Wednesday, March 26, 2014

48 Hours in Queretaro

On our journeys through the cradles of Mexican Independence we visited Queretaro, the once capital of the nation, considered to be the safest city in Mexico and the most dynamic city in Latin America.

queretaro header aqueducts

We left behind San Miguel and arrived in Queretaro just over 2 days ago. Like the past 3 cities I have visited, Queretaro is brimming with history and considered to be part of the cradle of Mexican Independence. Not only that, it is apparently the safest city with the highest quality of life in Mexico. Plus, it was voted to be the most dynamic city in Latin America. As a medium sized city, I was recommended to spend 2-3 days here. In a city that ticks of so many boxes, how did we spend 48 hours in Queretaro?

SETTLING IN


We arrived in the early afternoon, picked up some pamphlets from the lobby and checked into our hotel room. Our hotel had a little welcome package on the table when we came into our room. How thoughtful. After being stuck on the coach bus theres nothing better than snuggling under your covers laying your head down on freshly laundered pillows for a quick power nap.

queretaro hotel rooms

Taking only a map of the city centre, we decided to spend the rest of the afternoon daylight strolling around the city centre. The best way to get a feel for any city is to get right into it with both feet. Almost every Latin American city has a Plaza De Armas, basically a main square that is a hub for activity, food and tourism advice. Once you find this square (which is hopefully near your hotel- it was just 5 minutes from ours), you can get the best advice on how to navigate the city and see the most important things.

queretaro park plaza de armas

THE VERDICT


Although much of the architecture was similar to San Miguel, I found that the "small town charm" of San Miguel was lost in this booming city. But nonetheless, we still had an adventure walking through the parks and winding alleyways. Walking through the Plaza de Armas we came across large letterings depicting "QUERETARO", which I thought was a fun opportunity for a photo.

queretaro sign with me

This city really caters to its tourists, once we found the manned tourist information box with both English and Spanish speaking personnel, we got some good recommendations for our full day tomorrow. Surrounding the entire square are fancy white tablecloth restaurants and staff in swanky attire. Some advice we got from some of the locals was the restaurants here were "all looks and no substance", and we should head into some of the side streets away from the main square for a more fulfilling meal.

queretaro very pretty back backstreet

DAY TWO


At the recommendation of the tourist box, we did a tram tour of the city. The tour was over 3 hours, and took us to all the city's districts. Queretaro is famous for its aqueducts. Standing at a height of 23 metres, over 1km long and 75 arches, the aqueducts are the most prominent feature of Queretaro. These aqueducts give Queretaro a little flair that is absent in most Mexican cities, just like a little piece of Rome was transported into the heart of Mexico.

queretaro aqueduct next to the street

The heart of Independent Mexico is buried in Queretaro. The tram tour took us to the Mausoleum of the Corregidora. The mausoleum which sits on a hill that overlooks Queretaro was constructed in remembrance of the heroes of the nation who fought for Mexican independence. The remains of Josefa Ortiz and her husband Miguel Ortiz lie here because they played an important part in the birth of the independent nation.

queretaro mausoleum park
queretaro mausoleum park

We were then taken to the Park of the Bells. Its is named so because many of the rocks in the park are made from old church bells. If you hit the right rock, it sounds like a bell ringing! The surrounding gardens and many statues are also gorgeous. In the centre of the park stands a huge 20 metre statue of Benito Juarez. Our tour guide told us this park is important because this was where Maximilian Hapsburg, the emperor of Mexico was executed, as ordered by Benito Juarez (the guy who has a huge statue dedicated to him in this park. How morbid). As we learnt from the tour, this city brims with history, from every park, hill and square. This is where it happened. The rest of the tour was spent showing us the significant churches around the city, the residences of prominent figures, and other bits and pieces of the city.

queretaro park of the bells

THE MORNING BEFORE DEPARTURE


We spent our final half day here visiting the Museum of Arts. The museum sits right in the city centre and was recommended by both the tourist box and tram guide. The museum, which was previously a monastery, has some of the best Baroque architecture which I think is worth a visit in itself. Holding the most extensive collection in the city, it took us a total of 2.5 hours to walk through. It features a number of permanent and temporary exhibitions from pre-Colombian artefacts to colonial art and preserved fossils.

queretaro museum of the arts elephant bones

IS IT REALLY THE MOST DYNAMIC CITY OF LATIN AMERICA?


I think Queretaro had a lot to live up to. I enjoyed Queretaro, but in a completely different way to Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende. The bustling freeways and outskirts of the city made me feel like I was in another boring industrial town, but the heart of the city with its stunning plazas and gorgeous greenery, plus all its colonial history gave it an atmosphere like I was sent back in time. It doesn't have the small town charm of Guanajuato and San Miguel, but Queretaro is clean, safe and there are plenty of things to do to keep you occupied for a few days.

queretaro park very green and pretty

Image attribution:
"Acueductos Ciudad de Querétaro, México" by Gipsdile // CC BY-SA 3.0 *
* changes were made to the original materials

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