The Best Things to do in Guanajuato, Mexico

The 15 Best Things to do in Guanajuato, Mexico

Singing troubadours, mummified 19th-century miners, and a museum dedicated to the literary hero that is Don Quixote – few places in Mexico are quite as quirky as the city of Guanajuato. Located in the highlands north of Mexico City, Guanajuato rarely tries to be normal, so embrace the unusual as you fall in love with this colorful city!

Guanajuato is brimming with colors, tastes, and sounds. From iconic viewpoints above the city, you’ll see the palette of reds, yellows, blues, and whites that brighten the churches, mansions, and townhouses below. 

Take a food tour or lose yourself in the Mercado Hidalgo to embrace the heavenly tapestry of flavors that make Guanajuato’s cuisine so delicious, and then join a unique Callejoneadas tour in the evening to be led around the city by singing troubadours embracing a timeless tradition of romance and merriment. 

With so many things to see in Guanajuato, you might not know where to begin. That’s why we’ve put together our list of the absolute best things to do for you. Give these fun and unique Guanajuato bucket list recommendations a go, and there’s no doubt you’ll have an exceptional time exploring this gorgeous Mexican city!

15 Fun and Unique Things to do in Guanajuato, Mexico

1. Start with a Food Tour of Guanajuato

Best Things to do in Guanajuato, Mexico: Food Tour of Guanajuato

What better introduction to a city than through its food? In Mexico, the local cuisine rarely disappoints, and Guanajuato is no exception. You’ll love munching your way around the city as you explore the best sights, monuments, and attractions while sipping on mango smoothies and ordering everything from gorditas to carnitas

While Guanajuato certainly has its fair share of fine-dining restaurants (head to the Jardín de la Unión for those), we’re more interested in the street food stands and market stalls that you’ll find all over the city. 

Join a three-hour food tour with Guanajuato-based Mexico Street Food Tours, and you’ll start with morning pastries from a local bakery before learning about the region’s pre-Hispanic history, the city’s founding by the Spanish in 1548, and Guanajuato’s colonial and silver mining past.

You’ll explore the underground pedestrian tunnels that offer quick access routes below Guanajuato. Along the way, you’ll try fresh fruit, smoothies, and tamales, and then you’ll walk to the viewpoint high above city where next to the Monumento al Pípila you’ll learn about the city’s role in the Mexican Wars of Independence while waiting for your tamales to cook. 

What better way to learn about the city’s history than enjoying some of the best street food in Guanajuato at the same time? In the evenings, you can then join a beer and mezcal tour to find the best bars and pubs in the city!

Enjoy an Authentic Dinner with Drinks

2. Take in the View from Monumento al Pípila

Guanajuato, Mexico Bucket List: Monumento Al Pipila

High above Guanajuato is Monumento al Pípila. You’ll see this distinctive brick statue – depicting an oversized man heroically thrusting a flaming torch into the sky – from far below, and it’s a tough but scenic uphill walk to reach it. 

With tired legs, you’ll walk through narrow, ever-steepening lanes until, finally, you emerge onto a viewing platform with one of the best panoramas of Guanajuato ahead of you. But don’t worry if you don’t want to tackle the hike – you can also take the old-school funicular up the hill for the change in your pocket.

However you reach the top, take a moment to order an ice-cold refresco from one of the street food vendors at the top, then gaze across the colorful skyline. You’ll see the red domes of churches, the yellow towers of cathedrals, and perhaps even the stone walls of the Alhóndiga de Granaditas. 

The statue was built on the hilltop to remember the exploits of Pípila, a Guanajuato icon who was instrumental in capturing the Alhóndiga de Granaditas from the Spanish during the Mexican Wars of Independence. 

As local legend has it, Pípila strapped a large stone to his back as rustic protection from Spanish bullets. He then stormed the fortified warehouse and burned the gatehouse to the ground, allowing the revolutionary army of Mexico to take the building, and with it, the city. 

3. Learn about the Mexican Wars of Independence at the Alhóndiga de Granaditas

What to do in Guanajuato, Mexico: Alhondiga de Granaditas

Guanajuato has a fascinating history, and you can visit the Alhóndiga de Granaditas to learn more about the city’s important role in the Mexican Wars of Independence. This large, stone-built warehouse was originally constructed by the Spanish to store grain, but its huge, thick walls also doubled as a fortress in times of crisis. 

In 1810, the highlands north of Mexico City were a tinderbox of revolution as Mexicans began to question their subservience to Spain. War was declared in nearby Dolores Hidalgo, and Spanish loyalists in Guanajuato quickly barricaded themselves in the Alhóndiga de Granaditas. 

On September 28, 1810, the revolutionary army stormed the warehouse – thanks to the help of Pípila and his flaming torch – in what became the grizzly opening shots of a war that lasted until 1821, when Mexico finally won its independence from Spain. 

The Alhóndiga de Granaditas is now preserved as a lasting tribute to the war, and inside, you’ll find the Regional Museum of Guanajuato. This is one of the best things to do in Guanajuato if you want to learn more about the origins of the revolution, the key players involved, and the fateful events in 1810 that kick-started the war. 

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4. Uncover the Tragic Romance of the Callejón del Beso (Alley of the Kiss)

Unique Things to do in Guanajuato, Mexico: Alley of the Kiss

Guanajuato is a city of strange tales, romanticism, and curious local legends. One of the most famous tales you’ll hear about during your stay in the city is of the antics that occurred in El Callejón del Beso, or the Alley of the Kiss. 

The city is known for its tight alleyways, steep inclines, and narrow, winding streets. Callejón del Beso is one of the narrowest streets, with opposing balconies built so close together that you can literally lean from one to the other, perhaps for a kiss!

Find the alley in question, and you’ll realize instantly how Guanajuato’s Romeo and Juliet-style legend came about. As the story goes, on one side of the alley lived a wealthy family with a well-to-do daughter who fell for the lower-class man who lived on the other side of the street. 

The two would converse and kiss over the balconies, but as you’d expect, the story does not end in a fairytale romance, but in the brutal deaths of the protagonists when their families discovered their love for each other. The class divide just couldn’t be crossed in 19th-century Mexico.

Today, the Alley of the Kiss is one of the most famous Guanajuato attractions, and there’s always a long line of lovers waiting to take photographs on the balconies. 

5. Hang Out in the Jardín de la Unión

Fun Things to do in Guanajuato, Mexico: Jardin de La Union

Guanajuato is sandwiched between hilltops, and the winding, often confusing streets can quickly become slightly claustrophobic when you’re on your feet sightseeing all day. Take some time out in the Jardín de la Unión, Guanajuato’s premier public plaza.

Located by the San Diego Church, Jardín de la Unión is a triangular park lined by impressive 19th-century buildings which attempt to emulate the European styles that were popular at the time. These elegant townhouses are now home to boutique hotels, cafes, restaurants, and bars, many of which have wonderful rooftop terraces. 

Take a seat at a cafe, relax, and soak up the atmosphere of the Jardín de la Unión while you recharge your batteries. This is where many walking tours begin, while in the evenings, you’ll hear the sounds of live bands and musicians, as well as the dulcet tones of the iconic Callejoneadas, Guanajuato’s famed troubadours. 

6. Visit Guanajuato’s Colorful Basilica

Must do things in Guanajuato, Mexico: Basilica

Guanajuato is a city of churches and cathedrals, but none are quite so colorful as the iconic basilica. With its red dome and towering yellow belfries, you won’t miss this beautiful 17th-century church in Plaza de la Paz.

Built between 1671 and 1696, the official name is the Collegiate Basilica of Our Lady of Guanajuato. Supposedly, the icon of the Virgin Mary inside dates back to the 8th century AD, when the Spanish were waging war against the Moors. 

It was brought over during the colonization of Mexico and is now known as the image of Our Lady of Guanajuato. Admire the exterior architecture, then pop inside for a look at the lavish interior of Guanajuato’s most famous church and one of the most iconic Guanajuato attractions. 

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7. Explore the Tantalizing Tastes of Mercado Hidalgo

Best Things to do in Guanajuato, Mexico: Mercado Hidalgo

The most fun things to do in Guanajuato always seem to involve food, which we have to say, we’re more than happy about! The Mercado Hidalgo is one such Guanajuato sightseeing attraction, where you can lose yourself in the tantalizing tastes and aromas of the city’s largest undercover market. 

This is the perfect place to fuel up in the morning before your Guanajuato itinerary really begins, or it makes for an excellent lunch stop partway through the day. Outside, you’ll be drawn into the sit-down restaurants by waiters with menus packed with local specialties (try the enchiladas mineras!). While inside, you can take a seat at a torta counter and order your pick of the oversized sandwiches stuffed with meats and vegetables and layered with salsa. 

And among the food stands and kitchens, you’ll find market stalls selling all manner of fruit, vegetables, household goods, and souvenirs. Whatever you need, you’ll probably find it at Mercado Hidalgo. 

The market is located just around the corner from the Alhóndiga de Granaditas – just look for the colorful red and yellow exterior that’s plastered to the rafters with the menus of all the chefs cooking up a storm inside!

Stroll through Mercado Hidalgo

8. Enjoy a Performance at Teatro Juárez

Fun Things to do in Guanajuato, Mexico: Teatro Juarez

One of the grandest Guanajuato attractions is the Teatro Juárez. You’ll find this extravagant theater hall next to Jardín de la Unión, which is without a doubt the most prestigious area of the city. 

The tall Greco-Roman columns and the glitzy Neoclassical facade are sublimely in tune with the Belle Epoch architecture of the Jardín de la Unión, and the theater is a fitting tribute to a time when Guanajuato was one of the wealthiest cities in Mexico. 

The theater – named for Benito Juárez, Mexico’s first indigenous president – dates back to 1872, although the intricate architectural design ensured that it was never fully completed until 1903. Take a peek inside for a look at the equally lavish interior designed for the tastes of Porfirio Díaz, the Mexican general (and effective dictator) who served as president until 1911.  

Better yet, if you’re looking for cultural things to do in Guanajuato, book yourself a ticket to a matinee or evening performance. There’s always a full schedule of events at Teatro Juárez throughout the year, and while the majority of performances will be in Spanish, there are a smattering of English-language events too. 

9. Visit the Diego Rivera House and Museum

Diego Rivera is one of Mexico’s most iconic artists, and the famed muralist and painter was born right here in Guanajuato. Known for his realist frescoes and his tumultuous relationship with fellow Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, you can visit the Diego Rivera House and Museum to learn more about his early life and earliest works. 

Diego Rivera was born in a Guanajuato townhouse in 1886. His twin brother died just two years later, and Rivera and his family moved to Mexico City a few years after this. 

But despite his short stay in the city, the experience was incredibly formative for his later work and life. He even made his first childhood drawings and paintings in the family home that’s now the Diego Rivera House and Museum.

Visit the museum today, and you’ll find an extensive collection of Rivera artwork on permanent display, as well as exhibitions devoted to his childhood and his later relationship with Frida Kahlo, which often overshadowed his own work. The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions and galleries exploring Mexican art history or the work of contemporary artists in Guanajuato. 

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10. Revel in the Myths, Romance, and Legends of the Singing Callejoneadas

Must do things in Guanajuato, Mexico: Callejoneadas

In 1881, the enterprising students of the University of Guanajuato began a tradition that’s since become timeless. Every day, from 4 pm until 10 pm, the famed Callejoneadas lead singing and dancing tours of Guanajuato’s callejones (the city’s alleyways), revealing tales of myth, legend, romance, and more!

This is one of the must-do things in Guanajuato, as the musicians continue the troubadour traditions that the Spanish brought with them to Mexico. Dressed in historic university outfits (known as “tuna”), the Callejoneadas are armed with folk stories, guitars, cellos, accordions, and wonderful singing voices. 

What to do in Guanajuato, Mexico: Callejoneadas

This is where you’ll hear famous local stories like the Romeo and Juliet-style exploits that occurred on the balconies in the Callejon del Beso. Departing from the Teatro Juárez by the Jardín de la Unión, be warned, this is a tour that involves audience participation. 

As the custom dictates, men are given a clay jug filled with drink, women are presented with a rose, and you’ll be expected to sing and dance to your heart’s content as you explore the alleyways of Guanajuato with the singing troubadours!

Callejoneada Tickets

11. Venture into the Dark Depths of the Valenciana Silver Mine

Guanajuato, Mexico Things to do: Valencia Silver Mine

Since time immemorial, the ore-rich hills and mountains of Guanajuato have been mined for their precious metals. The Spanish industrialized the process of extracting silver from the extensive seams found below the surface, although the Aztecs were also known to have mined the region for its metal resources long before this.

In fact, Guanajuato was built on mining. The profits of the trade brought great wealth to a select few families, funding the lavish mansions and haciendas you find in and around the city today. Mining seeped into the culture of Guanajuato, too. Pípila, the famed hero of the Mexican Wars of Independence was a miner, and enchiladas mineras (mining enchiladas) is a local specialty you have to try in restaurants.

You also need to visit the Valenciana Silver Mine, which is one of the top things to do in Guanajuato. Almost two-thirds of the entire quantity of silver ever mined in Guanajuato came from this single mine after a huge seam was discovered here in the 16th century. Join a tour, and you can venture down into the narrow mine shafts that extend some 200 feet below the surface of the earth. 

You’ll hear harrowing tales of fatal accidents and narrow escapes, experience the darkness and claustrophobia firsthand, and leave with a newfound respect for those forced to work in such conditions. You might even see the mummified remains of a miner. 

12. Visit the Macabre Museum of the Mummies 

Best Things to do in Guanajuato, Mexico: Museum of the Mummies

A visit to the Museum of the Mummies is one of the more macabre things to do in Guanajuato. The region’s dry climate and relatively high altitude ensure that human bodies are well-preserved after death, but while the mummies of ancient Egypt are thousands of years old, the mummies of Guanajuato are a rather more recent affair. 

Visit the Museum of the Mummies, and you’ll see the mummified remains of Guanajuato locals from the 19th century. Many are still known and visited by their descendants, adding to the surreal experience. 

Cool Things to do in Guanajuato, Mexico: Museum of the Mummies

The first mummies date back to a cholera outbreak in 1833 that decimated the city. Many of the unfortunate victims were thrown into mass graves, and when they were later exhumed for proper burials, they’d been naturally mummified by the conditions. 

Many more were added to the museum through the 19th century, as locals were forced to rent burial spots in the cemeteries on an ongoing basis. If you couldn’t keep up with the payments, the local council would often remove the now-mummified body and place it into storage, with the storehouse now being the site of the museum. It’s an eerie attraction and one for the dark tourists out there. 

Museums of Guanajuato Private Tour

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13. Discover Guanajuato’s Love for Don Quixote 

Fun Things to do in Guanajuato, Mexico: Don Quixote

As a popular university city, Guanajuato has long had a fascination with art and literature. This creative side shines through when you discover the city’s love for Don Quixote, the fictional knight created by 16th-century Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes.

In Guanajuato, you’ll find a statue of Don Quixote and his faithful squire, Sancho Panza. The city also hosts a yearly literature and arts festival (El Cervantino) inspired by the words of Cervantes. Attending El Cervantino is easily one of the coolest things to do in Guanajuato if you happen to be in town during the month of October! 

Unique Things to do in Guanajuato, Mexico: Don Quixote

Guanajuato is known as the “Cervantes Capital” of the Americas, and you can learn more about this unique love affair by visiting the city’s Don Quixote Iconographic Museum. This quirky museum contains an enormous collection of Don Quixote and Cervantes-themed artwork and memorabilia collected over a lifetime by Eulalio Ferrer. 

He moved to Guanajuato as a refugee fleeing the Spanish Civil War, and the only thing he carried was a small copy of Don Quixote. As he became successful, he spent his money amassing Don Quixote-themed and inspired books, artwork, and relics, and he left the collection to the city in his will!  

14. Hike to Cerro de la Bufa

If your legs aren’t too tired from the endless cobblestone streets and relentless hills of Guanajuato, then we’ve got an epic hike for you to tackle.

This is one of the best outdoor things to do in Guanajuato, and you’ll love the fresh mountain air as you hike to the summit of Cerro de la Bufa. This prominent outcrop of rocks involves around 2 hours of uphill walking from the city, although you can make things easier by taking the funicular to the Pípila Monument first. 

In total, it’s around 5 miles there and back from the trailhead. Take plenty of water, a few takeaway burritos perhaps, and don’t forget your sense of adventure. When you reach Cerro de la Bufa, you’ll be rewarded with an outstanding panoramic view of the valley below and the mountains all around!

15. Explore Mexican History on the Ruta de la Independencia

What to do in Guanajuato, Mexico: Explore Mexican History on the Ruta de La Independencia

The central highlands are brimming with history, and after exploring the must-do things in Guanajuato, you’ll be well aware of the role the region played in Mexican Independence.

If stories of Pípila and the Alhóndiga de Granaditas have piqued your interest, then why not join a tour of the Ruta de la Independencia (the “Independence Route”)? This tourist trail takes visitors from Guanajuato to important sites where key events in the Mexican Wars of Independence occurred.

You’ll start by driving to Dolores Hidalgo, the small city where Mexican Independence was declared in 1810 by local priest Miguel Hidalgo (after whom the city is now named). See where he gave his famous “Cry of Dolores,” visit the Independence Museum, and visit his former home-turned-museum. 

Next up is the Sanctuary of Atotonilco, a holy shrine known for its healing waters. As local stories have it, this is where the leaders of the revolution blessed and raised icons and banners as they prepared for their march to war. From here, it’s a short drive into the UNESCO World Heritage city of San Miguel de Allende, where you can visit the family home of local hero Ignacio Allende, who played a pivotal role in the war. 

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There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Guanajuato. What’s your favorite thing to do in Guanajuato?

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