One Day (and Gluten-Free!) in Guanajuato, Mexico Guide
Arrival - Leon, MX
We landed in Leon, Mexico, as is the closest airport to Guanajuato. Leon is an industrial city, home to a strong leather industry, and is considered one of Mexico’s most environmentally friendly cities. It’s clean and there is virtually no homelessness (due to the number of jobs seemingly always available). We were told that you could virtually quit a job in the morning, and get a new one by the afternoon. Although we had a great time shopping at the local malls, eating home-style Italian food at Peperonata (with amazing gluten-free options/highly recommended!), as well as eating worm and ant egg tacos (insects are naturally gluten-free/sustainable, but not my first choices for protein) at Restaurante Los Agaves. It is a city built more for your international businessman/woman than for tourists, but the quaint town of Guanajuato is just an hour away by taxi, and costs around $40 to travel to on average.
Guanajuato is an old colonial city, college town, and the birthplace of the famous muralist, Diego Rivera. This city is full of history, color, culture, food, and fun. It is built on a series of tunnels, originally designed to prevent flooding, which nearly wiped out the city twice before. The underground tunnels have since been transformed into actual roads, leaving very little surface space above ground. We haven’t stopped thinking about it since we left, and hope to return back soon, especially for Dia de Los Muertos. This is how to do it all, and do it right traveling to Guanajuato in just one day…
Since we came into town on a Saturday afternoon, we had few options left for hotels. Hotel Boutique 1850 was one of the few left with open rooms and cost us $150 for the night. It had great reviews online, and although we could have opted for a less expensive option across town through Airbnb, we decided to stay at this gem and I am glad we did. It is opulent, with friendly and informative staff (also English speaking), and the architecture is something out of an Escher painting, complete with a gorgeous half indoor/outdoor pool — wish we had packed our swimming suits! The room felt like a suite, complete with complimentary drinks inside. After a great night’s sleep, we walked downstairs for breakfast, where we only saw fruit, bread, pastries, meat and cheeses laid out. These options did not leave us with much to work with celiac/intolerance wise until the waiter asked if we would like eggs, bacon, corn tortilla, y Mas. Si, por favor! Our frowns quickly turned upside down, and we got a big enough allergy friendly breakfast to satiate us until lunch time.
We went to a few different local coffee shops, and are sad to say we were happiest at the nearest Starbucks... womp womp. To be fair, they have alternative milk options, and it sits right next to the city center, or garden area, which is perfecto for people watching. We are hoping to return and try out more local coffee shops next time.
Things to Do
You can walk (ahem… hike) up to this famous landmark statue and vista over Guanajuato, or you can simply take the adorable funicular up for $2/person, roundtrip. The 360-degree view is phenomenal, and you will notice and love the little artisan shops waiting for you at the top.
Since we visited in early November, some of the Dia de Los Muertos decorations (a famous holiday celebrated in Mexico, which celebrates the deceased on November 1st each year) were still up from the week prior. The cemetery itself is large, gorgeously rich in color, and the views of the city are amazing. I look forward to making it out here during the actual holiday at some point since it is certainly an experience! What’s strange about this particular cemetery, however, is that 1/100 bodies interred in the cemetery become naturally mummified. There are quite a few theories as to why this occurs (i.e., climate, being accidentally buried alive, etc). But, you are able to find and see these (now) mummies in the flesh, just next door at the adjoining Mummies of Guanajuato museum.
The most popular tourist attraction in the city. Remember how I mentioned that 1/100 bodies becomes mummified in the next-door cemetery? Well, in 1870, a law came into effect where survivors were forced to pay for perpetual burial. Authorities began exhuming the bodies of those who couldn’t afford to pay. They stored the mummified bodies in a room, where visitors began paying to see them. In 1970, a proper space was opened in the museum for the mummies to be viewed. It is now the largest collection of mummies on the western hemisphere (watch out Egypt), including home to the smallest mummy in the world (kind of cute?).
We tried, oh how we tried to visit the University, but unfortunately it was closed for the weekend. It’s beautiful from the outside, so I can’t expect anything less from the inside. La proxima vez (next time)!
What a treat! This museum was $2/person to get in. Diego lived here until he was about 6 years old. It hosts a range of his early work and sketches to some of his later masterpieces. It is three floors, the first being his actual house adorned with simple furniture and original decorations. The second and third floors have his work on display. Just don’t get caught taking pictures! I got a look of doom when I unknowingly tried.
Church was in sesh when we attempted to visit. But it looked absolutely beautiful, inside and out, and it is a huge landmark, basically impossible to miss. Get your prayer on!
Lunch and Shopping
This market is constantly buzzing with vendors and buyers, and was recommended to us by multiple people. It’s both the tourist’s and non-tourists dream. With the first floor filled with various food stalls, and second floor showcasing crafts and other locally made goods for you to spend your hard earned pesos on. Lunch? Get to the food stalls. You won’t regret trying out some of the local fair, from elotes (corn) to tacos al pastor (beef tacos).
The restaurant we were initially recommended, Casa Mercedes, was unfortunately completely booked. So, I asked the person at that same restaurant to recommend his favorite restaurant, which for him is Los Campos. Since we couldn’t find their phone number online, we decided to physically walk-in and make a reservation. Luckily, we grabbed their last reservation of the evening. Que delicioso! For $20, we shared an amazing appetizer of veggies, a fabulous chicken dinner, and sipped margaritas, tea, espresso and even had dessert — all gluten and dairy-free!
There are quite a few bars to check out, and even some clubs (if that’s your thing), but out of all, we were most pleased with the following…
This has one of the best views in the city, I think. I loved just sitting up on the roof during the day and watching the colors change on the building through sunset. Order yourself a Mexican flag or “Bandera and Sangrita," which is a shot each of white tequila blanca, green lime juice, and red sangrita (a tomato based chaser). You’ll be saluting the flag in no time!
We accidentally stumbled upon this hipster gem, when we heard good music playing from the street. I am so glad we did. It was a few stories tall and you could explore each area, with a bar and/or restaurant on each floor, and a beautiful rooftop bar for cigarette smoking hipsters in Converse. We will definitely return back here.
Had we known that our flight would be delayed (…only 12 hours without any forewarning or update while we were sitting pretty in the airport — thanks Volaris), perhaps we would have had more time to explore this gorgeous city.
Gracias, y nos vemos, Guanajuato!