Zacatecas Mexico: A Weekend Trip

The city of Zacatecas is full of history, culture, beautiful architecture and great food! All of this makes it the perfect city for weekend in Mexico. While this city does get tourists from other areas in Mexico is seems to be mostly undiscovered by the rest of the world. We absolutely loved our time in this city and would definitely love to go back!
The city is very walkable and we feel this is the best way to soak it all in. Finding parking on the street can be tricky but we managed to find a spot where we could stay all weekend for free. There are several public parking lots around the city but you will have to pay to park in one of these.
After you park the best thing to do is to start walking! We headed straight to the the center of the city where the Catedral Basilica and the Plaza de Armas are located.
Catedral Basilica and the Plaza de Armas: All of the churches in this city are beautiful and worth walking to see! Even if you aren’t religous at all, the architecture is stunning! Just across from this cathedral is the Acropolis Café Galería where you can sit outside and enjoy a coffee and some lunch while taking in views of the catedral and the surrounding part of the city.
Just behind the catedral is the Plaza de Armas. You can find a small tourist office here where you can get maps of the city and more information. The plaza also has some great street art painted on the inside and is well worth walking around.
In the evenings the Plaza comes to life with locals and tourists alike hanging out, playing music, eating, drinking and just enjoying the city. If you chose to attend the Callejoneada Zacatecana event (which we highly recommend and will talk about in greater detail later on in this post) then you will meet here to get started at 7:30 or 8:30PM depending on what your ticket specifies.

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Next up on the walking tour…
Rafael Coronel Mask Museum and Ruins of Templo de San Francisco: We stumbled upon these ruins and didn’t really realize that there was also a full museum here. The entrance fee for the museum is 30 pesos per person. You cannot walk around the ruins without paying the entrance fee but it is worth it. The museum is laid out really well within the ruins and is known for having Mexico’s largest collection of masks from the pre and post hispanic eras.

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Hotel Quinta Real/ Plaza de Toros San Pedro: We did not stay in this hotel but did walk over to see it and have cocktails at the bar. This hotel encircles and old 17th century bull fighting ring. The bar is on the ground level, underneath where the guests watching the bull fight would sit. It has a cave like atmosphere with stone walls and ceiling. There are tables near large windows which open out to the bull fighting ring. While we were there the ring was under some construction/setting up for a wedding the following day but it was still very cool! We ordered a mezcal flight and then a cocktail while we were here. The Mezcal flight was really good – Mezcal can be very smoky and bitter but good mezcal tastes very similar to a really good tequila. This area of Mexico is know for Mezcal so you have to taste some while you’re here! If you do want a cocktail while your here we highly recommend their palomas!

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Acueducto el Cubo: Just outside the hotel Quinta Real you will see a huge aquaduct. It was in use until 1910 to bring water to the city from El Cubo mine.

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Templo de Santo Domingo: This is another large church next to universal art museum. We did not go into this museum or church just admired the outside as we walked by.
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Templo de Jesús: This church is a bit further from the main part of the city but worth the walk.
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Templo de Fatima: This was our favorite church by far. There was a wedding about to start when we walked by so we were not able to look inside unfortunately.

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Plazuela Miguel Auza/ Templo de San Agustín: For a break from all the churches and site seeing we recommend you head over to this plaza and sit down at one of the restaurants/cafes. We did this twice on our trip, its a great location to people watch, enjoy the warm weather and just relax with a beer or glass of wine or a coffee.
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Mina el Edén: Zacatecas is an old mining town. The mina el Eden offers tours of the mine during the day and offers a night club you can go to starting at 9pm. The night club does get busy so we would recommend arriving a little before 9pm so you can get in quickly. We arrived just after 9 and there was already a pretty long line. You do have to take a train into the mine to reach the club so only so many people can enter at a time. The train is pretty quick but this does slow down the entrance process.  The mine dates back to the 16th centry. The tours are only offered in Spanish so that is something to be aware of. We only know a little Spanish so we didn’t understand alot of the information on the tour but the mine its self is definitely worth seeing. After you go through the mine you can walk through the mineral and rock museum before taking the train back out of the mine. The museum is not an additional fee; if you pay for the tour you can see the museum. In total the tour and museum took us about an hour and a half.

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Bufa Hill/El Cerro de la Bufa: This hill offers excellent views of the city and is a must do! There is a teleferico (or cable car) that will take you up to the top. Erika is terrified of heights so needless to say, we didn’t do that. You can also drive up to the top which is what we opted to do. We did this on our last morning before driving out of town (that way we didn’t risk leaving our parking spot and having to find another one). Once you are at the top of the hill you can take in the views of the city. There is also a short hiking path along the side of the hill giving even better views of the city as you walk. There are also several large statues to visit, a chapel built in 1728, the Plaza de la Revolución Mexicana and the Observatory de la bufa. After exploring all of these things there are several small food stands on the hill if you want to stop for a snack.

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Callejoneada Zacatecana Event: You can buy tickets for this event at any tourism office or stand that you pass by in the city. The event started at 7:30 PM in the Plaza de Armas the night we went. We believe this event is put on every Saturday and sometimes Friday nights as well. You will follow a group of local musicians as they play through the streets. When you show your ticket you will be given a small cup to wear around your neck for your mezcal. They will pour you as many re-fills as you want during this event. You will enjoy locals and other tourists dancing and just having a good time. While the mezcal was not of the highest quality we would still highly recommend this event!  You could follow the musicians through the streets without buying a ticket however then you won’t be given any mezcal and really that is part of the whole experience!

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This is a foodie destination! Mexico in general is a fantastic place to eat but this city has some really, really good food! None of these places are fancy or high end restaurants, instead what they offer is really good, local food at a very affordable price.
Where to Eat:
El Sultan: Small tacos but really good, great place to stop for a snack as you walk around
La Toska: Maybe our favorite place, it smells amazing as you walk by! We actually ate here twice because it was so good! They had a taco deal going the weekend we were there- 10 tacos for 59 pesos. The tacos are small but if there are only two of you it is the perfect amount of food to share. We also ate one of the best things ever at this place- a pile of tortillas, cheese and whatever meats you chose (we had a carne asada one and a pastor one) all topped with a thin layer of fried cheese! So, so good!
Rincon Tipico: We stopped in here for lunch when we first arrived. They have no menu, just a few options each day. There were three options to chose from when we were there. We both had chicken and rice served of course with tortillas and salsa.
Gorditas doña Julia: There are a couple of these around the city. Its a simple place serving up some great gorditas! We really enjoyed the peppers and potatoes  (pimientos y papas) and the pork (cerdo) but there were plenty of options to chose from here.
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El Callejon: This is located near a small market area in town (Plaza Bicentenario). You will find multiple vendors selling food, drinks and other items around this area. We stopped in for a second breakfast/mid morning snack here and were very happy we did. Try the chorizo and potatoes (chorizo y papas)  and the bean and cheese (frijoles y queso) gorditas!
Plaza Bicentenario: While you are wandering around this market area be sure to try a donut (donas) They are very good! We aren’t really even donut people but trust us these are delicious!
Cervecería Shannons: We stopped in here late afternoon for a drink. It definitely has a younger vibe. We were probably the oldest people in this bar and we are 30 and 31. None the less the place is very cool. It’s got loud music and cool modern art on the walls. They are up on the second story with small balconies overlooking the street below. We attempted to just order a beer here but our waitress wasn’t about to let that happen. Our Spanish isn’t that great so we were not exactly sure what she was saying. We are pretty sure she was trying to upsell us which she did. We ended up with giant beer cocktails. We are pretty sure they were Mitcheladas- beer with clamato, hot sauce, lime and a chili salt rim around the glass. This doesn’t sound good in our option but it was suprisingly really good!
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Birrieria Alvarado: We stopped here our last morning for breakfast honestly because they were the first place we passed actually open at 9AM on a Sunday and we were ready to start our day. We aren’t 100% sure what the type of meat we ended up eating was- either sheep or goat is our best guess. We had a traditional soup with shredded meat, onion and cilantro in a spicy red broth, of course served with tortillas. And we had a few tacos with either goat or sheep (again not 100% sure what we ended up getting). The soup and the tacos were both really good. Honestly it seems you can’t really go wrong for food in this city. Everywhere we stopped was great.
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La Bartola: We stopped here for a small dinner/late lunch and a drink after more walking around the city. They have outdoor seating and are located on the corner of the Plazuela Miguel Auza. We ordered a gringa and two volcanes (these are similar to a tostada). Again really good food and great spot to sit and people watch as you eat and drink.
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Churro Place: Every time we walked down the Juan de Toloso road we smelled churros frying. We weren’t able to find it on the map now that we are back, but trust us, you will smell them! These were probably some of the best churros we have had!
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This just might be our favorite city we have visited in Mexico! We highly recommend this as a weekend trip or part of any larger trip through Mexico!
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-TFWYs

Rivero Gonzalez Wine Tasting

During our weekend road trip to Parras del la Fuente one of the wineries we visited was Rivero Gonzalez. This winery is kind of in the middle of nowhere. We got lost and drove in circles through some small side streets around Parras before we finally found it. We had a reservation for our tour so we we talked to the gate attendant who let us onto the property and showed us where to park. We were still a few minutes early even with getting lost. When we walked back to the winery we could not find anyone who looked like they were planning to give a tour. The only people we saw were a few guys cleaning some farm equipment in a back building. We wandered all over the property without anyone questioning us or offering to direct us to where we needed to be. We decided to go back towards the first building we had seen which was a store where you can buy their wine and other products. We figured that would be most likely where our tour guide would be. After waiting a few more minutes our tour guide arrived and everything went well. So all that being said- remember that the rest of the world doesn’t operate on a American schedule/time table where being a few minutes early is normal and somewhat expected. Also since this isn’t a huge area for wine tourism you may be the only tour the winery has that day or week. Our guide was truly surprised he was showing two American’s around without any locals. I think we wondered how we even found this place!
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We had a private tour (in English) through the vineyard and winery before sitting down for our tasting. Our guide was very helpful and willing to answer whatever questions we had. He was nervous about his English but we felt he did a wonderful job and by this point in our trip we were so happy to find anyone who spoke any English! We sat outside for our tasting with great views of the vineyard. Along with our wine we had some chocolate covered pecans, bread, goat cheeses and jams all made onsite by the winery. The winery had pecan trees all along the property. The chocolate covered pecans were awesome and you can buy a bag of them before you leave! We also tried some pecan and whiskey cream liquors at a small street market in Parras which we would also recommend trying if you are in the area.
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We were given plenty of time to relax and enjoy our wine and snacks during the tasting.  We really enjoyed all the wines we tasted here. We would recommend their Scieno Reserve line as we felt that was the best value. These wines are their middle line of wine (they have a cheaper line and a more expensive/premium line you can also purchase) We purchased the R2 Scieno Reserve Cab Sauvignon and the R3 Scieno Reserve Syrah. We also really enjoyed their Naranja which was an interesting experimental wine they had. It is a Palomino and Riesling blend that is aged in oak barrels which gave it more body and a light orange color. It was very unique with the distinct Riesling characteristics. We found this wine to be really refreshing and we always enjoy when wineries are doing something different so we can expand our wine tasting pallet!
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Here are the links to our other Parras de la Fuente and wine tasting posts from this region of Mexico.
-TFWYs

The Oldest Winery in North America

The oldest winery in North America surprisingly is in Mexico. Casa Madero was founded in 1597. It is located near the small town of Parras de la Fuente of the South side of the Coahuila desert. The winery does offer tours but do be aware they are in Spanish only. You do not need a reservation ahead of time but it may be helpful to secure your spot. They day we went we ended up joining what we think was a large family who had reserved their tour and tasting ahead of time. It worked out okay but we were the only two not from this group of people on the tour. We are not entirely sure the winery staff knew we weren’t part of that group when they sold us our tickets.
The tour doesn’t take you through the vineyards but focuses on the wine making process in the winery. You see where fermentation happens, where they make Brandy, and where they store the barrels. You also get to see some of the very old equipment still on the property. Our Spanish was not very good when we did this tour so we missed a lot of the smaller details. It was still cool to walk through and see everything. If you don’t know a lot of Spanish you can definitely still enjoy this tour.
The tasting is separate from the tour itself, meaning there is a separate fee. We had our tasting with our tour group immediately following our tour. We tasted several of their wines, again the tasting is in Spanish. One of the staff members pouring the wine did know some English to help us out but the details given about each wine we did not fully understand. We really enjoyed the 3V which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Tempranillo as well as the Shiraz Reserva.
Overall this tour is more established that the other wineries in the area. Not that you are not getting a good experience but you will likely be on a bigger tour with lots of other people. They are more prepared for tourists than the other wineries in the area as well which can be helpful to you when trying to communicate your needs if you are not a fluent Spanish speaker. Being the oldest winery in North America seems to bring them more tourism. While it was not the greatest winery tour and tasting we have ever done we would still recommend visiting if you are in the area.

 

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The town of Parras is not well set up for tourism. It is a very small town with few hotel options. There are other wineries in the area so if you are looking to a day or two of wine tasting that is possible.  Mexico does not have a strong wine drinking culture so wine tourism hasn’t taken off here as it has in other parts of the world. It was interesting because we were told that they are trying to establish higher end wine in Mexico and a lot of the tours we took focused on that education that leads to a greater appreciation for wine in general. We really enjoyed the wine at all the wineries we visited. We also visited Rivero Gonzalez and Don Leo winery. Check our our other posts for more details on both of those wineries:
We visited Parras de la Fuente as a weekend trip from Arteaga and felt that was a good amount of time. We found some great family run restaurants in town and enjoyed walking around the small streets.  For any wino this is a great off the beaten path place to do some tasting.
-TFWYs