In 1996, UNESCO gave the historical centre of Querétaro the rank of World Heritage Site
As an eastern gateway to the colonial heartland (Zacatecas being the western alternative), Querétaro hides a treasured city centre of pedestrian walkways and colonial architecture. Meaning ‘Place Where the Ball is Thrown’ (possibly a reference to an ancient game in which the losers were sacrificed) in Tarascan, the city was found in 1531 and has grown to be an important albeit sprawling industrial centre and state capital. Along with Aguascalientes, it is one of the fastest-growing cities in Mexico and is considered one of the five best places in the country in which to live and work. Outside of the centre (which is a World Heritage Site), its sights are somewhat limited, but the ambience makes a visit worthwhile (as well as being an excellent starting point for a trip to the Franciscan missions to the northeast) and provides time to contemplate the historical significance of the city. Hidalgo’s rising in 1810 was plotted here, and it was here that Emperor Maximilian surrendered after defeat. He was tried and shot on 19 June 1867, on the Cerro de las Campanas (the Hill of Bells), outside the city. It’s also a good base to plan trips to the Peñón de Bernal, local wineries, and the five rarely visited missions of Querétaro in the Sierra Gorda to the east, which are the prime attractions of this state.
The immediate environs of Querétaro are now largely suburbs of that city. However, be sure to take in the thermal baths and opal mines of Tequisquiapan and San Juan del Río en route to the famous Franciscan missions in the upper northeast quadrant of the state. This route also goes to Xilitla in neighbouring San Luis Potosí state, the jaw-dropping fantasy world created by the eccentric expatriate Edward James.