From stunning cultural attractions & museums to colorful streets and amazing restaurants, Guanajuato is like no other city in Mexico! This vibrant historic town has been drawing travelers for a long time, both locally and internationally.
Wandering through narrow, colorful alleyways, taking an air tram to an overlook of the city, and visiting the popular (but eerie) Mummy Museum are just a few of the top things to do in Guanajuato.
If you’re planning a trip to this amazing city, our Guanajuato travel guide covers everything you need to know as a first-time visitor!
We cover the best places to stay, where to eat, what to do and other travel tips to make the best out of your time in Guanajuato.
While some people do speak English in Guanajuato, for the most part, Spanish is the main language spoken in the city. It’s a good idea to brush up on some Spanish basics before your trip so you can call a cab, buy museum tickets & order food.
Some restaurants offer a menu in English but others only have a menu in Spanish. At the upscale restaurant servers and bartenders did know both Spanish and English, but smaller local establishments typically had staff speaking only Spanish.
Brief Guanajuato History
Guanajuato has an interesting history that is unlike any other city in Mexico. This town started as a mining settlement due to the excessive silver and minerals that could be found in the surrounding region. Guanajuato quickly grew to be one of the richest and most powerful cities during colonial times setting the foundation for a wealthy urban area with a rich history.
Now tourism is one of the main economic drivers of Guanajuato along with the University. The city draws visitors with top-notch hotels, restaurants, and many forms of entertainment, along with a young, educated crowd that’s fun to be around.
While many businesses are forward-thinking, much of the tourism relies on old tales and unusual attractions revolving around death.
‘Alley Of The Kiss’ is a popular tourist attraction that centers around a tragic love story about a father who killed his daughter over her disapproved lover. ‘Museum of the Mummies’ displays well-preserved mummies that were dug up from underground crypts. The ‘El Pipila Monument’ is dedicated to a brave hero who fought for independence against Spanish colonization.
But by far the most unique aspect of Guanajuato that sets it apart from other Mexican cities is the system of underground tunnels that travel underneath the city in all directions.
Guanajuato City was originally built in the 1600s on a much lower level than the current city sits. The city kept overflooding from the Guanajuato River so giant walls and tunnels were built to divert the floods. The new city was built on top of the tunnels and the old city was buried underground – literally.
Tip: Stop by the Museo ex Convento Dieguino to see a part of the old Guanajuato church that was buried underground in the 1700s and has been slowly excavated.
A dam was eventually built to manage the river floods and the tunnels were turned into car and pedestrian roads. Instead of driving on narrow downtown streets, cars and people can now avoid the traffic by taking the tunnels throughout the city.
Currency & ATM’s
The Mexican Peso is the currency being used in Guanajuato. You can get Pesos from the ATM at the airport or in the downtown area as there are plenty of ATMs throughout the city. But the ATM machines typically give out bigger bills that are difficult to get change for. Even trying to break a 500 Peso bill (25 USD) was often a problem for us.
Keep in mind that smaller mom & pop restaurants, food stands, and cabs might only accept cash. When traveling in Mexico it’s a good idea to always have some cash on you.
Most major hotels, restaurants, and museums do accept Credit Cards. Credit Card payments are typically processed on a small credit card machine next to you so you can see how much is being charged and confirm the total.
How Many Days Do You Need?
If it’s your first time visiting Guanajuato, I recommend setting aside around 3-4 days to explore the Historic Zone. 3 full days was the ideal amount of time for us to see all of the top attractions and get to know the city pretty well.
After a few days, we had visited most of the main museums and restaurants in the historic center. If you’re planning to take a longer vacation, you can easily combine a trip to San Miguel de Allende or La Huasteca Potosina which are popular cities and regions nearby.
Getting Around In Guanajuato
All of the top attractions in Guanajuato are located within the Historic Zone so having a rental car is not necessary. Driving a car in Guanajuato can be very challenging as the streets are very narrow and parking is limited.
The Guanajuato International Airport is just a 30-minute drive from the historic center. After landing, we were able to get a cab to the downtown from the airport for just 550 pesos (around 25 USD).
Once we got to the historic zone, we were able to walk just about everywhere, except for a few attractions and restaurants that we wanted to check out outside of the Old Town like the Mummy Museum. To explore outside of the historic zone, you can grab a cab or call an Uber.
Tip: Mercado Hidalgo is one of the best spots to get a cab. Many cab drivers sit on the street outside the market waiting for people to finish up shopping. It was much harder getting a cab in the historic center. Either they were already taken or many cab drivers avoid going down the narrow Old Town streets.
Before getting into a cab or Uber in Mexico we always take a photo of the license plate and share our phone location with a family member or a friend for safety purposes.
Renting a car for the trip would have cost us a lot more than taking a few cabs here and there. Navigating Guanajuato on foot was easy and we felt safe walking around, even late at night. There were many police officers stationed all throughout the city and overall the locals were very friendly to us.
Best Time To Go
The weather in Guanajuato is typically the best in Spring and Fall. We visited Guanajuato in April and the weather was just perfect!
June through September is the rainy season in Mexico when the weather turns hot and muggy. This is also the busiest travel season in Mexico as many people and kids travel for summer vacations.
Fall is a popular time to visit Guanajuato when the Festival Internacional Cervantino takes place in the historic center. This is a very popular festival that features music, plays, arts, and other cultural performances.
Where To Stay In Guanajuato
From sophisticated stays that date back hundreds of years, to contemporary and modern lounging, there is an amazing place to stay in Guanajuato for everyone! Many of the top-rated Guanajuato hotels offer amazing amenities such as pools, restaurants, and rooftop bars, but are still very affordable, especially compared to US prices.
Check out these best downtown Guanajuato hotels for an incredible travel experience:
1850 Hotel Boutique
Occupying a prime location in Guanajuato’s glorious and vibrant historic center 1850 Hotel Boutique is a perfect choice for visitors who want to get the best out of their time in this delightful destination.
Decorated in a mix of classic and French-inspired décor, Hotel Boutique 1850 offers a spa providing massages, facials, and other beauty services. Their wonderful rooftop bar is the place to relax and enjoy a cocktail for sunset with amazing views overlooking Old Town.
Edelmira Hotel Boutique
Decorated in a modern style with earthy tones and stunning décor, Edelmira Hotel Boutique ranks highly for its comfort and amenities. Edelmira Hotel Boutique has a selection of rooms suitable for families and couples, each with a flat-screen TV, air conditioning, and a private bathroom complete with a shower.
The amazing indoor pool is among the offered features along with the hot tub. The beautiful central domed patio is a delight. The hotel’s rooftop terrace offers unrivaled views across the town.
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Casa del Rector Hotel Boutique
Located in an ideal spot with easy access to popular museums and other attractions, Casa del Rector Hotel Boutique is a delightful and highly rated hotel in Guanajuato with a choice of boutique rooms and suites.
Featuring a restaurant, bar, charming courtyard, and a stunning infinity pool overlooking the city, this hotel is the preferred place to stay for out-of-town visitors. The modern rooftop bar is a great spot to wind down after a full day of sightseeing.
Hotel Indigo Guanajuato, An IHG Hotel
Hotel Indigo Guanajuato, an IHG Hotel is an upscale hotel that attracts couples and families as well as those in the town for business. Hotel Indigo Guanajuato has a selection of well-designed and comfortably furnished rooms.
Highly rated by travelers for its customer service and available facilities, the Hotel Indigo Guanajuato is an ideal choice for those seeking luxury and comfort. Airport transfers are available to and from Guanajuato International Airport.
El Meson de los Poetas
El Meson de los Poetas is a restored 18-century boutique hotel where each room is inspired by a different poet. The result is a truly unique experience that you will not get in any other hotel nearby!
This is a great choice for travelers looking for a quiet yet enjoyable experience, or for couples who want a romantic break. Featuring a comfortable patio where guests are free to relax, the hotel also has its own private art gallery within.
Where To Eat & Drink In Guanajuato
When it comes to food in Guanajuato, it does not disappoint! The restaurants in Guanajuato have a high level of commitment to providing excellent customer service and creating outstanding plates.
There are so many incredible restaurants, outdoor patios, and rooftop bars all throughout the city!
Here are some of our favorite places to eat & drink that we tried on our visit to Guanajuato:
Mestizo – Best For Creative Dishes
Mestizo has it all – a charming atmosphere, great food, and welcoming service. Mestizo has an authentic, colorful décor that matches the vibrant Guanajuato streets and alleyways. This is one of the highest-rated Guanajuato restaurants on Trip Advisor for its overall ambiance and menu.
A few standout plates that we enjoyed the best are the Mestizo-style bone marrow and grilled octopus. I was expecting small appetizer-sized plates but both the bone marrow and grilled octopus were full meals of their own!
Casa Valadez Anfitrión & Gourmet – Best For Location
Casa Valadez is one of the best restaurants in Guanajuato located at the heart of the historic center. I highly recommend asking for a window seat so you can enjoy a nice breeze and stunning views of the Unión Garden and Teatro Juárez during your meal!
This restaurant continues to get high ratings on Google with an average of 4.6 stars out of over 3,600 reviews. Casa Valadez offers an extensive menu covering a variety of items with a modern take on classic Mexican dishes.
AMATXI – Best For a Fancy Dinner
AMATXI is a top pick for fine dining or a special date night dinner in Guanajuato. This is the #3 restaurant on Trip Advisor for a good reason!
The restaurant is located on an enclosed patio and has a sleek and modern interior. AMATXI menu features contemporary plates with a lot of flavor and seasoning.
Do note that this restaurant is located 10 minutes outside of the historic center so you will need to grab a taxi or Uber to get there.
Costal Cultura Cafetera – Best For An Intimate Dining Experience
Costal Cultura Cafetera was one of our favorite places to eat in Guanajuato. This is where you’ll want to go for a relaxing dinner and high-quality nourishment in a modern, upscale space.
Costal Cultura Cafetera restaurant is located on a second story within a boutique shopping space. For a cozy and romantic experience, you can grab a seat on the charming outdoor balcony that overlooks the Old Town.
La Notaría Terraza Bar – Best Rooftop Lounge
If you’re looking for a place to cool off with a refreshing drink on a hot day, head over to the La Notaría Terraza Bar! This rooftop bar is located near the historic center on top of Hotel La Notaría and offers stunning views from its outdoor terrace overlooking Old Town Guanajuato.
You can grab a seat at the bar, on one of the two rooftop terraces, or in the lounge area. While some rooftop bars only serve drinks, La Notaría Terraza Bar also has a great food menu!
Las Vieyras Restaurante – Best For Outdoor Seating
With a charming patio, beautiful decor, and relaxing ambiance, Las Vieyras Restaurante is a great breakfast spot for couples on a romantic getaway. Las Vieyras Restaurante combines the best of a laid-back atmosphere and excellent food. They also served some of the best coffee that we tried in the city!
This restaurant is located within the stunning Casa del Rector Boutique Hotel so you will need to pass through their lobby to get there.
Black Mamba 61 – Best Cocktails In The Historic Zone
Black Mamba 61 is a hip bar in the historic center that is known for interesting craft drinks. They aren’t afraid to play around with flavor combinations to create something very unique.
We loved the intimate atmosphere, thoughtful décor, and upbeat music at this bar. Along with an extensive drink menu, Black Mamba 61 also offers tapas and food such as Brussel sprouts and Argentinian chorizo.
- Location: Black Mamba 61
What To Do In Guanajuato
From beautiful, ornate buildings to colorful alleyways and exceptional museums, Guanajuato offers plenty of attractions to explore for its visitors.
Here are some of the top things to see & do on a trip to Guanajuato:
The Alley Of The Kiss / Callejón del Beso
The Alley Of The Kiss is one of the most popular places to visit within the historic zone in Guanajuato.
This attraction centers around a tragic love story where a rich daughter fell in love with a poor miner who lived across from her. They would meet in the alleyway and kiss but their love story came to a devastating end when the woman’s father found out and killed her in disapproving rage.
Now visitors can line up to take photos of where the lovers used to meet and kiss. Even on the slower days, there is usually a line around the corner to take a photo at this famous location.
Location: Callejón del Beso
Museum of the Mummies of Guanajuato
The Museum of the Mummies is one of the most popular, but strangest places you can visit in Guanajuato. This museum displays human mummies that are up to 150 years old.
The mummies are well preserved due to the lack of humidity & oxygen in the underground crypts where they were stored for many years. Some are even fully clothed!
The Mummy Museum is located on the outskirts of the city center so you will need to take a cab or an Uber to get there. Come here on a Monday or early in the morning to avoid waiting in long lines.
Location: Museum of the Mummies of Guanajuato
El Pipila Monument & Overlook
Monumento al Pípila is a grand stone statue dedicated to a local hero who fought for independence from Spanish colonization. This location also marks one of the best overlooks of Guanajuato, especially at sunset.
To get to this viewpoint you can take stairs or the Funicular air tram. The air tram ride is only 5 minutes long but will get you very close to the top of the hill saving you a lot of time and energy.
You can visit the El Pipila viewpoint all day long, but I recommend coming for sunset. Golden hour offers one of the best settings for photography and stunning sunset colors.
Location: Monumento Al Pipila
Mercado Hidalgo is the largest indoor market in the city. This is a great place to come explore for a couple of hours, try local food stands, and browse for souvenirs to bring back home.
Mercado Hidalgo consists of two floors. The bottom floor has stands that sell food, meats, fruits, and veggies. The second floor is dedicated to touristy gift items such as clothing, purses, magnets, keychains, ceramics, and other trinkets.
Location: Mercado Hidalog
Plaza De La Paz
Plaza De La Paz is the main visitor plaza in Guanajuato that is located at the center of the city. This is where you’ll want to head for visitor information, historic attractions, restaurants, and bars.
Here you can also stop by and snap a foto of the giant G (for Guanajuato) sign that looks so colorful!
Next to the plaza is also the Basílica Colegiata de Nuestra Señora de Guanajuato, one of the most notable and ornate churches in downtown Guanajuato.
Location: Las letras de Guanajuato
Teatro Juárez is an architectural wonder situated at the center of the Old Town Guanajuato. Juárez Theatre has a large, grand entrance built in Neoclassical style that resembles something out of Europe. The main entrance consists of 12 pillars and giant statues situated above them.
Next to the theatre is the Union Garden, a beautiful park created within the city boundaries. All around the park you will find little food stands, street performers, hotels, cafes with patios, and top-rated restaurants.
Location: Teatro Juárez
Diego Rivera’s House Museum
In Guanajuato, you can visit the house where Diego Rivera, the famous Mexican artist was born and lived until he was 6 years old. In 1971 Diego Rivera’s daughter restored his childhood home and turned it into an art museum.
On the first floor, you can walk through the restored living quarters that have been furnished with 19th-century pieces to reflect the styles from his childhood. The second level features art pieces and the evolution of Diego Rivera’s artistic styles from his early years to Cubism and nudism.
Location: Diego Rivera’s House Museum
Museo Regional de Guanajuato Alhóndiga de Granaditas
The Regional Museum of Guanajuato Alhóndiga de Granaditas is a grand museum that you can visit in Guanajuato. This is an excellent place to explore for a few hours if you enjoy archeology and historic artifacts.
The stairs and hallways at this museum display impressive murals centering around religion, Spanish colonization, slavery, and fighting for independence. This museum is located a short walk outside of the main city center but well worth visiting!
You can find more information on the top things to see & do in Guanajuato, Mexico here!
What To Bring
Not sure what to pack for your trip to Guanajuato? Unlike other Mexican cities, the dress code in Guanajuato is pretty relaxed. This region gets a lot of wealthy tourists so you’ll see people dressed in nice, trendy clothing throughout the city.
While usually, I recommend dressing pretty conservatively in Mexico and not drawing attention to yourself, in Guanajuato you can freely wear shorts and dresses without feeling uncomfortable. I never felt out of place wearing shorts & dresses, but if you’re concerned about safety, bring clothing that is toned down like pants and simple t-shirts.
Here are some essentials that I brought for our 4-day trip to Guanajuato:
- Good walking shoes. The main Guanajuato attractions are located within the historic center so you’ll be doing a lot of walking. I brought a pair of comfortable white sneakers and brown sandals to match different outfits.
- Light outfits. The weather in this region can be very hot and muggy. While I did wear long jeans one day, overall I stuck to jean shorts and a white dress to battle the heat.
- White t-shirts are my go-to tops that work great in cities when you don’t want to draw attention to yourself.
- Travel backpack. You’ll need a good backpack to carry around your wallet, phone, camera gear, and other essentials. Make sure to bring one that can’t be opened easily and always keep it close to you, even when seated at restaurants. My backpack was stolen once from underneath my feet while eating at a coffee shop – not a fun thing to deal with when traveling!
- Travel hat. Oh, how I love my travel hats! When traveling your hair can become a huge mess from being out in hot weather. Travel hats are always there to save the day!
- Portable phone charger. I always bring a portable charger with me on all of my trips. You’ll be out and about exploring the city all day long so it’s important to keep your phone fully charged for directions and safety.
- Earplugs. From weekend celebratory fireworks to drunk people singing at midnight, barking dogs, and churchbells, Guanajuato is a loud city. A set of earplugs are essential for a good night’s sleep.
Of all the cities that we have visited in Mexico, Guanajuato was one of our favorites (and we spent 6 months traveling in Mexico so we’ve been to quite a few of them!). The colorful streets, friendly locals and inviting atmosphere make this one of the best cities to visit in Mexico.
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