As well as being a beautiful colonial city, Querétaro was a city of surprises for us. Every time we walked through Jardin Zinea we were delighted by something new.
We already mentioned the street food festival we happened upon. We returned the next night and found that, in addition to the food festival still set up, the road was circled with yellow tape for about half a block. Large geometric pieces were being extracted from a truck and built into a rickety structure that ended up being at least two stories high. While eating at the market, we asked a fellow customer what was happening. He asked the stall owner and found out that there would be fireworks in front of the cathedral tonight and that the structure (known as a castillo or castle) was part of it. A crowd began to gather and, finally, someone set fire to the bottom section, which sizzled into a spiral of fire. When a section burned out, fireworks were shot from the church rooftop high into the sky, and then the next section was lit. It was wild and people seemed dangerously close, but it all ended with applause and the crowd dissipating quietly.
The next day, our wanderings found us back in the same area as drum beats roared and throngs of colourfully costumed dancers took to the streets all around the square. At dinner the night before, we had been told that the fireworks were related to a procession of a virgin from one church to the other. We looked for a procession but only saw the light show. This day, though, we could see a big glass box chariot standing in front of the church. By the time the parade began to move, two virgin statues had been placed into the box and the whole display, complete with veiled women carrying a many-meter long train, took up the honoured position at the end of the parade. The whole time the parade was being prepared and while it was in progress, the bells of the church were rung by men up in the bell tower heaving the bells to and fro while drums of all sorts beat on in the square below. It was loud and raucous and tons of fun.
Our next surprise in this constantly changing plaza was a full band playing up in the gazebo while couples, mostly of an age and many decked out in their evening finest, danced their hearts out while onlookers appreciated their performances.
Throughout our week in Querétaro, we put many kilometres on our tootsies, visiting cathedrals and plazas, museums and train stations. The streets are colourful and open up to little plazas or parks at every turn. The museums we visited were free or very reasonably priced.
We also walked just outside of el centro to see the historic aqueduct that is still in use today, and is a landmark of the city.
In addition to the wonderful food at the street food fair, we indulged in Spanish tapas at El Chamizo (and on a visit on their one-year anniversary a special rib dish that had Ken rolling his eyes in delight), sopes and enchiladas at Las Deliciosas Gorditas del Portal , quesadillas at a stand in Mercado de la Cruz. We also came across Diktatur–a large restaurant/bar with an extensive menu. Everything on it–food and drink–is $32 MXN ($2.20 CAD), including cocktails, martinis, beer, wine, burgers, pizza, gyros, Mexican dishes, and desserts, to name but a few categories. It is solo effectivo (cash only) and reviews suggest that the lineups can be long. We visited mid-afternoon and were able to get in right away. We tried their burgers and margaritas and both were very good. The place is big but broken up by rooms with a variety of seating arrangements. We sat inside with a view out to the large plaza across the street and its soothing fountain and heavy shade trees.
For a quick bite, shops offering pizza slices for $15-18 MXN (a little over $1 CAD) are plentiful and the pizza is surprisingly good. The tradition seems to be to top a slice with ketchup (UK brown sauce is also available). Ken gave it a try and pronounced it good, but I was just fine with my slice as delivered.
Even our little hotel, Hotel Mama Carlota, provided a lovely continental breakfast every morning with yogurt, fresh fruit and granola, coffee, toast, and fresh-squeezed orange juice. They offer a menu of other breakfast dishes for a very reasonable cost, but we enjoyed their included meal and were too full to add anything else.
Querétaro is a city worth visiting. Even the quickest travelers could probably spend three or four days here and not run out of things to do and see.
Bus from Mexico City to Querétaro: We used Primera Plus. The trip was direct, comfortable, three hours long, included a sandwich and drink, and cost $329 MXN each ($22.70 CAD).
Posts on mexexperience.com are helpful for planning bus trips in Mexico, especially to and from Mexico City. The Bus Distances Table provides the titular info, but also lists which bus companies cover those routes. Scroll way down on the Bus Travel in Mexico page to find URLs for all of the companies, and from there you can search for and book your tickets.