Mexico’s colonial heritage is a rich and diverse tapestry composed of European and indigenous roots which combine old traditions with modern practices in places which offer foreign travelers an opportunity to experience the unusual among the familiar.
Mexican colonial cities evoke images of streets paved in cobble stones, meandering alleyways which break out into sun-drenched courtyards, copious varieties of brightly-colored flora, majestic cathedrals, restored haciendas with magnificent landscaped gardens and beautiful architecture, elegant fountains, and shaded nooks where one may rest and take quiet contemplation during the late afternoon…
The country’s colonial cities are also vibrant hubs of cultural activity. Many are cultural centers in their own right and each one hosts a series of local events and festivals which are energetically celebrated and diligently attended by local residents, national visitors, and foreign tourists.
Mexico’s colonial wealth was originally founded upon silver mining and the development of local haciendas between the 16th and 19th centuries. Today, they are centers where culture, art and crafts, farming and livestock, tourism, and knowledge-based industries thrive.
Attractions in Mexico’s colonial cities are as diverse and intimate as the cities themselves. Here is a highlight of some of the main experiences you can enjoy:
Cultural centers: Most of the larger colonial cities in Mexico have at least one cultural center offering a range of events and activities including local history studies, dance and costumes, and specialist cultural activities related to the local indigenous heritage of the region.
Language study: Learning Spanish by attending a residential Spanish course is the best way to learn the language and colonial cities serve as key locations for language schools and language study here. Foreign visitors who choose to mix learning with pleasure in Mexico can often be found in one of the country’s colonial cities.
Arts and crafts: Mexican artisans are extremely talented craftspeople and they sell their art to locals and visitors in Mexico’s colonial cities: sometimes via street stalls, and sometimes at craft markets specially set up by the local government or other organizations dedicated to promoting Mexican art and culture. Some colonial cities feature artists’ enclaves where visitors can watch as art is created and buy unique pieces of art directly from its creator.
Festivals: Some of Mexico’s most remarkable festivals take place in colonial cities. For example, the Guelaguetza in Oaxaca, and the Cervantino festival in Guanajuato are both world-class events; Day of Dead is particularly poignant in Pátzcuaro and Oaxaca. Whatever time of year you visit Mexico, you will find an ample choice of festivals and events to attend and enjoy during your stay.
Local Markets: Mexicans are keen traders —the Spanish were amazed by the markets of Tenochtitlan— and today, the traditions of tianguis remain alive and vibrant across Mexico. Attending the marvelous variety of local markets is a highlight of any visit to Mexico, and one that should not be missed. You’ll find a rich assortment of markets in Mexico’s principal cities offering a panoply of products including arts, jewelry, crafts, silver, local foods, herbs and spices, precious stones, and much more.
One of the most remarkable aspects of Mexico as a destination is the enormous range of experiences it offers visitors and residents alike. While Mexico is often associated with its world-class beaches and resorts, delve deeper and you’ll also find a rich colonial heritage, archaeology centers offering unique insights into important ancient civilizations, a funky and breath-taking capital city, and an abundant choice of destinations which offer inspiring nature and adventure activities amidst the backdrop of this country’s outdoor landscapes which are at once dramatic and beautiful.
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