Just like Claudia Kinkaid in New York City, I found the city of Guanajuato to be one of the best places in the world to hide. There’s the rabbit warren of colonial-era tunnels beneath the city surface ready to swallow one whole, or the winding narrow alleys and streets that “gives the city a more European flavor than other Mexican cities”, even cavernous churches and old silver mines with who knows what tucked into the shadows.
Yes, Guanajuato, Mexico, has to be one of the best places in the world to hide.
Our weekend jaunt to Guanajuato was our first outing in Mexico to date, and I recently made a vow to explore more of this vast and rich country. So, last Friday Britt and I hopped on a 1.5-hour bus to this neighboring city of San Miguel de Allende and were surprised at how different the two cities are. Where SMA is mostly flat or sloping with a predictable grid layout, Guanajuato’s extremely hilly terrain renders the urban design tight and irregular. In other words, the streets of Guanajuato favor people over cars making it a very, very people-friendly place. Charming alleys and intimate plazas fill space not occupied by colorfully-facaded buildings. Only two one-lane, one-way streets for cars exist in the city core (assuming my translation of what the tour guide said is correct), giving people free rein of this UNESCO gem.
In Guanajuato, most vehicular traffic passing through the center does so by way of the old underground tunnels once used to control flooding. The result of so many car-free spaces makes the city inviting and exceedingly people-oriented. There’s zero wasted space in this city and very little, if any, surface parking. And while I can’t tell you how pleasant it is to wander the quiet streets as my baby naps on me and not be worried about her breathing in toxic air or being awoken by honking cars, I wonder why the city doesn’t do away with its handful of surface roads altogether given how lovely the city’s car-free spaces are by comparison. (I shudder wondering if the tunnels have proper ventilation, because people also use them to get around.)
My favorite part of Guanajuato by far was Parque Juarez by Teatro Juarez, wow did the beauty and lushness of these places take me aback. The worn, shiny limestone sidewalks reminded me of Croatia’s old towns as did the sidewalk cafes. For lunch, Britt and I ate in a window booth of a refined old restaurant overlooking the park, watching tourists mill about and students in traditional costume. I sipped on a cocktail, Britt made a mess of some avocado, the air was clean, the sounds of life delightful; it was one of the best lunches I’ve had in a while.
So there, thank you, Guanajuato, for the lovely weekend getaway. If I could only decide on our next destination in Mexico.
Photos from my phone
Parque Juarez & Jardín de la Unión
Everybody needs a good funicular from time to time, right? At only 30 pesos ($1.55 USD), a ride on this little tram is irresistible and it takes you to the Monumento al Pipila with the best views in town. Personally, I always consider funiculars to be a sign of a cultured city, and indeed Guanajuato fits this description.
Plaza de San Roque & Jardín Reforma
Inviting little spots to relax, eat, and people watch.
Callejón del Beso
A tight spot to take a photo but a quick, fun visit nonetheless.
Museo de las Momias & Hacienda del Cochero (Torture Museum)
Because who can resist Mexican mummies? The history of Guanajuato’s mummies is utterly fascinating, too fascinating for me to summarize in a few sentences.