San Luis Potosí is state capital of the San Luis Potosí state in the Bajío in Mexico. Its position along the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, one of the "royal" roads that led all the way up to Santa Fe, New Mexico, has given the city UNESCO World Heritage status.
San Luis Potosi's name is derived from the combination of its patron saint, Louis IX of France, and Potosi, in reference to the silver city of Bolivia, because of San Luis Potosi's own silver lode in nearby Cerro de San Pedro. It was founded in 1592 by Miguel Caldera and the conquistador Juan Onate, after the Spanish crown gave the indigenous peoples like the Otomi and Chichimeca the boot (after about 100 years).
SLP briefly served as capital of the country under Benito Juarez during the French invasion in 1863. Then it also featured as the place where Mexico's revolution against its dictator Porfirio Diaz began in 1910, after Diaz's opponent Francisco Madero fled imprisonment and called on Mexican statesman to take up arms.
SLP sits on a high plain at around 1864 m, so be prepared for a little nip in the air on winter evenings. It isn't even unheard-of for some snow to fall. But the city has colonial architecture, churches and government buildings among others, plus museums and modern day attractions to explore.
A conversational understanding of Spanish will aid you greatly during your visit, as few SLP citizens will fluently speak English. Indeed, it is a very chic city for learning the Spanish language without being distracted by the English of tourists.
If you don't have a budget, you can fly directly to San Luis Potosí, but unless you connect from Houston, it is recommended to fly to Mexico City and take a bus to SLP, if you prefer to save.
- 1 Aeropuerto de San Luis Potosí (SLP IATA). A small, compact airport with just two gates: they have a limited range of commercial scheduled flights. From the U.S., direct flights are available on American from Dallas and United from Houston. Non-stop flights are also available to Mexico City, Monterrey, and Guadalajara.
Primera Plus is a luxury bus line that operates services to SLP from Aeropuerto Mexico, Celaya, Cuautitlan, Guadalajara, Irapuato, La Penita, La Piedad, Lagos De Moreno, León, Mexico City (terminal norte), Mexico Observatorio, Morelia, Moroleon, Puerto Vallarta, Queretaro, San Juan De Los Lagos, Silao, Tapotzoltan, Toluca, Uruapan, Zamora de Hidalgo and Zapopan (western Guadalajara).
The overnight buses leave Austin, San Antonio or Laredo each night. They arrive in SLP around lunch time the next day. Most popular international line would be Grupo Senda/ Turimex -- a 5-minute cab ride from Austin Airport.
The bus station (Central Camionera) is 2.5 km (1.6 mi) from the center, so you will need to catch a taxi or city bus to the center - any ‘Centro’ bus will take you there. If you take a taxi buy a ticket from the booth inside the bus station.
In addition to buses, the city has trollies at very inexpensive prices to get around. Taxis are also cheap, yet you can get around a great portion of the city on foot.
- 1 Catedral de San Luis Potosí, José María Morelos y Pavón 620. Possibly one of the foremost known Mexican cathedrals by sight, its construction started in 1670 and was completed in 1730. It has a baroque architectural design not unlike the basilica in Mexico City.
- 2 Museo Federico Silva, Álvaro Obregón 80, ☏ . M W-Sa 11:00-15:00, Su 11;00-14:00. Art museum specializing in contemporary sculpture and the works of sculptor Federico Silva. M$30.
- 3 Museo Nacional de Mascaras, Juan De Villerias 2, ☏ . Tu-F 10ː00-17ː45, Sa 10ː00-16ː45, Su 10ː00-14ː30. Museum highlighting regional dance masks and culture from pre-Colombian times to the present.
- 4 Caja de Agua. A statue that is the pride of the townspeople, it alludes to how precious water used to be stored and allocated from a nearby spring.
- 5 Teatro de la Paz. 1894-ish building that used to be a convent and that has quite a facade, as well as an acoustically-styled interior.
- 6 Templo de la Nuestra Senora del Carmen, Manuel José Othón 410, ☏ . 18th-century Baroque church with notable paintings.
- 7 Templo de San Francisco de Asis, Avenida Universidad 180, ☏ . Baroque specimen built around 1692. Its stature before the San Francisco garden foreground can be quite appealing.
- Museo Regional Potosino, Calle de Galeana con Independencia (next to Templo de San Francisco), ☏ . A place to further your knowledge about San Luis Potosi. Also, don't miss Plaza de Aranzazu adjacent.
- 8 Museo del Ferrocarril "Jesús García Corona", Manuel José Othón 0, ☏ . Tu Th Sa Su 11ː00-15ː00; F 09ː00-15ː00; closed M. Train museum.
- 9 Centro de las Artes San Luis Potosí, Calz de Guadalupe 705, ☏ . Place for art and cultural exhibits and gardens.
- 10 Museo Laberinto (Labyrinth Museum of Sciences and Arts), Blvd. Antonio Rocha Cordero, ☏ . Museum showcasing art, technology, and science exhibits.
Stroll through the Centro Histórico while the sun is fading and you will be able to take amazing photos of the beautiful architecture. During holiday periods (Christmas and Easter) there are twilight light shows in Plaza de Armas and Plaza de los Fundadores. It is a festival atmosphere with lots of people mingling in the plazas and surrounding streets. Stall holders sell colourful balloons and Mexican street snacks like corn-on-the-cob with cheese, butter, salt and lime.
- 1 Parque Tangamanga I, Av. Dr. Salvador Nava Martinez. generally 05ː00-18ː00. This is an eventful park with a zoo and water park and lagoon-type waterfront from which to view the city skyline. It is the city's largest urban park. There are a water park and zoo towards the south end of the park.
Centro Histórico SLP has many shops and markets where you can buy Mexican handicrafts, fresh produce and pretty much anything else.
Start at Plaza de Las Armas and walk north along Miguel Hidalgo. There is pedestrian mall followed by the Mercado Hidalgo.
- 1 Centro Comercial El Dorado, Av Nereo Rodríguez Barragán 450 (on west side of town). Shopping mall, food court, movie theater.
- 2 Plaza San Luis, Blvd. Antonio Rocha Cordero # 700 Fracc. Another mall with theater and food court.
- 3 Citadella, Av. Dr. Salvador Nava Martinez 3125. Movie theater complex with Plaza Tangamanga shopping mall across pista. Pretty chic.
- 4 Plaza Sendero San Luis. A not too exciting mall out in the southeast 'burbs. Has a theater though also.
San Luis Potosí has many good restaurants in the downtown area. Walk up Venustiano Carranza and you will find many of the city's top culinary gems. One of the entrees the city is uniquely known for is its enchiladas potosinas, which are enchiladas made with ancho peppers and corn dough.
- La Corriente, V. Carranza 700: Eclectic atmosphere and a lively happy hour are reason enough to seek out this traditional Mexican restaurant, but the excellent comida corrida for M$45 is a lunch-time bargain.
- La Virreina, V. Carranza 830: Elegant traditional dining room with suave white-glove service at every turn. The menu is innovative with many nouveau Mexican dishes colored with the splash of old style tradition. Their tortilla soup is spectacular, sprinkled with diced dry cascabel chile, and their truta en cilantro puts a unique spin on an already spectacularly prepared and presented broiled fish dinner.
- La Gran Via, V. Carranza 560: Sophisticated elegance with live piano music at lunch and dinner. The menu is heavy on Spanish classic dishes (including an outstanding paella, loaded with seafood and redolent with saffron). They also have a smattering of exciting nouveau Mexican fusions, equally well prepared, and their cream of artichoke soup is a culinary delight.
- El Angel, V. Carranza 1625. About a mile out from downtown is this bright star of innovative nouveau Mexican cuisine. Even the vegetables are worth raving about here: the smoky depth of the grilled nopales with chipotle was nothing short of an orgasm for the tongue.
- La Fragua Steak Taco, About a mile out from downtown past Hotel Real Plaza on a side street from Carranza. The ultimate taco and beer joint. Lunch, dinner or to soak up the alcohol this place is always great. ☏
- Gorditas de Morales, Camino a la presa de San Jose (22.150978,-101.02029) , (behind Juan H Sanchez Park). This street is packed with about 20 different small restaurants, all with their own version of gorditas, some offer soups and other typical dishes. A rule of thumb is to walk around, take a look and get in the one with more customers. But since the competition is tight, the quality is generally good and you will hardly go wrong making a choice.
- Gorditas de Horno, Calle del Arbol (about number 11, one block away from Gorditas de Morales). Open only on weekends. Arrive early as the queue can be very long at times. These gorditas are thick and cooked in an oven. Different from the ones sold in bicycle stands. This are not served in a bag full of salsa, but they are way softer and richer in flavor (not necessarily spicy).
Eating in the street
San Luis Potosí is packed with mobile eateries, either bicycles, small carts, or even trucks. Some of them get a fixed position once on a while, but it is very normal to find them on the go. Here is a list of some of the typically available foods on offer:
- Corn. Either on the cob or loose this is all different from the yellow corn you are used to. Mexican corn is white is not sweet, but has a delicious flavor of its own. You can get it with a combination of the following ingredients: butter, cream, cheese, mayonnaise, lime, powder chili and salt. You can just ask for a recommendation to the seller.
- Tamales. Imagine corn meal with a savory or sweet filling, wrapped corn husks and steamed. As they are thoroughly cooked and covered, tamales would be a safer choice among meals since no hand would be touching them until the husks are peeled off by the diner and the content consumed.
- Tacos sudados. Tacos prepared very early in the morning are put in big thermal containers to keep them warm and sold for breakfast or lunch. You will see a cloud of people moving around the good places: Tacos Oscar, Av Himno Nacional 4005 (Outside Plaza Fiesta). Benigno Arriaga and Av. Himnno Nacional (22.139038,-100.989697).
- Gorditas de Horno. Baked version of tamales. These are stuffed with tasty savory fillings and soaked in a hot salsa. Look for the yellow tricycles with a fish tank full of gorditas in the front.
Be sure to find La Calle San Francisco (near the church by the same name) in the city's downtown sector. There are some outstanding cafes and clubs in this area. Look for those with the rooftop locations. They have the charm of brick-covered alleys and spectacular starlit views in the evening. Some also feature live music.
- Cafe Luna
- Callejon San Francisco, Universidad 169
Chain hotels and moderate hotels are mostly located in the "Zona Hotelera", just outside the city, on the highway near the bus station. Inexpensive independent hotels are mostly downtown. The only luxury hotel in town is the Westin. For true budget travellers the area between the railway station and the cathedral has many cheap hotels. If you are looking for a spartan room and share bathroom for M$80 a night try the hotels along Calle Jiménez- beside Plaza del Mariachi.
- 1 Hotel Real de Minas, Carretera a México Km. 426.6, ☏ .
- 2 Hotel Real Plaza, Av. Venustiano Carranza 890.
- 3 Hotel del Rio, Chicosein 140, ☏ . With internet and cable, for a bit of a more raw/organic stay in San Luis Potosi; hopefully your door lock works.
- 4 Hotel Maria Dolores, Av. Benito Juarez S/N, ☏ .
- 5 Hotel Panorama, Av. Venustiano Carranza 315. Rooms from M$750 per night.
- 6 Hotel San Francisco, Avenida Universidad 375, ☏ . A pretty sensible lodging choice downtown. The center atrium has a nice ambience. M$643.
- 7 Fiesta Inn San Luis Potosí Glorieta Juarez, Av Benito Juarez 130, ☏ . This establishment has a pleasing courtyard with palm trees and swimming pool. M$ 751.
- 8 City Express Suites San Luis Potosí, Av Benito Juarez No. 1530, ☏ . Offers free breakfast and outdoor pool. This could be a quaint option, esp if you like to be next to a busy highway amongst urban sprawl. M$ 836.
- 9 Quinta Real Palacio de San Agustín, Hermenegildo Galeana 240, ☏ . M$ 2681.
- 10 Fiesta Americana San Luis Potosí, Av. Dr. Salvador Nava Martinez 3125 (part of Citadella complex). It has a super modern look like a piece of slate standing vertically complete with a rooftop atrium pool. M$ 1244.
To get to the bus station catch a 'Central TTP' city bus running east along Universidad or south along Av Constitución.