Of all Mexico’s colonial cities, Querétaro is one of our perennial favorites – loaded with historic gems, baroque churches, museums, shady plazas and relaxed street cafés, but with a fraction of the tourists that visit the nation’s more famous destinations.
Where is Querétaro?
Querétaro is the capital city of the Mexican state of Querétaro, located in the region of central Mexico known as the Bajío.
Querétaro lies about 215 km northwest of Mexico City, 65 km southeast of San Miguel de Allende, and 365 km east of Guadalajara. Non-stop flights to Querétaro take 1 hour from Mexico City, 1 hour 15 minutes from Monterrey, 2 hours 5 minutes from Houston, 2 hours 25 minutes from Dallas, and 2 hours 25 minutes from Cancún.
How big is Querétaro?
Querétaro has a greater metro population of just over 1 million – it’s one of the fastest growing (and richest) cities in Mexico. It covers an area of around 760 square kilometers, on the edge of the Sierra Madre Oriental.
What is the history of Querétaro?
Querétaro (“rocky place”) was once the home of the Otomi and Chichimeca peoples – at the time of the Spanish Conquest, it was part of the Aztec Empire. The Spanish settlement was officially founded in 1531 by Hernán Pérez Bocanegra y Córdoba and an Otomi leader known as Conín, but development was slow and it only became a town formally in 1606. Colonial Querétaro flourished thereafter, becoming one of the cradles of Mexican Independence. It was here, meeting under the guise of Literary Associations, that the Independence conspirators made their earliest plans. In 1810 one of them, María Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez, wife of the town’s Corregidor (or governor – she is known as “La Corregidora”), found that her husband had learned of the movement’s intentions. Although locked in her room, La Corregidora managed to get a message out warning the revolutionaries, thus precipitating an unexpectedly early start to the struggle for independence.
Later, in 1867, the French-backed Emperor Maximilian was executed by a firing squad at Querétaro, and the city hosted an important assembly of Revolutionary politicians in 1916, leading eventually to the signing here of the 1917 Constitution, which is still in force today.
How do I get to Querétaro?
Querétaro is connected to the US by several non-stop flights, from Chicago, Dallas, Detroit and Houston; domestic flights connect Querétaro with major destinations throughout Mexico. Flights from Canada or Europe will likely route through the USA or Mexico City.
Within Mexico, first-class long-distance buses are an economical and comfortable alternative to flying – buses to Querétaro from Guadalajara (4–5 hours), Mexico City (3–4 hours), and San Miguel de Allende (1 hour 15 minutes) operate every 30 minutes. Querétaro’s massive Central de Autobuses (bus station) lies 6km south of the city center. Arriving here it’s best to take a taxi to your hotel – these follow a fixed-rate system, with the current rates displayed at kiosks at the exit (pay here before getting in).
What are the options for Querétaro airport transportation?
Querétaro’s airport lies 32km northeast of the city center on the Hwy-200 towards Tequisquiapan. We recommend taking one of the airport taxis (around M$350) or an Uber to get your hotel.
What about Uber?
Uber does operate in Querétaro (assuming your phone has roaming, and the app works), and drivers will usually pick-up from the airport, though they do face the usual hostility from the airport taxi union. An Uber ride into the city should be cheaper – around 290 pesos – than regular taxis. Once in the city, getting an Uber should be no problem.
Can I drive to Querétaro?
Yes. Driving down from the US border is relatively straightforward – the main highways are good, and virtually empty outside the towns. However, the Mexican border states of Nuevo León and Tamaulipas have been affected by drug cartel violence – driving at night is definitely a bad idea. Check the latest travel advisories at travel.state.gov or ask your hotel. You’ll also need a Mexican “Temporary Importation of Vehicle Permit”.
From Brownsville, Texas the drive is around 525 miles (845 km) and takes around 10 hours non-stop. Querétaro is 570 miles (917 km) from Laredo, Texas (11 hours), and 2590 km from Tijuana, on the southern border of California.
If you are renting a vehicle, it’s much easier to do this once across the Mexican border, as taking US rental vehicles into Mexico comes with all sorts of restrictions.
Do I need a car in Querétaro?
No. You can explore most of the city center on foot; if you’d rather not walk, call an Uber or take a local taxi (taxis have meters, initial fare 25 pesos). The city has an excellent public bus system (fares 11 pesos), but you are unlikely to need it.
When is the best time to go to Querétaro?
Querétaro boasts a year-round temperate climate, with the driest and sunniest months October to April. Rain is most common July to August. There’s no real “bad” time to visit, though it can actually get chilly November to January. March through June is probably best, when the weather is pleasantly warm, the days generally dry, and crowds low-key.
Where should I stay in Querétaro?
Right in the historic heart of Querétaro (the centro histórico), close to all the sights, best restaurants and attractions. Modern business hotels and cheaper motels line the highways on the outskirts of the city, but these are all a long way from the action and it can be hassle shuttling back and forwards. We like La Casa del Atrio (lacasadelatrio.com), a posh B&B and spa with fabulous views and facilities, and the lavish Casa de la Marquesa (Madero 41), housed in a 1756 mansion with a gorgeous Mudéjar-style courtyard. Kuku Rukú (kukuruku.mx) and El Petate Hostel Matamoros (elpetatehostel.com) are our favorite budget options.
What are the best things to do in Querétaro?
Soak up the city’s colonial charm and immerse yourself in Mexico’s revolutionary history. Sip coffee at an outdoor café and take in the scene on Querétaro’s three main squares, the elegant Jardín Zenéa, Plaza de la Independencia, and Plaza de la Constitución. Learn about the Mexican War of Independence at the Museo de los Conspiradores (Andador 15 de Mayo no. 18; https://culturaqueretaro.gob.mx/iqca/sitio/Espaciosculturalescontroller/recinto/9), and the history of Querétaro state at the Museo Regional de Querétaro (Corregidora Sur 3; https://www.inah.gob.mx/zonas/13-museos/121-museo-regional-de-queretaro). The story of the French Intervention and Emperor Maximilian is told at the Museo de la Restauración de la República (Guerrero 23; http://culturaqueretaro.gob.mx/iqca/sitio/Espaciosculturalescontroller/recinto/28), while the incredibly ornate Museo de Arte de Querétaro (Allende 14; https://culturaqueretaro.gob.mx/iqca/sitio/Espaciosculturalescontroller/recinto/8) is crammed with Mexican art from 17th-century to the present day.
Querétaro’s churches are similarly enticing, with our favorites the Templo de San Francisco on Jardín Zenéa, with a beautiful dome covered in azulejos (colored tiles); the Templo de Santa Clara (Madero 42), with its exuberant Baroque interior; and 18th-century Templo de Santa Rosa de Viterbo (Arteaga, at Montes), with another magnificent interior and a blue-and-white-tiled dome.
It’s also worth checking out the 19th-century Teatro de la República (Juárez at Ángela Peralta; http://culturaqueretaro.gob.mx/iqca/sitio/Espaciosculturalescontroller/recinto/38), where the Mexican Constitution was debated in 1917, and the quirky Museo Casa de la Zacatecana (museolazacatecana.com), an 18th-century mansion that preserves the grisly legend of its former owner (the evil zacatecana murdered her husband).
For longer excursions, stroll out to Cerro de las Campañas, the “Hill of Bells” west of the center, or to the Convento de la Cruz (Ejército Republicano, at Felipe Luna), an old Spanish monastery that harbors the “Árbol de la Cruz”, a tree whose thorns sprout in the shape of little crosses.
What are the best things to do around Querétaro?
Querétaro makes a good base to explore the surrounding area, especially the hills of the Sierra Gorda. Some 60km east of Querétaro, the pretty village of Bernal is best known for the Peña de Bernal, a 350m-high peak of volcanic rock that towers over the area. Nearby Tequisquiapan is a gorgeous colonial Spanish town crammed with boutique hotels, spas and craft markets.
What are the restaurants like?
Excellent. The city is known for a couple of specialties; a thick lentil soup laced with chunks of dried fruit (“sopa regional”), and the local take on enchiladas (“enchiladas Queretanas”), fried with chili sauce, onions and cheese. A good place to try them is Café del Fondo (Pino Suárez 9). Some of the best snack food in the city is knocked out at Tamales y Atoles Arteaga (Arteaga 48) a tamale specialist, while San Miguelito (Andador 5 de Mayo 39), is one of the city’s best Mexican restaurants. For something special try to snag a table at Chinicuil (Pasteur Sur 52), showcase for the contemporary creations of celebrity chef Alan Rodríguez. Since the COVID pandemic the restaurant has been mobile (“nomada”), with pop-ups held throughout the city and announced on Instagram (www.instagram.com/chinicuil_cocinadeorigen/?hl=en).
What currency is used in Querétaro?
The Mexican peso (often pre-fixed with a “$” sign) is the currency of Mexico and used in Querétaro. Most major shops and restaurants accept credit cards, but it is a good idea to have some peso cash on hand for museum entry and small purchases like bottled water and snacks. Banks and ATMs are easy to find in Querétaro, especially around Jardín Zenéa.
Is Querétaro expensive?
Not really. It’s easy to visit on a modest budget. To save cash, stay in the cheaper B&Bs or hostels (budget airbnb deals are also a viable option), and eat at local restaurants and taco stalls. Buses and taxis are cheap, and museum entry is rarely more than US$2–3.
Is Querétaro safe?
Yes. Querétaro has generally avoided the drug violence that has affected other parts of Mexico. Take the usual precautions, especially at night, and keep your valuables in room safes.