The Central Mexican city of Guanajuato is an underrated gem! From outdoor activities to cultural treasures, there are so many things to do in Guanajuato. Even families with young kids will find things to enjoy in the city.
We spent a month living in Guanajuato at the end of 2018. During that time, we explored all the things to do in Guanajuato for families to experience. We’re so glad we discovered this surprisingly fun Mexican destination.
This post was updated on May 19, 2020.
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Why you want to visit Guanajuato
Mexico is more than tropical beaches! If you spend time in central Mexico, you’ll know that there are plenty of historical towns worth exploring. While San Miguel de Allende is popular among tourists, in my opinion, the city of Guanajuato is much more interesting and fun to visit.
Guanajuato City is the capital of the Mexican state of Guanajuato. Located about a four hour bus ride from Mexico City, Guanajuato is a great family-friendly destination.
Like San Miguel de Allende, the city of Guanajuato is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. It received that designation in 1988. The city played a significance role in Mexican history. It also has beautiful Spanish architecture and many historical mines. At one point in history, Guanajuato was the leading producer of silver in the world.
Many of the mines of Guanajuato were operated by indigenous workers. These workers were paid the equivalent of one or two dollars per day, despite the mines themselves making hundreds of millions of pesos annually. The city of Guanajuato played a pivotal role in Mexican independence. It served as the location of the seige of Guanajuato, where thousands of insurgents were killed.
Taking our time to discover things to do in Guanajuato
For our family, part of our family gap year involves spending extended amounts of time in cities. To us, this really gives us a chance to get to know a city.
For the month of December, we stayed at an Airbnb in Guanajuato. During the month, we hit up many of the sites listed in Moon’s San Miguel de Allende: With Guanajuato & Querétaro travel guide book. And we also visited places that weren’t in the guide book!
Our month in Guanajauto really flew by! We loved going down into Centro, Guanajuato’s city center. And we loved seeing the beautiful European style buildings. There are so many museums for our family to visit. And the street food vendors and art vendors are fun to see. We even watched a ballet performance at one of the local theaters. Since we had a lot of time, we didn’t feel rushed in seeing all there is to see in Guanajuato.
Our favorite family-friendly things to do in Guanajuato
After spending a month in Guanajuato, we felt like we really had a chance to get a feel for what the city has to offer. Many of Guanajuato’s sites are located around the center of town, known as Centro. So if you’re looking for hotels or Airbnbs, look for places that are accessible to Centro.
If you’re planning to visit Guanajuato, here’s a list of our favorite family-friendly things to do in Guanajuato, Mexico.
#1: Explore things to do in Guanajuato by trolley
One of the best ways to get to know a new city is to take a tour. When you first visit Guanajuato, be sure to take one of the trolley tours offered by Transportes Turisticos de Guanjuato. They have a stand at the Plaza de la Paz, around the corner from the basilica.
Transportes Turisticos de Guanajuato offers several different trolley tours. They range from an hour to four hours. The tours take you throughout the city of Guanajuato. Tour guides explain the sites as you pass them. If you’re traveling with kids, I recommend the short one hour tour. The tour gives a good introduction to the city without being too long.
The tour stand is open every day from 9am to 8pm. The one hour tours are available at 1pm and 4pm. Plan to arrive at least one hour before to book your tickets. All tours are in Spanish. Tickets cost 100 pesos per person.
#2: Learn about history at Alhondiga de Granaditas
For a primer on Mexican history, head to the Alhondiga de Granaditas. This museum is also known as the Museo Regional de Guanajuato. It provides those who visit Guanajuato with an overview of Mexican culture and history, from pre-Hispanic civilization to post-independence Mexico.
The Alhondiga de Granaditas was a former grain storage. It was later used as a fortress by the Spanish during the Mexican War of Independence. The Alhondiga de Granaditas became a museum in 1958.
The Alhondiga de Granaditas has two stories of rooms. The rooms surround a central courtyard. Each room covers a period of Mexican history. When you purchase your ticket, you can ask to borrow an informational packet. The packet goes into more depth for each exhibit. They have Spanish and English versions of the informational packet. Also, in each room are laminated informational sheets that you can read to learn more about each exhibit.
Tickets to the Alhondiga de Granaditas cost 75 pesos for adults. The museum is open Tuesday to Saturday, from 10am to 6pm. It is open on Sundays from 10am to 3pm.
#3: Admire the wax portraits at Museo de Cera
Across from the Alhondiga de Granaditas is the Museo de Cera. It’s a small wax museum. But if you’re looking for cheap things to do in Guanajuato, this museum is worth visiting.
There are seven rooms in this museum. Each room has wax figures representing Mexican history, Guanajuato legends, and notable figures around the world.
I do have to warn that there are some graphic depictions in the museum, such as severed heads and mummies. There is also a room dedicated to nightmare type monsters. So if your kids are sensitive to scary things, you may want to avoid that area.
The Museo de Cera is open every day from 10am to 6pm. Tickets are 30 pesos for adults and 25 pesos for students. You can walk through the whole museum in about ten or fifteen minutes.
#4: Visit the creepy cool Museo de las Momias
Speaking of creepy things, my suggestion for what to do in Guanajuato is to visit the Museo de las Momias, known in English as the Mummy Museum. The Museo de las Momias is located further west of the city from the Alhondiga de Granaditas. It is situated on top of a hill, next to a cemetery.
The museum is filled with naturally preserved mummies from the 1800s. These mummies were exhumed from the cemetery due to failure of their relatives to pay a grave tax that was required at the time. There are about 59 mummies on display, including some babies.
We visited the Museo de las Momias with our kids and really enjoyed it. But if your children are sensitive to the subject of death, you may want to avoid this museum.
The Museo de las Momias is open Mondays through Thursdays from 9am to 6pm, and Fridays to Saturdays from 9am to 6:30pm. Tickets are 85 pesos for adults, and 50 pesos for kids over 1.2 meteres tall. There is also a 30 peso fee for use of a camera.
#5: Go shopping at Mercado Hidalgo
One of the fun Guanajuato things to do for visitors is to check out the Mercado Hidalgo. We love visiting markets where ever we are in the world. In our opinion, it gives us a glimpse of how people live their day to day lives. The Mercado Hidalgo is no exception.
There are stalls selling produce, meats, and household goods. Some of the stalls also sell food to eat. On the second level of the market are stalls selling souvenirs. The Mercado Hidalgo is open every day. Most of the stalls open around noon, and close around 6pm.
#6: Experience romantic things to do in Guanajuato at Callejon del Beso
Guanajuato is a city full of legends. One of the famous legends is the one surrounding the Callejon del Beso, the Alley of the Kiss. This alley is a very narrow alley near the Plaza de los Angeles.
According to local legend, a rich woman named Ana lived in one of the houses in the alley. Across the alley from her house, a poor miner named Carlos rented a room. The two fell in love, and often leaned over their balconies to kiss across the alley. But Ana’s father disapproved of the relationship. One night as the two were kissing, he stabbed Ana in the back. The two of them, locked in a lover’s embrace, fell off the balcony to their death.
Visitors to Guanajuato love taking their picture at the Callejon del Beso. If you’re planning on checking out this teeny tiny alley, plan to come in the middle of the week during the day to avoid the crowds.
#7: Take a tour through Teatro Juarez
Being a theater nerd, I love touring old theaters whenever I have the chance. The Teatro Juarez, located in central Guanajuato, is a historic theater built in the late 1800s. The first performance at Teatro Juarez was the opera, Aida in 1903. The theater is still in operation, and you can find a schedule of performances posted nearby the theater.
The majestic building, with its broad front steps, giant columns, and statues across the roof, is hard to miss. It’s located in the Centro area of Guanajuato. If you’re wondering what to do in Guanajauto, and want to visit the theater, you can take a self-guided tour.
The Teatro Juarez is open to the public from Tuesdays to Sundays, from 10am to 1:45pm and 5pm to 7:45pm. Addmision is 35 pesos for adults. Children are free. There is a 30 peso fee for use of a camera. The theater is closed for tours on days when there is a performance.
#8: Explore things to do in Guanajuato at Jardin de la Union
Guanajuato has several gardens and plazas throughout the city where locals love to hang out. Many of these public spaces are lined with restuarants for eating. Hanging out at one of the gardens and plazas was one of our favorite things to do in Guanajuato on lazy afternoons.
Our favorite public space is the Jardin de la Union, located across from the Teatro Juarez. The garden itself is fairly small. It has a gazebo and a couple of fountains. There are often mariachi groups performing around the garden. The restaurants at the Jardin de la Union are a bit on the pricey side. But the al fresco dining provides a perfect venue for listening to mariachi performances.
The Jardin de la Union is also full of local vendors and artisans selling their wares. You can buy some beautiful art right outside of the Teatro Juarez. Our favorite vendor was Ana, who sells delicious handmade cheesecakes by the slice for only 30 pesos each. Her family’s cheesecake business, Universo de Pays, has a selection of flavors, including chocolate and guava. And you can even order whole cheesecakes! We love Ana!
#9: Sing along with the Callejoneadas
If you’re hanging around the Jardin de la Union, or in Centro, you’re sure to see men and women dressed as troubadours. They wear Renaissance style costumes and carry musical instruments with them. These men and women are the Callejoneadas. They lead musical tours around the alleyways of Guanajuato. In my opinion, it’s one of the most entertaining things to do in Guanajuato.
The tours are in the evenings, and are in Spanish. They involve a lot of singing and audience participation. The Callejoneadas begin their tour in front of the church next to Teatro Juarez. They lead you through the back alleys of Guanajuato, ending at Callejon del Beso. Throughout the tour, the Callejoneadas sing songs, and invite the audience to sing and dance along.
Tours are offered by multiple companies, and at multiple times throughout the night. You can purchase tickets from any of the costumed men and women walking throughout Centro. If you’re planning on doing the tour with kids, opt for an earlier tour, to avoid cranky kids. The earliest tours offered are around 7pm.
#10: Take a ride on the Funicular
Behind the Teatro Juarez is the Funicular. It’s a vertical tram that takes you up the hill behind the theater. Riding the Funicular is a great way to get views of the city when you visit Guanajuato. There are two tracks that run in both directions. Each tram carriage holds about six people, and is operated by a conductor. You can buy your tickets either at the bottom of the hill or at the top of the hill.
Tickets to the Funicular cost 30 pesos for adults and 15 pesos for kids. You can purchase one way or round trip (for double the price) tickets. The Funicular opens around 8am and closes around 9pm every day.
#11: Admire the things to do in Guanajuato from above at Monument al Pipila
As I mentioned before, Guanajuato has many legends. One of the more true legends of Guanajuato, is the legend of El Pipila. Born Juan Jose de los Reyes Martinez Amoro, El Pipila was a miner in Guanajuato. During the Mexican War of Independence, he was known for taking a torch and burning down the doors of the Spanish-controlled Alhondiga de Granaditas. He did this all while carrying a slab of rock on his back to protect himself from Spanish bullets.
Since mining was an important part of Guanajuato’s history, the city has a fondness for El Pipila. The Monument al Pipila is located at the hill behind Teatro Juarez, at the top of the Funicular. From Centro, you can see El Pipila at the top of the hill and looking out into the city. He is standing tall, carrying a flaming torch.
There is a small museum at the base of the statue that provides some information about that historical moment. You can climb stairs up to the top of the statue, where a glass encased platform allows you views of the city. Visiting the statue is free, and is one of the popular things to do in Guanajuato for Mexican tourists. The museum costs 20 pesos.
#12: Treat yourself to ice cream or gelato
I’m not sure why, but Guanajuato has an abundance of ice cream and gelato shops. We’ve had more ice cream in Guanajuato than we’ve had anywhere in the world! For families trying to figure out what to do in Guanajuato, considering treating your and your family to ice cream or gelato.
One of the popular ice cream chains in Mexico, is La Michoacan. You can find these ice cream shops throughout the city. They serve all sorts of flavors of ice cream and popsicles. However, our favorite ice cream shop is a local cafe called Estacion Gelato. They serve gelato and other desserts, as well as coffees and teas. I love their Chocolate Chai! There are two locations, one in Centro and one in the Marfil neighborhood.
#13: Take a walk through the tunnels
Guanajuato is built on top of a series of tunnels. The tunnels wind in and out of the city. These tunnels were originally built to help pass water through the city. But later, they were converted as a means to direct traffic back and forth across town. If you’re planning to visit Guanajuato, you will most likely spend some time zipping through these tunnels either by taxi or by bus.
If you’re in the mood for some exploration, you can spend an afternoon walking through the tunnels. At the very least, you can walk a portion of the tunnels. There are stairs throughout Centro that lead you down to the tunnels. They are fun to explore, even with kids. But be careful walking along the tunnels. Some of the cars do go by pretty fast.
#14: Admire Mexican art at Museo del Pueblo de Guanajuato
If you’re an art lover and looking for Guanajuato things to do, then you’re in luck! Guanajuato has a large selection of art museums. Although our kids are not always big fans of art museums, we spent several afternoons checking them out while we were in Guanajuato.
One art museum in Guanajuato is the Museo del Pueblo de Guanajuato. It is located near the University of Guanajuato. There are some really beautiful murals in the museum. And many of the exhibits showcase works from influential Mexican artists.
The Museo del Pueblo de Guanajuato is open from Tuesdays to Saturdays. It’s open from 10am to 7pm. It’s also open on Sundays from 10am to 3pm. Tickets cost 25 pesos for adults.
#15: Learn about Diego Rivera at the Museo Casa Diego Rivera
The Mexican artist, Diego Rivera, is well-loved by the city of Guanajuato. He spent part of his childhood in the city. And if you’re looking for things to do in Guanajuato, you can visit his childhood home. It’s now the Museo Casa Diego Rivera.
The Museo Diego Rivera is located in Centro, near the Santa Fe Tunnel. It contains artifacts from Diego Rivera’s home. It also holds some of Diego Rivera’s artwork. You’ll also find artwork from other Mexican artists.
Before visiting the Museo Casa Diego Rivera, my kids and I watched a few videos about Diego Rivera’s artwork. While we were at the museum, we had fun identifying the pieces that we recognized. We also tried our hand at guessing which period of his career the paintings and drawings were from.
The Museo Casa Diego Rivera is open to the public. Hours are Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10am to 6:30pm. On Sundays, the museum is open from 10am to 2:30pm. Entrance into the museum is 25 pesos for adults, and 10 pesos for students.
#16: Visit the Museo Iconografico del Quijote
The city of Guanajuato has a strange fascination with Don Quixote. He’s the fictional title character from Miguel de Cervantes’ Spanish novel, The Ingenious Nobleman Sir Quixote of La Mancha. There are statues of Don Quixote found throughout the city. And in October, Guanajuato hosts El Cervantino. It’s a theater festival dedicated to Miguel de Cervantes.
Within Centro, one of the most uniquely Guanajuato things to do is to visit the Museo Iconografico del Quijote. It’s a museum dedicated entirely to Don Quixote. It was created by Eulalio Ferrer, who’s life was greatly influenced by the story of Don Quixote. The Museo Iconografico del Quijote has multiple levels of rooms surrounding a central courtyard. The rooms hold various statues and paintings of Don Quixote. It’s quite impressive to see this city’s fascination with the story!
The Museo Iconografico del Quijote is open from Tuesdays to Saturdays from 9:30am to 7pm. And it’s open on Sundays from 12pm to 7pm. Admission into the museum is 30 pesos for adults. Admission for children under the age of 13 costs 10 pesos.
#17: Spend the day at Presa de la Olla
If you’re looking for some relaxing things to do in Guanajuato, head to the southwestern part of the city. There, you’ll find the Presa de la Olla. It’s a city dam and reservoir dating back to the 1700s.
The Presa de la Olla was built to help Guanajuato ensure a steady supply of water. A garden was built at the base of the dam in the late 1800s. The area surrounding the Presa de la Olla has some beautiful buildings representing Neoclassical and European styles. And there are also some government buildings, including the Governer’s Palace.
The Presa de la Olla is free to visit. But you can also rent boats to ride around the reservoir. Boat rentals cost 35 pesos per person for a one hour ride. Life vests are included in the boat rental, and are available in all sizes. There are even life vests for toddlers.
#18: Visit Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel de Barrera
When we were thinking of what to do in Guanajuato, we knew we wanted to find places that would really give us a feel for what life in Mexico is like. One of the more enjoyable things to do in Guanajuato is to visit the Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel de Barrera.
As its name suggest, the Ex-Hacienda San Gabrield de Barrara is a former hacienda of General Gabriel de la Barrera. The space is 22,000 square meters of gardens and Spanish style architecture. There are 17 themed gardens throughout the grounds. You can take a self-guided tour to explore them. The main home of General Gabriel de la Barrera is decked out in 17th century architecture and decor. It gives you a glimpse of what life was like for the Spanish aristocracy in Mexico at the time.
Mexico at the time was a divided society. The minority Spanish held power over the majority of the indigenous population. Walking through the Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel de Barrera was indeed wonderful. But I couldn’t help thinking about the price that the indigenous population paid for all this beauty. General Gabriel de la Barrera lived in this grand property with his family. At the same time, his workers toiled to provide for his lifestyle. Life in Mexico is much more egalitarian these days. But the influence of Spanish colonial rule can still be seen by the number of indigenous people still living in poverty.
The Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel de Barrera is open to the public from Mondays through Sundays from 9am to 6pm. Entrance fees cost 30 pesos for adults, and 20 pesos for children over the age of 6.
#19: Take an excursion to Mina de San Juan de Rayas
An excursion worth taking while in Guanajuato is to visit one of the mines. During our stay in Guanajuato, our Airbnb host took us on a tour of Guanajuato and its environs. We saw where some of the mines are located.
During our tour, we made a stop at Mina de San Juan de Rayas. It’s located on Panoramica road and overlooks the city of Guanajuato. The mine was created in the 1500’s, and is still in operation today. You can’t go inside the mine, but you can visit the area on top of the mine. We loved looking out at the city from that vantage point.
The mine of Bocamina San Ramon, in nearby Valenciana, has a museum that you can visit and learn all about the mining history of Guanajuato.
#20: Take a tour with Turismo Alternative de Guanajuato
Guanajuato is known for being a cultural destination. But it’s actually a fun outdoor destination too! If you’re looking for outdoor things to do in Guanajuato, consider taking a tour with Turismo Alternativo en Guanajuato.
While we were in Guanajuato, our family took a fun horseback riding tour with Turismo Alternativo en Guanajuato. But if you’re not into horseback riding, Turismo Alternativo en Guanajuato offers other types of family-friendly tours. You can choose from mountain biking, ATV tours, and climbing. They even offer hot air balloon tours.
Finding your own Guanajuato things to do
We were so impressed with the city of Guanajuato. Like nearby San Miguel de Allende, it’s a beautiful city. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has so many attractions to offer for families.
Even after spending a month in Guanajuato, there were still many museums and attractions we didn’t get to see. We would have loved to see the Cristo Rey. It’s located outside of Guanajuato. Or we would have loved to spend time at the San Cayetano church in Valenciana. We hope to come back and explore more of Guanajuato.
If you’re planning to visit Guanajuato in the near future, consider the family-friendly things to do listed in this post. And feel free to go out and explore your own things to do! I bet you and your family will fall in love with the city just like we did.
Have you spent time in Guanajuato, Mexico? Share your tips for things to do in Guanajuato in the comments.
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