A city that surprises from its monuments and historical buildings to museums with large collections and festivals all year round
The Americas has cities with fascinating stories and sites that invite travelers to experience local cultures up close. With this in mind, each year an American Capital of Culture is chosen. A recognition that is granted to those cities that, due to their heritage value, need to be known. Each year a different destination is chosen, and in 2021 the winner of this recognition will be Zacatecas; extraordinary news for Mexico.
The Capital of Culture in 2021
This city is one of the oldest and most beautiful in all of Mexico. In it, visitors can enter different types of adventures. Whether it is to get up close to the baroque architecture between its arteries, to taste its gastronomy, visit its archaeological zones, or to see one of its many museums up close.
Among all the attractions that Zacatecas offers, without a doubt, the cathedral should be highlighted. A temple that was built between 1731 and 1755. Although the interior of this enclosure is relatively sober, its brown facade, full of paintings of different shades, is delusional. For architecture enthusiasts, it is simply one of a kind.
Zacatecas = Culture
The offer of museums in this city is as vast as it is captivating. The exhibition halls that inhabit here have amazing collections of Egyptian, Chinese and Japanese art, as well as works by great artists such as Kandinsky, Miró, Dalí, Picasso, and a couple of series of Goya’s engravings.
It is also recommended to go to Cerro de la Bufa, from which you can see the best view of the city. On this location, you can visit the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Sponsorship, the Toma de Zacatecas Museum, the Camera Obscura, and even take a ride on the Cable Car. Finally, and to understand the beauty that is in the city, you have to go to the historic center at night and see how the buildings change completely thanks to the scenic lighting.
Past Capitals of Culture in Mexico
The recognition of Capital of Culture arose with the mission of promoting inter-American integration from a cultural point of view. Spreading the traditions of all the peoples of the American continent, as well as their common cultural heritage, is a great way to promote respect and diversity in the region.
Zacatecas is not the first Mexican city to which this distinctive has been granted since five other different cities in the country have won this designation, which has been: Merida in 2000, Guadalajara in 2005, Colima in 2014, Merida (for the second time) in 2017 and San Miguel de Allende in 2019.
Zacatecas, the baroque city that has it all
A guide to Zacatecas the city of pink quarry for tourists and locals.
In northern Mexico the landscapes are endless, the weather is cool and the cities are vast. You only have to walk through the cities of this region to find cobbled streets full of facades of the houses of yesteryear with aligned windows and in each corner, you will find pink quarry stones. A striking example of the above is Zacatecas, one of the oldest cities in Mexico, whose architecture still retains its viceregal essence.
There are many ways to experience this baroque city. A site full of peculiar stories about the Revolution, gastronomic dishes of centuries-old tradition, and unexpected archaeological remains. A retouched site of magical towns and Huicholas communities (which in this region are called wirrarikas).
That said, it is correct to affirm that if what you are looking for is a perfect plan for a weekend, Zacatecas is one of the best options for a magical getaway.
Nochistlán de Mejía, Zacatecas
Cathedral and Historic Center
The cathedral was built as the parish of the city between 1731 and 1752, and although its interior is relatively sober, recently a kind of modern altarpiece was added to the main altar with 11 large sculptures by the artist Javier Marín. On the outside, the facade preserves all the original beauty of its exquisitely carved covers, especially the main one, which in addition to a theology lesson, is one of the most complete examples of American Baroque art.
Where: Tourism Module in Government Palace. Av. Hidalgo s / n, Centro
For centuries, historians thought that it was from Chicomostoc, the “place of the seven caves”, where the Nahua peoples left on their pilgrimage to southern Mexico. And the road signs still indicate that. But, in reality, it is not well known who built this city that climbs the hills of the semi-arid valley of Malpaso, far north of the civilized area of ancient Mesoamerica. However, in the 1% that has been explored, it has structures similar to the cities of the south like a pyramid (although with very steep slopes) and a great ball game (70 by 15 meters).
Above, on the hill, there are fifty terraces that were for residential use, ceremonial groups, and a long wall. Downstairs is the majestic Hall of Columns, the largest known venue in ancient Mexico. It is estimated that the city was occupied between the years 500 and 900 AD To complete the mystery, signs of fires were found that speak of a possible violent end and eventual abandonment of the place.
A unique experience is Observacion sideral, where you can discover the pyramids illuminated by the moon and stars. This is a guided and interactive tour with different key characters in the history of La Quemada (such as an explorer, an indigenous woman, and gods) that begins at sunset and ends at the starry night.
The second part consists of lying down on the grass of the Hall of Columns to watch the stars. To access this sacred site it is necessary to first go through a clean one that involves incense and bouquets of aromatic herbs. Once inside, professional astronomers guide a celestial journey through the visible stars and constellations. In this experience, it is even possible to see the timid texture of the Milky Way that stands out in absolute black.
Where: Carretera Federal 54 Zacatecas-Guadalajara km 34, Villanueva
Manuel Felguérez Museum of Abstract Art
To review abstract art in Mexico, from the middle of the last century to date, you must visit the Manuel Felguérez Museum of Abstract Art , the only one of its kind in the entire continent. The venue was inaugurated in 1998, at the initiative of the Zacatecano Institute of Culture, to mount a retrospective of Manuel Felguérez, a member of the Rupture Generation, who also donated his art collection and various personal items.
The interior patio is dedicated to itinerant pieces, but the different wings of the enclosure contain works on different themes, such as a small interior patio where the theme is animals, a room focused on digital art (of which Felguérez was a pioneer) and even a room for large-format works from the Mexican pavilion of the 1970 Osaka Exposition, where not only Felguérez stands out, but also Vlady, Arnaldo Coen, Fernando Guardia Ponce and Roger von Gunten.
Where: Colón s / n, Centro
Located under the Grillo hill, to the west of the historic center of Zacatecas, this silver mine founded in 1586 was active until 1960. Now it works as an underground museum that is accessed aboard a small mining train. Once inside you can visit the Museum of Rocks and Minerals, a collection of 600 underground crystal and stone treasures and 100 fossils of amazing shapes and colors from different locations around the world.
The mine is traveled on foot following the old and fresh tunnels that recreate scenes of mining life in the colonial era. Along the way, you can see an underground water tank. Walking through the rocks, partially illuminated by dim light, 380 meters below the Zacatecan capital, generates a timeless, silent, and calm atmosphere: an antithesis to the great activity that the mine lived during the 380 years it was active. At night, one of the mine’s caverns is transformed into an amazing disco where colored lights illuminate the rocks around the track.
Where: Antonio Dovali Jaime s / n
Cable car and Cerro de la Bufa
Near the north exit of the mine is the lower station of the cable car, so both experiences can be enjoyed one after the other. The cable car – the first to be built in Mexico – runs 650 meters in a span of six minutes and offers spectacular panoramic views of the city from a height of 85 meters (to see more details, it is worth waiting for the gondola with a transparent floor).
The walk ends at the top of Cerro de la Bufa, where visitors can see the ridges of the hill, the Toma de Zacatecas Museum, and the Virgen del Patrocinio sanctuary, among other monumental sites. An unmissable stop is the Camera Obscura. With the light on it looks strange, as it consists of a small room with black walls and a huge concave plate in the center. But by turning off the light, a real-time projection that comes from a mobile camera that covers the 360º of the Zacatecan panorama. Another activity that Cerro de la Bufa offers is to jump through the 840 meters of the third-largest zip line in Latin America.
Where: Del Grillo s / n
Cerro de la Bufa
Rafael Coronel Museum
In the northern part of the historic center of Zacatecas is the beautiful building that, from the 16th to the 19th century, was the convent of San Francisco. Its baroque-style temple was open for worship until 1928 when its ceiling fell. In 1990, and after careful restoration by Federico Sescosse, it reopened as a museum. It certainly exhibits the work of the Zacatecan painter Rafael Coronel, who was born in 1931 but also has other very striking collections: pre-Hispanic ceramics, terracotta figurines from colonial times, drawings by Diego Rivera (who was father-in-law to Rafael Coronel), puppets from the company of Rosette Aranda, votive offerings, musical instruments, crafts and other pieces, which exceed 16,000 in total.
However, the most famous collection in this museum is its masks. It consists of thousands of copies that Colonel collected and is probably the largest collection in the world of its kind: devils, angels, old men, chinelos, blacks, pascolas, parachicos and a long etcetera.
Where: Callejón de San Francisco s / n, Centro
Where to eat?
In fact, it is more cafe than a restaurant. But it is eaten at ease and there is no shortage of tasty traditional Zacatecan dishes such as enchiladas or wedding roasts. In addition, it has its own specialties such as quesadillas in Arab bread and snow, which were its original turn in the first decades of the 20th century. Otherwise, this place is part of the history of the beautiful mining city.
Its official date of birth is 1943, when it was acquired by Don Said Samán Farah, the Syrian immigrant who made him a classic at the center. He was in various stores until in 1983 he moved to the current one, in the north corner of the Jesús González Ortega Market, just to one side of the cathedral. This elegant Porfirian building, now converted into a shopping center, is one that travelers should not miss when visiting Zacatecas.
Where: Av. Hidalgo esq. Candelario Huizar, Centro
Between nightly alleys, the illuminated cathedral and lit lanterns, this restaurant nods to contemporary cuisine. Here, chef Alfonso López creates dishes with a unique personality and inspired by international cuisine, but he never neglects traditional Zacatecan flavors, such as the delicious marinade. The menu features dishes that range from a tuna poke with soy to marrow with crispy sweet potato or shrimp enchiladas with homemade tomato sauce. Bread, baked every day in the restaurant kitchens, is served hot to the table and is different every day.
Just as El Paraíso is an option for lunch or dinner, it is also a recommended place to enjoy the bar. Enjoying either a classic drink or one of the many signature cocktails overlooking the busy Avenida Hidalgo is a special and relaxed way to end a day in Zacatecas.
Where: Av. Hidalgo 505, Centro
Where to sleep?
This particular hotel (which gets its name from a legendary character) is located inside an old building from 1700. After being a big house, a commerce center, and a neighborhood, now its long corridors, yellow walls, and flower-filled railings are an ideal option to stay in the center of the city and live a colonial experience. It has a restaurant and a bar.
The standard room is an appropriate option for those who spend the whole day exploring Zacatecas. These rooms with high ceilings and visible wooden beams have a king or two double beds, a full bathroom, and a view of the hotel’s central patio.
Where: Jardin de la Madre 108, Centro
Quinta Real draws the attention of travelers for its peculiar location in the oldest ring on the American continent: the old bullring of San Pedro. Located in the city of Zacatecas, one of the most romantic destinations in the country, this hotel is a good option to escape for a weekend.
The master suite is spacious, comfortable, with a great view and is decorated with exquisite Mexican art . It is a true temple for rest.
Where: Segunda de Palomares, Centro