24 Hours in Guanajuato, Mexico: The Perfect Itinerary for One Day

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Last Updated on March 9, 2024 by Paroma

If you planning to spend one day in Guanajuato and are scrambling to make the best of your 24 hours in this magical city in Mexico, rest assured that I have you covered. Having just returned from spending  the most memorable 24 hours in Guanajuato, my one day itinerary is not only practical and doable, but filled with hidden gems and nuggets of wisdom on how to make this short stay of yours count. Keep on reading to find out how to find the best things to do in Guanajuato during your one day visit to make lasting memories.

 

One day in Guanajuato: see the View of Guanajuato from El Pipila

 

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EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW TO PLAN YOUR ONE DAY IN GUANAJUATO, MEXICO

Guanajuato, located at the foothills of the Sierra Madre Oriental mountains, is not the first city that comes to mind while traveling to Mexico, especially for first time visitors. Destinations such as Mexico City, Cancun, Tulum, Oaxaca, Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas are the more popular touristy destinations which everyone seems to rave about. On the other hand, Guanajuato continues to stay under the radar, often in the shadows of the well known city of San Miguel de Allende which is the darling of North American expats (the two cities remain separated by an hour and a half drive). 

 

Plaza de La Paz, Guanajuato, Mexico: must see during your 24 hours in Guanajuato

 

But if you plan to visit San Miguel de Allende (by reading my fabulous guide) and skip Guanajuato completely, you will be doing yourself a great disservice. Guanajuato is that low key cousin of San Miguel de Allende that has it all minus the crazy influx of tourists-art, grandiose colonial architecture, dazzling bold colors, lovely museums and delicious, affordable food without the jacked up prices in San Miguel. It also helps that the city historic center and the nearby mines were proclaimed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988.

 

Known for its silver mining history, unique underground tunnels, steep cobbled streets and bustling plazas, you are sure to be wowed by the sights and sounds of zona Centro when you spend 24 hours in Guanajuato. And, here is everything you need to know to plan a trip there:

 

HOW TO GET TO GUANAJUATO

Time for a geography lesson: Guanajuato is located in central Mexico and is the capital city of the state by the same name. The state itself is flanked by Jalisco in the west (home to Guadalajara and the village of Tequila which I visited in 2019),  Zacatecas to the northwest, San Luis Potosí to the north, Querétaro to the east, and Michoacán to the south. The closest airport to Guanajuato is Leon/Guanajuato Airport (BJX) which is about 14 miles away from the city center (zona Centro).

 

Most major airlines from USA fly into BJX via Mexico city or Houston. You could also catch a flight to Mexico City (from the Autobuses del Norte/North bus station stop) and then take a bus to Guanajuato. The round trip journey costs about 93 USD and takes approximately 4 hours 45 minutes. The buses are clean and spacious and have bathrooms onboard. Get your tickets in advance online from the Primera Plus website for your one day to Guanajuato trip.

 

If you live in the Bay Area in California, you are in luck cause there is a direct flight from Oakland Airport (OAK) to BJX which is offered by the low cost, budget airline Volaris. The upside is the direct, 3 hour 40 minutes flight to BJX while the downside is paying for everything including seat selection and carry on luggage (another reason why you should travel light) as well as the very much real possibility of delayed flights.

 

Once you arrive at BJX airport, you can take a taxi to the city center or ask your hotel to arrange for a pickup shuttle. I paid 910 MX pesos (~53 USD) to the driver of the shuttle arranged by my hotel. You could also get UBER to your destination from the airport. Depending on the traffic, it takes about 20-40 minutes to get to Guanajuato city center from BJX airport. Have enough cash on you for your ride (the airport has ATMS to withdraw money in the local currency/pesos).

 

best things to do in Guanajuato-plaza de Los angeles

 

 

WHAT IS THE BEST TIME OF THE YEAR TO VISIT GUANAJUATO?

Guanajuato witnesses a semiarid weather, with March-May being the hot, dry months and a warm, mild winter that lasts from November-February. Rainy season is typically in summer (starts from June) and can continue to October. Anytime is a great time to visit Guanajuato, but I recommend the shoulder months of Feb-May. I personally visited in February and enjoyed the warm, balmy winter weather. Fall is also an excellent time to visit this city to experience the El Cervantino festival.

 

what to do in Guanajuato in 24 hours

 

IS IT SAFE TO VISIT GUANAJUATO?

The answer is a resounding yes and I say this as a female traveler who visited this city on her own. The city center is well lit as are the streets and pretty busy even during the late hours of the night and I never felt unsafe walking around. Take general precautions as you would in any new city and you will be fine. I found the people to be extremely friendly and helpful, which made my 24 hours in Guanajuato even more memorable.

 

IS ONE DAY IN GUANAJUATO ENOUGH?

Believe it or not, there is a lot that Guanajuato offers within the city center itself and one day might seem a bit rushed. But with the right amount of planning you can make your 24 hours in Guanajuato highly productive and enjoyable with quite a bit of sightseeing, shopping and good food. For a more relaxed trip, I recommend spending at least two full days in this colonial city oozing with cultural charm.

 

One day in Guanajuato: the perfect itinerary

 

WHERE TO STAY IN GUANAJUATO

Guanajuato has hotels for all budgets. I stayed in the heart of zona Centro at Casona Alonso 10 which boasts of an unbeatable location. This boutique hotel is beautiful with spacious rooms, free WIFI, a popular restaurant and a delicious breakfast that is included in your stay. I have to reiterate that the breakfast, with fresh fruits (that come with yoghurt, home made granola and honey) plus a main dish of chilaquiles or eggs done different ways is one of the best I ever had and is 100% worth trying even if you don’t stay at the hotel.

 

The hotel is aesthetically extremely pleasing with a decor that’s a blend of old school colonial charm meets lots of greenery and the staff is extremely friendly. My only gripe is that being located on a super busy street next to a nightclub, it got quite noisy at night, but if you can sleep through that (the hotel also provides ear plugs), then definitely book a stay here.

 

Here are some other highly rated hotels in Guanajuato (mix of boutique, historical and affordable with centralized location): 1850 Hotel Boutique, Nueve 25 Hotel Boutique, Edelmira Hotel Boutique, Hotel de La Paz, Casa de Tillie, Hotel Méson del Rosario, El Méson de los Poetas

 

where to stay in Guanajuato, mexico

 

FOOLPROOF TIPS TO SPEND 24 HOURS IN GUANAJUATO

In no particular order, here are some very useful things to keep in mind while prepping for your one day trip to Guanajuato. You will thank me for these:

1) Have enough cash on you: I cannot emphasize on this enough because unlike San Miguel de Allende or Mexico City where credit cards are more widely accepted, cash is still king when it comes to doing most things in Guanajuato. Be it dining out, visiting museums and local food market or taxi rides (to and from airport or anywhere), people seem to just want cold, hard cash (pesos).

 

I recommend having a debit card handy to withdraw cash from one of the ATMs at the airport or near Plaza De La Paz cause you will get a much better USD to Pesos exchange rate their compared to the airport currency exchange center (as of Feb 2024, 17.12 Pesos=1 USD). Your bank might be charged a convenience fee for this cash withdrawal so I suggest withdrawing about 2000 Mexican Pesos at a time which should be sufficient for one person’s stay for 1 day in Guanajuato.

 

2) Wear sturdy walking shoes, i.e. sneakers and ditch those heels or flip flops. Streets in Guanajuato are steep with lots of ups and downs and are cobbled to the core. Your gams will get a workout as you roam around the city during your one day Guanajuato trip.

 

3) With only one day in hand, try to restrict your sightseeing within Zona Centro (city center). Although a famous attraction, the Museum of Mummies is not exactly in the city center and you might need to catch a taxi/Uber or walk about 30 minutes to get there. I suggest exploring the other equally charming museums in the city center and not planning any sightseeing that takes you too far away.

 

4) My taxi driver who picked me up from the airport sagely advised me to not rely on Google Maps to find my way around Guanajuato, thanks to its winding streets that go up, down and their merry way. I have to say that I did end up using Google Maps quite a bit since my Spanish is very rudimentary and I am unbelievably directionally challenged. It really didn’t let me down but it did get a bit tricky to fathom the general direction from time to time because of ups and downs with connectors between streets. Just use your common sense and you’ll be good. Locals are extremely friendly and if you know some Spanish, you won’t have any problems finding your way.

 

5) Unless you are visiting in summer, carry a light jacket with you especially for late Winter/Spring travel. Always check the weather and carry an umbrella if need be. Many hotels also provide one for their guests to use during their duration of stay.

 

6) Tipping is a common practice in Mexico, owing to its close proximity to USA and influx of American visitors. Guanajuato is not as touristy as San Miguel de Allende, but even then a 15% tip is pretty commonplace especially for sit-down dining. You can tip with card or cash.

 

How to spend the perfect 24 hours in Guanajuato: one day itinerary

 

BEST THINGS TO DO IN GUANAJUATO IN ONE DAY: THE PERFECT 24 HOURS ITINERARY

STROLL THROUGH PLAZA DE LA PAZ

This is the most prominent, central plaza in Guanajuato Centro and is teeming with life, restaurants, roadside cafes, vendors, attractions and stores. I highly recommend starting your one day in Guanajuato adventure by walking through the plaza and taking in the sights and sounds

 

plaza de la paz, guanajuato is a must see during your 24 hours in this city

 

ADMIRE THE CHURCHES

Christianity is woven into the daily fabric of Mexico and so it is not surprising to find an abundance of churches in most towns and Guanajuato is no exception. The churches are colorful and ornate and definitely worth a visit when mass is not in progress. The most prominent one that you cannot miss and is visually arresting is the canary yellow Basilica Colegiata de Nuestra Señora de Guanajuato on Plaza De La Paz. This is a 17th century church and is home to the statue of the Virgin Mary from the 8th century. 

 

Two other extremely beautiful churches within walking distance are Templo de la Compañía de Jesús Oratorio de San Felipe Neri (a gothic style Catholic church) and the brick red colored Templo de San Francisco, near the Don Quixote museum (another must visit). Since the museum (named Museo Iconográfico del Quijote) is not to be missed, it won’t hurt to stop by and admire the church as well.

 

CHECK OUT JARDIN DE UNION

This slice of green is right near Plaza De La Paz and makes for a nice rest stop after a lot of exploration on foot. You can also enjoy some live music in this tiny garden since a lot of musicians come and entertain locals and tourists with their performance.

 

GET A TOUR OF THE TEATRO JUAREZ

This performing arts building is right across from the Union garden and boasts of a breathtaking beautiful exterior with Greco-Roman columns. You can buy tickets and enjoy a show here or even better, check out the equally beautiful interior for about 30-35 pesos.

 

teatro Juarez Guanajuato

 

CHECK OUT THE MUSEUMS 

Guanajuato has some stunning museums in Zona Centro with some very modest entry fee (30-35 pesos) which you absolutely cannot miss. First, most of these museums are small and typically can be covered in an hour or so. Second, these museums are absolutely unique and iconic and so will only enhance your one day in Guanajuato experience by manyfold. Here are the ones I absolutely recommend based on my visit:

 

MUSEO CASA DIEGO RIVERA (Diego Rivera’s house museum): The world famous painter and muralist Diego Rivera is known for his epic nationalist murals and of course for being the husband of the equally talented Frida Kahlo. Although Mexico City is where you can see his gigantic murals (all for free), this gem of a museum is actually his home, i.e. where he was born and spent the first six years of his life.

 

This museum comprises two floors-the first is a replication of the different rooms in the house with the original furniture and artifacts and the second floor is an exhibit of his lesser known artwork that he created in Europe which is influenced by Picasso’s cubism and Italian Avant Garde movement. During my visit, there was an additional exhibit of another famous Mexican artist’s paintings in an adjacent room. This museum is a must visit for art and Diego lovers and costs 30 pesos for entry with a 6 minute introductory video playing on loop. Photography is not allowed on the second floor.

 

Diego Rivera house museum is a must see for your 1 day in Guanajuato trip

 

MUSEO DEL PUEBLO DE GUANAJUATO (Museum of the People): If you make a right on Positos street after visiting the Diego Rivera House Museum, then you will be greeted with two more museums out of which I highly recommend exploring this stunning museum (the erstwhile home of the Marquis of Rayas) which is home to artwork by local artists and the British artist Leonora Carrington whose works on surrealism are a visual treat.

 

After you pay the entry fee of 30 (could be 35) pesos, step into a beautiful bright courtyard that will lead you to several exhibit rooms showcasing religious, historical and contemporary art from Mexico’s various periods on the first and second floor. During my visit I saw artwork on the theme of death by over 180 local artists and some of the most stunning paintings and sculpture by Leonora Carrington (British by birth who adopted Mexico as her home).

 

Enshrined within the museum is a small chapel boasting of a gargantuan mural titled “Guanajuatense Triptych” by muralist José Chávez Morado which shows evolution of Mexico to a modern day democracy and is a visual delight!

 

Museum of the People, Guanajuato

 

 

MUSEO ICONOGRAFICO DEL QUIJOTE (Don Quixote Museum): The adventures of Don Quixote and his loyal steed Sancho Panza by the Spanish auteur Cervantes is one of the most translated books of all time (I even saw an exhibit on this in San Juan, Puerto Rico). This museum is totally dedicated to the art and valor of Don Quixote through paintings, murals and sculptures, as visualized by dozens of artists.

 

This single largest collection of art dedicated to Don Quixote is due to the generous donation by Eulalio Ferrer who was forced to flee his home during the Spanish Civil War as a 19 year old and chanced upon this book during his stay in a French refugee camp. His obsession with the book led to this massive art collection which he donated to the city of Guanajuato in 1987. The museum currently boasts of a gift/bookstore and the entry fee is 30 pesos.

 

Best things to do in Guanajuato in 24 hours: visit the Don quixote museum

 

MUSEO REGIONAL DE GUANAJUATO ALHONDIGA DE GRANADITASPay your 60 pesos and visit this museum if you are a history buff because this  granary turned museum once served as the fortress where first insurgent battle was fought in 1810 between the royalist soldiers of the province and insurgents led by Miguel Hidalgo (widely considered the father of Modern Mexico) and Ignacio Allende. This historic event led to the Mexican war of Independence and ultimately paved way for Mexico’s independence from Spain.

 

This museum boasts over 9000 artifacts, artwork and historical pieces but the most arresting ones are the three murals by Jose Chavez Morado depicting the many scenes of oppression, revolution and ultimately independence of Mexico. This museum will probably take at least a few hours to explore, so if you have only 24 hours in Guanajuato and are really hoping to get a glimpse into the history of Mexico and Guanajuato’s role in it, skip one of the art museums and spend some time here instead.

 

MUSEO REGIONAL DE GUANAJUATO ALHONDIGA DE GRANADITAS in Guanajuato is a must see in your 24 hour Guanajuato itinerary

 

EXPLORE MERCADO HIDALGO

What’s not to like about a local market bursting to its seams with tons of food stalls, juice stands, produce, snacks, dessert, meat products and anything and everything under the sun? I highly recommend grabbing some cash and heading to this market for lunch, and if you don’t know Spanish, just see where the locals are flocking to eat and do the same. I got a torta and guava juice for 110 peso (dirt cheap) and both were delicious.

 

Mercado Hidalgo

 

TAKE THE FUNICULAR TO MONUMENTO A EL PIPILA

El Pipila (“turkey man”) was a local hero of Guanajuato and played a crucial role in the victory of the insurgents in the capture of Alhondiga de Granaditas in 1810. This local miner was exceptionally strong and tied a stone slab to his body, thus shielding himself from Spanish bullets and set the entrance to the granary, where the 300 Spanish troops were barricaded, ablaze. This helped the insurgents gain entry into the granary and overpower the royalist soldiers. 

 

The monument of El Pipila towers of the city and is reachable either by a suicidal uphill trek or by opting for a much more pleasant bright red funicular that takes you all the way up in no time. The latter costs 35 pesos each way (cash only). Once you reach the top, you will be greeted with the monument and sweeping views of the city of Guanajuato. I recommend coming in right before sunset to enjoy the views.

 

El Pipila monument and view of Guanajuato

 

STOP BY JARDIN REFORMA

This tranquil garden on the way to Mercado Hidalgo was an unexpected find with another hidden gem standing stoically amidst all the greenery. I am talking of the bust of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (known affectionately as “Bapu” /the Father of the Nation in India for his non-violent movement of independence against the British). Guanajuato is one of the six cities in Mexico to have such a bust which was erected in 2019. This garden is a large, tranquil one and boasts of a small fountain and lush greenery. Highly recommend spending some quiet moments here during your 1 day stay in Guanajuato. 

 

Jardin Reforma, Gandhi in Guanajuato

 

ENJOY A GELATO AT ESTACION GELATO

This pretty blue gelato shop is the panache for tired, achy feet and is a must visit for those craving for a sweet treat. The gelatos are available in local flavors and are super creamy and delicious. I highly recommend the Garambullo, a type of cactus which is concocted into a creamy, pink gelato with a sweet, fruity taste (reminded me of the sweet prickly pear cactus drink that I had in Arizona ages ago).

 

Estacion Gelato in Guanajuato: where to eat in Guanajuato in one day

 

SHOPPING IN GUANAJUATO

Guanajuato is no shopping mecca for tourists but there are several specialty and souvenir stores around Plaza De La Paz that you can check out. If cookie cutter souvenirs are not something that you’d be interested in, you can walk down to Rincon Artesanal Ceramica which is a home goods store specializing in local ceramics and run by the sweetest elderly couple ever. Guanajuato specializes in tin work and Majolica ceramics and you can find plenty of the latter here for reasonable prices. 

 

DINE ON LOCAL FLAVORS AT LOS HUACALES

Guanajuato is not exactly known for its food (very unlike Oaxaca) but there are still some local specialties to be had. One of them is Enchiladas Mineras, i.e. miners’ enchiladas which is a mishmash of meat and diced veggies on a bed of lettuce and is pretty hearty. Los Huacales is that tiny restaurant (a hit with both visitors and locals) that does a decent job of it and I recommend this place for dinner. I could not make it to Enchiladas de Lupe which I believe is another local favorite for this dish.

 

With only 24 hours in Guanajuato, you are sure to miss some good local spots to eat, like I did. In case you have more time or want to try some other place, I recommend Santos Cafe for breakfast (I had mine at the hotel), Empanadas MiBu for a delicious, cheap snack and Los Campos for dinner. There are two fine dining restaurants outside of Guanajuato Centro which you can check out if you are a foodie and these are la Virgen de la Cueva and Restaurante Casa Mercedes. Both places are a 7-10 minute drive from Centro. 

 

Enchiladas Mineras

 

GET DRINKS WITH A VIEW AT BARTOLA

End your night with post dinner drinks at Bartola inside hotel Case del Rector. This sky bar boasts of an amazing view of the city and has an impressive wine and cocktail list. 

 

bartola, rooftop bar in Guanajuato

 

WHAT NOT TO SEE DURING YOUR ONE DAY IN GUANAJUATO

Let me be clear-I am no travel Karen telling you what to do with your time and dime as a tourist but please for the love of travel, stay away from this awful attraction called Callejon del Beso (translating loosely to kissing alley).

 

The story behind it is tragic (like how most love stories that become folklore generally are) but as of 2024, all you do is walk down an extremely touristy lane till you see a bunch of people standing in line which is the only indication that you’ve reached your Instagram hell. Then you join this said line to take a very awkward photo of you and your boo pecking each other uncomfortably in front of a dozen people waiting impatiently for their turn to do the same with the same awkwardness. Call me salty as a solo traveler, but I would never do that even if I were “boo-d up”. This is the only place in Guanajuato which I felt was a 100% tourist trap and out of place with its surroundings.

 

The only good thing about making your way to this alley is that you will have to pass through Plaza de Los Angeles to do so. This beautiful plaza is definitely worth spending some time at and I recommend checking it out if you have a chance.

 

1 day in Guanajuato

 

THINGS TO DO IN GUANAJUATO FOR A LONGER STAY

Staying in Guanajuato for more than a day? That is great, cause you can give those feet a break and not cram everything into one day. You can also indulge in some other activities, guided tours and trips such as those below:

a) Go on a private guided walking tour of Guanajuato (2 hours)

b) Join a private guided tour of the historic mines of Guanajuato (4 hours)

c) See some exclusive terraces of Guanajuato with drinks and a terrific view in this tour (cocktails included)

d) Go on a day trip to Dolores Hidalgo and San Miguel de Allende (9 hours)

 

PARTING THOUGHTS ON VISITING GUANAJUATO FOR A DAY

Guanajuato might still be a relatively unknown destination in Mexico, but I hope this post will nudge you, dear readers, to make that trip to this colorful, vibrant city soon. Guanajuato is a safe, beautiful city with lots to offer and I cannot wait to hear of your experience there. Here’s to discovering more underrated cities and safe travels!

 

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