Attractions in Queretaro, Mexico: What to do and where to go
Queretaro has witnessed many important stages in Mexican history and has lots of fantastic historic monuments and interesting places to discover. The Historic Center of this city was declared by UNESCO, in 1996, as a World Cultural Heritage Site because of the rich architecture of the many 17th and 18th century religious and civic buildings located here.
This colonial city has lots of cultural attractions, as well as the opportunity to enjoy many activities in the great outdoors including, city tours, fairs and traditional celebrations held throughout the year. There are also water parks, amazing towns in the surrounding areas, and even archeological sites. In Queretaro, every day presents the chance to learn something new and to participate in plenty of fun activities.
The Historic CenterThe magnificent Historic Center of Santiago de Queretaro is one of the eight Historic Centers in Mexico that have been declared as World Cultural Heritage Sites by UNESCO. Its glorious temples and convents (nowadays many of them are museums), splendid houses dating back to the seventeenth and eighteenth century, old traditional cobblestone streets and alleys, along with ornate plazas and gardens, are proof of Queretaro's rich and intriguing colonial past. Walking through the clean streets and alleyways is more than a usual vacation, it is exploring history first hand. When you visit Queretaro, you'll really get to see Mexico's rich illustrious history.
The Aqueduct spans the Bernardo Quintana Boulevard, and it's a real symbol of pride for the people of Queretaro. It is considered the city's most important urban construction of the eighteenth century and was built in order to easily bring in fresh water. The construction began in 1726 and took 9 years to be completed. Made of pink quarry stone, the aqueduct features 74 arches reaching up to 23 meters in height and measuring up to 1280 meters long. Even today, the city's water supply still arrives via the aqueduct where it is stored in 10 public fountains and 60 private ones, which are situated throughout the city. The construction of the 70 fountains was completed in 1738.
The Temple of La Santa Cruz
The Temple (and convent) of la Santa Cruz dates back to the seventeenth century and was constructed on the site where the city of Queretaro finally surrendered to the Spaniards. Today, one of its main attractions, aside from its historical significance, is the cross shape spines that grow in the shrubs of its gardens. The convent still remains open to this day and is home to religious students. Guided tours are available so you can explore the convent, the small art gallery, and see the room where Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico spent his last night before his execution.
San Felipe Neri Temple (The Cathedral)
With its impressive architecture the San Felipe Neri Temple is located on Madero Street on the outskirts of the Historic Center. This impressive building made of red tezontle (a volcanic rock), marks the transition of styles from baroque to neoclassic. In the nineteenth century, when the construction was finished, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla held the first mass at this magnificent structure. In 1921 the San Felipe Neri Temple was finally given the status of a cathedral by Pope Benedict XV. It is very common for visitors to mistakenly think the eye-catching Temple of San Francisco, located in front of the beautiful Zenea Garden, in the heart of the Historic Center, is the city's cathedral.
The Temple of Santa Clara
El Real Convento de Santa Clara de Jesus (as it is known is Spanish) was built to provide the granddaughter of the city's founder with a place for her religious studies. From the outside this baroque construction, that was once partially destroyed, looks quite plain and nondescript, however, once inside the small building it is absolutely amazing. The striking splendor of the altarpieces that literally cover the walls is a truly spectacular visual spectacle. Made of gold and stone, each altarpiece is unique featuring intricate carvings and beautiful stonework.
The Temple of Santa Rosa de Viterbo
This magnificent temple that features remarkable Arabic influences, is considered the most exuberant and original example of Moresque architecture in Queretaro. It has an unusual exterior design that features typical elements of Gothic architecture, such as the buttress finished off in a kidney shape, burlesque masks, and the tower has a cone shaped roof. The carved doors and the unique altarpieces as well as the ornamentation inside are also absolutely stunning. The cloister, fountain and exterior steps give a special decorative touch that is well worth seeing. The construction of the Santa Rosa de Viterbo Temple was finished in 1752 and it is definitely an architectural masterpiece, unique in style.
Queretaro Museum of Art (The Old Convent of San Agustin)Founded in 1728, the Old Convent of San Agustin was one of the most impressive constructions made by the Order of Saint Augustine in New Spain, at the height of the Baroque movement of the eighteen century. It is also one of the best examples of baroque architecture in Latin America. The old convent was restored in 1889 to house government offices, and since 1988 it has been the home of the Queretaro Museum of Art. Today, the museum exhibits national and European paintings and sculptures from between the seventeenth and twentieth century, with the temporary exhibition hall displaying the most recent trends in plastic arts.
The City Museum
The City Museum is situated inside the former convent of the Capuchin Nuns of San Jose de Gracia. This building dates back to 1771 and was used as a barracks during the application of the Reforma laws in 1861. The museum features different cultural elements that allow the visitor to gain a good appreciation of Queretaro's history and the exhibition halls are full of artistic and cultural pieces that are definitely worth viewing on your trip to this beautiful city.
Teatro de la Republica
The Teatro de la Republica (Theater of the Republic), a modest building, located on one of the small cobblestone streets of the Historic Center, is a must visit for any fan of history. It is a very important place for the Mexican people due to the fact that the national anthem was sung here for the first time, in 1854. Later, in 1867, it was the site of the trial of Maximilian I, where he and his generals were sentenced to death. Interestingly, on February 5th, 1917, the Mexican constitution was written and signed here.
Casonas (Affluent Colonial Homes)
Part of the attraction of colonial Queretaro's infrastructure is the numerous majestic Casonas found in the different areas of the city. Nowadays, they are luxurious hotels, government offices, museums, restaurants, or bars. Don't miss out on the opportunity to visit Casa de la Marquesa, a real architectural jewel of the city, or Casa de la Zacatecana that has a fascinating yet tragic history. La Casa de Don Bartolo, better known as the haunted house, Casa de Ecala, one of the most beautiful buildings in Queretaro, and Casa de los Cinco Patios, a place where many personalities of colonial times spent the night, are also all well worth visiting.
Cerro de las Campanas (The Hill of Bells)
This park is of great historic importance because it is here that the struggle ended between the Republic and the Spanish Empire. During the time of Emperor Maximilian of Habsburg, his generals Miguel Miramon and Tomas Mejia were executed here, by order of the War Court. This event resulted in the victory of the Republic, and the declaration of Mexico's sovereignty. Located, in this park, is a chapel commemorating the execution of Maximilian of Austria, which was built in 1901 by the Austrian government. Nowadays this beautiful park is open to the public and features a stunning monument of President Benito Juarez, built by the Mexican government in 1967.
El Cerrito Archeological Site
This area is located seven kilometers from the city of Queretaro. It is a pre-Hispanic settlement with distinct influences of the Teotihuacan. The name comes from the main structure that looks like a pyramidal plinth, which seen from afar appears to be a hill. The locals also call it, Piramide de El Pueblito or the Pyramid of the Little Town. Important archeological discoveries have been found in this area, such as sculptures, hieroglyphic calendars and statuettes. The site dates back to the beginning of the first millennium and ongoing restoration began in 1995.
Due to the large number of monuments in the city, Queretaro's Tourism Bureau and the local government offer several tours around the Historic Center and its surrounding areas.
If you really want to explore the buildings, Casonas (affluent colonial houses), and plazas of the Historic Center, then there is no better way than by taking a guided walking tour. In total there are three different kinds of walking tour on offer. Firstly the Legend Walking Tour is a great option, during which the guides wear outfits from the colonial era and recount historic legends and myths about colonial Mexico. There are also tours that focus specifically on the Historic Center of Queretaro. The last type of tour available is where visitors wear headsets and an ''audio guide'' provides information in several languages about the many monuments and buildings visited.
The trolley tours, with professional guides, are a superb option to admire the beauty of the city and to learn more about the historical tales and cultural highlights of old Queretaro, without having to walk around to much in the sun!
Traditional Fairs and Celebrations
Fairs, celebrations, festivals, competitions, and many other festivities are held year round in this cosmopolitan, yet traditional city. There are many important fairs, including Feria Internacional Queretaro (International Fair of Queretaro) held during September, the most famous livestock event in the entire country. In May of each year, there is also the Wine and Cheese National Fair, which is hosted by the main wineries and artisan cheese producers of the Tequisquiapan area.
The celebrations during September, the month of Mexican Independence, and the Holy Week, are of great importance to the city since they are two very big festivities for the Mexican people. The Danza de Concheros (Dance of the Concheros) is a traditional dance featuring hundreds of Chichimeca dancers, who perform during the festivities for the Virgin of the Santisima Cruz de los Milagros, in February. Also during the same month, the Coronation of the Sanctuary of the Virgin of the Small Town (Coronacion en el Santuario de la Virgen de El Pueblito) takes place, when hundreds of pilgrims come to the town to worship the Virgin.
The Magic Town of Villa de San Sebastian Bernal
This traditional town with colonial cobblestone streets, stunning old constructions, and magnificent natural beauty, is located just 34 miles from the city of Queretaro. While driving on the Queretaro-Bernal road, miles and miles before arriving to the Magic Town of Villa de San Sebastian Bernal (named so in 2006 by the Mexican government), you can see the third tallest monolith in the world, standing an incredible 1148 feet high, called Pena de Bernal.
The town offers the visitor a wide variety of attractions, including the monolith, which is the main attraction and perfect for climbing and zip lining from. There are also guided walking tours to fully explore the temples that date from between the seventeenth and nineteenth century. The artisan and food market is a great place to visit, where you can enjoy delicious dishes from the state, such as gorditas (a corn pocket stuffed with fillings), nopales en penca (stuffed cactus), cactus tortillas, and barbacoa (pit-baked lamb). You can also buy regional crafts, among which you'll find quartz, hand carved wooden pieces, and embroidered and wool garments.
Tequisquiapan is a small, picturesque town 36 miles southwest of Santiago de Queretaro, founded more than four centuries ago. Today, Tequisquiapan is 100 percent a tourist destination and for over two decades it has been the preferred vacation spot for the people of Mexico City. Tequis, the way the town is known by most Mexicans, has a good selection of hotels and a wide variety of restaurants (mainly regional cuisine), water parks, and many other activities for the whole family.
Around the colonial center, called Miguel Hidalgo Plaza, encircled by arches made of stone, you will find the Santa Maria de la Asuncion Temple and many picturesque stores and street vendors selling an interesting selection of handicrafts. The area also features lots of quaint restaurants, bars, and coffee shops. This is the most popular place in the entire town for tourists and locals to visit.
The water parks with thermal waters of Tequisquiapan are famous in the area. The refreshing pools, as well as the fun water slides, will definitely help you to forget the hustle and bustle of the big city.
Certain regions in the state of Queretaro have the perfect climate for winemaking. In particular there are two major wineries to visit, Cavas Freixenet and Vinedos La Redonda, where you can sample excellent 100% Mexican-made wines. Both places feature daily tours of their properties. At Cavas Freixenet they will show you round their awesome facilities and teach you about the entire winemaking process.
Located 82 feet underground, at Cavas Freixenet, there is an area holding hundreds of wine barrels. Here beneath the earth, the temperature and the humidity are perfect for storing wine. Both wineries are located in the southwest of the town of Bernal, less than an hour's drive from the city of Queretaro.
Queretana Cavalcade Route
The traditional Queretaro cavalcade is a four day journey that departs from the stunning Sierra Gorda mountain range, in the municipality of Jalpan de Serra, and finishes in the heart of Queretaro, passing through forests, grasslands, and desert along the way. The main objective is to recreate the experience of Mexico's forefathers during colonial times and also the battle against the Second Mexican Empire. This event is open to everyone, although those who love horses and nature will find it especially enjoyable. The Queretana Cavalcade is carried out every year between the 19th and 23rd of July and you don't have to do the whole route, you can join in anywhere along the way and complete as much as you like.
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