Morelia is the coolest place you’ve never been, begins my copy of Lonely Planet Mexico. By cool, I think they meant the temperature, because the evenings were frigid. Either that, or this specific Lonely Planet writer hasn’t ventured out much. It is a beautiful town with great architecture and good food, but it takes more than that to win a coolest place award
Our taxi driver from the bus terminal estimated the population at 2 million, but to us it felt quiet and somewhat deserted. The city has experienced massive urban sprawl, which we fortunately only experienced during this one taxi ride to the Centro. We saw few foreigners, and few people in general, as if the majority of locals had gone elsewhere, so we were free to explore the city without crowds.
We found a small boutique hotel that we loved on Booking.com for 50% off their normal rate, which included breakfast for 575 pesos a night (~$45.) The MLM Hotel was located only 2 blocks from the main Cathedral and Plaza de Armas, had a beautiful decor with outdoor patio and rooftop terrace, helpful and friendly staff, and one of the best showers I’ve ever experienced. That thing had some serious water pressure. It was odd that we were the only people there for 2 out of 3 nights
We love to explore the local markets, they generally have good value produce and small fonda’s / restaurants. Our first lunch was a chicken in mole sauce and an amazing barbacoa dish in a spicy broth. With drinks, the total bill was 90 pesos plus tip (~$7 USD.) This is where we first started to feel like the town was vacant… every fonda was nearly empty, and all of the produce stalls were just occupied by the vendors themselves. I can understand why, the dining areas looked sketchy, the environment didn’t appear to have cleanliness as a priority, and the bathrooms were… something I won’t talk about
On Saturday evening, the main Cathedral is lit up with spotlights and large screen TVs are placed out front with music videos playing at full volume. Drawn to it like moths, this is the only time we experienced a crowd. It is a beautiful site all on its own and it is easy to understand why people come out to see it illuminated like this. At some point the lights dimmed and the crowd hushed, and fireworks were launched over the square and the church. These few moments were indeed quite cool
There are many other landmarks that we found by wandering about with a small tourist map. On the edge of town is an old aqueduct that is still in great condition. I’ve seen aquaducts in some European cities, but none that were of this magnitude… it took about 20 minutes to walk the length of it
The Santuario de Guadalupe, a baroque church on the eastern edge of town, is the exact opposite of tactful. The interior of this church is completely ordained in gold leaf flowers and more. Modesty clearly is not a virtue that the interior decorators valued, as this church could easily be a 1970’s era bachelor pad.
As we arrived during the middle of a church service on Sunday afternoon, we decided to get some snacks from some of the old ladies that setup small cooking stations outside the church entrance. We had some great pazole and corrundas (small triangle shaped tamales without fillings) for $30 pesos. They were both amazing
Throughout town there are many great statues, art pieces, and artistic fountains. A personal favorite is this one of 3 woman holding aloft a large platter of fruit
Four hours outside of town is a nature reserve that is part of the Monarch butterfly migration. We took a tour and it is one of the most magical things I’ve ever seen
We searched for a few restaurants that we had seen in reviews, but several of them were closed. (Hopefully not permanently.) The McDonald’s and Burger King off the main square didn’t look too tempting, when we ventured into Lu Cocina, just off the main plaza. The pricing of food is quite interesting, as it is possible to eat just OK food for 50 pesos a person, but then you can find Oh My God This Is Amazing food in a place like Lu for 100 pesos a head. We liked it so much that we went there for 2 dinners and an afternoon tea
Morelia is definitely worth a visit. It has much to offer, museums, a massive city park, sculptures and art pieces, and more food than we could possibly try in 3 days. Come on the weekend for the disco fever festivities at the Cathedral, go see the magical mariposas, and definitely come for the food. And if none of that strikes you, there are many cafes on the numerous public squares where you can sit and watch the world with a refreshing beverage in hand. After all, it’s one of the coolest places you’ve never been