Querétaro, once the third largest city in Mexico and twice its capital, is emerging from the obscuring shadows of San Miguel de Allende, to the northwest, and Mexico City, to the southeast. Its region, in central Mexico, is known as El Bajío, the lowlands. But at an elevation of nearly 6,000 feet, Querétaro is not exactly low. Visitors are discovering a safe and affluent hub of multinational industries, anchored by a centro histórico that is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Unlike San Miguel, which challenges the most ardent walker with perilous inclines, quirky street arrangements and thin, hardscrabble sidewalks, the thoroughfares of old Querétaro are mostly flat, grid-logical and easy underfoot. And the city is well-placed, situated within striking distance of many of central Mexico’s best day-trip destinations.
In Querétaro’s center, the tides of history and geography swirl around in disarming ways. On entering a 17th-century building, such as Hotel La Casona de la República, at Calle Hidalgo 4, you pass through a small portico into a splendid garden, well hidden from the street, that could be in Morocco or Moorish Spain.