17 Fun Things to do in Morelia, Michoacán
Morelia is the capital city of the Mexican state Michoacán, which lies just to the west of the state of Mexico and Mexico City. It takes about 3.5 hours to drive from Mexico City to Morelia which makes for a nice road trip. Morelia is known for its colonial architecture and buildings, many of which were constructed out of light pink quarry stone. There are lots of interesting things to do in Morelia as well some cool day trips to go on.
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MEXICO TRAVEL BASICS
Getting There: FLIGHTS & BUSES
Getting There: AIRPORT TRANSFERS
Accommodation: HOTELS & HOSTELS
Things to Do: TOURS & ACTIVITIES
Getting Around: RENTAL CARS
Safety & Health: TRAVEL INSURANCE
How to Get to Morelia
If you’re planning a trip to Morelia Michoacán from Mexico City it’s pretty to easy to travel by land. You can find information on renting a car here, or on taking a bus here. Another option is to use the carpooling app, Bla Bla Car, which I’ve used before in other parts of Mexico.
If you’re coming from farther away you can look up cheap flights here.
Where to Stay in Morelia
We stayed at a beautiful hotel right in the heart of downtown Morelia. Our room even had a view of the center square and of Morelia’s famous cathedral. The hotel we stayed in is called Hotel Virrey de Mendoza. Not only does it have incredible views, but it’s actually a really old palatial house that has been turned into a hotel.
The lobby is beautifully painted with warm colors and has cozy seating areas. There are old paintings throughout the entire building of people who I assume used to live there or perhaps have played important roles in Mexican history. The hotel even has a stained glass ceiling in one area which is absolutely breathtaking.
Festivals and Events in Morelia
We were in Morelia during the long weekend of November 15 to November 17 which is a holiday celebrating the Mexican Revolution. The actual day that celebrates the Revolution is November 20, but the government makes sure to make the holiday fall on a Monday so that people can enjoy a long weekend.
We noticed that there was a Food Festival, a Music Festival, and a Datsun car show all happening during the weekend we chose to go.
Morelia as well as Patzcuaro and Janitizio are the three most popular places in Michoacán (and some may even say in all of Mexico) to celebrate Day of the Dead too. You can find out more about festivals and events happening in Morelia here.
Things to do in Morelia
Admire the Arches of Morelia’s Aqueduct
Morelia’s famous aqueduct was built in the late 1700s to transport water from the eastern part of the city to the city center. It was constructed in a baroque style using pink quarry stone that so many of the other buildings in Morelia are known for. I love wandering or driving by the aqueduct at night because lights from the ground light up and cast a warm glow on the arches.
Enjoy the Centro Historico
The Centro Historico is full of beautiful pink-stone buildings, the Jardín de las Rosas square, charming cafes and tamale shops. Make sure you take some time to wander around and enjoy the sights while visiting.
Watch the Light Show at Morelia’s Cathedral
At Morelia’s famous cathedral you can watch light and firework shows on Saturday evenings at 8:45pm. From our hotel, we had a perfect view of the light show right from our balcony and window which was incredible! You can also watch the cathedral light up from the ground facing upwards. This light show was actually created by the same company that lights up the Eiffel Tower.
Visit the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Alfredo Zalce
The Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Alfredo Zalce features a permanent exhibit of art by Michoacán artist Alfredo Zalce. There are also 7 other rooms in the museum which feature a rotation of temporary exhibits from various other Mexican and international artists.
Opening hours: Monday to Friday 10am – 8pm, Saturday & Sunday 10am – 6pm
Check Out the Artisan Museum and Market
There are a few different artisan markets to visit in Morelia but the one we went to on our first day there was a Museum and a Market in one. It’s called the Instituto del Artesano Michoacano IAM and is also known as the House of Handicrafts.
The museum is located in a beautiful old convent. The House of Handicrafts was founded in 1972 and aims to showcase Michoacán’s folk art with conferences, exhibitions, displays, and even workshops. Michoacán is famous for wood, copper, and textile artisan works among others.
A lot of the items that you will see on display are actually for sale as well, which is why it’s a museum and a market in one. On the bottom floor, you can find a lot of different shops selling handmade artworks and on the upper floors, you can see exquisite pieces of art displayed in glass cases. It’s a very good place to buy souvenirs for yourself or your loved ones.
Opening hours: 9am – 5:30pm
Visit the Michoacán Regional Museum
Located in an 18th century baroque mansion, the Michoacán Regional Museum is well worth a visit. Aside from the stunning architecture of the building, the exhibits at the museum feature archaeological pieces, murals, art and important historical documents.
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday 9am – 5pm (Closed on Mondays)
Wander through the Callejon del Romance
On our way to breakfast, we made sure to check out Morelia’s famous Callejon del Romance. The Callejon del Romance (or Romance Alley) is named as such because of the love poem written along the walls. It was written by Don Lucas Ortiz and the poem is called, ‘Romance of My City’. Different sections of the poem are hidden on plaques along the walls of the alley. The alleyway is filled with pink flowers cascading down the walls, beautiful fountains, and papel picado (Mexican paper folk art).
Check out the Tarascas Fountain
Morelia’s famous Tarascas Fountain is located quite close to Calzada de Fray Antonio de San Miguel and the Callejon del Romance. We had driven past it and learned about its history on our bus tour the previous night. Before heading off on our day trip, we decided to walk by it again and get some pictures of it during the day time.
The Tarascas Fountain shows three Purépecha women holding up a large plate filled with fruit. Some people speculate that it represents three indigenous princesses named Tzetzangari, Eréndira, and Atzimba. Our tour guide said that the three women may also represent the three different capital cities that Michoacán has had. You can read more about the history of the Tarascas Fountain here (just make sure to click the Translate button so you can read the article in English).
Go on a Bike Tour
We didn’t actually have time to do a bike tour on our trip but we saw many other people doing bike tours. The bike tours take place on one single bike that fits more than 10 people! It looked like a lot of fun. The bike tours take place during the day and at night. You can book a bike tour by talking to one of the biking tour guides that you will see around Morelia.
Take a Bus Tour
Bus tours happen throughout the day and you can night bus tours as well. We took a bus tour in the evening which was quite beautiful. The bus we were on had an open-air section at the back with minimal walls so we could get good photos from there. The tour guide driving the bus only spoke Spanish but even if you don’t understand the language, it was still a lovely tour.
We got to see a lot of the city, learn about different statues, and we even got to go inside a really fancy church. There were street vendors selling food by the church so some people got ‘elotes’ (popular corn snack) before continuing on the tour. You can buy tickets for bus tours in the center of Morelia at various ticket booths.
Eat Churros at Churrería Artesenal Las Ramblas
During our evening bus tour, I noticed that we drove past a churrería (churro shop). After our tour was over we walked back in the direction I had seen it and had some delicious churros and hot chocolate. The churrería is called Churrería Artesanal Las Ramblas. It was a bit crowded when we arrived but we managed to find a table.
The churros were a little different than other ones I had tasted before. I think they were a bit more crispy on the outside while still being soft and fluffy on the inside. They also had a ton of different kinds of hot chocolate to choose from.
In Mexico, hot chocolate is a very popular drink and there are always many different kinds you can order. For example, some have almond, vanilla and even chili added to them. Even if you’re lactose intolerant, you can still enjoy the hot chocolate because there is always the option to have it made with water instead of milk.
Get breakfast & books at Café Michelena
We heard from some of our friends that Café Michelena was a really good breakfast spot. The cafe was also quite close to our hotel so we headed over there for breakfast. The food was so delicious! I had an avocado toast with poached eggs along with a traditional hot chocolate.
I also loved that the cafe had outdoor and indoor seating as well as a book shop. My husband ended up buying a couple of books there. Both of us love book shop cafes because we love reading, so if you’re a bookworm like us, you’ll really enjoy Café Michelena as well.
Eat Brunch at Galafre Bistro-Cafe-Bar
After walking through the Callejon del Romance, we arrived at the Galafre Bistro-Cafe-Bar. We had a lovely brunch of spicy chilaquiles and foamy cappuccinos. The restaurant is located right outside the Callejon and is next to a Mezcalería. We ate outdoors in the small plaza outside and enjoyed the sunshine as well as the good food.
Indulge your sweet tooth at the Mercado de Dulces y Artesanias
Our last stop in Morelia was to the Mercado de Dulces y Artesanias or the ‘Artisan and Candy Market.’ This market is home to tons of traditional Mexican candies as well as more artisan goods. I ended up buying some candy, a couple of handmade mugs and pieces of jewelry there as gifts for some of my family members. If you go to Morelia I would highly suggest you check out this market!
Wander through the Street of Floral Tapetes During the Annual Music Festival
Like I mentioned previously, we happened to be in Morelia during their 31st Annual Music Festival. Although we didn’t go out to any concerts, there was one really cool thing we got to see. Every year during the Annual Music Festival, there is a street called the Calzada de Fray Antonio de San Miguel which gets a pretty cool artistic makeover.
On this street during the Music Festival, you will find hundreds of beautiful floral tapetes (tapestries made of flowers, nuts, seeds, beans, pinecones and more) made by artisans from the municipality of Patamban. The Music Festival happens every year in mid-November although the dates vary. You can find more information about the Music Festival here.
Day Trip to a Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary
Michoacán is one of the states where you can visit a monarch butterfly sanctuary. The monarchs migrate to Mexico from Canada in the winter. They usually arrive around Day of the Dead, or November 1st and 2nd.
It’s such a beautiful sight to see and very culturally significant too. This is because many people believe that the butterflies arrive during Day of the Dead because they are the souls of deceased ancestors returning to visit their living relatives.
Take a Day Trip to Pátzcuaro Lake and Janitzio Island
Last but certainly not least, if you visit Morelia you should definitely go on a day trip to Pátzcuaro Lake and Janitzio Island. Pátzcuaro Lake and the shores of Janitzio Island are known for their fishermen who still use traditional hoop-shaped fishing nets. You can also hike to the top of the hill on Janitzio Island to see a huge statue of Morelos and watch the Danza de los Viejitos in the nearby courtyard.
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- The Best Things to do in Mexico City
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