Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Guide to Shopping in the City of Guanajuato

Guest Blogger: Cindi Bower

The city of Guanajuato is known for its history, architecture and music but is not thought of as an especially great place to shop. While Guanajuato is not full of shopping malls and exclusive boutiques, it has enough shops to satisfy even an inveterate shopper. The historic center of Guanajuato is where you'll find the best shopping opportunities.

Many shops can be found along the main street that runs through the center of the city. The street is called Sopeña on the south side of the Jardín de la Unión, then changes to Obregón from the Jardín to the Plaza de la Paz and finally to Juárez from there until past Mercado Hidalgo. Since Guanajuato's streets are not built in a grid formation and are not always clearly marked, most people use landmarks as points of reference when giving directions.

The best place to start your shopping adventure is in the Jardín de la Unión, Guanajuato's main plaza. There is a small shop, Arte de México, just across from the newsstand. It carries some jewelry, souvenirs and a small selection of regional candies.

With your back to the Jardín, face Teatro Juárez and the San Diego Church. Turn left and walk past the steps leading to the theatre. Now you are on Sopeña. This is mainly a pedestrian street, but watch out for delivery and trash trucks that also use the street from time to time. At Sopeña #5, you will find Rincón Artesanal, a small shop with ceramics, some religious art and carved wood items. A few doors further up the street is La Florecita, a shop with cloth bags, scarves, shawls and embroidered blouses and dresses.

Around the corner from La Florecita at Sopeña #17 is an upscale store called La Casa del Quijote with several rooms of jewelry, pottery, sculpture, ceramics and more. The displays are nicely done and the employees are very attentive and helpful.

Turn around and go back toward the Jardín. La Catrina Dulcería (candy store), just across from the theatre steps at Sopeña #4, is a sweet tooth's dream. The store offers a wide variety of typical candies from different parts of Mexico as well as nuts, jams, cajeta (sweetened caramelized goat's milk), vanilla extract and much more. Be sure to climb to the second floor for more delicious treats and the various Catrina figurines for sale.

Continue past the Jardín on Obregón Street. On the left just past a travel agency is La Casa del Sol. The shop is jam-packed with all manner of items: jewelry, dolls, religious objects, purses, dishes and much more. Though the items look antique, they are reproductions made in workshops around Guanajuato.

Cross Obregón Street, go through the small plaza and you'll be on Calle Truco. La Casa de la Abuela, at Truco #5, offers handmade, unique items such as puppets, children's toys, fountains, picture frames, candles, metal sculptures and more. A few doors further is Galeria del Arte Nautilus Calli, which offers art, home décor and gifts.

Go back to the intersection of Truco and Obregón Streets and turn right. There are a number of handicraft, gift and souvenir shops around Plaza de la Paz (dominated by the Basilica, the large yellow church) and along both sides of Juárez Street all the way to the Comercial Mexicana supermarket.

For silver jewelry, visit Plata y Artesanias at Avenida Juárez #34. The store offers bracelets, earrings, rings and necklaces, both in plain silver and silver with various semi-precious stones. It also offers handmade Mexican home décor.

Mercado Hidalgo has some souvenirs, candy and handicrafts on the second-level mezzanine as well as in some booths outside the building. It is more a market where residents buy food and household supplies or stop for a quick snack or meal than a place to buy handicrafts.

Across Avenida Juárez from Mercado Hidalgo is a steep street called Mendízábal that leads to the Alhóndiga de Granaditas, a large building on the left that was used as a granary. There is a bookstore inside that offers literature, books about history, art, science and more.

Calle Mendízábal ends at Pocitos Street. Turn right on Pocitos and walk away from the Alhóndiga. There are a few shops of interest along this street. El Viejo Zaguán, at Pocitos #64, offers candles, shawls, religious art, candy and knick-knacks. Donkey Jote, at Pocitos #30, is an English-language bookstore. La Rana, at Pocitos #7, has handicrafts, glass, and colorful Mexican folk art animals (alebrije).

Continue on Pocitos (now called Lascurian de Retana) past the steps leading to the main building of the University of Guanajuato. At the bottom of the hill, there is a small plaza on the right. Around the corner, at Ponciano Aguilar #25, you will see the Capelo gallery and café. The famous local artist, Javier de Jesús Hernández, goes by the name Capelo. The gallery offers art and ceramics. Capelo owns several horses and often uses them as subjects in his work.

Go back to the small plaza outside Capelo and face the post office. A large church, La Compañía de Jesus, will be on your left. Walk toward the post office on the sidewalk in front of the church. There is a street to the left of the post office that will lead you to Plaza Baratillo (turn right at the tortilla shop). Plaza Baratillo has several food shops as well as a shop on the corner next to the street that sells a variety of regional candies, nuts, jams, salsa and liqueurs.

Cross the street and go through the large indoor patio (there is a coffee shop/restaurant inside called "Café Atrio"). The narrow end of the Jardín de la Unión is just outside. There is a jewelry store and a shoe store just across the sidewalk from Café Atrio. Around the corner from the shoe store, you'll find a small shop with pottery.

You've made a large circle and ended up back where you started at the Jardín de la Unión. While you haven't seen every handicraft, jewelry or artisan shop in Guanajuato, you've discovered the vast majority.

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