With a consistent colonial style throughout, Morelia is one of the most beautiful cities in Mexico. It is not really on the well-trodden path of the leisure tourists and so you can walk around in comfort without fear of the bermuda shorts crowds. Morelia is the capital of the state of Michoacan in Mexico and it is a registered UNESCO World Heritage site. Almost all attractions lie within walking distance of the historical center, making the city exceedingly convenient to get around.
Morelia is the capital city of Michoacan. Its beautiful historical center, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is very clean, safe and walkable. It has a pleasant climate, nice parks to relax in, and plenty of shops and markets to browse. Due to Morelia's location off the beaten travel paths of Mexico, as well as it being a university town and center of government, tourists are not as common here as in some other areas of Mexico, yet the people are very friendly. As a gringo in Morelia, prepare to be somewhat of a novelty—in a good way.
If you stay in the historical center, most of the attractions like the cathedral, the square, museums and shopping, are within walking distance. Credit cards are widely accepted, although you may want to load up on pesos before ordering food or trying to make a purchase at more budget locations, as foreign currency is generally not accepted. In the central business district, drivers use their horns 24 hours a day to excess, prodding other drivers and giving notice at the numerous blind intersections. You will get used to it, but request a hotel room away from the street.
Morelia is more than just its historical center. Its outlying areas feature modern housing developments, shopping centers and parks. Tres Marias and Altozano are among its ultra-modern residential areas.
Deluxe buses serve Morelia from all parts of the Republic. Morelia's state-of-the-art bus station is located in the northern part of the city and consists of separate terminals for first-class and second-class buses. The cost of a taxi going from the bus station to downtown is about M$70 (Dec 2021), you can buy a ticket from the kiosk inside the station and then give it to the taxi driver. It is easy to reach Morelia from Mexico City or Guadalajara. The bus trip from Guadalajara is about 4½ hours and from Mexico City is 4 hours, depending on the company. You can also reach Morelia from the United States by way of Greyhound.
Morelia is accessible by a modern toll road and is located about equidistant from Guadalajara and Mexico City, about 3½ hours driving. There are plenty of gas stations along the way with restrooms and food. Be prepared with change/pesos to pay tolls. The cost varies depending of the route you take; from Mexico City the cost is about M$500 (pesos) one way. It is a very scenic trip, to say the least.
- 1 Morelia International Airport (MLM IATA General Francisco Mujica International Airport). Relatively new, modern airport at the edge of town. There are daily international flights from LAX IATA, IAH IATA and ORD IATA and scheduled flights from SFO IATA, SJC IATA, as well as commuter flights from GDL IATA, MEX IATA, BJX IATA and TIJ IATA. Book a taxi within the terminal and take the ticket to the taxi area.
Buses, combis and taxis form Morelia’s public transportation system.
Combis are a good way to see the smaller roads and backstreets of the city. Various destinations are usually indicated on the windshield of these mini-vans. As of November 2011, a ride within the city costs 6 pesos. Get in, grab a handle and sit down before the driver speeds off, and then give your money directly to the driver, or to someone else to pass to the driver for you (you can ask the person “Si no le molesta, por favor”, basically, “thanks, if you don’t mind”). Above your head you will find a buzzer to get out at the next corner, or you can simply ask “en la próxima ezquina, por favor” (next corner please). It is very common for people to greet other passengers when boarding, according to the time of day (“Buenos días”, “buenas tardes” or “buenas noches”).
Taxis are also plentiful and inexpensive, operating on zone fares. As elsewhere in Mexico, make sure to determine the price before getting into the taxi.
Driving in the city is not easy but, with patience, it is doable. Drivers use their horns to excess, to prod others and at the numerous blind intersections. The Centro Histórico suffers from a severe shortage of parking spaces. That said, driving in and around Morelia differs little from driving in any urban area. However, there is an “uno y uno” protocol in place. Drivers are actually quite respectful and obey this “one and one” rule, where — in stark contrast to Mexico City — at an intersection, you do not simply charge into any space larger than 5 cm, but fall into line, with one vehicle at a time from each direction driving through the intersection.
There are a lot of interesting and beautiful colonial buildings to see in Morelia, most of them are open to the public for at least part of the day. There are at least two "information" booths in the area of the square. They are staffed with students who are very helpful. Highlights of a Morelia city tour will include:
- 1 Cathedral. One of the downtown highlights is the baroque cathedral with its surrounding gardens and parks. The cathedral is enormous, covering more than 2 city blocks in area. Architectural details like the flying buttresses and tiled cupolas give it a distinctive look. The Cathedral is the site for the local “Day of the Dead” celebration in early November. It is more of an experience than can be described here. Most of the activities take place after dark, make sure you have a good seat around the square at dark for the outside performance of the choir and the fireworks each night.
- 2 Casa Natal de Morelos. Hero of the Mexican War for Independence, native son Jose Maria Morelos y Pavon, was born, raised, and lived his life in Morelia. There are two Morelos homes in the city, and both are historical museums that chronicle Morelos and his role in shaping Mexico.
- 3 Casa de Morelos. The second museum dedicated to Jose Maria Morelos.
- 4 Museo de Arte Colonial. A collection of colonial art painting that date from the 18th century, as well as a collection of sculptures comprised in large part of representations of Christ on the cross. Many of the sculptures were created using a pre-Hispanic technique known as Caña de Maiz, where corn stalk paste is allowed to dry over wood before sculpting. Free.
- 5 Cupola Aqueduct. Running down the center of Avenida Acueducto is an enormous aqueduct built in the 17th century to bring water into the budding young city.
- 6 Santuario de Guadalupe. One of the most serenely beautiful churches in Mexico, adorned in soft pink and white with gold trim, the church is a work of art in itself. It also houses a series of 17th-century oil paintings that ideologically depict the Spanish missionaries’ conquest over the “barbaric” religious traditions of the Aztecs.
- 7 Jardín de las Rosas (across from the Conservatory of the Roses). A verdant plaza and popular meeting spot adjoined by cafes and restaurants with outdoor seating.
- 8 Plaza Villalongin. A plaza with a large fountain at the foot of the Morelia aqueduct. Surrounded by trendy shops, cafes, bars and restaurants.
- 9 Museo de Dulces (Av. Madero between the Cathedral and the Tarascan Fountain). Definitely worth a stop. More than just a museum, it contains a coffee shop and offers the widest variety of candies as well as demonstrations of candy-making.
- 10 Benito Juarez Zoological Park. Open 7 days a week. A 250-ha (620-acre) urban oasis that is home to a 30-m (75-acre) lake and a large and diverse collection of animals, including everything from polar bears to monkeys. Kids love it! M$30 for adults and $20 for kids.
Take some time to stroll around Morelia, particularly near the Cathedral. You'll stumble on to one gorgeous colonial building or plaza after another. Be sure to find out about other local festivals. Morelia frequently hosts outstanding events, like a regional foods festival in late fall, and music or cultural festivals at other times of the year.
- 1 Conservatory of the Roses (Conservatorio de las Rosas). Listen to a concert by the Morelia Boys Choir at the spectacular Conservatory of the Roses. The group is modeled on the Vienna Boys Choir, and their director is a former maestro from Vienna.
- 2 Virgin of Guadalupe festival. Visit the Santuario de Guadalupe between the last week of November and December 12. For two weeks, Mexico celebrates the Virgin of Guadalupe, and Morelia's celebration is a classic!
- Parque Nacional Insurgente José María Morelos (Morelos National Park), MEX 15 Km 23 (25 km east of Morelia on federal highway MEX 15). Large heavily forested park with 7,000 hectares of natural backcountry to explore. Forests are mostly pine, cedar, and oak. Several springs and mountain streams. Hiking trails, picnic pavilions, zip lines, and horseback riding.
Numerous department stores as well as local markets dot the city center. Artworks from local artists are often sold throughout the various plazas. Markets in the center include:
- 1 Casa de Artesanias. Reserve your shopping until you visit here; this is a primary location where local artists display their wares.
- 2 Mercado de Dulces. Features candy as well as inexpensive souvenirs splayed out through a long corridor.
- 3 Mercado Independencia. A large flea market selling, well, everything.
Morelia is one of the most exciting places in Mexico for innovative yet traditionally based cuisine. Avoid chain restaurants in Morelia because the wealth of outstanding restaurants not only offer unique regional flavors found nowhere else in Mexico, they are shockingly affordable for the quality they deliver.
Regional dishes unique to Morelia and surrounding Michoacan include:
- Sopa Tarasca: Smoothly pureed bean soup base spiced with piquant dried chiles and swirled with a touch of slightly soured creme mexicana, it’s a bean soup that will change the way you think of bean soup. Similar to Sopa Azteca.
- Enchiladas Morelianas: Enchiladas in Morelia are nothing like enchiladas in any other part of Mexico. In Morelia, they’re based on chicken and potatoes, but they explode with rich flavor from a slow, deep-seated chile spiciness and deep red color that comes from the careful use of guajilla chile.
Some chains like Subway and Burger King are present on the square and throughout the city, for those who prefer to avoid culinary adventure. The dining room on the 3rd floor above the department store on the square is interesting to visit and has very good food. In the tourist and historic centre, many restaurants may have an English menu available. Be prepared to pay in pesos.
There are several Taquerias in the centro histrorico.
- 1 Cocina Económica Virrey, Calle Virrey de Mendoza (antonio) 694.
- 2 Tacos El Lic, Juan Ruiz de Alarcón 26-A.
- 3 Mirlo, C. de Velázquez de León 25.
- 4 Japanese Food Bonsai, C. Aldama 125.
- 5 D'gusta Pizza, C. Vasco de Quiroga 480-b.
- 6 Cocina Económica Anita, Revolución 135.
- 7 Hamburguesas Richard's, Av. Morelos Sur 398.
Vasco da Quiroga
- 8 Hamburguesas las Tradicionales de las Tarascas. A local secret and delicious late-night food spot located just northeast of the historical center. Look for a street stall tucked into a side street, Cal. Universidad de Salamanca, just across from the Poza Rica gas station. It can be a be bit hard to find, but their Mexican-style hamburgers are worth the effort, especially after a night out. Tacos too, of course. Get there before 23:00 to avoid the crowds.
- 9 Las Autenticas Quesadillas de Artilleros, Artilleros de 1847 1332.
- 10 Condesa, Av Acueducto 1308.
- 11 Petirrojos Food and Drinks, 58260, Niños Heroes 1632.
Outdoor patio dining under the city’s historic portals is casual, fun and affordable. There are also numerous cafes and restaurants situated along the gorgeous Jardín de las Rosas, just northwest of the cathedral.
- 12 Cafe Michelena, Allende 209, ☏ . A lovely cafe and bookstore, with part-French, part-Mexican cuisine, situated in the heart of the historical center.
- 13 Panoli, Portal Matamoros 98A, ☏ . A popular restaurant, particularly for brunch, along the edge of the central plaza. Outdoor seating.
- 14 Tacopolis La Huerta (at the south end of the city, on La Huerta, the road leading to Patzcuaro, shortly before you get to the mall area). Offers a great range of salsas to accompany your quesadillas, tacos, alambra (massive meat overdose for the hardcore travellers only!). Their chipotle and avocado salsas are awesome. The hard-to-find vegetarian alambra is a nice vegg option when you are tired of quesadillas, but theirs, made with mushrooms, peppers, pineapple and optional cheese, is fairly bland. Here they serve flour, not corn, tortillas. Wireless available.
- 15 Las Trojes, Juan Sebastián Bach 51. An elegant steakhouse in the upscale neighborhood of Camelinas. The restaurant uses only certified Angus beef, cooked to perfection. The service is attentive yet friendly, and no detail is overlooked. Even the bread is spectacular at Las Trojes — delicately crispy baguettes accompanied by a spicy bean and herb spread.
- 16 Kaitori, Artilleros de 1847 1675.
Although not a premier nightlife destination in Mexico, the historical center and its immediate surroundings have an interesting and lively bar scene. As with most of Mexico, venues in Morelia tend to come to life around 23:00. Before then, grab a drink at one of the many bars and cafes located along the lovely Jardín de las Rosas, just northwest of the cathedral.
- 1 Manglar, Bartolomé de Las Casas 600 (just south of Plaza Villalongin). A popular rooftop bar with a relaxed atmosphere. Makes a good mojito.
- 2 Cactux, C. Héroe de Nacozari (on the northern edge of the historical center). The local hipster joint. Often hosts live music events.
- 3 La Brü Pub, Bartolomé de Las Casas 310. A popular brewery and beer hall serving their own local brew as well as a wide range of domestic and international beers.
- 4 Amsterdam Café, Humboldt 217B. One of the best gay café/bars in Morelia. The café organizes several activities, such as the Gay Pride march on May 17. Amsterdam Café/Bar offers a large coffee menu. It has a great ambience, all the place is decorated with colorful paintings, for example, a copy of Karina Kun’s La Majo Desnuda and a big fresco by Belgian painter Peter Nyu. The barmen are also very nice and friendly.
- 5 Bunbury's Bar, Matamoros 52. A very local pub just south of the cathedral.
- 6 Sense Club, Blvd. Jefferson 600 (on the southwest of town, on the way to Altozano), ☏ . The most popular disco in Morelia.
Nude table dance bars cluster on the outskirts of the city along the Perinorte.
- 1 Hotel and Hostel Allende, Allende 843, ☏ . Popular hotel and hostel with a convenient downtown location and a lovely courtyard. The dorms are a bit cramped but the private rooms are more than worth the price. Dorm-style bunks from US$10, private rooms from $15.
- 2 La Casa Azul, Av Morelos Nte 306, ☏ . The city's only backpacker hostel. Convenient, central location and friendly staff. Old building; don't expect much in terms of wifi.
- 3 Hotel Alameda, Av. Madero 113, ☏ . A modern hotel in the heart of colonial downtown Morelia. Clean, safe hotel with an outstanding central location and room rates starting around US$40.
- 4 Hotel De La Soledad, Ignacio Zaragoza # 90 Col. Centro, ☏ , fax: . Located in the historical center, one block away from the Cathedral. Opened in 1752 as a diligence hostel, now a hotel. If you use valet parking, give at least two hours notice to have car returned. No elevator to 2nd floor rooms (given that it was built in 1752). Rooms at back of courtyard have less street noise. Sanborns Dept. store adjacent, with 3rd floor dining room.
- 5 Hotel Virrey de Mendoza, Av. Madero Pte. 310, ☏ . Historical hotel with elegance and old-world charm. Some rooms may be loud or small owing to its historical authenticity. Rooms are comfortably furnished and service is always outstanding. Live piano music in the lounge, outdoor dining in one of Morelia's colonial portals.
- 6 Los Juaninos, Morelos Sur 39, ☏ . An upscale boutique hotel with graceful furnishings, unbeatable central location and exquisite rooftop dining room.
- 7 Villa Montanas, Patzimba 201, ☏ . An elegantly rustic mountain lodge featuring rough hewn wood beams and fireplaces in the rooms, not to mention outstanding nighttime views of the city from its perch on a mountain overlooking the city below.
Internet speed is good, if not perfect. You can acquire a SIM card for your phone at the large Telcel store on the main street through the historical center, Av. Francisco I. Madero. Walk west from the cathedral until you hit C. León Guzmán. You can't really miss it.
Although Michoacan state has a deserved reputation for cartel violence, Morelia is a world apart from this and quite safe by Mexican standards. The usual precautions apply, as they do in any large Mexican city: avoid walking alone late at night, and be more wary in some of the far-flung suburban areas outside of the city center (you likely won't find yourself here anyway). One nice thing about Morelia is that, although the traffic noise can be infuriating, drivers are usually exceeding courteous to pedestrians.
Morelia is an excellent gateway city for cultural and outdoor adventures throughout the state of Michoacan.
- Monarch Butterfly Reserves: Millions of monarch butterflies descend on the forests of Michoacan each November and leave for their northward migration around March. There are at least 10 designated butterfly reserves within a 4-hour drive of Morelia. Tours can be arranged through hotel concierges. Hiring a private guide with a late-model sedan for an individual trip will cost about M$2,000 for a full day for up to 3 people.
- Patzcuaro: The quaint, tranquil, artistic town of Patzcuaro is an easy 1-hour bus ride from Morelia. It is worth spending quite a bit of time getting to know. It is the center of Mexico's "Day of the Dead" tradition, and is one of the great centers for finding authentic popular art pieces.
|Routes through Morelia|
|Zamora de Hidalgo ← Zacapu ←||W E||→ Ciudad Hidalgo → Toluca|