Nearby San Miguel de Allende gets all the press. But for avant-garde theater, art and music, Guanajuato has the edge. With Spanish colonial and French-inspired buildings occupying the flatter valleys and homes built up along the walls of a steep ravine, this 18th century former silver mining center in the mountains of Central Mexico, "is like Venice without the water,'' says local pastel artist Laura Rangel. "You get surprised at every step.''
Tucked into alleyways too narrow for cars, houses painted in swatches of pink, purple and orange crawl up canyon walls threaded with secret passageways and stone stairways. A giant statue of the Mexican war hero El Pípila hovers over the town on a plateau reachable by a steep climb or ride up the hill on a glass-windowed funicular.
Traffic? It flows mainly through a network of underground tunnels, dug first to prevent flooding and later for traffic control, leaving only a few surface streets, mostly reserved for pedestrians. Find out more about this fascinating city in my story in the July-August issue of Virtuoso Life Magazine.