on your own, but the following are a few that stood out during my last visit.
La Cocina de Laura
La Cocina de Laura is a simple, family-run breakfast and lunch spot serving up traditional Mexican eats. The juice is fresh, the cafe de Olla (sweet, cinnamon-infused coffee) is some of the best I’ve ever had, and the eggs were fantastic. It’s the perfect place to fuel up for a day of exploring! It is located a little bit off the tourist path, but it’s well worth the detour.
La Vie En Rose
If you’re looking for a boujee brunch spot, La Vie En Rose is the perfect place. It’s photogenic and central, and the food is delicious. Grab a seat next to the balcony (you’ll have to arrive early to score one) and sip mimosas and nibble on delectable pastries as you watch the world go by below.
I stopped at Truco 7 for breakfast one morning. While my eggs were delicious, I think their lunch and dinner items are probably even better. This restaurant serves traditional Mexican fare in large portions at reasonable prices. The service was also exceptional during my visit.
I popped into La Erre on a whim for a mid-afternoon snack. I ordered the aguachile, which, for those unfamiliar, is a spicy shrimp ceviche. It was fantastic. This restaurant has more of a trendy, upscale atmosphere than the others on this list, but the prices are reasonable. They have a mixture of Mexican and American fare, like hamburgers, and the service was fantastic.
Click here for more restaurant recommendations in Guanajuato! (coming soon)
Where to Stay in Guanajuato
During my most recent visit to Guanajuato, I was house-sitting for a friend, so I didn’t stay in paid accommodation.
To help you with your trip planning, I’ve listed a few promising options for where to stay below. However, I don’t have personal experience with the accommodations myself.
Instead, I’m basing my recommendations on what I know of the neighborhoods where they’re located and the reviews. I would feel comfortable booking any of the following options.
This spacious studio is centrally located and beautifully decorated in a traditional style. It features a full kitchen, two beds, a bathroom, and a patio with city views. Multiple reviewers praised the convenient location, the decor, and the attentive hosts. Based on my experience in this neighborhood, along with the positive reviews, this seems like a fantastic place to stay!
This traditional apartment is located a 10 to 15-minute walk from the city center, in a peaceful residential neighborhood. I stayed in this area during my last visit to Guanajuato and absolutely loved it. It is safe, quiet, and has plenty of shops for picking up necessities.
This 2-bedroom apartment happens to have a patio, which sounds perfect for sipping coffee in the morning. Many reviewers praised the host and the location, stating it is very convenient for taking classes at the La Hacienda Spanish School. This BnB seems like it would be a comfortable option for both short and long term visits.
This three-bedroom house might seem like overkill for just one or two people, but the affordable price and the view from the terrace will justify it for you. The historic home is decorated in an artistic style, with brightly colored accents that add plenty of personality to the space.
The house is centrally located, near Teatro Juarez, meaning you’ll be able to walk to most attractions within 10 minutes. You’ll also find a range of restaurants and convenience stores within the immediate vicinity. Reviewers consistently praise the location, the value for the price, and the communicative hosts. It sounds like you can’t go wrong with Casa Corazones!
Click here for more places to stay in Guanajuato! (Coming Soon)
Getting Around in Guanajuato
Guanajuato is very walkable, especially if you stay somewhere near the center of town. If you do find yourself needing additional transportation, taxis and buses are the standard options.
If you choose to take a taxi, be sure to settle on a price to your destination before getting in the car. This will help you avoid unfortunate surprises upon arrival.
I did not take the bus during my last visit to Guanajuato, but they typically cost about 10 MXN. Usually, the main stops on the bus route are written on the windshield, so it’s easy to figure out which one to take, but don’t be afraid to ask fellow passengers for clarification.
Getting to and From Guanajuato
The two main ways you are likely to arrive in Guanajuato are by air or by bus. For your planning purposes, I’ve broken down what those journeys will look like below.
The closest airport to Guanajuato City is just outside the city of Silao, Guanajuato. It is known as the Bajio International Airport or the Guanajuato International Airport (BJX). There are frequent flights to Guanajuato from Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Chicago, as well as many major cities within Mexico.
The airport is about 40 minutes from Guanajuato City by car.
The only way to get between the city and the airport directly is in a taxi or a private airport shuttle. I’ve linked a shuttle company, but I’m sure there are many other options available onsite at the airport as well.
Bus from Mexico City to Guanajuato
You will most likely be arriving to Guanajuato from Mexico City. In this case, you will need to depart from Mexico City’s “Central del Norte” bus station.
From Central del Norte you will be able to choose between a few different bus lines that service Guanajuato. These include:
Take whichever one is leaving at the most convenient time. Though for the sake of comparison, I will say that ETN is the most deluxe of the three choices, followed by Primera Plus, and then Futura.
Most bus websites won’t allow you to pay for a ticket with a foreign credit card, so plan to purchase your bus ticket in person at the bus station.