Mexico Travel Guide › San Luis Potosí
Updated: October 20, 2020
San Luis Potosí is another less-visited gem that’s one of our favorite cities in the Bajío. Dripping with historic charm, the old center is known for its colonial churches, hotels, and enticing art museums.
Frequently Asked Questions about San Luis Potosí
Where is San Luis Potosí?
San Luis Potosí is the capital city of the Mexican state of San Luis Potosí, in the region of central Mexico known as the Bajío.
The city lies about 400 km northwest of Mexico City, 330 km northeast of Guadalajara, and 175 km north of San Miguel de Allende. Non-stop flights to San Luis Potosí take 1 hour 15 minutes from Mexico City, 1 hour 55 minutes from Houston, 2 hours from Dallas, 2 hours 10 minutes from Cancún, and 2 hours 40 minutes from Tijuana.
How big is San Luis Potosí?
San Luis Potosí has a greater metro population of just over 1.2 million, with the main part of the city covering a circular area some 14km across.
What is the history of San Luis Potosí?
Built on land once inhabited by the Chichimeca, San Luis Potosí traces its roots to the foundation of a Franciscan mission in the 1580s, but the city was formally established in 1592 as a supply camp for nearby gold and silver mines. The city grew rapidly, becoming one of the wealthiest and most beautiful in Mexico. San Luis is still prosperous today – most of the silver is gone but working mines churn out zinc and lead – with a considerable modern industrial base.
How do I get to San Luis Potosí?
San Luis Potosí is connected to Tijuana, Dallas, and Houston by non-stop flights, plus several other cities within Mexico. Most flights from Canada or Europe route through the US or Mexico City. The airport is around 25km north of downtown. Take a taxi into the city (pay at the dedicated kiosks before you get in, credit cards accepted). Rates are set according to a zone system, with most trips around 350 pesos.
Within Mexico, first-class long-distance buses are an economical and comfortable alternative to flying – buses to San Luis Potosí from Monterrey (6 hours) and Mexico City (5 to 6 hours) operate hourly. The city’s bus station, the Terminal Terrestre Potosina (or TTP), is around 3km east of the city center on Hwy-57; take a taxi to your hotel (buy a ticket before you leave the bus station, around 50 pesos).
Can I use Uber in San Luis Potosí?
Uber does operate in San Luis Potosí (assuming phones have roaming, and the app works), but drivers can be reluctant to pick-up from the airport due to hostility from the airport taxi union. However, you should be able to get an Uber back to the airport for as low as 150 pesos. Once in the city, getting an Uber should be no problem, though rates are comparable with regular taxis (and more expensive during rush hour).
Can I drive to San Luis Potosí?
Driving to San Luis Potosí from 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 410 miles (660 km) and takes around 8 hours non-stop. San Luis Potosí is also 535 miles (860 km) from Laredo, Texas (8 to 9 hours).
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 San Luis Potosí?
You can explore most of the city center of San Luis Potosí on foot making cars unnecessary; if you’d rather not walk, call an Uber or take a local taxi (all taxis have meters and are easy to hale on the street). The city has an excellent public bus system (fares 9.80 pesos) but you are unlikely to need it.
When is the best time to go to San Luis Potosí?
San Luis Potosí boasts a year-round temperate climate, with the driest and sunniest months October to April. Rain is most common June to September. There’s no real “bad” time to visit, though it can actually get chilly December 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 San Luis Potosí?
Right in the historic heart of San Luis Potosí (the centro histórico) is the best place to stay, 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 love Santosí by Inmense, a lavish contemporary conversion of an old colonial mansion.
For a real treat stay at the Quinta Real Palacio de San Agustín, a luxury hotel carved out of a Spanish-era monastery. We also like the budget Hikuri Eco Hostal, a hostel housed in another beautiful colonial building incorporating lots of recycled materials.
What are the best things to do in San Luis Potosí?
The best things to do in San Luis Potosí is to soak up the city’s colonial charm and history, and take in some of the museums. Sip coffee at an outdoor café and take in the scene on San Luis Potosí’s main square, the Plaza de Armas (aka Jardín Hidalgo), also the location of the city’s impressive 18th-century cathedral. The best of the city’s huge cache of colonial churches is the Templo del Carmen in nearby Plaza del Carmen, with a multicolored tiled dome and ornate Baroque façade.
Like many cities in the Bajío, San Luis Potosí is crammed with absorbing museums. The best of the bunch is the Museo Nacional de la Máscara, a grand mansion now a museum dedicated to the art of making masks, everything from pre-Hispanic pieces to Spanish-style masks still worn during fiestas today. Also worth checking out is the Museo Federico Silva, a showcase for the work of Federico Silva, one of Mexico’s most beloved sculptors, and the Museo Regional Potosino on Plaza de Aranzazú, which chronicles the history of San Luis Potosí state. Just outside the center (but still walkable), the Centro de las Artes is an arts center built inside the former state prison. Revolving art exhibitions take place here, but you can also see the cell where ex-president Francisco Madero was held in 1910. Also here, the Museo Leonora Carrington San Luis Potosí is a tribute to the English-born Mexican surrealist painter.
What are the best things to do around San Luis Potosí?
San Luis Potosí makes a good base to explore the surrounding area. With a car (easy to rent in the city or through your hotel) you can visit several of the grand haciendas that ring the city, including the Ex-hacienda Gogorrón outside Villa de Reyes, prime location for the 2005 movie Legend of Zorro, and Hacienda Peotillos, once frequented by Emperor Maximilian. With more time you can explore the hilly Huasteca Potosina region to the east of the city, riddled with waterfalls, mountain torrents, and secluded hiking trails. Visit recommended tour operator Huaxteca for more information.
What are the restaurants like in San Luis Potosí?
Restaurants in Potosí showcase local specialties including deep-fried “enchiladas Potosinos” (or “Huastecas”), made with masa (corn dough) infused with chili peppers and stuffed with cheese. The main market, Mercado Hidalgo has cheap and cheerful food stalls that serve them for a few pesos (they are especially good for breakfast). Another solid choice for Mexican food is Antojitos El Pozole (Carmona 205), part of a local chain celebrated for its pozole (a tasty chicken stew with corn and spices). For a treat, head over to La Gran Via (Carranza 560), an elegant, old-fashioned restaurant that specializes in Spanish seafood. Another one of our favorites is Cielo Tinto (Carranza 700), which serves gourmet Mexican food but also features a colonial courtyard perfect for coffee and pastries.
What currency is used in San Luis Potosí?
The Mexican peso (often prefixed with a “$” sign) is the currency of San Luis Potosí and the whole of Mexico. Most major shops and restaurants in San Luis Potosí 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. ATMs and banks are easy to find in central San Luis Potosí – you’ll generally get a better rate of exchange at ATMs than at casas de cambio.
Is San Luis Potosí expensive?
It’s easy to visit San Luis Potosí 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 San Luis Potosí safe?
San Luis Potosí 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.
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