Mexico is home to 132 Pueblos Mágicos (Magic Towns) that were chosen for things like their scenery, history or architecture. But what, many wonder, is the most magical town of them all? In the following Taxco guide, we’ll be covering what makes this former silver mining town in Guerrero a top contender.
Silver mining existed in the area since pre-Hispanic times, though the town as we know it today was founded by none other Hernán Cortés. And over the years, numerous men grew wealthy from the mining industry, gradually leaving their mark on Taxco’s skyline.
The most famous among them was José de la Borda (1700-78), once the richest man in all of New Spain. And he used his wealth to commission the Santa Prisca Church – both Taxco’s top architectural highlight and one of the most beautiful churches in all of Mexico.
While Taxco’s mining industry eventually fizzled out, the city is still closely associated with silver. That’s largely thanks to its talented silversmiths, who sell a wide variety of silver goods at countless shops throughout town.
But one doesn’t need to be in the market for silver to enjoy Taxco. Its well-preserved architecture, cobblestone streets and beautiful vantage points make it one of the most beautiful towns in the country.
Walking the Streets
One of the best things to do in Taxco is to simply walk around. Surprises await you as you make your way through back alleys, discovering beautiful architecture and scenic vantage points by accident.
The hilly town’s traditional architecture and overall ambiance are remarkably well-preserved. Just be forewarned – traversing the steep and narrow streets of Taxco is definitely a workout.
While we’ll be covering the town’s main highlights in the Taxco guide below, there are a few minor landmarks to keep an eye out for as you wander around.
As mentioned, Taxco is renowned for its silversmiths, and this is largely thanks to an American silversmith named William Spratling who moved here in the 1920s to set up workshops. The William Spratling Museum, however, has unfortunately been closed for quite some time.
Just nearby, though, you’ll encounter a statue of Juan Ruiz de Alarcón (1581-1639), an influential Taxco-born playwright.
Near the town square, or Zócalo, is the Casa Borda, named after the wealthy miner mentioned above. Now home to the local Cultural Center, it doesn’t have a whole lot to offer tourists, though inside you’ll find some interesting modern art sculptures crafted from silver.
While not a landmark per se, another unique feature you’ll notice in Taxco is that many of its local taxis are old Volkswagen Beetles. Oddly enough, they don’t look too out of place when juxtaposed with the Pueblo Mágico’s traditional architecture.
The Church of Santa Prisca
The Church of Santa Prisca, located right along the town square, is arguably one of Mexico’s most stunning buildings. Constructed in the 18th century, it’s a prime example of Mexican Baroque architecture.
The mastermind behind the project was mining magnate José de la Borda, who used his immense wealth to fund its construction. Work began in 1751, and the church was finished an impressive eight years later.
Though once the richest man in New Spain, Borda was nearly bankrupt by the time the church was complete, partly due to his mines running out around the same time.
Interestingly, the main architect of the project remains uncertain, but the main candidates are Diego Duran and Cayetano de Siguenza.
Given Taxco’s geography, the church was built as a relatively narrow structure due to the lack of flat land. The architects made up for it, however, with height. In fact, it was the tallest building in Mexico upon its completion.
Stepping inside, you’ll find nine ornately carved wooden altarpieces that were designed by an artist named Isidoro Vicente de Balbas. The paintings, meanwhile, were done by Don Miguel Cabrera.
Notably, upon the church’s completion, José de la Borda’s own son, Manuel de la Borda, served as the head priest.
The Museum of Religious Art
The Museum of Religious art is one of Taxco’s top attractions – both for its contents and for its architecture. The building is also known as the Museum of Viceregal Art or Casa Humboldt, after the German naturalist Alexander Von Humboldt who spent the night here in 1903.
The building dates back to the 17th century and its facade was built in the Mudéjar, or Moorish style that many Spanish architects brought to the New World.
As you explore the museum, be sure to take the time to enjoy the excellent views from its spacious terrace.
The Spanish ruled Mexico from 1521-1821, and accordingly left behind a lot of art. And many of the most remarkable pieces from this period in Taxco are now held in this museum which opened in 1991.
Highlights include a model of a Manilla Galleon, the ship that transported goods between Acapulco and the Philippines, as well as an Agnus Dei, or ‘Lamb of God’ tabernacle from 1735.
You’ll also find pieces of clothing belonging to José de la Borda, along with Baroque furniture and carvings.
The museum’s most rare artifact is the ‘Funeral Tumulus.’ Typically made of wood, these objects were elaborately painted and featured spaces for floral arrangements.
They started to be used in the funerals of both Europeans and high-ranking natives from the 16th century. But as they were typically discarded after the ceremony, no surviving examples were thought to have existed.
That is, until 1988, when an 18th-century Funeral Tumulus was discovered in a storeroom at Santa Prisca during restorations. Its beautiful paintings spread across three levels represent different aspects of death.
While Taxco is renowned for its beauty, the town has also become known for a self-flagellation ritual that some outsiders might find unsettling.
While not very common today, self-flagellation has been practiced in various Christian societies for centuries. And when the Spanish introduced the practice to Mexico, native residents of Taxco linked it with their ancient blood-letting rituals, resulting in a syncretic yet bloody tradition that has survived to the present.
On display at the museum are mannequins and photographs revealing what one would see at a typical Holy Week procession in Taxco.
The museum costs $60 MXN to enter and is closed Mondays.
Museo Casa Figueroa
Not far from the Zócalo is a colorful house museum with a depressing backstory. Now officially known as Museo Casa Figueroa, it’s long been dubbed as the ‘House of Tears’ by locals.
The house was built in 1767 by a group of indigenous Tlahuica slaves on the orders of the Count of Cadena, a friend of José de la Borda.
And given the uncertainty of the era, the Count placed various secret tunnels, hiding places and storage areas all throughout his house.
Later on, the house changed hands several times, but numerous tragedies took place here over the years. One story, for example, involves a father who killed his daughter to prevent a marriage he didn’t approve of.
Another story involves a female owner who was murdered and beheaded by thieves. On a somewhat positive note, the hidden passageways came in handy for people to hide during the violence of the Mexican Revolution.
Unsurprisingly, the house is now considered by many to be haunted.
In 1943, the house was purchased by an artist named Fidel Figueroa. But he never ended up living there, instead using it as a private museum and storage space for his art collection.
You’ll find a wide variety of decorations and art styles on display here – some original and some added by Figueroa – including ceramic tiles, colonial religious art, and numerous pre-Hispanic sculptures.
As you tour the house, you’ll be accompanied by a local guide who speaks both Spanish and English. Even with the mandatory guide, Museo Casa Figueroa only costs 35 pesos to enter.
Unlike most museums, it’s closed on Tuesdays rather than Mondays. To see everything on this Taxco guide, then, try to visit the town sometime between Wed.-Sun.
Hiking to Cristo Rey
One of Taxco’s newer landmarks is the Cristo Rey statue, situated high above town. Built in the style of Brazil’s Christ the Redeemer, the 18-meter-tall statue was completed in 2002 after eight months of work.
Frankly speaking, the statue itself isn’t anything special. The real reason to come, though, is for the views. And if you’re feeling adventurous, the walk up is an experience to remember.
The hike up the steep, windy streets of Taxco takes around 45 minutes one-way from the Zócalo. While the route is relatively straightforward with Google Maps, the correct alleyways you’re supposed to take can be confusing at times.
But once you reach a certain elevation, the friendly locals will assume you’re headed toward Cristo Rey and will kindly point you in the right direction.
The views are indeed stunning, while access to the statue is free. You may have to squint, but look carefully and you’ll be able to spot numerous landmarks featured in this Taxco guide.
If you’re not into the idea of walking all the way to the top, you can simply take one of Taxco’s ubiquitous Beetle taxis or a colectivo (shared minivan) from the town center. They should have ‘Cristo’ written on the window.
If you’re mainly interested in views and don’t particularly care about the statue, here’s a little secret. On the way down, I discovered that the vantage point from the terrace outside of Parroquia de Guadalupe offers even clearer views.
From here, you can enjoy a great panoramic view of Taxco while still being close enough to see (and photograph) a lot more detail, especially of the Church of Santa Prisca. This viewpoint is only about 15 minutes or so on foot from the Zócalo (see map above).
To see all of the locations mentioned in this Taxco guide, you only need a day. Why, then, do most other articles and videos about the Magic Town say you should spend at least a night or two?
A lot depends on where you’re coming from. If Cuernavaca is your base, a bus ride to Taxco takes less than two hours one-way, allowing you to leisurely visit all the highlights with time to spare.
But if you’re coming from Mexico City or even further away, you should indeed stay at least a night, as Taxco would be a bit too far for a day trip.
With that being said, Taxco is one of those places where you could probably spend days just aimlessly wandering the streets without getting bored.
Cuernavaca is the most convenient base for visiting Taxco as a day trip. The route is operated by a company called Costa, and buses depart hourly. You can find them at the Estrella Blanca station in the north part of town.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have the best experience with this company, as the bus departed over thirty minutes late. Around departure time, I asked one of the staff members where the bus was, and they told me to wait a bit longer. And so I assumed it was coming from another city and got caught up in traffic.
But I was wrong, as our bus turned out to be the one sitting in the parking lot the whole time! The driver was also there just chatting with his buddies while the passengers waited. I have no idea why the bus didn’t leave when it was supposed to, but that’s the kind of service you get when a single company has a monopoly over a particular route.
Once we finally departed, the journey took a little under two hours. Luckily, even with the delay, I still had time to visit all the locations in the Taxco guide above. And at least the bus back to Cuernavaca was punctual.
From Mexico City’s Terminal del Sur (Taxqueña) station, you can find direct buses to Taxco run by the Estrella de Oro company. At the time of writing, they only depart at 8:05 in the morning and then again in the evening.
A one-way journey is listed as taking 2.5 hours, though expect it to take a little longer.
If you want to visit Taxco as a day trip, five hours total in a vehicle (at the very least) might be a bit much. Therefore, you might want to take a tour instead.
All tours listed online seem to combine Taxco with Cuernavaca. While it would be ideal to spend the whole day at Taxco, Cuernavaca is an interesting stop if you wouldn’t have time to see it otherwise.
This highly-rated tour also includes a stop at a pre-Hispanic mine.
As mentioned, I stayed in Cuernavaca, not Taxco. But as long as you’re based somewhere within walking distance of the Zócalo, you should easily be able to get around on foot.
Cuernavaca, home to roughly 350,000 people, is a mid-sized city. As long as you’re staying somewhere relatively central, most of the top highlights should be walkable.
The city is home to a plethora of different bus stations, and you’ll often be using a different one during each of your day trips, not to mention arrival and departure.
I stayed just off of Avenida Morelos, where a few of the stations happen to be located. The hotel was called Hotel Colonial and it suited my needs perfectly. In addition to the convenient location, I had a comfortable room with a private bathroom. The hotel is also home to a very friendly (but very vocal!) cat.