Nearly all of the city center buildings are nineteenth century or older; the topography and irregular street pattern (most streets are too steep and narrow for vehicles; many have steps in them) almost make one think of a medieval city like Toledo, Spain. The city, built on the site where silver was discovered in the 1530s, is crammed into a narrow canyon, with houses and churches perched on its nearly vertical walls.
The whole town is a museum; there are three seventeenth or eighteenth century ex-monasteries near the center, several other churches from the colonial era scattered here and there, and at least half a dozen other museums, nearly all worth visiting. Houses and streets, all of which built in colonial times are worth seeing on their own.
Cathedral: It is one of the most beautiful examples of Churrigueresque arquitecture in Mexico. It is an elaborately carved red-stone (cantera) structure that was built between 1730 and 1760. It is flanked by two towers with an exuberant ornamentation and has a notable facade that was richly sculpted but its once decorated interior was looted during the civil wars of the 19th and 20th centuries. Its coupula was reconstructed in 1836 and imitates that one of the church of Nuestra Señora de Loreto in Mexico City.
Church of Santo Domingo: Almost in front of the cathedral, on one of the corners of the Plaza de Armas, the Veyna alley lies, leading to the church of Santo Domingo that was built by the jesuits between 1746 and 1749 and has a beautiful Baroque facade. Splendid gold wood-carved altarpieces, all of them churrigueresque, and Francisco Antonio Vallejo paintings (XVIII) that represent scenes of The Passion can be found inside.
Exconvento de San Augustín is a former monastery from the XVII century. The main church is now used for conferences and cultural events; the monastery still houses the bishop’s offices.
School of La Compañía de Jesus: It shows a richly sculpted facade; the cloister is surrounded by halls whose vaults are decorated with cherubim.
Church of San Agustin: It has a plateresque facade decorated with a bas-relief.
Parish of La Virgen del Patrocinio: It lies at the summit of a hill (Cerro de la Bufa). It was built in 1728.
El Cubo aqueduct: It runs through the city. It was constructed more than 250 years ago.
Antigua Plaza de Toros San Pedro: This former bull ring, adjacent to the Aqueduct has been converted into a luxury hotel. Enjoy a walk around the ring, and if you feel like splurging a bit enjoy lunch or dinner at the Hotel’s restaurant, which has a commanding view of the ring.
Palacio de Gobierno and Plaza de Armas The square beside the Cathedral, interesting murals inside the Government Buildings.
Santo Domingo Church Located parallel to the Cathedral, Jesuit church.
Casa de Moneda
Palacio Legislativo Beside the ex-convento de San Agustín, formerly a church, now houses the state legislature.
Teatro Calderón Beside the Mercado González Ortega. Impressive facade.
Mercado González Ortega Nice, small market selling artesanship and other goods.
Jardín Juárez Beautiful small park beside a lovely square. Beside the University Museum.
Alameda Another garden, on the way back from La Mina de Edén, beside it is la Jardín de la Madre.
Templo de Fátima Impressive neo-gothic temple located on a hill above the Parque General Enrique Estrada
Parque General Enrique Estrada Beautiful park beside the aquaduct and the Templo de Fátima. Contains a beautiful fountain, a band stand and a number of places to sit and relax or have an enjoyable stroll.
Callejón de Alcaicería de Gómez Alley leading to Avenida Hidalgo from the Museum of Abstract Art.
Museo Rafael Coronel Set in a partially restored convent dating back to the 16th-17th centuries, this museum houses a large and diverse collection of masks drawn from several regions of Mexico and from other cultures around the world. Masks from different regions and eras are grouped together by themes and uses, including masks used in Carnival and in religious pageants, such as those commemorating the Reconquista. Particularly interesting is the alternate incorporation and subversion of pre-Hispanic symbols.
The Diablo room is not to be missed. Portions of the convent grounds that could not be restored have been converted into a garden, with crumbling walls, standing arches and greenery.
Museo Pedro Coronel located next to the “Santo Domingo” church, it houses a colonial-era library and a large eclectic collection of European, African, American, and Mexican art.
Museo Jose Alfaro Siqueiroz
Museo Francisco Goitia Museo Huichol is a small museum located across the street from San Augustín and exhibits crafts and other artifacts belonging to the Huichol culture, whose members still maintain a pre-Columbian lifestyle in the mountains between Zacatecas and Nayarit.
Museo de la Toma de Zacatecas Located a top of La Bufa, it houses weapons, documents, photos, and other artifacts relating to this decisive battle of the Mexican Revolution of 1910.
The Cerro de la Bufa, a mountain with a very distinctive shape, is located in the center of the city and, along the cathedral, is recognized as the city’s most recognizable landmark. The best way to get to the top is using the Teleferico (Cable Car) which takes you from from the Cerro del Grillo (Criket’s Hill) to the top of La Bufa. Once at the top of la Bufa don’t forget to visit:
The Museum of La Toma de Zacatecas (The fall of Zacatecas), displaying weapons, artifacts, pictures, and documents of this battle which took place during the Mexican Revolution.
From El Mirador you can enjoy probably some of the best views the city has to offer.
The Statues of Pancho Villa and his Liutenants. (You’ll see them)
The Capilla de Nuestra Señora del Patrocinio (Chapel of our Lady of el Patrocinio), the city’s patron.
If you are a little of an outdoorsy type you can hike to the summit of la Bufa which is indicated by the very large cross. It is not too hard to get to it if you find the right way (ask a local), but don’t try this alone.
Rotonda de los Hombres y Mujeres Ilustres (Mausoleum of the illustrious Men and Women). Nothing very exciting about this structure unless you are extremely interested in researching the history of the city, but since you are up there why not spend a few minutes here?.
Short Drive Away
Monasterio de Guadalupe Five miles away, in Guadalupe, Zacatecas, is the again-active Franciscan monastery from which missionaries were sent out to christianize the inhabitants of Texas, New Mexico, and California–it is the mother of the Spanish missions in the U.S. Much of the old monastery is a museum of colonial religious art, paintings by Indians trained in the European tradition. The paintings are amazing, and the architecture of the cloisters, the church and the Capilla de Napoli is unforgettable.
Museo de Zoquite 8 Miles south.
Ex-Hacienda de Trancoso 12 Miles south
La Quemada 34 Miles south