Morelia, founded in 1541 is one of Mexico's most stately cities, in fact, Morelia is known as the aristocrat of the colonial cities. This is a city that needs at least a few days of your time, a city that will keep you constantly enthralled while you go about discovering the magic that is Morelia. The historical center is compact, flat and easily explored on foot, with easy access to the history that is represented here in the capital of the state of Michoacan. The breathtaking beauty of this city is a constant presence with its many pink quarry stone buildings, polished stone streets, majestic aqueduct and an extraordinary number of museums to keep you busy.
The center of the historic district is the Plaza de los Martires. Within the plaza is the stately cathedral with its elaborate towers which soar to a height of 200 feet. Construction of the cathedral started in 1660 and wasn't completed until 84 years later. The cathedral's architecture is as unique as the massive pipe organ it contains, which is an attraction itself, with its 4600 pipes. You can explore the immediate area and find many classic structures including the Palacio de Justicia which is a masterpiece of baroque architecture, the Palacio de Gobierno and the incredible Casa de la Cultura. A very helpful tourist office is is located in the Casa de la Cultura and they will give you maps and a schedule of cultural events, which seem to be never ending in Morelia. They also offer free walking tours of the historical center.
The over two hundred classical buildings in the historical center you are sure to keep you (and your camera) busy. There are nine interesting museums to explore in the city center and constant cultural performances and exhibitions to keep you entertained. Many sidewalk cafes and upscale restaurants will satisfy your hunger and offer great places to do a little people watching and just relax a bit from all of your exploring.
Shopping for quality handicrafts will include copperware, silver, hand made guitars, Indian pottery, woolens, colorful table linens and some exquisite wood furniture. Morelia also has many shops that offer a nice selections of antiques. The Casa de Las Artesanias, located in the ex-convent of San Francisco, in Plaza Valladolid, includes a crafts museum, workshops, and a store featuring regional crafts of very high quality. Not too far from here is the ancient aqueduct and Fuente Tarasca, a very picturesque fountain.
Morelia is also the major jumping off point for tours to the El Rosario Butterfly Sanctuary where millions of Monarch butterflies arrive to spend the winter after the long migration from the U.S. and Canada. From November to February the mountainsides and trees outside of Morelia are covered with these beautiful creatures. Tours to the butterfly sanctuary are very popular and many travel agents and tour operators in Morelia can make arrangements. The Patzcuaro area and the tiny islands on Lake Patzcuaro are other popular side trips.