the Queretaro letter and fountain

Is Queretaro Worth Visiting in 2024? Things to do & Reasons to Visit

We hadn’t heard of Queretaro before we started planning our epic Mexico road trip. We only noticed it because it was well-placed between Mexico City and San Miguel de Allende but we wondered is Queretaro worth visiting.

We added it to our itinerary and Queretaro ended up being our starting point for the trip and one of the biggest surprise packages of our four-month adventure.

Where is Santiago de Queretaro?

Santiago de Querétaro, often simply called Querétaro, is a located in central Mexico. It is the capital of the state of Querétaro and lies about 220 km / 135 miles northwest of Mexico City.

The city is easily accessible by road and has an international airport, making it a convenient destination for travellers.

We found the airport to be much easier to navigate than Mexico City and car hire was significantly cheaper than options available in the capital.

Is Queretaro worth visiting in 2024?

You have probably already worked out the answer to this question. It is definitely worth visiting due to a combination of convenient arrivals at the international airport, big city conveniences without the big city crowds, and much more.

If you would like to know more about safety in Queretaro then we have a detailed guide.

Deep ties to Mexico’s Colonial history, leafy family-friendly parks, great food for every budget, and a few hidden surprises make Queretaro an unexpected pleasure for a weekend or a week.

How many days do I need in Queretaro?

You could have an enjoyable time over a couple of days or a weekend relaxing and exploring the streets and parks around the Centro area with time to eat plenty of amazing food and enjoy the atmosphere.

one of the many plazas and beautiful churches in queretaro

But if you hope to really experience the city and the surrounding areas then you should be looking at a stay of around a full week. We had 8 days and feel like we got to see the best that Queretaro has to offer.

Having that extra time allows you to discover more about the important role Queretaro had in shaping Mexican history, to see the important monuments and historic buildings, and to appreciate the significance.

You will also have time to venture further out to visit some of the local wineries and cheese factories that the region is famous for, or take a day trip to some of the most impressive towns in Mexico like San Miguel de Allende or Pena de Bernal.

How do you get there?

Queretaro International Airport connects with many destinations across Mexico and several cities in the USA making arriving by place both convenient and less stressful than flying into Mexico City.

If you do fly into Mexico City you can get to Queretaro on many of the major bus lines, which operate regular services many times per day. The buses are comfortable and cheap.

We started our car rental in Queretaro and found that having our own vehicle was the best way to get in and out of town, allowing us to see the surrounding attractions at our own pace rather than being restricted by a tour operator’s schedule.

Best things to do in Queretaro

There is no shortage of amazing things to do in and around Queretaro. Here is a list of the most popular activities and places, including our personal favourites.

1. Explore the Historic Center (Centro Histórico)

Wander through the UNESCO World Heritage-listed historic centre, where you’ll find beautiful colonial architecture, tree-lined plazas, and buzzing street life. Don’t miss the Templo de San Francisco and Plaza de Armas.

2. Visit the Aqueduct

The iconic Aqueduct of Querétaro, with its 74 arches spanning the city, is a must-see. This impressive structure dates back to the 18th century and is best viewed from the Mirador los Arcos.

3. Discover the Museo Regional

Located in a former convent, this museum offers a fascinating look at the region’s history, from pre-Hispanic times through the city’s important role during the colonial period and beyond.

4. Stroll through Jardín Zenea

This central park is a great place to relax and people-watch. It often hosts live music and cultural events, making it something of an oasis in the centre of the busier part of town.

5. Tour the Casa de la Marquesa

This luxurious 18th-century mansion is now a boutique hotel, but even if you’re not staying there, it’s worth a visit to admire its opulent baroque architecture.

6. Explore Cerro de las Campanas

This historic hill is the site where Emperor Maximilian I was executed in 1867. It offers panoramic views of the city from the statue of Benito Juarez and has a small museum and a chapel.

the chapel at cerras de las campanas queretaro

7. Try the local food

Enjoy traditional dishes such as enchiladas queretanas and gorditas at local restaurants. Don’t forget to try a refreshing glass of agua de jamaica or tamarindo.

8. Visit the Art Museum (Museo de Arte de Querétaro)

Housed in a former monastery, this museum features an impressive collection of colonial and contemporary art.

9. Get out of town on a Wine and Cheese Tours

Querétaro is part of a burgeoning wine region. Take a day trip to visit local vineyards and artisanal cheese producers for tastings and tours.

10. Take a Day Trip to Peña de Bernal

Located about an hour’s drive from Querétaro, this impressive monolith is one of the largest in the world. It’s a great spot for hiking and offers stunning views.

The town itself looks like something from a movie set. While walking around the town centre we couldn’t help but wonder if it was possible to find a place that looks more stereotypically Mexican.

11. Take a Day Trip to San Miguel de Allende

Also about an hour drive from Queretaro, but in the opposite direction of Bernal, is the stunning town of San Miguel de Allende. This place is widely considered to be the most beautiful town in Mexico.

You will not regret making the effort to travel here. The only regret you may have from your day trip is that you didn’t get to stay here for longer. It truly is a special place and rates in our favourite places in the world.

What can you eat?

The Queretaro region, like every other part of Mexico, has its own traditional dishes that are either unique to the area or modified to cater for local tastes and availability of ingredients.

The food scene is varied and exciting with prices and cuisines to suit any budget and palate. Our favourite restaurant is San Miguelito on Calle 5 de Mayo. Great food and 30 different frozen Margarita flavours!

Here are our suggestions for some of the food you should be looking out for:

  • Enchiladas Queretanas: One of the must-try culinary experiences in Queretaro is indulging in the local specialties. Enchiladas queretanas, a regional delight, is a must-have. These enchiladas are filled with mouthwatering ingredients such as cheese, potatoes, and carrots, and are topped with a rich and savoury sauce made from dried chilli peppers.
  • Gorditas: These thick corn tortillas are stuffed with a variety of fillings, such as beans, cheese, chicharrón (fried pork skin), or picadillo (ground meat). They are a popular street food and perfect for a quick snack.
  • Tamales Queretanos: These tamales are known for their unique flavour and are often wrapped in corn husks or banana leaves. Fillings can include chicken, pork, or sweet options like pineapple.
  • Pambazos: A type of sandwich dipped in red chilli sauce and then filled with potatoes, chorizo, lettuce, cheese, and cream. Pauline wasn’t a big fan of these but they are one of my favourite dishes of the trip.

To complement your culinary explorations, Queretaro boasts a thriving craft beer scene and a selection of local wines.

Visit one of the city’s breweries or wine bars to sample a variety of artisanal beers and wines produced in the region. Pair your meal with a refreshing pale ale or a glass of Queretaro’s renowned Viognier or Syrah wine.

Best Queretaro Mexico Hotels

Santiago de Querétaro, Mexico has a wide variety of accommodations, from small motels to private apartments and luxury 5-star hotels where you can spoil yourself. Here are our recommendations for your trip:

✅ Hostel Option: Septimo Hostal is a highly-rated hostel in a handy location location. It features budget-friendly prices and is within walking distance of many restaurants and the best things to do in the city.

✅ Budget Option: Morelos By HomiRent is only a few blocks from the Centro area. This aparthotel is highly-rated and offers large comfortable rooms at crazy cheap prices.

✅ Apartment Option: Increíble loft en el centro de la ciudad is within easy walking distance of Centro and all major attractions. It includes all the facilities you would expect from a self-contained property including fast internet, a kitchen and a washing machine.

✅ Mid-Range Option: Hotel Boutique Casa Loreta is a 4-star hotel located just a couple of minute walk from Centro. The hotel features a rooftop area and pool. Breakfast is included.

✅ Luxury OptionHotel Patio Santiago is a 5-star colonial building in the centre of Queretaro, less than 2 blocks from the San Francisco temple. The rooms feature high-end appointments and the hotel has a rooftop with great views.

How is the walkability?

Most of the historic centre and main shopping areas of Queretaro are mostly flat which makes exploring the city on foot effortless. The sidewalks are wide and there is also a few parts of the town centre which is pedestrian only.

There is plenty to see and do within a comfortable walk of el Centro including impressive churches, beautiful parks and plazas, shopping for every budget, and historic buildings.

It is a place where you will lose track of time as you stroll down interesting streets, taking in the sights and being captivated by the food smells coming from hidden cafes and restaurants.

For attractions that are a little further away, like Cerro de las Campanas, we recommend a city tour in a replica classic Ford. We did this and our driver was fun, friendly and full of interesting facts about the city.

Is Queretaro Worth Visiting? Our opinion.

We originally chose to stay in Queretaro for purely logistical reasons. It was cheaper to fly into than the nearby Mexico City airport, and the car hire for our 3-month long Mexico road trip was considerably cheaper than picking the car up in the Capital as well.

What we found was one of the biggest and best surprises of our entire trip. A city with a Colonial history that is hard to match, beautiful parks and churches, and unique man-made structures unlike anything else in Mexico, including the aqueduct and giant Benito Juarez statue.

dean and pauline standing in front of the benito kuarez monument in queretaro

Unlike many of the other towns we have visited in Mexico, Queretaro does not focus all of its family gatherings on a single part of town, usually the Zocalo, or town centre.

Instead, we found festivities spread across a number of the parks around the town centre, which made wandering around so much more interesting.

Restaurants were everywhere and the food we had was overwhelmingly good. From some amazing breakfasts accompanied by fresh fruit smoothies to cheap and delicious Mexican banquets with many flavoured Margarita options. The restaurant San Miguelito, near the Jardin Zenea, has 28 different flavours so you better start early!

But our favourite thing was the afternoon tour of the city we did with Las Diligencias. They use replicas of 1908 T model Fords, which is an experience on its own, but teamed up with knowledgable and entertaining guides that speak very good English, making this a fantastic way to see the city and learn about the history.

Speaking of good English, you will find it spoken, or at least understood in most of the more touristy areas and even beyond. But don’t let that stop you from showing a bit of respect and at least learning enough Spanish to be polite in their language. Remember who the foreigner really is!

Our final words on the matter… Santiago de Queretaro was a real surprise packet that went from an expectation of purely a convenient place to start and ended up being a place we would happily return to for another visit.

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