Guanajuato has quickly become one of my favorite small cities in Mexico. There are so many fun things to do in Guanajuato.
Whether you enjoy sampling the local coffee, trying delicious local foods, hiking, or learning about the deep and sometimes dark history of this region, there is plenty to do in Guanajuato to keep you busy.
Getting to Guanajuato
There are several different ways to get to Guanajuato. The nearest airport is in Leon. There are direct flights to Leon from Houston and Atlanta or you can connect in Mexico City and fly from the Mexico City airport onward.
Alternatively, you can take the bus from Mexico City. Primera Plus and ETN both run buses directly from the Mexico City Northern Bus Terminal straight to the Guanajuato bus terminal.
The bus takes about four hours and costs about 600 Pesos each way (about $30 USD). Although it’s somewhat expensive for bus travel in Mexico, the buses are quite luxurious. You usually get a TV on the seat in front of you, a snack and drink, and plenty of legroom.
Getting Around Guanajuato
The most convenient way to get around Guanajuato is to use Uber. I use Uber in Mexico whenever I can because it’s secure, it’s easy (especially if you don’t speak Spanish), and it’s usually cheaper than regular taxis.
That being said, the taxis in Guanajuato are also pretty reliable. They tend not to rip you off like they do in other touristy places in Mexico. Just be sure to agree on the price before you get in as most taxis I took didn’t use their meters.
The Best Things to Do in Guanajuato
1. Head up to the Pipila
Pipila is a famous person in Guanajuato’s history and you’ll see a huge statue of him at the top of this hill. Pipila was his nickname. His actual name was Juan Jose de los Reyes.
He was a local miner and during the start of the revolution, he famously carried a huge rock to the Alhondiga to knock the door down.
He is now commemorated in the city at this site. In addition to catching site of this historical figure, the views from the Pipila are also pretty spectacular.
You can either walk up to the Pipila, or hop on the Funicular and get carried to the top. You can opt just to take it one way and walk back down to town.
2. Hike into the Hills
This is one of the few cities I’ve been to in Mexico where you can simply walk to the edge of town and start hiking into the hills.
Hiking in Guanajuato is easy and fun and there are trails for most fitness levels.
The most popular hike to do in Guanajuato is Cerro de la Bufa. This blog post gives a very clear explanation about how to find the trailhead and what to expect along the way.
3. Go on a Food Tour
One of the best things to do in Guanajuato if you don’t have much time or you simply want to learn a ton about the history and culture of the city is to take a food tour with Mexico Street Food Tours.
I took a tour with their awesome guide, Laura, when I was last in Guanajuato and it was so much fun. We ate tons of great food (perhaps the best carnitas I’ve ever had?).
But it wasn’t just about the food. The tour covered so much about the history of the city and about the start of the Mexican revolution here. We walked through different neighborhoods and I felt like we really got to better understand Guanajuato.
4. Check out the Local Restaurants
There are so many amazing restaurants in Guanajuato that I recommend checking out (just click that link to see all of my favorite restaurants there!).
You’ll get a great taste for the street food on the above-mentioned food tour, but I also think that there are some great restaurants, cafes, and bars worth checking out in Guanajuato.
Some that I highly recommend are coffee from El Conquistador, lunch at Los Huacales, dinner at Los Campos.
5. Cement Your Love in El Callejon del Beso
Callejones are what they call the little alleyways that you find all over Guanajuato. It’s worth wandering these little lanes to take photos and find hidden bars like Clave Azul.
However, there is one, in particular, that is more famous than all the others: Callejon del Beso. The alleyway of the kiss.
The story is a little something like the Mexican version of Romeo and Juliet. Instead, their names were Luis and Carmen.
Luis and Carmen were in love, but Carmen’s father forbid her to see him. So Luis rented a room in the apartment directly across from Carmen’s home. They would sneak out onto their balconies and kiss.
One day, Carmen’s father caught them kissing on the balcony and he stabbed her with a knife. Her blood fell to the steps below.
Now the legend says that if you want to cement your love for your partner, you should head to the third step of the alleway (where the blood fell) and kiss your partner.
6. Learn About the Mining History in La Valenciana
One of the most interesting things to do in Guanajuato is to check out one of the mines. Guanajuato used to be one of the largest providers of silver in the entire world. At one point, nearly 80% of the world’s silver was coming from mines in Mexico.
Now, you can head into the mines just outside of Guanajuato in the town of La Valenciana. There is a local bus that leaves from in front of the Alhondiga. Just look for writing on the bus that says La Valenciana.
Once you get off the bus, you’ll see a church. Walk to the right of the church to enter the mine.
Part of this mine is still fully functioning, but this short tour that you take is in an area of the mine that is no longer being used for finding silver and gold.
Once you finish in the mine, you can head into the church where you’ll see three incredibly ornate gold altars.
The story goes that the man who owned this mine was not having success finding silver or gold. He prayed to God to help him. Days later, huge chunks of gold and silver were found.
As a thank you, he built this church and those solid gold altars.
7. Visit Diego Rivera’s House
Diego Rivera’s house is perhaps one of the most visited museums in Guanajuato. After living in Mexico City for a few years and spending time learning about both Frida and Diego, it felt like something of a pilgrimage to visit the house where he was born.
Inside the museum, you’ll be able to get an idea of how the home looked when Diego and his family lived there.
Many of the rooms are also filled with Diego’s work. You’ll find paintings Frida and Dolores Olmedo, watercolors, and a room full of sketches and drawings of works that were never completed.
8. Shop and Wander in Mercado Hidalgo
Mercado Hidalgo is a very cool building.
It was originally built as a train station and was modeled after French train stations. You can tell when you look at the clock tower.
Inside it is quite the opposite. It’s really just a big open space, kind of like a warehouse. However, it’s packed full of souvenirs and delicious street food.
If you want to try the local chocolate, Pedos de Monja (nun farts), you can buy a bag of them here at the market. You’ll also find hats, shoes, t-shirts, and bags as well as delicious tacos.
9. Visit the Alhóndiga de Granaditas
History buffs can’t miss a trip to the Alhóndiga de Granaditas. This museum is basically where the fight for Mexican independence began.
The Spanish sought refuge in this building when the locals, led by Miguel Hidalgo, began storming the city demanding their freedom. It was Pipila (mentioned above) who broke down the door. The building was then set on fire.
In retaliation, the Spanish captured four of the men who were trying to lead the revolution, including Miguel Hidalgo. They killed these men and hung their heads on the four corners of the building where they remained for the 11 years that Mexico fought for independence.
It’s now a fascinating museum with some of the most beautiful murals I’ve seen in Mexico.
10. Sing Along to a Callejonada
While this may not be the best option if you don’t speak any Spanish, Callejonadas are street performances that have a long and rich history here in Guanajuato.
The performances are put on by current and past students of the University of Guanajuato. They include singing, dancing, storytelling (all in Spanish) as you wander the streets of Guanajuato after dark.
They are popular with Mexicans because there are a lot of Mexican jokes and references and many of the songs are very famous here in Mexico. Even if you don’t understand much, it’s a really fun way to explore the city after dark.
To buy tickets, look for the guys in front of Teatro Juarez dressed in costume. They are always selling for the evenings show. It should cost roughly 100-150 pesos per person.
11. Visit the Mummy Museum
This is one of the strangest and most fascinating things to do in Guanajuato.
I knew early on when I moved to Mexico that death was treated differently here. However, this museum is a truly eye-opening look into better understanding the Mexican culture that surrounds death.
The reason this museum exists in the first place is that the government of Guanajuato (many years ago), decided that in order to be buried in the local cemetery, you need to pay a tax.
That included bodies that were already in the ground.
If a person’s family didn’t come and pay the tax, they were removed from the ground or tomb until someone came to pay the tax on their behalf.
What people realized when they took these bodies out of the ground was that they were incredibly well preserved. Whether because of the altitude or the weather or both, they were basically mummified naturally before they could begin to decompose.
The people who worked at the cemetery started charging people to look at these strange mummies. Eventually, the city took over and now there is an official museum where you can see the bodies of the people who’s families never paid the tax.
12. Climb the Steps of the Guanajuato University Building
The Guanajuato University building is located right in the center of town and is a pretty cool thing to do in Guanajuato.
Just in front of the steps is a little alleyway. There is a fantastic nieve (sort of like sorbet/ice cream) stand here. Get yourself a cup of nieve and then sit on the steps in the sunshine.
If you climb all the way to the top of the steps, you get a pretty spectacular view back over the city.
13. See a Show at Teatro Juarez
Teatro Juarez is a beautiful theater in the center of Guanajuato where you can see everything from orchestra music to theater shows.
You can buy tickets on the day by simply walking in and asking what shows are on.
Alternatively, hang out on the steps with the locals and watch street performers come and go all day long.
14. Visit During Cervantino (and understand the city’s obsession)
The Festival Internacional Cervantino is one of the biggest festivals in Guanajuato each year. It usually takes place for two or three weeks each year in October.
The city is more than a little obsessed with Cervantes and his famous character, Don Quixote. You’ll find statues of him all over town.
The reason that everyone in Guanajuato loves Cervantes goes back to the mining days. During the intermission of some of the city’s regular shows, normal people from the town (by this I mean not actors) would put on a show for theatergoers (and then later people in the streets).
The show that they always chose was Don Quixote.
The obsession grew from there and now every year you can come to Guanajuato and experience all different types of art and theater. There are pop-up art galleries, live music, theater shows, and so much more happening during this three-week festival.
Sunday 21st of March 2021
Great article, Laura! So much to do in Guanajuato all year long. If you readers are interested in up to the minute info on happenings in GTO they can check out these two Facebook groups - one for expats/visitors and the other for events (art, music, dance, etc): "GTO TQM" is the expat group: www.facebook.com/groups/gtomx and "Guana What" is the events group: www.facebook.com/groups/1587748181247376 Both are actively updated and have lots of members. Saludos!
Friday 8th of November 2019
How lucky we are ...A friend off mine published your blog just a we are on our way to Guanajuato day after tomorrow. thank you. Today we are in Queretaro staying in charming 8 rooms little hotel operated by 2 brothers CASA 11. we’ll follow your advices