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It’s the fastest-growing city in Mexico’s interior. It’s home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And it’s less than three hours from the largest city in North America. Yet many travelers have never heard of Queretaro, the capital of the state with the same name.
Santiago de Queretaro, as it’s officially known, is a growing hub for international business travel, thanks to the number of global corporations that have set up shop here. But for leisure travelers, the city’s allure lies in its historic beauty, as well as the easy access it provides to the region’s nature-based activities. San Miguel de Allende, which lies just about an hour away, may have a higher profile on the world tourism map. But Queretaro offers many reasons to stay for a few days. Here are the top five things to do in the destination.
Stroll Through HistoryQueretaro’s historic city center was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. It offers an impressive array of some 1,400 religious and civic monuments that date to the 17th and 18th centuries, as well as beautifully maintained colonial buildings, some of which date to the 16th century. The highly walkable downtown is graced with multiple pedestrian-only streets, which are complemented by pleasant squares and plazas that are perfect for people-watching.
Must-see attractions include Museo Regional, a regional history museum set in a 17th-century former monastery; and Museo del Calendario (also known as MUCAL), a surprisingly interesting calendar museum set in a historic mansion that houses vintage original calendar artwork. Just outside downtown is a famed aqueduct, a magnificent structure with 74 stone arches that was built in the early 18th century to bring water to the city’s people.
Climb the Hill Another must-see for any first-time visitor is Cerro de las Campanas, a hilltop park with great historical significance for the entire nation. It was here that France’s intervention ended with the execution of Emperor Maximilian of Habsburg and his generals in 1867. Today, it’s a lovely place to stroll, where clients can see a larger-than-life statue of Mexican president Benito Juarez, as well as a chapel built in 1901 to commemorate the emperor after relations normalized between Mexico and Austria, Maximilian’s home country.
Get Adventurous Just outside city limits is Sierra Gorda, a biosphere reserve created in 1997 that extends over 32% of the state. Companies like Sierra Gorda Ecotours offer multiday visits that include activities such as bird watching, hiking and visiting local communities. Adventurers may also enjoy a visit to Pena de Bernal, a 1,421-foot volcanic monolith perfect for rock climbing and rappelling.
Sip Some Wine The region around the city of Queretaro has become Mexico’s second-largest wine-producing region. Designated cheese and wine routes lead travelers to some of the best places to sample both, including Cavas Donato — a vineyard near Pena de Bernal — and Cava 57, which complements its varietals with locally produced cheeses.
Stay in Historic Accommodations Queretaro’s burgeoning business travel scene has brought many modern hotels to the city. But those looking to experience unique accommodations with historic roots will find plenty to love here, too. Hacienda Jurica by Brisas, for example, is set on the grounds of a 16th-century plantation outside the historic center, while MO17 Hotel Boutique brings modern style and creative flair to a former private home, which is located just blocks from the most popular downtown attractions.
The DetailsHacienda Jurica by Brisaswww.lasbrisashotels.com.mx
MO17 Hotel Boutiquewww.mo17hotel.com
Queretaro Secretary of Tourismwww.queretaro.travel
Sierra Gorda Ecotourswww.sierragordaecotours.com