While staying in San Miguel de Allende, we took a day trip to Guanajuato, the capital city of Guanajuato province. It's about 1.5hr comfortable bus ride from SMA and known for its silver mining history and colonial architecture.
Being a UNESCO site and arguably the most beautiful city in Mexico, Guanajuato strangely doesn't have as many gringos as in SMA, but attracts a lot of domestic tourists.
The city's architecture is very colourful with bright greens, blues, oranges and yellows. It's very pedestrian friendly with many pedestrian only streets, which provides a peaceful experience when wandering around town. Cool statues in quaint squares around town give the city a very arty feel. There are fewer touristy shops and restaurants compared to SMA.
We did a self-guided tour of the town, wandering through colourful lanes, checking out numerous churches and cathedrals, and exploring the busy Hidalgo market. We also walked up a steep hill to El Pípila, a statue honouring a local hero of the Mexican War of Independence. From there you can get an amazing panorama view of the city. On the way down, we took a different route and discovered some amazing murals.
The other major stop on our agenda was the sprawling Hacienda San Gabriel de Barrera which was five minutes taxi ride from El Pipila. This gorgeous 17th-century hacienda has some of the most spectacular gardens in Mexico. It was built back in the late 1600s by a descendant of the owners of one of the major silver mining operations that Guanajuato was built on. The colonial home is now a museum that showcases period furnishings from that era. Yet it’s the well-kept gardens that seem to go on forever all around the property that really impress and make this hacienda stand out. We spent quite some time lingering around the gardens, imagining what it would be like to live there permanently.
We didn't have time to have a sit-down meal while in town, but we had some of the best empanadas (both sweet and savoury) from a bakery and some very tasty churros filled with nutella.
Guanajuato deserves more than a day trip. It would be nice to spend at least a week there to full appreciate the nuance the town has to offer.