6 Great Things to do in Queretaro
Few travelers to Mexico visit the city of Queretaro. Either they never heard of it, or they write it off as an uninteresting industrial center. It’s a pity though because after spending five fantastic days in the surprisingly quaint historical center of Queretaro we wish we had come for longer.
Queretaro is easy to get to. It is just three hour by bus from Mexico City. The historical center is small and easy to get around by foot and is full of fascinating sites and activities. At times during our visit, we felt we were in an old European town, not one of Mexico’s fastest growing cities.
Here are the 6 Best Things to Do in Queretaro:
1. Wander the andadores
Queretaro is extremely pedestrian friendly. The historical center is a full of charming walking streets. Follow one of the andadores and it will likely bring you to a small plaza with a whimsical fountain, a well-manicured park where couples dance to live music or a magnificent centuries-old church. Take a late afternoon stroll to the eastern end of the historical center, about two blocks behind Templo de La Santa Cruz. There you will find a magnificent place to overlook the 18th Century aqueduct stretching into the distance as it is illuminated by the light of setting sun.
2. Take a Myths and Legends Tour
Once darkness falls on Queretaro, the stories of its past come alive thanks to a young actor’s company. Leyendas y Mitos de Querétaro takes participants on a torchlit tour through the alleys of the city as costumed storytellers recount the legends of the city’s past. We found ourselves laughing and screaming in equal parts throughout the hour and a half tour. A basic knowledge of Spanish is helpful as the tours are not offered in English. Tickets can be bought on Calle 5 de Mayo just behind the Templo de San Francisco.
3. Walk in the footsteps of the friars
In the 17th Century, a group of Franciscan friars established a series of missions with the aim of bringing the native peoples of the New World into the Catholic faith. Spaced a three day walk apart, a chain of missions would eventually be built stretching as far north as San Francisco, California. The starting point of this pious route begins right here in Queretaro at the Templo de Santa Cruz. Guided tours of the former convent are held throughout the day, Tuesdays thru Saturdays for 25 pesos.
While touring the grounds it’s easy to imagine robed friars walking the old passageways as they prepared for a long and uncertain journey into the wilds. Of particular interest is a bush that grows cross-shaped thorns and is found nowhere else. According to legend, Friar Antonio Margil de Jesús, who was known for making long barefoot walks, placed his walking stick in the courtyard of the convent. Shortly thereafter, this strange bush grew out of the stick
4. Visit two ruins in one
This unique site, just a 20 minute taxi ride outside of town, offers two different historic sites in the same place. In 1862, a wealthy landowner decided to build a large neo-gothic house on top of a lone hill. All the better to keep an eye on his laborers in the fields below. He soon found that this was no ordinary hill, but a large prehispanic pyramid. Today, the pyramid of El Cerrito, in the suburb of El Pueblito, has been partially excavated. Guided tours are free. Although not as impressive as sites such as Teotihuacan, this short excursion from Queretaro is worth it to see the juxtaposition of prehispanic and 19th Century ruins together.
5. Tour the Wine and Cheese route
More often associated with the French countryside, the state of Queretaro, produces pretty decent wines and cheeses. We took an eight hour tour that showed us the more charming and bucolic side of the region. First, we stopped at Finca Vai, an organic dairy farm where a number of old world style cheeses are produced and aged in their cellar. Perhaps not as sharp as some other aged cheeses, this was still a great treat for cheese lovers who want more than the typical Mexican queso frescos and quesillos.
We also stopped at Finca Sala Vive, where we toured their extensive wine cellar and learned all about their process of producing and aging their wines. I’ll admit that I’ve had some rather poor quality Mexican wines. In fact, we had been warned about the plonk that gets served on these tours. However, the chardonnay at Sala Vive was smooth, flavorful and, quite honestly, one of the best I’ve tasted.
The tour encompassed more than just wine and cheese though. We made a quick stop in at both Tequisquiapan and Bernal, two of Mexico’s Pueblo Magicos. Tequisquiapan is a charming small town dominated by a rosy pink church. Bernal is overshadowed by the world’s third largest monolith, of which we got to climb partway up.
Tours cost about $40USD per person and can be purchased at any of the tourist kiosks in Queretaro.
6. Visit Queretaro’s Calendar Museum
Queretaro has several museums focusing on its illustrious history, but it has one about how we measure that history as well. The Calendar Museum (Museo del Calendario) is set in a wonderfully restored 17th Century building. It houses several small exhibits on the history of calendars from across the world. Its main focus, however, is on mid 20th Century calendar pop-art from Mexico, offering an interesting insight into the country’s culture from that period. The building itself is well worth the modest admission. We found ourselves lounging in the tranquil cafe courtyard and enjoying the views from the terrace as much as the exhibits themselves.
We were so happy we stopped off in Queretaro. In fact, we wish we had stayed longer than five days. There are so many wonderful things to experience and do here! We highly recommend that you visit this charming and underrated city to see for yourself.
Have you been to Queretaro? What would you add?
(Note: the city is properly written as Querétaro, with an accent on the second syllable. I have omitted the accent throughout this article make it easier to find in search engines.)