Morelia is slowly creeping its way onto the Mexico travel circuit. It’s a colonial city in the heart of Michoacan. It’s less touristy than San Cristobal and Guanajuato, but still has great traveler amenities.
So if you find yourself passing through on your next Mexico trip, here are the top four things to do in Morelia.
1. Visit the birthplace and home of Jose Maria Morelos y Pavon
Jose Maria Morelos y Pavon was a key leader in the Mexican War of Independence. He’s considered a hero throughout Mexico. And he was born and lived right here in Morelia.
The city is obsessed with its native son. So while you’re in Morelia, make the pilgrimage to the house he was born in — where an eternal flame still burns. Then check out his permanent home. It’s been converted to a museum with good displays on the history of Mexico, the War of Independence, and Morelos’s role. Signage is in English and Spanish.
2. See the stone coyote and magnificent murals in the Michoacan Regional Museum
Ihuatzio was once an important ceremonial center. Now it’s a little-known ruins site. When they excavated, archaeologists found two stone coyotes — the only two of their kind. One is on display at the Michoacan Regional Museum, along with a wide variety of other pre-Hispanic artifacts from across the state. Look closely and you can see big differences between the items found at different sites.
When you’re done exploring the state’s history, head upstairs. The upper level of the museum houses an array of fascinating murals.
3. Walk along the aqueduct and stop in the churches
In the 17th century, developers built a several-kilometer-long aqueduct along what is now one of the main streets through Morelia. Starting in the city center, you can follow it to Santuario de Guadalupe, an impressive colonial-era church with a gold-adorned interior.
Along the way, don’t miss the fountain shaped like a woman with a basket on her head. This one is a replica — the original disappeared in the middle of the night some years ago. To this day no one knows what happened to it.
If you haven’t had enough of Morelia’s museums yet, stop in at the modern art museum. It’s free and displays temporary exhibitions by local artists and others from around Mexico and the world.
4. Eat, eat and eat some more
Morelia is a great foodie city. You can try dishes from all over Michoacan, or stick with classic Mexican fare. Either way, you have plenty of options.
Most eateries focus on lunch here — dinner tends to be more street food. If you only have one meal in Morelia, make sure it’s lunch at Fonda Marceva. The aporreadillo (dried beef and egg stew) is to die for. The courtyard setting is adorable. You might even befriend one of their resident geckos!
You can’t miss trying the “gazpacho” in Morelia. The local version isn’t a cold soup, but a spicy-sweet-tangy fruit salad with a mango base. It’s light and very refreshing on a warm evening. Several competing stalls operate just off the central plaza.
For your sweets fix, Cafe Catedral has fantastic hot chocolate and pretty good churros.
Morelia is the capital of Michoacan. So it’s easy to get here from anywhere else in central Mexico. First-class buses run to Mexico City (5 hours) and Guadalajara (4-ish hours).
You can also pick up buses to more local destinations. The most popular is Patzcuaro, a small town an hour and a half away, up in the mountains (read about it here).
A word of warning: Morelia is safe to travel in, and the main cuota (toll road) from Guadalajara to Mexico City is fine. But the State Department advises against travel to many other places in Michoacan. Check the latest. And remember your travel insurance probably won’t cover you if you go somewhere with a travel warning.
Morelia has more cute boutique guesthouses than it knows what to do with. Casona Rosa is a good option, especially if you’re traveling in a group.
While you don’t need a lot of time to explore Morelia, it is well worth a stop between Guadalajara and Mexico City. So don’t overlook this charming corner of Michoacan!
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