A Detailed Guide to Beautiful Morelia Mexico
26 May 2023
Image by Eric Neil Vázquez from Pixabay
An Introduction to Morelia
Morelia, the capital city of the Mexican state of Michoacán, is an impressive destination known for its thoughtfully preserved colonial architecture and vibrant cultural scene. Founded in 1541, Morelia’s historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The area showcases its rich history and beautiful cityscape, characterized by elegant baroque-style buildings made from pink stone. The city’s impressive heritage, along with its delicious regional cuisine and warm, welcoming locals, makes Morelia a must-visit destination for anyone seeking to experience the true heart of Mexico.
Getting to Morelia
Morelia International Airport (MLM), also known as General Francisco Mujica International Airport, is the primary gateway for travelers arriving by air. Located approximately 30 kilometers, or just under 20 miles, from the city center, the airport offers direct flights to several major cities in Mexico and the United States. Upon arrival, visitors can easily find taxis, car rentals, ride-sharing or hotel shuttle services to reach their accommodations in Morelia.
Morelia is well-connected to other cities in Mexico through an extensive bus network. Travelers can catch a luxury bus from major cities such as Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Leon to Morelia’s Central Bus Station (Central de Autobuses), located a few kilometers south of the city center. Comfortable first-class and executive-class buses operated by reputable companies like ETN and Primera Plus provide frequent service along limited-access expressways, ensuring a relatively quick yet pleasant journey to Morelia.
Accommodations in Morelia
Morelia boasts several upscale hotels that offer first-class amenities and exceptional service. Visitors looking for a luxurious stay can choose from options such as Hotel de la Soledad, Cantera Diez Hotel Boutique, and Villa Montaña Hotel & Spa. These hotels provide guests with refined dining and spa services, along with elegant rooms.
Those seeking comfort and quality at an affordable price can find various mid-range accommodations in Morelia. Popular choices include Hotel Alameda, Hotel Casino Morelia, and Hotel Mision Catedral. These hotels offer modern facilities, complimentary breakfasts, and attentive staff to make your stay enjoyable while keeping your budget in mind.
Morelia also caters to budget-conscious travelers with numerous low-cost lodging options. Budget hotels, guesthouses, and hostels, such as The Only Backpackers Morelia and Hotel Belo Grand, provide the basics and friendly service, allowing you to explore the city without breaking the bank.
Things to do and see in Morelia
The historic downtown area is a fusion of architectural beauty, rich history, and modern Mexican culture. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991, the downtown area boasts hundreds of well-preserved historic buildings, showcasing a blend of Baroque, Neoclassical, and Renaissance architectural styles. Immerse yourself in the unique atmosphere that makes Morelia’s historic district so enchanting.
Morelia Cathedral: One of the city’s most iconic landmarks, the Morelia Cathedral, is an architectural masterpiece. Constructed between 1660 and 1744, this baroque-style cathedral features two soaring towers, an impressive facade, and a beautifully adorned interior with an organ and gilded altars. Visitors can attend a Mass, explore the cathedral’s art museum, or simply take in the stunning illuminated exterior at night. Visit on a Saturday evening to see the regular fireworks display.
Aqueduct of Morelia: Built in the 18th century, the Aqueduct of Morelia is an engineering marvel that once supplied water to the city. Stretching over 1,700 meters long and featuring 253 arches, the aqueduct is a striking example of colonial architecture. It’s an ideal spot for an evening stroll or capturing memorable photos with the illuminated arches in the background.
Palacio Clavijero: This impressive former Jesuit college, built in the 18th century, now serves as a cultural center and exhibition space. The stunning baroque facade and well-preserved courtyards are worth a visit on their own, but the Palacio Clavijero also hosts various art exhibitions, cultural events, and workshops throughout the year, offering visitors a glimpse into Morelia’s rich artistic heritage.
In Morelia, visitors can indulge in a diverse range of cultural experiences that capture the city’s rich heritage and creative spirit. The experiences you choose to take in, like those listed below, combine to create an unforgettable journey into the heart of Morelia’s charm.
Museo del Dulce (Candy Museum): Don’t be fooled by the unassuming storefront, Morelia is famous for its traditional sweets, and the Museo del Dulce is the perfect place to learn about the history and techniques behind these confections. Visitors can tour the museum, which displays antique candy-making equipment and historical artifacts, and then indulge in a variety of sweet treats available for purchase. Don’t forget to try the famous Morelian ates and cocadas! After a visit here be sure to walk less than 15 minutes down the main drag to the Mercado de Dulces y Artesanías where you can buy from candy vendors producing similar sweets today.
Morelia’s Music Scene: Known for its thriving music culture, Morelia offers numerous opportunities to enjoy live performances. From mariachi bands in public squares to orchestral concerts at the Conservatorio de las Rosas, visitors can experience Mexico’s rich musical heritage firsthand. Keep an eye out for the Morelia International Music Festival, which takes place annually and features renowned musicians from around the world.
Morelia offers several urban green spaces, providing residents and visitors with refreshing retreats dotted across the cityscape. Take a walking tour or check out these listed spots on your own for an excellent opportunity to unwind and appreciate the city’s natural beauty.
One of the best ways to discover Morelia’s spectacular architectural and historical landmarks is through guided walking tours. Many companies offer themed tours focusing on history, architecture, or gastronomy, providing visitors with a comprehensive and engaging introduction to the city. Wander through the picturesque cobblestone streets, learn about the fascinating stories behind each site, and immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere that makes Morelia so enchanting. Free walking tours led by knowledgeable local guides are also available, giving you the chance to explore the city’s hidden gems and learn insider tips for an unforgettable experience.
Morelia is home to several beautiful parks and gardens. Some of the most notable green spaces include Bosque Cuauhtémoc, a sprawling park featuring sculptures, fountains, and walking paths, and Jardín de las Rosas, a charming garden filled with blooming roses and surrounded by historical buildings. These serene spots offer visitors the perfect opportunity to relax, enjoy a leisurely stroll, or have a picnic while taking in the city’s natural beauty.
Best Places to Eat in Morelia
Traditional Mexican Cuisine
Morelia is a culinary paradise, offering a wide variety of traditional dishes that showcase the flavors of the region. Sample delicious Michoacán specialties at eateries like Lu Cocina Michoacana, Tata Mezcalería + Cocina, or La Conspiración de 1809. These restaurants use locally sourced ingredients to create mouthwatering dishes such as uchepos, carnitas, enchiladas and churipo. Don’t forget to try the famous local ice cream, nieve de pasta, as well!
In addition to its authentic Mexican fare, Morelia boasts a diverse array of international dining options. Satisfy your craving for Italian, Cuban, or French cuisine at popular spots like La Plazuela, Spaghetteria La Piccola Italia, and Le Lieu Altozano. These establishments offer delicious dishes from around the world.
Street Food and Markets
For a true taste of Morelia’s street food culture, visit the city’s bustling markets, such as Mercado de Independencia or Mercado Revolución (San Juan). Here, you’ll find food stalls offering a wide range of affordable and flavorful snacks, like tacos, tamales, gorditas, and posole. Make sure to also check out the vibrant street food carts and stands located around the city center for a memorable culinary experience of food typical of Morelia like gazpacho, a combination of fresh fruit and juice with chili and lime.
Recommended Day Trips
A Pueblos Mágico, or “Magical Towns,” is a designation awarded by the Mexican government to certain towns and cities that possess exceptional cultural, historical, and natural attributes. This program, initiated in 2001, aims to promote tourism and preserve the cultural heritage of these locations. To be recognized as a Pueblo Mágico, a town must meet specific criteria, such as having a well-preserved architectural character, maintaining local traditions and customs, and offering unique attractions or experiences that set it apart from other destinations.
Patzcuaro and the Island of Janitzio
Patzcuaro, a picturesque lakeside town, is known for its charming plazas, traditional crafts, and soulful Day of the Dead celebrations. Explore the shop dotted along cobblestone streets, eat amazing food, and visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Health.
While in Patzcuaro, don’t miss the opportunity to shop for local crafts such as pottery, textiles, and wood carvings. The town is one of many small towns in the area that is famous for handmade crafts. Be sure to visit local artisans who present their work for sale and give visitors a chance to see their handiwork. Visit the House of Eleven Patios, a former convent turned into a craft market, to find high-quality souvenirs and observe artisans at work.
A visit to the enchanting island of Janitzio, situated in a lake just outside of Patzcuaro, offers visitors a unique opportunity to experience the rich culture and varied landscapes of Michoacan. Accessible by boat from Patzcuaro, the area is home to the indigenous Purepecha community, who maintain their ancestral customs and traditional way of life. You will see fishermen putting their beautiful butterfly-shaped fishing nets on display for you while you sail by.
As your boat glides toward the dock you are welcomed by the colossal statue of Jose Maria Morelos, Mexican independence hero. You can climb this statue and enjoy an amazing view of the lake and surrounding areas. Strolling the island’s streets, and climbing a flight of stairs or two, you can appreciate the vibrant local art and sample regional cuisine. Be sure to try to locally sourced charales, a little white fish deep-fried and seasoned for a tasty snack.
Santa Clara del Cobre
This charming village is renowned for its exquisite copper artwork, a centuries-old tradition passed down through generations of skilled artisans. Browse the numerous shops and galleries showcasing beautifully crafted pieces, including decorative objects, cookware, and jewelry.
Many local workshops offer visitors the chance to witness the copper-making process firsthand. Observe the artisans as they heat, hammer, and shape the metal into stunning works of art, and even try your hand at this ancient craft under the guidance of an expert.
Tzintzuntzan, once the capital of the pre-Columbian Purepecha Empire, is home to an important archaeological site called the Yácatas. Explore the impressive and unique stone platform structures that were once a part of this capital city before the Spanish arrived. Learn about the rich history and culture of the Purepecha people who inhabited the region.
Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the historic Franciscan convent of Santa Ana in Tzintzuntzan. This complex features a church, a museum, and a beautiful courtyard peppered with ancient olive trees, some of which were planted long ago by Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century.
Other Nearby Sites Worth a Visit:
Lake Zirahuen: Just a short drive from Morelia, Lake Zirahuen is a hidden gem with its crystal-clear waters and serene surroundings. While there are no beach-like areas at the lake, you are surrounded by lush pine forests. The lake offers a perfect setting for a relaxing day trip or outdoor activities such as boating, fishing, and hiking. Several quaint cabins and restaurants dot the lake’s outer areas, providing visitors with opportunities to dine and unwind while taking in the lakeside views.
Paricutin Volcano: Another fascinating day trip from Morelia is a visit to Paricutin Volcano, one of the world’s youngest volcanoes that famously emerged from a cornfield in 1943. Located near the village of Angahuan, visitors can either hike or ride a horse to the volcano and explore the surreal landscape, including the half-buried church of San Juan Parangaricutiro. You can arrange for a small group guide once you drive into town and they will arrange for you and your group to ride a horse or hike up to the town ruins. It’s a unique experience that offers a glimpse into the powerful forces of nature that shaped the region.
Safety and Practical Information
While there are travel warnings for the state of Michoacan, Morelia is generally considered a safe destination for travelers. Still, it is always wise to take precautions. Be aware of your surroundings, as you would in any major city and avoid carrying large amounts of cash or flashy jewelry. Stay in well-traveled areas, especially at night. When using taxis, opt for authorized services or ride-sharing apps to ensure your safety. It’s also a good idea to have a copy of your travel documents in case of emergencies.
Morelia’s mild climate makes it an enjoyable destination year-round, but the months between October and April offer the most pleasant weather with less rainfall. If you plan to visit the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, aim for late January and February when the butterfly population is at its peak and be aware of any travel warnings issued for that area. Keep in mind that the city can be quite crowded during major festivals, such as the Morelia International Film Festival in October and the Day of the Dead celebrations in early November.
The currency in Morelia, like the rest of Mexico, is the Mexican Peso (MXN). Cash is widely used, especially in smaller establishments and for street food purchases. However, most hotels, restaurants, and shops accept credit cards, although it’s a good idea to carry some cash for emergencies. ATMs are readily available throughout the city, and it’s advisable to withdraw money from banks or other secure locations.
Enjoy Your Visit to Morelia
Morelia offers a captivating mix of historical landmarks, stunning architecture, and vibrant cultural experiences, all set within the charming backdrop of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With its rich culinary scene, expansive accommodation options, and an array of outdoor activities, there is something for everyone to enjoy in this beautiful city.
Whether you’re an art enthusiast, a history buff, or a nature lover, Morelia has something to capture your imagination. Embark on a journey to this remarkable destination and create lasting memories as you immerse yourself in the vibrant culture, stunning landscapes, and unforgettable experiences that make Morelia truly unique.
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