Forget Cancun, Querétaro Is The City In Mexico You Need To Visit ASAP
When people think about vacationing in Mexico, they think about Mexico City, Cancun, or Puerto Vallarta. However, one Mexican city that should be on everyone’s list in Querétaro. The city has vibes that will transport you to different times and places without leaving the city limits. Here’s why you should visit Querétaro.
1. Querétaro is not the same tourist trap as other Mexican cities.
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If there was ever a city in Mexico that can practically captivate any kind of visitor, from the retired grey-haired couple all the way to the most energetic millennial, it would have to be Queretaro. The most distinctive feature of the city is its majestic aqueduct, a beautiful stone construction spanning a couple of miles dissecting the city’s center.
2. It is centrally located and boasts beautiful architecture.
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Centrally located in the Mexican high plains, this important industrial hub has charmed many a visitor since, well, forever! The sights, the smells, the nightlife and cultural heritage are bar none. And, if you happen to be there on business – it has turned into the country’s top-notch aerospace center – you simple cannot escape its charm. And it is located just a bit over a hundred miles from Mexico City.
3. You can get lost in the beautiful town squares.
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The main central area of downtown Querétaro is full of plazas of all sizes and shapes. Mostly dedicated by wealthy landowners in the 17th century and beyond, the rich built all kinds of fountains and churches that dot the landscape. The city’s proximity to stone quarries gave the “hacendados”, or landlords, the raw material upon which local artists carved wonderful masterpieces in stone.
4. The Jardin Zenea is a breathtaking oasis.
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Worthy of a prolonged visit are the Jardin Zenea and Plaza Corregidora where on weekdays you can see old timers cutting the rug and dancing to memorable tunes, and on weekends it’s a smorgasbord of activity ranging from live bands to jugglers and more. And just don’t forget, there’s delicious food vendor all throughout the area. Trying to hold a diet here?
5. The Spanish architecture is a throwback to its past.
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Mexico’s independence from Spain in the early 1800s was planned in Querétaro, starting an 11-year revolt ending with the birth of the new nation. But the city is chock full of reminders of the Spanish occupation with churches of all shapes and sizes, including the Shrine of the Holy Cross, featuring a tree that produces cross-shaped thorns, attracting many faithful pilgrims.
6. The aqueduct has been around since the 1700s.
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Legend has it that in the early 18th century, a wealthy landowner fell in love with a nun cloistered in a convent but was never corresponded. When the gentleman discovered that the convent was lacking running water, he set out to show his love by building this impressive structure originally close to two miles in length. Whether or not the story is true, the aqueduct has become the symbol of the city and the feature of many guided tours, many of which are given in English.
7. And the city has grown around the impressive structure.
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In spite of the impressive growth of Querétaro in the last 20-some years, this landmark stands the test of time, so much, that for Mexico’s bicentennial celebrations in 2010, the government embarked on a massive restoration of the precious arches, installing a light and sound system that reveals its charms during the evenings. How about THAT for a love story?
8. The government palace is a prime example of Old World Mexican architecture.
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It was here where Madam Josefa Ortiz, wife of the Queretaro Alderman, began planning Mexico’s secession from Spain alongside some important regional characters. The city’s strategic location – not so close, but not so far from Mexico City – was ideal to set out the strategy for starting the revolt against the Crown.
9. History lives behind old walls.
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But the plans for independence were foiled when authorities discovered the conspiracy, and Mrs. Ortiz was incarcerated in her own home, from where she sent a secret letter made with print clips advising the co-conspirators to push forward the date for starting the independent movement. The house is now an attraction known as the “House of the 5 Patios”. Around the building is a beautiful, tree lined, plaza surrounded by quaint and charming restaurants and bars, plus a 10-block expanse of land full of art galleries, shops and souvenir stands. “And don’t forget to get something for aunt Mildred, OK?”
10. Downtown Querétaro is perfect for any kind of adventure.
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Any given Sunday, you can take off early in Queretaro and fill in a complete day without leaving the city’s historic district. Plazas, monuments, churches, chapels and fountains are scattered about an area of maybe 25 blocks with all kinds of architectural details. Of course, every few steps or so, you’ll be flooded by the offerings of food vendors in the streets: corn on the cob smothered in mayo, lime and chile… lots of chile!
11. Plaza Corregidora is a great place to take a break during your tour of Querétaro.
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After the assault on the taste buds, next, to ease spiciness, grab a snow cone in one of many natural fruit jams, and then repeat all over again! Just a few steps away is Plaza Corregidora, a pedestrian area lined with many small scale and economic eateries where for less than 10 bucks you get a 3-course meal, dessert, plus a liter of beer Michelada style, oh yeah!
12. The city is steeped in its history and culture.
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And just after finishing a humongous meal, start strolling along the cobblestone streets of the “andadores”, or pedestrian shopping areas to get most anything. From typical crafts, all the way to Asian cheap imports, such as less than one-dollar sunglasses and trinkets. There are many photo-ops as you walk by plenty of quaint fountains and statues. There’s even a coffee roaster somewhere there who also sells locally made cigars.
13. Business tourism is one of the best reasons to visit.
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If business brings you to town, it’s likely to one of the myriad industrial parks located in the outskirts of the city. During the past century, Querétaro had enjoyed a steady growth with appliance plants, but the 2000s saw a major transformation in the variety of industries represented in the state. When a major Canadian player in the airplane industry set shop in town, many other peripheral industries started to come attracted by the possibility to become suppliers to the mothership.
14. Especially if you are able to take yourself out of the city for a wine tasting.
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Another less known industry around the city is wine making, featuring large scale producers as well as some extremely small private vintners making wonderful libations. Less than 30 minutes from downtown you can visit the cellars at Freixenet and enjoy a great, lazy, weekend afternoon with great food and better wine. Guided tours are offered with regularity and people flock to the area, where other large producers are also located.
15. You have to check out the Bernal Monolith while you sip your wine.
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And no trip to wine country is complete without visiting the Bernal Monolith, an impressive rock formation in the small town of Bernal, where the lifestyle is free and easy, especially at nights when music, song and wine make a perfect combination. If possible, try staying at one of the quaint little hotels in the area, offering views of the imposing hill.
16. The weather allows for outdoor dining year-round.
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Although locals complain about the “extreme heat”, rarely does it hit 90ºF, so that makes the city an ideal place for open air dining. And the entire city is dotted with abundant options, too many to include in a few lines. Whether around the historic center, or in suburban areas like Juriquilla, or in major shopping malls, everywhere there’s a place to have a regal, al fresco, meal and drink.
17. Especially since the food is absolutely delicious.
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And the cuisine options are equally endless: from the strictest vegan to the most lusciously rich cuts of beef, and all in between – including insects, not for the faint of heart indeed. Queretaro has no shortage of dining opportunities for any budget. And on weekends, venture just outside town, to Santa Rosa, for some killer roasted pork, “carnitas” as they’re known, slapped onto a fresh made tortilla, splash on some salsa, chopped onions, cilantro and go.
18. At night, you can take any number of walking tours.
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When the night falls, around the town’s central squares many theatre troupes begin offering their one-of-a-kind walkabout cultural, funny and sometimes scary tours around the area’s sites. Normally the tour would start at the Zenea Garden and traverse the churches and plazas, stopping to give a little explanation and skit about the area and specific building. They’re similar to old time troubadors, recanting the many legends of Querétaro, while one canvasses the streets.
19. Some of these can get really creepy.
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If you have a decent command of Spanish, it’s well worth your time to embark in one of the handful of guided theatrical tours. Amd even if you don’t get the language, there’s always someone bilingual speaking around that’ll help you out with the nuance of the play. And, if you take any of the “Legends” tours, don’t miss the grand finale, it’ll give you a little jolt, not much, but enough to spark your apetite for a drink and a meal. About three or four different companies offer variety of walking educational tours, including one that’s pure terror, if that’s your thing. Whichever you choose, you’re sure to have a blast.
20. You can even tour the Catholic history of the city.
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Many tours are centered around the city’s rich religious history. Catholicism was the official – and only – religion ever since the country was conquered by the Spanish in the 1500s. The many wealthy Creole rulers appeased their sins by building churches and convents in order to gain indulgences from the ecclesiastic leadership. It’s hard to walk a few hundred yards without stumbling onto a church, chapel or something depicting the prevalent faith of the time.
21. The cathedrals are endless and beautiful.
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The majestic Cathedral sits regally when you enter the old town district. It has been undergoing restoration efforts since forever, but still offers services daily, and many more on weekends. Even if religion is not your thing, they’re worth visiting because of the architecture and ornate details in the altarpieces and façade. This church has the distinction of being one of last true baroque edifications, also letting in some neo-classic details.
22. The nightlife is something to behold.
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The nightowls also have their fill in a town that offers them a whole lot of options for enjoying well into the wee hours of the morning. Especially vibrant is the area on Quintana Boulevard, close to the Aqueduct where a dozen or so late night drinking holes blast music ranging from Tropical beats to Old time rock and roll, and all in between. If you’re staying nearby, possibility is you’ve already complained about the decibel levels.
23. Basically, Querétaro will give all visitors the adventure they are looking for.
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Whether it’s the rich cultural heritage, the hunt for some of the most audacious food treats, enjoy a fun, clean and safe city, or just plain get into some serious 4-Ds: doing, dining, drinking and dancing, Querétaro is THE place. Direct flights from DFW and Houston get you there, plus Mexico City – with direct flights from just about everywhere – is only a mere 2-hours away. There’s hotels for any budget, so pack your bag and get here ASAP!