The old silver mining city of Guanajuato is best described as a colorful destination. That’s because Guanajuato is well known for its multicolored streets where houses, churches, shops, and public buildings merge together into a delightful artistic canvas of pinks, blues, greens, oranges, yellows, reds, and every other shade and color under the bright Mexican sun.
But the city is colorful in more ways than one. Singing troubadours lead musical tours through Guanajuato’s hilly streets when the sun sets, the Don Quixote Museum offers an insight into the literary aspirations of Guanajuato, and the Mummy Museum is guaranteed to bemuse as much as it spooks.
Keep reading as we unveil the best things to do in Guanajuato, Mexico.
1. Walking Tours of Guanajuato
Guanajuato is a small city, and with traffic diverted below the city center, through underground tunnels, this could be one of the best places in Mexico for a walking tour. As you start walking, though, you’ll quickly notice that this isn’t a flat destination!
Guanajuato is at an altitude of 2,045 meters (6,709 feet) and one of the hilliest cities in Mexico. Get ready for lots of uphill and lots of downhill, but rest assured, it’s well worth the effort as you stroll through narrow alleyways and unearth hidden museums, bars, cafés, and restaurants in the city’s nooks and crannies.
Guanajuato is a maze, so we suggest joining a walking tour when you first arrive. This is a rather touristy city, so there are lots of options to choose from online. You can even combine a walking tour with a food tour of the city!
2. Callejoneadas Musical Tour
Guanajuato is an artsy, creative, and musical city, and one of the most surprisingly fun things to do in Guanajuato is to join a musical tour. Led by the callejoneadas, or the singing troubadours, these tours are best experienced in the evening after a few glasses of vino tinto.
The callejoneadas are dressed in Spanish-style medieval regalia, and they’ll regale you in song and dance with the stories, legends, and mysteries of Guanajuato as they lead groups through the alleyways. Tours are mostly in Spanish, but everyone can appreciate the music, the atmosphere, and the callejoneadas’ enthusiasm for their city.
Yes, it’s touristy, and yes, it’s over the top; but it’s also a lot of fun and a traditional way to see the city!
3. Callejón del Beso
If you’ve been on a walking tour already, then you’ll almost certainly have been taken to Callejón del Beso, or the Alley of the Kiss. If not, then make sure you stop by because this busy alleyway is one of the most popular places to visit in Guanajuato.
The first thing you’ll notice is how narrow the alleyway is. The colorful houses on either side are almost touching each other. And this is where the local legends begin: It’s said that the daughter of a noble family fell in love with a poor, working man – and they just happened to live opposite each other in this narrow alleyway across which they could secretly converse from the balconies.
The story doesn’t end well – it’s as brutal as Romeo and Juliet – but the locals love to tell the now legendary fable while tourists love to have their photograph taken in the alleyway.
4. Monumento al Pipila
For the best view of Guanajuato, visit Monumento al Pipila. This behemoth of a statue stands above the city, offering spectacular panoramas over the colorful houses and churches far below. Street food vendors serve tacos, sandwiches, and cold drinks, too, which will be much needed if you’ve walked to the top.
If you’re feeling lazy, then there is also a funicular that runs from Teatro Juarez right up to the top of the viewing area. It’s a slow, beautiful ride, but you almost always have to queue for a while to get a spot!
The monument is dedicated to a man named Pipila, a local miner who became a legend during the Mexican Wars of Independence. Pipila is said to have single-handedly destroyed the entrance to the Spanish garrison in Guanajuato, leading to the liberation of the city by the local Mexican insurgents in 1810.
5. Alhóndiga de Granaditas
Guanajuato played a prominent role in the Mexican Wars of Independence as one of the first cities to be liberated from the Spanish. If you are interested in this history when visiting Guanajuato, the best place to learn more is at the Alhondiga de Granaditas.
This large, stone building is now home to the Regional Museum of Guanajuato. It’s here that Pipila, the city’s famous hero, helped to defeat the Spanish. The Alhondiga was actually a warehouse, but its solid stone walls made it double as a fortress, too.
During the Wars of Independence in 1810, the Spanish garrison blockaded themselves in the warehouse, leading to a fierce and brutal siege that the Mexicans ultimately won. Today, the museum inside the Alhondiga is interesting, but it does romanticize the legends and heroes of the war as much as it tells the facts.
6. Teatro Juarez
Located in the center of historic Guanajuato, the grand neoclassical columns and extravagant designs of Teatro Juarez are impossible to miss. Built in the late 19th century, this rather large theater remains a hub for the city’s theatrical aspirations.
You can take a tour of the theater, but while they run regularly, they are almost always in Spanish. Better yet, book tickets for a performance – there are plays, musicals, and all sorts of shows almost every evening.
7. Jardin de la Union
Guanajuato’s most central plaza is the magnificent Jardin de la Union. Lined with pleasant trees and planted with flowers, this lovely public space is right next to Teatro Juarez. This is where many of Guanajuato’s tours depart from, so you’ll certainly pass through at some point during your trip.
Jardin de la Union is a lovely place to relax and an even better place to enjoy a few alfresco drinks or an evening meal. The restaurants here are inevitably touristy, but given the location, it’s worth paying a little extra to be in the heart of the historical city at least once during your stay.
8. Mercado Hidalgo
There’s no doubt that the city is a tourist hub, but if you’re looking to see more of the local side of life then one of the top things to do in Guanajuato is visit the Mercado Hidalgo. This enormous public market is located inside an enormous dome that’s unmissable – so just head towards it, then stroll through the stalls.
If you’re looking for a local lunch, then you’ve got hundreds of options to choose from. There are tacos, tortas, and tortillas everywhere, and you’ll pay a fraction of the price charged in the city’s touristy restaurants.
9. Valenciana Mine
Many of Guanajuato’s residents are today involved in the tourism business, but before the tourist trade was established, this was for many years a mining city. Just outside the city, you can visit the Valenciana Mine, which alongside Guanajuato’s historic city center forms part of a wider UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Spanish began to mine silver here from the 16th century onwards, and the mines didn’t close until quite recently. There’s an intriguing museum above the old mine that delves into Guanajuato’s history of silver mining, while local tour guides will take you into the mines themselves. There, for a brief period of time, you can see the conditions that the miners endured for their entire lives.
10. Museum of the Mummies
For a macabre experience, take a trip to Guanajuato’s unnerving, surreal, yet extraordinary Museum of the Mummies. During the 19th century, many residents of Guanajuato were embalmed when they died, and if they couldn’t afford their own graves, they would simply be left in a storage area by the local authorities.
The mummies stacked up over time, and the dry, arid climate of Guanajuato has ensured that they have remained eerily mummified. The museum has a large collection of these mummified bodies on display alongside intriguing facts and stories about their lives.
It’s dark tourism, but it’s certainly fascinating!
11. Don Quixote Museum
Don Quixote, the famous, fictional Spanish knight created by Cervantes, is quite a big deal in Guanajuato. Every year, the city holds an annual literary festival dedicated in part to the literary legend that is Don Quixote.
There are prominent Don Quixote statues in the city, too, while at the Don Quixote Museum, you can find out more about Guanajuato’s connections to the legendary book. The museum is home to a vast collection of Don Quixote memorabilia, including rare books, artworks, and much, much more!
12. Guanajuato Basilica
You can’t visit Guanajuato without visiting a church, because within the tight confines of the small city center, there are 20-plus churches and other places of worship within walking distance of each other.
If you only visit one church, though, make it Guanajuato Basilica – otherwise known as Nuestra Señora de Guanajuato. This colorful, red-and-yellow basilica is the most prominent church in the city, and you’ll easily spot it when you take a look over the city from the main viewpoint or from a rooftop bar or restaurant.
13. Museo del Pueblo
Art lovers will want to take an hour or so to walk through the Museo del Pueblo, a small museum that contains a wonderful collection of paintings and artworks from local artists.
The museum – really an art gallery rather than a museum – is located within a historic mansion that was once owned by a silver-mining magnate but that is now in the public domain.
The highlights of the gallery are the Mexican miniatures, a lovely display of miniature toys passed down through the generations.
14. Museo Casa Diego Rivera
Diego Rivera is one of Mexico’s most famous painters, and while he’s perhaps better associated with Mexico City, where much of his work remains on display many years after his death, he was born in a humble house in Guanajuato.
That house, where a three-year-old Diego Rivera began drawing on the walls, is now a quaint museum. The house itself has been preserved as it was in Rivera’s youth, while an extensive collection of his paintings can be found on display, too.
15. Ruta de la Independencia
If you’re wondering what to do in Guanajuato after you’ve visited all the top sights and attractions, why not take a tour of the Ruta de la Independencia? The Independence Route is a tourist trail that takes visitors from Guanajuato to Dolores Hidalgo and San Miguel de Allende, then back to Guanajuato. Tours depart daily but are mostly in Spanish.
You’ll spend the day exploring the Independence Route, which entails visiting the most important destinations associated with the Mexican Wars of Independence. You’ll see where the war began, where battles were fought, and because this is Mexico, you’ll visit plenty of unusual shrines and cemeteries along the way.
With its colorful streets, musical tours, and fascinating history, there really are some excellent tourist attractions in Guanajuato, Mexico. Spend the day sightseeing, touring through old silver mines, or visiting museums, then spend the cool evenings winding down in the mountain city’s alfresco restaurants and bars. There are a lot of great things to do in Guanajuato, Mexico, so pack your bags, and get ready for an epic city break!