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Colonial architecture highlights the UNESCO World Heritage city of Queretaro, located a 2.5-hour drive northwest of Mexico City.

There are several hotels in Queretaro. We stayed at Hotel Mision Juriquilla, a 20-minute drive from the city center.

Santa Cruz Monastery in Plaza de los Fundadores
Santa Cruz Monastery in Plaza de los Fundadores
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Built around the chapel of a 1707 hacienda, Hotel Mision Juriquilla has beautiful grounds. Purple bougainvillea, wrought iron lamps, red tile roofs and arches adorn the stucco buildings. We strolled along cobblestone walkways, past fountains to the chapel, pool, tennis courts and golf course.

In Queretaro, bells, crosses and pots of red geraniums crown the pastel yellow Santa Cruz Monastery, which was built by Franciscan monks in the 17th century. The monastery was a fortress for the retreating Spanish army during the Mexican struggle for independence.

On a guided tour, we saw a tree in the garden that grows cross-shaped thorns. We learned how cold water from an aqueduct was funnelled through pipes to cool the building and preserve food.

Queretaro aqueduct

The 18th-century aqueduct, which bisects Queretaro City, was a highlight of our wooden trolley tour of Queretaro. Peering through one of the 30-meter (98-foot)-high arches of the aqueduct, we spotted an Internet cafe.

Built nearly 300 years ago, the aqueduct still looks new. Its 74 arches support a 1,280-meter (4,200-foot) canal that carried water until 1944.

Aquaduct and Queretaro skyline
Aquaduct and Queretaro skyline
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Trolley tour of Queretaro

The 19th-century-style trolley departs several times daily from the Plaza de Armas, one of the main squares in Queretaro. (Travel tip: Make sure you book one of the English tours if you don't speak Spanish.)

Route A visits the Cerro de las Campanas (Hill of the Bells) historic site. Route B travels through the old colonial town. Both routes stop at Casa de la Corregidora, the bell- and flag-topped Governor's Palace, where Mexicans planned their revolt against Spain in 1810.

After the trolley tour, we strolled through the old section of Queretaro, where pots of geraniums blushed crimson against tangerine buildings. In shady plazas, children gathered around vendors selling colorful balloons and plastic toys. Melodies from a music box, hand-cranked by a sombrero-clad man, entertained us as we shared a helado (ice cream) at an outdoor café.

Woman stuffs fried tortillas to make tacos.
Woman stuffs fried tortillas to make tacos.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Hot pink and purple pushcarts line Andador Libertad, a pedestrian street. Craftsmen and women, many of them wearing equally colorful clothing, sell huge clay rosaries and handmade opal and silver jewelry.

Queretaro restaurants serve Spanish, French, Cantonese, German and Arabian food, in addition to pizza, steak, vegetarian and Mexican cuisine. La Mariposa sells baked goods and Mexican candy, as well as Mexican dishes like enchiladas.

Inside one Mexican restaurant, we watched a woman frying tortillas and stuffing them with beans and cheese.

Queretaro flights

You can fly into Queretaro Airport, Aeropuerto Internacional de Queretaro (airport code: QRO) or drive from Mexico City to Queretaro on a four-lane toll road. Driving distance is about 220 kilometers (137 miles).

Due to its high altitude of 1,820 meters (nearly 6,000 feet), Queretaro weather is hot in the summer and mild in the winter.


Mexico Tourism Board: www.visitmexico.com

More things to see & do in Mexico's colonial cities:

San Miguelito Restaurant Morelia

Patzcuaro Mexico Vacation

Morelia Mexico Holiday

Guanajuato Vacation

San Miguel de Allende Mexico Travel Guide