A Tour of Zacatecas, a Traditional Colonial Capital of the State

Zacatecas, Mexico's colonial jewel awaits you with its arms wide open. Let yourself be surprised by Zacatecas attractions, hotels, and more around.

A Tour of Zacatecas, a Traditional Colonial Capital of the State
The City of Zacatecas: A Historic City of the Aztec Period in Mexico. Photo by Jorge Gardner / Unsplash

The capital of the state of the same name, Zacatecas, is one of the most traditional colonial cities in the country. Its name comes from the Nahua words zacatl, which means 'zacate' and tecatl 'people', that is to say, "people of the Zacatecas".

Founded like most Mexican mining towns, it lies at the foot of La Bufo hill, a steep and rugged terrain. This picturesque and grandiose urban body wants to charm you with its winding streets and alleys, its always evocative nooks and crannies, its irregular squares and small squares, surrounded by modest houses or sumptuous buildings, palaces, and temples, considered admirable monuments of colonial style.

Attractions in Zacatecas

As you walk through the city, you will immediately perceive the imprint of the mining boom that continues to vibrate in the echo of its many architectural monuments, of very different styles, and you can begin this unforgettable tour in the Plaza de Armas, perhaps the largest in the city, with its beautiful bridge in the center. On one side is the Cathedral, one of the most beautiful examples of Mexican churrigueresque architecture: special attention deserves its prodigious façade, a masterpiece of colonial art in our country.

Also on the Plaza de Armas is the Government Palace, housed in an 18th-century building. On the other side of the Cathedral, in front of the doorway dedicated to the Virgen del Patrocinio, is the González Ortega Market, a construction from the Porfiriato period with wrought iron columns and ample interior spaces, which has been remodeled on several occasions.

Almost in front of the main façade of the Cathedral is the Callejón Veyno, where you can find the Palace of Justice, which was formerly known as the Palace of the Bad Night, as legend has it that its owner, immersed in poverty, was on the verge of committing suicide the very night he was told that a rare vein had been discovered in one of its mines. Further on you can visit the Plaza and Temple of Santo Domingo, of baroque style, the latter conserving in its interior altarpieces and paintings of great religious interest.

On one side is located the old Colegio de Son Luis Gonzaga, which was once a prison and today, completely restored, is the site of the museum named after the Zacatecan painter Pedro Coronel, which can be considered one of the best art centers in the country, presenting a valuable and extensive collection donated by the artist; as an example of its importance, it is enough to point out that it has works by Gaya, Picasso, and Miró, among others.

When leaving the museum we recommend you to visit the Temple of San Agustin, where you can admire a beautiful work in a quarry carved with an allegory of the life of the saint. Nearby is the building that was once the Mint, built in the late 18th century. In no way miss the Rafael Coronel Museum, located in the ex-convent of San Francisco, in which the most important mask collection of the country and a puppet collection can be found. Also worth a visit is the Calderon Theater and the Municipal Palace - neoclassical style - with a dreamlike patio, located in front of the Juarez Garden.

The Francisco Goitia Museum is an impressive experience that is highly recommended. One of the most pleasant walks is the Alameda, with its benches shaded by trees and its traditional kiosk. Nor should you forget to visit the Eden Mine, which is reached through the La Esperanza sinkhole on a small mining train that travels through one of the levels of the mine 320 meters underground. Today the site is home to a unique nightclub. At the exit of the city is located the Aqueduct that once conducted the water from the water shot of El Cubo to the fountain of the Plaza de Villarreal.

Zacatecas still has an unforgettable tour in store for you: a visit to the Cerro de La Bufa, which can be climbed on foot, by car, or excitingly and spectacularly: by cable car; this last option also allows you to appreciate the city from the air. At the top of La Bufa, the chapel of the Virgen del Patrocinio was built and its façade gathers the elements of the city's coat of arms: the stone, the Virgin, the sun, the moon, and the figure of Felipe II. Finally, no one can boast of knowing Zacatecos without having walked through its small squares and, to make the experience complete, listen to the classic tambora, which you will have to ask to sing the Marcha de Zacatecas.

Zacatecas handicrafts

The handicrafts that distinguish Zacatecas by the preciousness of their finishes and the quality of their materials have much to do with the charro tradition: belts with fine and well-made designs, leather jackets and jackets, palm hats - true jewels of art -, spurs, 'cuartos' or quarters and saddles. As an everlasting souvenir, don't forget to buy a silver object, which in Zacatecas guarantees extraordinary purity. And, to toast with friends, have a good wine or a mezcal.

Around Zacatecas

You only have to travel a few kilometers from the city of Zacatecas to discover other unforgettable and charming places in the state. Guadalupe, located only seven kilometers away, has a wealth of artistic treasures, such as the Viceroyalty Art Museum of the same name and the marvelous Naples Chapel. At 42 km from Guadalupe, by federal highway 45, the pleasant spa of Ojo Caliente awaits you, which invites you to enjoy its hot springs.

Fresnillo is located 53 km north of the city, on federal highway 45, and is considered the second city of Zacatecas, due to being an important mining, agricultural, and livestock center. There we recommend you to visit the Teatro Gonzalez Echeveria, the Municipal Presidency, and the Tránsito Church. Jerez, 50 km away on Federal Highway 54, stands out for the uniform layout of its streets, balconies, and doors, as well as for its valuable colonial architectural jewels, such as the Sanctuary of La Soledad, the Church of the Immaculate Conception, and the Hinojosa Theater, from the 19th century.

In this place was born the great poet Ramón López Velarde. La Quemada or Chicomostoc is located 50 km away by federal highway 54 and is an archaeological zone located on the top of a hill, surrounded by a wall that covers almost the entire perimeter of the pre-Hispanic ruins that exist in it. The buildings, known as Cathedral, Juego de Pelota, Acrópolis, and Pirárnide Votiva, with slab and mud roofs, are the main architectural ensembles of the zone.

The state of Zacatecas
The state of Zacatecas. Image: INEGI

Zacatecas weather

Seventy-three percent of the state has a dry and semi-dry climate; 17% has a temperate sub-humid climate and is located towards the west of the state; 6% is very dry and is located towards the north and northeast region; the remaining 4% has a warm sub-humid climate and is located towards the south and southwest of the state.

The average annual temperature is 17°C, the average maximum temperature is around 30°C and occurs in May; the average minimum temperature is 3°C and occurs in January.

The average annual precipitation in the state is 510 mm, with rainfall occurring in the summer months from June to September.

The dry and semi-dry climate of the state is a limiting factor for agriculture, which is practiced with irrigation and rainfed agriculture. The main crops are corn, oats, wheat, beans, chili, sorghum, cactus, and peaches.

Festivals and fairs in Zacatecas

The main celebration of the city is the Zacatecas Fair, which is held in September and becomes a true national fair, with livestock and agricultural exposition, bullfights, and dances. At the same time, on September 8, the Feria del Patrocinio takes place, which is celebrated in the chapel of the Cerro de La Bufa with candlelights, fireworks, dances, and popular dances. You can also visit Zacatecas on the last three days of August, during the Morisma festivity that takes place in the Bracho Chapel.

Gastronomy of Zacatecas

The tourist who visits the city of Zacatecas will be able to taste a great variety of exquisite dishes, elaborated mainly based on meats, as well as popular antojifos. Zacatecan food is rich and appetizing, so we recommend you try the carnero gambusino, brasero norteño, sopa de tortilla, las pacholas, chinchulines de tripa de res, carne adobada, sábana zacatecana, asado de boda, figadete jerezana, figadete jerezana, the borrego tatemado a la zacatecan, the sopa de ravioles a la jerezana, the enchiladas zacatecanas, the pipián ranchero, the birria, the chorizo jerezano, the chamorro miñón, the tamales zacatecanos, as well as the panochas de trigo.

When it comes to typical sweets, you will not be able to resist tasting the capirotada, torrejas, gorditas de cuajada, cheese and prickly pear honey, cocada jerezana, calabazate, coconut alfajor, fruit ate and quince cajeta. While mezcal, aguamiel, fermented tuna colonche and heribertas - prepared with water, sugar and alcohol - are the typical beverages of Zacatecas.

Zacatecas services

The city of Zacatecas has hotels and restaurants of various categories, as well as mail services, internet, telephones, medical services, automobile stores, and stores where you can find anything you need. Zacatecas, Mexico's colonial jewel, awaits you with ever-open arms. Let yourself be swayed by Zacatecas.