City Guide to Santiago de Queretaro, Mexico: Part 2 | Must See Attractions
We spent five weeks in Santiago de Queretaro, Mexico and discovered a beautiful historical Spanish Colonial city with so many things to see, do, and eat! Here’s our ultimate list of must see attractions in Santiago de Queretaro, including an all-inclusive map to customize your itinerary!
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Before we get into Santiago de Quretaro's must see attractions, allow us to give you some background on how we ended up in Mexico to begin with...
(or jump straight to the Must See Attractions!)
After a year traveling long-term in Europe, we realized we knew Europe better than we did our home country, the US. So, we decided it was time to explore more of the United States, and what better way to do that, than with long-term house sitting!
We started looking and applying for house sits on Trusted Housesitters in the US, but it wasn’t long before a house sit outside of the US peaked our interest. When we were offered a house sit in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Moreover, with airline tickets (booked with miles and points) to QRO (Santiago de Queretaro, Mexico Airport), we wanted to make the best use of our time and resources.
So, it wasn’t long before we had a two month adventure in Mexico with stops in Santiago de Queretaro and San Miguel de Allende planned!
Our Itinerary in Mexico
(or jump straight to the Must See Attractions!)
Mattress Run in Santiago de Queretaro, Mexico
We landed in Santiago de Queretaro, which has a small but international airport (QRO) and immediately began a 41 day Hilton mattress run. What’s a ‘mattress run’ you ask? Well, check out our article The Ultimate Mattress Run | Hacking Hotel Rewards for Free Rooms with Hilton! and you’ll get all the nitty gritty details. But, if you simply want the highlights…
Mattress run? What the heck is that!?
Allow us to explain...
Depending on who you ask the execution can vary greatly. On one side of the spectrum, you have people who book a hotel room with no intention of actually sleeping in the room. On the other side, you have people who take full advantage of the room and stay for the duration of the booking (e.g. stay-cation, vacation abroad).
In our case, it worked out great because we were traveling and needed to book lodging accommodations in the area anyway. Therefore, we worked the mattress run organically into our itinerary.
Tip: Want to start earning your way to free Hilton hotel nights? We recommend signing up with Hilton Honors right away to start earning award points and status. Plus, sign up through our link and get a head start with 2,500 Hilton Honors bonus points (awarded after your first completed stay, before December 15, 2018). That's halfway to a free night at a category one hotel!
Undertaking the Ultimate Mattress Run
Initially, we thought a 41 day mattress run where we changed hotels each day might be a challenge, both mentally and physically. However, we found in practice that after the first few hectic days we started to settle into a rhythm. Don’t misunderstand us though, those first few days were rough, especially since we chose to take public transportation, walk everywhere we could, and do our own grocery shopping for food, rather than eating out.
Mattress Run Logistics
Learning these systems in any location can be a challenge, but especially when in a new culture and more so, one where you have a looming countdown clock of having to check out of a hotel room every day. Nevertheless, those same challenges and experiences are also amazing and a quick way to dive into life and culture in a city right away!
Going from hotel to hotel did affect our ability to sightsee, as in reality we didn’t have much time at all to be ‘tourists’ in the traditional sense of the word during our mattress run.
However, what we were able to do was walk in countless neighborhoods, squeeze ourselves onto dozens of crowded local buses, meet many great people, work each day in the hotel, and enjoy each other’s company in the evening when we walked to the grocery store and had a quiet dinner in the hotel.
Plus, we paid nothing out of pocket for 41 nights of lodging at Hilton hotels, earned 12,500 Hilton points and extended our Hilton Honors Diamond membership for another year. In the end, it turned out better than we ever thought it would have!
House Sitting in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico is a short (1.5 hours) and inexpensive (roughly $8 USD roundtrip) bus ride from Santiago de Queretaro. We were generously offered a 12 day house sit in a wonderful city center apartment where we had the privilege of caring for two cats, Dave and Jack. San Miguel de Allende is a beautiful Spanish Colonial town, a haven for artists, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The streets are quaint, the people are kind, and the views of the city are spectacular!
Sightseeing, Culture, and Food in Santiago de Queretaro, Mexico
After the mattress run and our time house sitting in San Miguel de Allende, we indulged in everything Santiago de Queretaro had to offer. We saw the most popular tourist attractions, walked through local street markets, ate traditional street food, and simply enjoyed our time in the historical Colonial city. A nice surprise for us was, that while the city is busy and traffic can be very heavy, the amount of tourists we saw were less than expected. Once we moved out of the very center of downtown, we usually walked among locals and commuters.
Must See Attractions in Santiago de Queretaro, Mexico
Santiago de Queretaro Sightseeing Map
To possibly make your research on sightseeing in Santiago de Queretaro (and other destinations) easier, we’ve kept our maps with all of the information we gathered (accurate at the time of our sightseeing). Finding hours, prices, and general information can sometimes be challenging, so we’ve tried to include these details on our maps and provide appropriate links below. And finally, not every attraction is suitable for every visitor, but the copywriters and marketing departments for the destinations sure make it sound like it. How many times have you read “Great for kids and adults alike” and shown up at the venue to wonder why anyone over 20 years-old without kids would go out of their way to be there? Below we’ve included our itinerary with tips, impressions, and our takeaways on each place that, when combined with the official attraction information and website, may help you decide if it’s a destination for your travel adventure or not.
NOTE: We used this sightseeing map for our personal sightseeing adventures, because of that, some notes may not make perfect sense, and some information could be outdated. Information on this map was valid at the time of creation. All prices are shown in US dollars but are actually Mexican Pesos (local currency). That being said, feel free to save it to your Google account and use it as a starting point (or modify it accordingly) for planning out your personalized itinerary in Santiago de Queretaro, Mexico.
Los Arcos (Aqueduct of Queretaro) and La Casa de la Marquesa
Like many cities around the world, over time Santiago de Queretaro has become known for one main landmark. So, like Paris and the Eiffle Tower, Istanbul and the Blue Mosque, and Rome and the Colosseum, Los Arcos in Santiago de Queretaro are synonymous with the city.
Moreover, with 74 arches spanning a mile (1.7 kilometers), it’s hard to miss this well preserved beauty! The arches reach a height of nearly 100 feet (30 meters) and pass over major arteries of the city as they span the appropriately named Calzada de Los Arcos (Road of the Arches).
Note: Depending on the source, the specifics of Los Arcos can vary. There are between 74 and 75 arches, which span between 0.75 and 1.0 miles, with a peak height of 75 to 100 feet.
The History and the Legend
Los Arcos translates to ‘The Arches’ in English, however they’re much more than simply arches. Constructed out of sandstone between 1726 and 1735, Los Arcos are actually an aqueduct that brought much needed clean water to the city.
In addition to bringing potable water to the city, legend has it that Marquis del Villa del Alguia commissioned the project as a grandiose gesture of his unrequited love for Sister Marcela Nasturtium. You see, he first built a spectacular house, La Casa de la Marquesa, at the request of Sister Marcela Nasturtium as a symbol of their spiritual union. He then took it a step further by building Los Arcos to make it the only home in the city with running water. Along with water to La Casa de la Marquesa, he gave clean water to the people through several public fountains spread across the city.
Tip: Today La Casa de la Marquesa is a beautiful centrally located hotel. Experience Mexican luxury, romantic nights, and history by booking a room for your stay.
Unfortunately, legend of the home and unrequited love may only be that, a story told by those who are romantics at heart.
The truth is, the city had been in need of clean water for some time, so the building of the arches wasn't only a nicety, but also a necessity. Secondly, it has been reported that La Casa de la Marquesa was built in 1756 (21 years after the completion of Los Arcos), by Marquis, Don Juan Antonio de Urrutia y Arana for his wife. For unknown reasons, it was built as two separate homes so that his wife could live separately from him.
Mirador de Los Arcos (Los Arcos/Aqueduct Lookout)
Once you’ve seen Los Arcos up close, the next logical destination is a lookout point that gives you a view from above. Luckily, Mirador de Los Arcos does just that! Plus, it’s a fantastic lookout point for a vista of the entire city, showing a wonderful contrast between traditional architecture and the newer modern side of Santiago de Queretaro.
While you can see the large expanse of the city and the span of Los Arcos disappearing to the east of the city from the Mirador de Los Arcos, we were a bit dismayed when we arrived. From the many pictures we peeked at online before arriving, it seems to be a wonderful, uninterrupted view. However, below the hill we stood on were unattractive rooftops of numerous residential and business areas.
We didn’t let this spoil our time though! The view is still great, just keep your chin up, literally, and take in the beautiful view.
Tip: The Mirador de Los Arcos is elevated, so getting there requires walking uphill. However, it’s not as strenuous to reach as most lookouts are, like El Mirador in San Miguel de Allende. Furthermore, it’s near city center and right by Panteón de los Hombres Ilustres and Templo y Convento de la Santa Cruz, making the effort to get there worth it. Also, if you prefer to take Santiago de Queretaro's public transportation it’s a great alternative to walking.
Pantheon of the Illustrious Queretanos
Once a hilltop chapel, the Pantheon of the Illustrious Queretanos is the resting place of many important historic figures of the city. Here you can find a courtyard of the statues of those who’ve been buried here, along with an exhibit of historical documentation. Among those honored and laid to rest are:
Doña Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez, also known as La Corregidora (wife of the city's mayor) who is considered a heroine for her work in the Mexican War of Independence.
Ignacio Pérez, a hero from the Mexican War of Independence.
Valentín F. Frías, a notable historian.
Don Carlos Septién García, a 20th century journalist.
Tip: If you make the short walk from the Pantheon of the Illustrious Queretanos to the Plaza de los Fundadores, pay special attention to the stone wall on your left side. Mid-way between the two destinations, you’ll notice a large break in the wall, with an accompanying plaque that reads: “The Republican troops entered this place at dawn on May 5, 1867, ending the siege of this city.” (Translated from Spanish). This is where the city wall was breached during the Siege of Queretaro in 1867.
Plaza de los Fundadores (Founders’ Square)
Just a short walk from the Pantheon of the Illustrious Queretanos and across from the Temple and Convent of the Holy Cross is Plaza de los Fundadores (Founders’ Square). Central to where the city was founded, this public square was inaugurated to commemorate the 450th anniversary of the city of Santiago de Queretaro.
Tip: If you’re looking for the well photographed Queretaro sign made up of human sized white letters, it’s no longer located at Plaza de los Fundadores. Instead, you can now find it on display within Plaza Mariano De Las Casas, across the street from Templo de Santa Rosa de Viterbo and the Center of Arts of Queretaro (CEART).
Plaza de Armas/Plaza de Independencia (Independence Plaza)
Surrounded by historical 17th and 18th century colonial homes, this public square is enclosed by the shade of trees and is lined with restaurants and cafes.
Locally, the square has become known as Plaza de Los Perros, an affectionate name referring to the four dogs that adorn the central fountain. Topping the fountain is a statue of Marquis de la Villa del Villar, the duke who commissioned the public square.
The square also goes by the Name Plaza de Independencia (Independence Square), a name it earned during the Mexican War of Independence because of La Casa de la Corregidora that sits within the square.
During the Mexican War of Independence La Casa de la Corregidora was the home of Miguel Domínguez, the appointed Corregidor of Querétaro (local Mayor and administrative and judicial official of Spain). He and his wife, La Corregidora, played a seminal part in the war and held secret meetings for sympathizers of the Mexican Independence movement disguised as literary meetings.
La Casa de la Corregidora became the Government Palace for the Executive Power of the State of Queretaro, Mexico in 1981.
It’s a bustling square, but the shade of the trees make the center of the square a great place to rest your feet. Also, consider visiting the Galeria Libertad, which is located in Plaza de Armas and offers free exhibitions throughout the year.
Tip: If you want a sneak peek at Plaza de Armas in Santiago de Queretaro without leaving your home, check the local webcam!
El Danzante Conchero Chichimeca Monument
This is an ornate monument in city center that is based on the legend of the founding of Santiago de Queretaro, Mexico.
It’s said that on July 25th, 1531 on the hill of Sangremal, the conquistadores of the Spanish Crown fought the Chichimec Indians.
The Spanish Conquistadores were near defeat when a solar eclipse frightened the Chichimecas. Through the heavens Lord Santiago appeared on a white horse with a large luminous cross, to which the Chichimecas cried “He is God” and began worshiping the cross through the traditional Conchero dance.
The plaque on the monument is in Spanish and translates to:
Plaza de la Corregidora and La Corregidora Monument
Santiago de Queretaro is no doubt a historical city and was a central location during the Mexican War of Independence. In the Plaza de la Corregidora, a heroine in the fight for the independence from Spain has been commemorated with La Corregidora Monument (1910). It’s an impressive monument, and a part of history worth noting.
Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez, known as La Corregidora because of her husband’s position as El Corregidor (magistrate) of Queretaro, was an integral part in the insurrection against Spain. Secret meetings, disguised as literary gatherings, were held in her home and were the source of plans for the uprising.
When they were discovered, it was La Corregidora who sent a message of warning to leaders of the war, Ignacio Allende and Padre Hidalgo, in San Miguel de Allende. Along with the impressive monument in Plaza de la Corregidora, every year on September 15th the horse ride of that vital night in 1810 is reenacted.
Jardin Zenea (Zenea Garden)
Jardin Zenea is located in the historic center of Santiago de Queretaro and across from the Templo de San Francisco. It’s a popular public gathering space with a central fountain and a lovely large gazebo.
Teatro de la Republica (Theater of the Republic)
Teatro de la Republica is a beautiful theater that on its own merit draws visitors in to see the theater's small historical exhibition and to catch a glimpse of the theater’s beautiful red and gold seating.
However, there’s much more to this theater than its beauty, it’s also been the place for many historic events.
September 15, 1854 – The Mexican National Anthem was premiered simultaneously in select venues across the country. Teatro de la Republica was the chosen location for the premier in Queretaro State.
May and June 1867 – The location of the prosecution of Emperor Maximillian I of Mexico and where he was condemned to death.
January 31, 1917 – The signing of the Mexican Constitution.
1929 – Meeting and convention that formed the Partido Nacional Revolucionario (PNR, translated to National Revolutionary Party), a predecessor of the current Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI, translated to Institutional Revolutionary Party).
Fuente de Neptuno (Neptune Fountain)
Fuente de Neptuno was originally placed, in the market of the San Antonio Convent in 1797 and was created by sculptor Juan Izguerra.
At the turn of the 19th century the market, along with the Fuente de Neptuno, were moved to its current location to make way for La Corregidora Monument, which still stands today. Unfortunately, due to vandalism in 1987 the original Fuente de Neptunosculpture was moved to the grounds of the Municipio de Queretaro. Sadly, the bronze replica statue hasn’t gone damage free either, as it was decapitated and then repaired in the 1990s.
Centro de Desarrollo Artesanal Indigena (Indigenous Artisan Development Center)
The Centro de Desarrollo Artesanal Indigena is a great place to meet local artists and purchase handmade goods. It’s a low pressure environment and you may even get to see the artists at work! Plus, there’s a free museum on the history of indigenous works.
Templo de Santa Rosa de Viterbo and the Center of Arts of Queretaro (CEART)
El Templo de Santa Rosa de Viterbo dates back more than 200 years and is a magnificently ornate and elaborate Baroque style landmark. What was once the convent for the church is now the headquarters of the Center of Arts of Queretaro (CEART). Both are free to visit, so be sure to experience the temple and walk through the beautiful architecture and art of CEART!
Tip: Across the street from the Templo de Santa Rosa de Viterbo and the Center of Arts of Queretaro (CEART) is Plaza Mariano De Las Casas. Here you can find the well photographed Queretaro sign constructed of human sized white letters. We looked for it at its original location of Plaza de los Fundadores but later discovered it had been moved to this plaza!
Jardin de los Platitos (Garden of the Little Plates)
Jardin de los Platitos is literally a ‘garden’ of little plates! It’s an incredibly unique public space located a short ways out of the historic center of Santiago de Queretaro, Mexico.
In an incredibly artistic manner, the city recycled ceramic plates to make a corner garden space covered entirely in tiled mosaics. We explored Jardin de los Platitos from top to bottom and found so many great illustrations!
Churches and Temples in Santiago de Queretaro, Mexico
Often times a great deal of resources (financial, emotional, physical, and of course time) are put into making places of worship as grandiose and beautiful as possible. Therefore, no matter the culture or religion, we always have a few places of worship on our sightseeing itinerary.
Templo y Convento de la Santa Cruz (Temple and Convent of the Holy Cross)
The church was originally a small chapel built in 1531, but was replaced by the current temple in the 17th century. Worth noting are the Neo-Clasical and Baroque altarpieces, along with carvings and paintings that adorn the interior. Additionally, the church is well known for a tree, which is located within the adjacent convent, that bares thorns in the shape of crosses.
Tip: The convent is located to the right side of the church and offers free tours. Inquire inside the small gift shop for hours.
Templo De La Merced Queretaro
From the outside, this temple is easily passable without much ado. However, take a moment to step inside and you’ll surely be impressed by the bright paintings and wonderful interior architecture.
If you’re curious what the sign outside the front door reads, here’s the English translation:
Templo de San Francisco (San Francisco Temple)
Templo de San Francisco (circa 1540) is considered a starting point of growth for the city, as this was the first religious building constructed during the Spanish settlement. For three centuries it served both the Spanish and various indigenous communities, creating a meeting place for the two cultures.
Templo de San Antonio de Padua
Templo de San Antonio de Padua is yet another beautiful example of a temple within Santiago de Queretaro that had an influence on the Mexican War of Independence as Friars Felipe Luna and Cristobal Suarez assisted with plans for the Independence of Mexico.
The temple was completed in 1678 with a Spanish Colonial exterior, and at the turn of the 18th century the interior was transformed into a Baroque style. Take a moment to appreciate the altar piece and sculptures within the church, as they’re rich additions to this historical landmark.
Parroquia del Sagrado Corazon de Jesus - Templo de Santa Clara
Tucked away behind the Fuente de Neptuno (Neptune Fountain) is the Parroquia del Sagrado Corazon de Jesus - Templo de Santa Clara. It was once a temple and a large convent covering several blocks, but now only the temple remains. However, don’t be dismayed, the ornate detail of the interior of the church is magnificent!
Catedral de Queretaro (Queretaro Cathedral)
Built between 1786 and 1804, Queretaro Cathedral was one of the last buildings constructed during the colonial period. The transition between times can be seen in the combination of Baroque and Neo Classical architectural styles of the cathedral.
Tip: We visited Catedral de Queretaro mid-morning, around 10 am, and were graced with spectacular lighting within the cathedral! The sun shined through the stained glass at just the right angle to reflect vibrant colors along the walls and the floor.
If you’ll allow us, we’d compare Santiago de Queretaro, Mexico to the United States’ Philadelphia for the historical importance in relation to its home country’s independence. In Santiago de Queretaro, each must see attraction is a wonder, either for its role in the Mexican War of Independence or its beautiful Spanish Colonial architecture.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Mexico and hope to return and explore more of this wonderful country soon! From the Colonial architecture and history, to the culture and food, we highly recommend Santiago de Queretaro.