Querétaro:

An Undiscovered Jewel

acueducto acueducto
Mexico...in small bytes

TRAVEL..........STORIES OF MEXICAN LIFE..........& MORE

noche-buena arbol-de-navidad noche-buena
What’s the deal with Querétaro? It’s a clean, safe, and vibrant city that manages to combine colonial charm and European sophistication with the vitality of a university town.  Yet the city along Highway 57 in the north central highlands (three hours north of Mexico City and an hour from San Miguel de Allende) has been an overlooked stop on the tourist path for years.
querétaro-map

Perhaps travelers have passed by believing Querétaro to be a mirage, but those who stop will find even a diehard city-hater like myself can be seduced by the area’s charms.

Paul and I first stumbled on the city in the seventies when we were camping our way back to Minnesota after a second thwarted venture to Costa Rica. We pitched our tent on the grassy strip of a now defunct hotel near the bull ring far from the centro hístorico.

In recent years, we’ve rediscovered Querétaro since Paul found two top-notch surgeons in the area. In the course of getting two new hips and having two throat operations to repair the damage done in Star Médica in Morelia, we have come to know the city very well.

In 1974, the city center was an entity onto itself surrounded by corn fields and the occasional business. This no-man’s-land gave way to an industrial ring twenty kilometers (about thirteen miles) away. The factories sprang up when contamination in Mexico City reached a critical point in the late 60s, and the powers that be in the capital ordered all new industry to Querétaro.

Today close to two million residents fill the gap between the industrial ring and the centro histórico. overview-querétaro

But regardless of the growth surge, the centro historico remains bewitchingly charming. The original city center remains much as it has been for hundreds of years. 

The four central plazas segue from one to the other, each with a distinct personality. Plaza de la Constitución is filled with mimes, clowns and musicians on the weekends.  They perform for coins or bills dropped in their hats and draw huge crowds. Harry’s and the high-end restaurant of the Gran Hotel flank one side of the plaza.

indoor-dining-harrys outside-dining-Harrys
Indoor and outdoor dining at Harry's in the Plaza Constitución. The onion soup is highly recommended. Although the restaurant creeps toward high-end, an order of onion soup and a glass of wine or a beer will not set your budget back too much. If hunger pangs persist, share one of the specials, an entree, or a dessert between two.

Jardín Zenea with its central kiosk has the most activity from Danzón to dalliance.  The municipality sponsors a massive Christmas display in the Jardín and offers free entertainment numerous evenings from the end of November to January 6th, making Querétaro a great place to spend the holidays. 

jardin-zenea nacimiento

The next plaza is named for a revolutionary heroine, Doña Josefa Ortiz (La Corregidora), who whispered a message through the keyhole of the room where she was held prisoner. She told her conspirator on the other side of the door that the authorities had discovered the revolutionary plot against the government. This message made Padre Hidalgo call his troops together to begin the 1810 Mexican Revolution against Spain months earlier than originally planned, thereby catching the Spanish by surprise.

La Plaza de la Corregidora is ringed with a series of outdoor eateries.  The most economical ones are located closest to the main street, also named for Doña Josefa Ortiz. 

plaza-corregidora plaza-corregidora
Moving east a block from La Corregidora, the visitor bumps into Plaza las Armas (or as the locals call it, “el fuente de  los perritos que saltan el agua.” plaza-de-armas

The Plaza de Armas is a great site for either a laid-back coffee and snack or an upscale meal.  The local radio station sponsors free concerts here Sunday. A number of the restaurants hire excellent musicians to entertain patrons with a mix of classical, jazz, blues, pop, and traditional Mexican music.

plaza-de-armas plaza-de-armas

There are plenty of benches and other seating in the Plaza de Armas, and we've whiled away many an hour watching the crowds and listening to music. The street 5 de mayo veers east directly off Plaza la Armas and teems with bustling nightlife that gets started around 11 p.m. and continues until the wee hours of the morning.

Accommodations in Querétaro are geared to high end choices. If there is a festive occasion or you have the urge to pamper yourself and splurge, check out the web pages for special offers. You could well be surprised.

Two of the best midrange choices (Home B&B and Gema’s House) are on opposite sides of 16 de septiembre in the centro historico.

HOME B&B

http://queretarobandb.com (Check out the website for more photos of all the rooms, the third floor terrace, and dining area)

e-mail: HOMEQueretaro@yahoo.com

phone: 52 (442) 1 83 91 39 between 9:30 a.m. and 9 p.m.

The owner of Home knew what she was doing when she commissioned a Barcelonan mattress maker to custom make the mattresses for her B&B. He sure knows his stuff. A traveler can enjoy a luxurious sleep, the kind found in few establishments in any price range. Quality sheets and fluffy towels provide an unexpected surprise.

home-bandb-querétaro home-bandb-queretaro

Shelly, the ex-Canadian proprietress, serves a hearty and unusual breakfast between 8:00 and 9:00 in this full value B&B. In all the times Paul and I have stayed here, we have yet to have the same breakfast twice. And it’s fun to share tales with other guests over coffee.

Each of the ten rooms is decorated in a different style. Four bedrooms have a small en-suite bathroom. Tuscany has access to an extra sitting room which is great is one party wants to sleep or watch TV and the other wants to use the Internet or read.

home-banb-queretaro

Both sides of Home B&B have a rooftop terrace for hanging out with a great view of the city skyline. Internet is available, and Shelly maintains an extensive library of English books so those out of reading material can borrow something while they’re there.

The owner is very helpful and can give the tourist much information on local attractions. Discounts are available for groups or longer stays.

GEMA'S HOUSE

http://www.gemashouse.com.mx

e-mail: info@gemashouse.com.mx

16 de septiembre #99

phone: 52 (442) 2 12 06 13

Enter through the enormous carved doors of Gema’s House and go back in time to the houses of the 19th century. gemas-house-queretaro

No street noise manages to sneak past the walls and down the steps to the garden level rooms. There’s a double and single, each with private bathroom/shower. Another double and single are connected and only rented out to a group of family members or friends since the bathroom is shared. Plans are in the works to add to the facility.

gemas-house-queretaro gemas-house-queretaro

Wireless is available and nowhere is there a more calming place to use a laptop then in the extensive garden area. Bird song greets the visitor much of the day especially at dusk when flocks come to roost in the towering trees.

gemas-house-queretaro gemas-house-queretaro

No TVs clutter the attractively decorated rooms — for some a curse and others a blessing. The gracious proprietress has limited English but an English-speaking guest said he had no difficulty communicating.

In recent months, Querétaro has become increasingly popular as a weekend get-away so reservations are strongly recommended. Or the tourist can plan a visit mid-week.These two mid-range establishments, in my opinion, offer best value and the the greatest enjoyment for a comfortable stay in Querétaro.

I strongly recommend a visit to this undiscovered jewel. And there's no better time than during the holiday season.

plaza-constitucion-queretaro

Article Archives

Letter Box