Morelia Mexico Unveiled: Your Definitive 2023 Travel Guide
Morelia is one of the most colonial cities in Mexico, full of history, incredible architecture, and delicious gastronomy. It is a perfect place for a weekend getaway!
This beautiful city is the capital of Michoacan; between 1545 and 1828, it was named Valladolid, and its current name was given in honor of one of its most illustrious historical inhabitants: José María Morelos y Pavón.
If you plan to travel to Morelia soon, I will tell you about the top things to do and see. Also, I will recommend the best places to eat and stay. Let’s begin.
Where is Morelia?
At 1,910 meters above sea level, Morelia sits northeast of Michoacan and is the most populous and largest city in the state.
From Mexico City to Morelia, there is a distance of 305 kilometers. To reach this tourist destination, take Highway 54, a vertiginous four-lane highway.
The trip takes approximately three to four hours.
if you’re traveling from Guadalajara, it is almost the same distance (289 km).
TOP 11 things to do and see in Morelia, Mexico
Morelia is called “the city of the pink quarry stone,” and its historic center magnificently shows the reasons why.
More than 200 historic buildings are built in the pink-toned rock found in the quarries of this part of Michoacan.
Interestingly, the historic center of Morelia is the only one with no main square or zocalo among all the Mexican colonial cities.
In Morelia’s traditional center, designed in the best tradition of 16th-century Spanish urban planning, the Cathedral, several palaces, the old hospital, and other beautiful structures stand out.
Visit Morelia’s Cathedral
Morelia’s main temple is a majestic baroque building in pink quarry stone dating from the 18th century.
Its two towers, 68 meters high, stand out in the city’s architectural landscape.
On Saturdays, the church is illuminated in a spectacle of light, fireworks, and sound that captures its visitors.
It keeps some artistic and religious jewels in its interiors, such as the monumental organ of 4500 flutes, the largest in the country, the silver baptismal font, images, and paintings.
The old Aqueduct – Morelia Mexico’s landmark
This imposing Aqueduct built in the 18th century to supply water to Morelia is one of the city’s most essential and best-preserved civil works.
It was built to replace the rudimentary canal built as a supply system in the 16th century and consists of 253 semicircular arches almost 10 meters tall.
Admire the main palaces
Morelia has beautiful palaces that have been the scene of notable events in the history of Mexico.
The Government Palace of Michoacan, a beautiful baroque building from the 18th century, was the seat of the Tridentine Seminary, and Agustín de Iturbide and José María Morelos passed through its halls, among other students who would go on to make history.
You may want to read: Angangueo Michoacan: Home of the Monarch Butterfly
In the Legislative Palace, a 19th-century building with Frenchified lines, Miguel Hidalgo signed the decree abolishing slavery in Mexico in 1810.
Former Royal Hospital of San Juan de Dios
When the bishop of Michoacan commissioned the construction of this beautiful building of baroque and neoclassical lines to serve as the seat of the Episcopal House in the 17th century, he did not imagine that its magnificence would spoil his plans.
The community began to question so much Christian luxury in a city with deficient health services.
The palace was ceded to the Johannine monks, who converted it into a hospital.
Curiously, a year after seeing the birth of Michoacan’s first medical school in 1866, the palace was converted into a hotel under the name of Los Juaninos in honor of the monks.
Visit the birthplace and museum of Morelos
Mexican patriot José María Morelos y Pavón gives his name to the city of Morelia, where he was born on September 30, 1765, when the town was still called Valladolid.
The hero’s birthplace, with a single floor and two interior courtyards, was originally Baroque style when it was built in the 17th century, but reconstruction in 1888 made it neoclassical.
In 1965 it became a museum dedicated to Morelos, including a document with his signature and the most important episodes of his career.
Catch a show at the Ocampo Theater
This theater offered its first show on New Year’s Day 1830 under Teatro Coliseo’s name in a Salgado Company performance with actress Amada Plata.
On June 3, 1861, in the middle of a performance, the news of the shooting of the liberal leader Melchor Ocampo arrived, and the attendees decided to rename the theater.
The neo-baroque construction has undergone several modifications, the last in 2000 to improve the acoustics of its majestic 400-seat theater.
Morelia Mexico’s Regional Museum
This museum was inaugurated in 1886 in the Colegio de San Nicolás and is the oldest in the country, excluding Mexico City.
It has been in operation since 1916 in a beautiful baroque-style mansion built in the 18th century.
It was the residence of notable families, including Ana Huarte, wife of Emperor Agustin de Iturbide.
The museum is dedicated to the history of Michoacan, and among its most valuable works is the monumental painting “The transfer of the Dominican nuns to their new convent in Valladolid,” an incredible testimony of the viceregal era in the city.
Visit the Museo del Dulce (Candy Museum)
Morelia is home to some of the best Mexican candies.
La Dulcería de la Calle Real is located on Avenida Francisco Madero, Oriente 440, which offers a variety of more than 300 Michoacan and Mexican sweets.
It houses five rooms in its museum where they tell the history of candy in Mexico, from its original handmade elaboration in convents and monasteries to the manufacturing industrialization.
It is the most irresistible museum in Morelia, Mexico.
Have fun at the Benito Juarez Zoo
The Benito Juarez Zoo in Morelia is one of the largest in Latin America regarding species variations.
Occasionally, an extraordinary event occurs at the zoo, such as the birth in January 2016 of a caracal, believed to be the first time that one of these beautiful felines is born in captivity in Mexico.
In December 2015, there were the births of a scimitar-horned antelope, a Lechwe antelope, and a llama. Anything can happen in such a rich and varied zoo.
Enjoy the regional food
Michoacan’s traditional cuisine is strongly influenced by the pre-Columbian culinary customs of the Purepecha people, adjusted with the European culinary art brought by the Spanish conquistadors.
Among the most representative dishes of the regional cuisine are corundas, tamales with cheese and cream; Tarascan soup, prepared with ground beans, pasilla chile, and tomato puree; and enchiladas morelianas or placeras.
Other local delicacies include Michoacan-style carnitas, uchepos, and aporreadillo.
Where to eat? 10 Best restaurants in Morelia, Mexico
If you like what you’ve seen so far and decide to visit Morelia, you can’t miss the best restaurants, where you will taste exclusive dishes of traditional Michoacan and international cuisine. Take note:
1. Los Mirasoles
Los Mirasoles is one of the most impressive restaurants. Its viceregal style blends with the architecture of the historic center, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Its menu comprises traditional Michoacan cuisine in most dishes and local trout-based specialties. Some are a perfect fusion of local and international cuisine.
- Start with golden trout tacos and watercress pear salad
- Try the Enchiladas Placeras (traditional Morelianas stuffed with cheese and onion)
- Taste the Trout Tartar from Uruapán
- Savor the Arrachera (flank steak) Parián in a spicy sauce accompanied by cactus and grilled onions
- Taste the Charanda, Michoacan’s traditional spirit
Reserve your table and organize a family reunion, business meeting, birthday party, wedding, or romantic dinner. It’s the perfect place.
2. San Miguelito Restaurant
San Miguelito is your best choice if you want to eat tasty food and get a new boyfriend (or girlfriend).
The popular culture and unique culinary offer have made this restaurant a highly visited one, only 10 minutes from the historic center.
Besides coming for its excellent gastronomy, diners bring petitions for the saint to perform the miracle of finding a mate.
Decorated in colonial style, you can choose from several spaces such as the Tiendita del Abuelo, El Altar de las Conversaciones, El Rincón de las Solteronas and the Dining Room, where each table is different.
It also has a terrace for smokers and even an art gallery about Morelia.
You can choose light dishes such as the “Aquí Estoy” salad, with lettuce, strawberry, apple, sunflower seeds, garapiñadas and mango dressing, or a delicious beef specialty such as “Medallones del Patrón.”
The “fish in banana leaf” with mushroom, butter, onion, and fine herbs is also delicious and one of the most recommended.
3. Restaurant Bar Las Trojes
Only 15 minutes by car from the Plaza de Armas, the most important square in the city is the Restaurant Bar Las Trojes.
Its construction over a typical 19th-century Michoacan Indian house, known as Troje Purépecha, is striking.
It has been delighting the palate of the people of Morelia for three decades. The menu is varied but predominantly grilled meat and traditional regional cuisine.
- For starters, you can order marrow or adobera cheese
- As main courses, you can choose charcoal-grilled arrachera or roasted beef fillet
- Fish, seafood, salads, and good wines will not be missing from the menu
Away from the hustle and bustle, Emilianos specializes in pasta, charcoal-grilled steaks, and salads with fresh ingredients.
This restaurant is one of the most renowned in Morelia and is located within the business district.
The ambiance goes hand in hand with luxury. The elegance makes it ideal for a business or couple’s treat. It offers both variety and quality.
You can enjoy a classic Irish coffee and table-side flambéed plantains for dessert.
5. Chango Restaurant
Chango specializes in contemporary international food, with an eclectic vintage décor from the tables to the bar area.
- Taste their Orange Risotto with ginger, zucchini, and shrimp
- The spectacular Salmon in dijon sauce with glazed carrot, apple, and crunchy almonds
- Finish with a delicious dessert of warm apple pie in almond crumble, homemade vanilla ice cream, and walnut sugar
Chango has a charming atmosphere with live music: a good option if you go as a couple or with friends.
They can even reserve a private space for you if you come with a large group.
6. La Azotea
At La Azotea, you will have the best view in Morelia. A panoramic view of the city’s historic center, with the Cathedral in the foreground, will make your visit an unforgettable experience.
Located at the top of the Hotel Los Juaninos, it combines contemporary Mexican ingredients with traditional Michoacan cuisine.
The casual atmosphere allows diners to taste wines from a carefully crafted menu with Mexican and international selections.
The restaurant has two private dining rooms with a capacity of 20 people each.
7. LU Restaurant
The LU restaurant preserves the Michoacan identity and the richness of the recipes of traditional foods.
Located inside the Hotel Casino, in the heart of the historic center of Morelia, it is a neo-rustic space decorated with local craftsmanship.
When you order any dish, you are guaranteed natural products, considering the origin of the raw materials and how they are cooked.
The restaurant is known for being a relaxed and informal space.
Although it is in an 18th-century building, the avant-garde is its hallmark and can be seen everywhere, not only in the food but also in the wine and drink menus.
LU offers Mexican wine cellar services, private event suggestions, and a tasting menu specialized in regional products.
All its services and food made it the winner of the Gourmet Awards 2016 as “Best Local Restaurant.”
8. Tata Mezcalería
A must-visit in Morelia Mexico is the Tata Mezcalería.
Eight blocks from the Cathedral in the historic center, this mezcal joint promises to be a space not only for eating and drinking but also for spiritual growth.
Everything has its story in Tata Mezcalería. Their chairs are from Opopeo, a town in Michoacan known for its artisan production, and have been carved in Patzcuaro.
The bar is designed with more than 50 suitcases, and trunks found in different bazaars and flea markets, some over 100 years old.
You can’t leave town without trying their lamb enchiladas or shrimp taquitos.
The large plank is an ideal space for numerous groups and the central patio, under the shade of a large tree, is perfect for social gatherings.
A complimentary mezcal and soup break the ice before looking at the menu. There are international dishes, local flavors, and a wide variety of mezcals and artisanal liquors.
One block from the majestic Cathedral is the Marogui restaurant inside the Hotel La Soledad.
It has the best flavors of regional Mexican food in an intimate and seductive atmosphere in each of its spaces.
The menu highlights Michoacan’s cuisine. Pollo a la Gran Capilla, Enchiladas Morelianas, and its famous Arrachera Soledad are among its most popular dishes.
10. Mi Lola Morelia
Because Morelia is not all about regional food, pizza -one of the most popular dishes in the world- is also present.
Ten minutes from the Museo Casa Natal de Morelos, Mi Lola Morelia offers an extensive menu that includes gourmet wood-fired thin crispy pizzas, pasta, beef carpaccio, grilled steaks, salads, and desserts.
Just admiring every detail of its colorful interior makes your visit an unforgettable experience.
Live music will make you have a pleasant time, and children can enjoy themselves in a space designed to make their own pizzas.
TOP 8 best hotels in Morelia, Mexico
Because having a good place to rest is also important, here is a selection of the 8 best hotels in Morelia to make your trip and experience super comfortable.
1. Hotel Herencia By Hosting House
Staying in a colonial mansion is quite an experience. The Hotel Herencia By Hosting House will give you all the comfort you need.
The rooms with tile and marble floors have a balcony to enjoy the best views. Communication will not be a problem because the hotel has a multilingual staff.
In its facilities, you will find gift stores, event and conference rooms, restaurants, bars, and wireless Internet, among other amenities.
The privileged location offers the opportunity to visit, just a three-minute walk away, the San Francisco Plaza and the majestic Morelia Cathedral, one of the most important in the world.
When leaving the hotel, you can’t miss the museums. Although they are close, you can do it by car for convenience.
A few steps away are restaurants with the most diverse food, shopping area, and colonial-style squares.
2. Villa San José Hotel & Suites
The Villa San José Hotel & Suites is ideal if you like open spaces and nature.
Built on the hill of Santa Maria, it offers a spectacular panoramic view of Morelia.
The hotel has a heated swimming pool, tennis court, and beautiful gardens.
Everything is combined in a rustic yet luxurious style, which can also be appreciated in the rooms.
Wifi service will not be missing, as well as cable TV and fireplaces.
The hotel is a 5-minute drive from the Benito Juarez Zoo, the second most visited zoo in Mexico, and a few minutes from downtown Morelia.
The property organizes guided tours of the city’s tourist sites.
You’ll have free access to a nearby gym if you need to work out. Discounts are also available at the spa and a local golf course.
3. Hotel de La Soledad
In the historic center of Morelia is Hotel de La Soledad. Its elegance is its trademark, and the 17th-century building enchants its guests.
The beautiful architecture makes its facilities worth visiting, even if you are not staying here.
The rooms are decorated with original works of art. There is free wifi and cable TV.
It won’t be a problem to bring valuables, as you will have a safe at your disposal. There are air conditioning and heating systems, a bathtub, and a sitting area.
Two blocks south is the imposing Morelia Cathedral, a five-minute walk, and you will be able to appreciate this marvel.
The religious precinct is an icon of the city’s history and magnificent structure. On some nights, a spectacular play of lights on its façade makes it a must-see.
Museums surround La Soledad. Walking north, you will reach the Colonial. It won’t take you more than 5 minutes.
You will see an extensive collection of crucifixes with pieces from the XVII, XVIII, and XIX centuries.
4. Casa Madero Boutique Hotel
500 meters from the Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe Sanctuary is the Casa Madero Boutique Hotel.
It offers sightseeing tours, private parking, wifi throughout the property, and bilingual staff.
If you want more comfort, you can hire a car rental, laundry, hairdresser, and transportation to the airport, about 30 minutes away.
The rooms have air conditioning, heating systems, cable TV, a seating area, a safe, and luxury toiletries.
A five-minute walk will take you to the Museum of Contemporary Art and Plaza Morelos, the largest square in Morelia’s historic center.
You can enter the Guadalupe Sanctuary, where hundreds of devotees congregate to venerate Our Lady of Guadalupe.
5. Cantera 10 Hotel Boutique
In front of the Cathedral, the tourist site par excellence in Morelia is Cantera 10 Hotel Boutique.
You hardly have to walk to get to the majestic religious precinct. You can get a close-up view of this architectural marvel from your room.
Its spacious rooms combine arches and stone walls. They have air conditioning, wifi, cable TV, and a bathroom with a hairdryer and slippers.
In addition, you can choose from a pillow menu to get the best rest.
The restaurant offers typical Mexican food, and there are discounts on lunch and dinner for its guests.
If you want to relax, you can request in-room spa service or have a yummy cocktail at the bar.
Pets are welcome upon prior notification.
6. Casa Embrujo Morelia
If you’re looking for tranquility, Casa Embrujo Morelia is a bit apart from the heart of the historic district.
Its facilities have everything you need for a pleasant stay. It has a solarium, bar, and garden views.
At 2 km from Plaza Morelos and 3 km from the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Guadalupe, this hotel allows you to be close to the historic district but without the typical hustle and bustle of downtown.
The Monarcas stadium, Morelia’s professional soccer team, is about 6 kilometers away.
The rooms have a private entrance for greater discretion. They have wooden floors and everything you need for a cozy stay.
7. Casa Grande Hotel Boutique
A rooftop terrace is one of the main attractions of Casa Grande Hotel Boutique. The view from here is directly overlooking the imposing Cathedral.
This renovated 17th-century mansion has rooms with wooden floors and high ceilings.
There is free wifi, cable TV, safe, complimentary toiletries, a coffee maker, a minibar, an alarm clock, and a hairdryer.
The hotel has a colonial style typical of Morelia’s historic district. About 300 meters away is the famous candy market that you can’t miss. The nearby museums are a must-see.
8. Best Western PLUS Gran Hotel Morelia Mexico
This is a less traditional hotel in the city with a modern resort-type architecture and design.
The hotel has a gym, swimming pool, and tennis court with nice gardens.
There are meeting rooms for up to 1000 people. If you need to work, the business center is available.
If you want to chill and have a drink, you can go to the bar with live music in the evenings.
You can reach the historic center by car and visit the Cathedral and museums in only 5 minutes. The airport is 27 kilometers away.
For the most devout, the Sanctuary of Guadalupe is just 2 kilometers away. A little further is the Aqueduct, one of the most representative elements of Morelia Mexico.