A city carved in pink quarry stone that blankets a hilly landscape, Zacatecas has been chosen by Mexican travelers as the best cultural city in Mexico.
In 2019, Cancún’s stunningly white beaches drew more tourists than any other city in Mexico, and Mexico City’s sprawling skyline captivates millions of tourists each year. But in a recent poll respondents opted for the lesser-known northern city of Zacatecas.
Each year, the tourism site México Desconocido rounds up hundreds of thousands of votes for its “Best of Mexico” poll. Users vote for categories like favorite beaches (Balandra, Baja California Sur) and best local dish (barbacoa, native to Hidalgo).
In the 2020 poll Zacatecas landed in first place for the city with the most cultural appeal, with 26% opting for it in that category. (Mexico City and San Luis Potosí received second and third place, respectively.)
Zacatecas certainly brims with culture and history: aside from Mexico City, it holds more museums than any other city nationwide. The Museo Rafael Coronel, housed in an old monastery, holds the most extensive mask collection in the entire nation — donated by Rafael Coronel, a brother-in-law of Diego Rivera. And the Museo Zacatecano, housed in a building of the city’s iconic pink stone, showcases intricate works of art by the indigenous Huichol people of the region.
One can also admire a 300-year-old aqueduct and the peach-colored arches of the Temple of Our Lady of Fatima. In the town center stands the sweeping, stark white Government Palace, and the Plaza de Armas — site of one of Pancho Villa’s hardest-fought battles in the Mexican Revolution.
Zacatecas was founded in the middle of the 16th century under the name “Real de Minas de Nuestra Señora de Zacatecas,” or “Royal Mines of our Lady of Zacatecas.” Its origin as a Spanish city dates back to 1546, when Juan de Tolosa, who’d traveled from the Basque region, discovered streaks of lead and silver not far from the city’s La Bufa hill.
Just a few kilometers away sits Penasquito, the largest silver reserve on the planet, sealing Zacatecas’ reputation as a major hub for the precious metal.
Throughout the year, Zacatecas holds an ever-changing variety of cultural events. These include the National Book Fair, which draws children and adult readers each May, and the Cultural Festival of Zacatecas, which falls each April and showcases an abundance of local and national artistry. (Both may yet be postponed due to the coronavirus.)
In 1993, Zacatecas’ historic center was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. And recently the state of Zacatecas was awarded the American Capital of Culture title for the year 2021 (a title previously held by Guadalajara, Colima, Mérida and San Miguel de Allende).
Check the calendar of events happening in Zacatecas and in other nearby cities here (in Spanish).
Mexico News Daily