Travel Guide to Guanajuato, Mexico: Small City with Small Town Vibes

After a month of solitude in Tepoztlan, a small town situated about 40 minutes south of Mexico City, I was desperately craving human interaction.

Luckily, my friend Eli texted me and raved about this city he dubbed ‘spicy Paris’.

So, taking his suggestion, I packed my bags and doubled back towards the Western coast of Mexico to meet up with the friends I made in San Cristobal in December.

After traveling for a while, I noticed that there are personal seasons in this journey in which you need alone time and in which you need a sense of familiarity and connection. I find it a rare occurrence that many travelers stick together for long or even end up in the same places, with spontaneity and plans being shelved a normal part of the experience.

The moment my taxi from the bus terminal drove through the dark tunnel and spat me out into the city, I couldn’t stop smiling.

Amidst the arid climate and dry season, Guanajuato has a beautiful flow to life. It has big city energy in a small town setting, where you could hardly walk down the streets without running into someone you know or have seen before, despite the restrictions that are in place in other places throughout Mexico. The vibrancy of the city translates into the mood and energies of the people that are drawn to this beautiful place, historically a bustling college town (which currently isn’t in session).

Photo by August Erixon

The most stark attribute of GTO is the city layout. It makes absolute no sense and works.

The city center is built in the middle of a steep ravine, with hills of pastel colored buildings chaotically stacked in lego like layouts. The streets don’t follow a grid. Instead, the wind to and fro like rivers, leading you into slim alleyways and side streets. After quickly dropping off my bags my AirBnB, I went to meet my friends at the Mirador for my first sunset. The view from this spot is even more stunning. Soon, I discovered the best way to discover this city was to follow the labyrinthine streets, getting lost and letting it spit you out to scenic overlooks, random benches so you can take a short rest from the mountainous steps, beautiful plazas with soothing water fountains and gorgeous rooftop terraces to soak in the views. 

Photo by August Erixon
  • Go on a tour with Callejoneadas Guanajuato, where you’ll do a traditional alley walking route with student guides dressed in folk costumes, singing traditional songs and telling the story of the Guanajuato version of Romeo and Juliet
  • Gorditas at the gordita stand down the block from Corral d’Comedias hostel
  • Hike up the steep alleyway steps to Monumento Al Pipila for sunset or take a funicular ride up for 30 pesos
  • Sit at Union Garden and people watch
  • Eat Japanese cuisine at Delica Mitsu
  • Wander through the underground tunnels where most of the automobile traffic goes by
  • Find the bar that offers 10 mezcal shots for $100 pesos and split it with friends (or drink it all by yourself) before heading out for the night
  • Enjoy a cheap lunch and window shop at Mercado Hiladgo
  • See the grotesque and well preserved bodies at Museum of Mummies
  • Check out Diego Rivera’s childhood home converted to a stunning museum
  • Visit one of my personal favorite museums in Guanajuato, Museo de Arte Contemporaneo Primer Deposito
  • Head to Nigromante on Tuesday nights for a Spanish language exchange or just chill there for sunset and drinks (*bonus, they serve vegan quesadillas)
  • People watch on the steps of Teatro Juarez and get lucky enough to catch the mime show
  • Grab a $30 peso green juice to cure any hangovers and start your day off right at Mercado Embajadoras
  • Hike up La Bufa for some stunning views and get lost in the desert landscape
  • Wander to Presa de la Olla dam, eat some grub from food trucks and roam around the La Presa neighborhood, offering a classy and artsy vibe
  • Have a picnic at El Faro nature preserve
  • Dance, drink some pulque or mezcal at La Antigua, Antik Cafe and Los Lobos
  • Gluten free, vegetarian, vegan and specialty groceries at La Comer
  • Dine al fresco at Tragaluz and soak up the vibes of the square
  • Enjoy salsa and maybe find yourself getting a dance with ‘El Doctor’, an infamous local who tears up the dance floor and grabs you as you’re passing by for a whirlwind experience at La Dama de las Camellias
  • Brunch at Oajillo
  • Vegan tacos at Guanajuatito Cafe and La Esquinita
Photo by August Erixon

This small city with even smaller town vibes holds a dear place in my heart. It has a thriving community of artists, students and people who really just vibe together. It’s one of the places that has felt like a home away from home. I don’t think it’s possible to be bored here. And if you do find yourself wanting an escape, its sister city, San Miguel de Allende, is just a quick hour ride away. Needless to say, I fell in love here and dreaming of when I visit again.

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