Visit San Luis Potosí, Mexico
- Where Mediterranean meets Wild West
Lying in the middle of the vast dry hills of Mexican prairie is San Luis Potosí, the capital of the state with the same name. Little visited by tourists, San Luis Potosí is a very lively economic and cultural centre. The historic centre with its many little plazas invites to stay a while. Cobble stone streets and Spanish-style buildings create a European flair in the midst of cactus plants and prairies.
San Luis Potosí – or San Luis as it is usually referred to – was the first place I visited after moving to Mexico. My husband’s job took us there for a few days – and then a couple more times later in the year – and we are more than happy it did. Otherwise, we probably would not have discovered this beautiful spot which lies a bit out of our way.
Getting there is an adventure on its own. While the centre of the country doesn’t exactly comply with the average European’s idea of Mexico with its rolling green hills, the countryside surrounding San Luis Potosí definitely does. The dry plains only covered with low shrubs and cactus plants remind of Western movies. The air is so hot and dry and the vegetation so scarce that I wondered how the people living in the tiny villages left and right of the road can survive.
Once you reach the industrial outskirts of San Luis Potosí, you soon forget that you’re in the middle of the prairie. The historic centre feels more like a Mediterranean town, with its many beautiful town squares that are kept tidy and green. We arrived in the early evening on a Sunday night, and walking along the cobble stone streets in the warm evening breeze felt very much like a holiday. An orchestra was playing traditional music in the pavilion on Jardín Hidalgo and people were having nieve (ice cream) from mobile vendors or one of the many ice cream parlours around the centre.
Sightseein in San Luis Potosí
I strongly recommend you visit the Catedral Metropolitana. With its blue and gold ornaments, it is one of the prettiest churches I have seen. The doors are constantly open, but be respectful and quiet especially when there is a service going on.
Not far from Jardín Hidalgo, you will find Jardín de San Francisco, a picturesque square with a few big trees and the beautiful Templo de San Francisco de Asís dominating the scenery. Next to the templo, there is a cultural centre with free entry. It has a small display of paintings by local artists and most of all a stunning rooftop terrace. If you enjoy taking pictures, you will have great photo opportunities up there.
Just a stone throw away from Jardín de San Francisco is Plaza de Aranzazú, framed by the Convento de San Francisco, parts of which now host the Museo Regional Potosino. If you are interested in Mexican history and pre-Hispanic culture, then this museum is a must. It displays the history of San Luis Potosí, but also has a small collection of archeologic findings from all across Mexico. I found the explanations in the museum very helpful to gain a better understanding of all the different ethnic groups in Mexican history. Upstairs in the museum, there is an interesting photo display portraying traditional food in the state of San Luis Potosí.
Another museum I would recommend to learn more about Mexican culture is the Museo Nacional de la Máscara on Plaza del Carmen. With about 1,300 pieces, it is the second largest masque collection in Mexico. The collection focusses on the region, but also has items from other parts of Mexico and even the world. Masques play an important role in indigenous rites and traditions and are still widely used today. Therefore, the museum offers great insights into Mexican culture.
Where to eat in San Luis Potosí
There are many great food options in San Luis, some paired with spectacular views. The regional cuisine is quite different from the food in central Mexico, so be sure to try the local specialities of tacos potosinos and enchiladas potosinas – both traditionally vegetarian options (yay).
La Oruga y la Cebada
This is probably the most popular restaurant in all of San Luis. And there is a reason for that (or maybe even various): First of all, the restaurant has two beautiful rooftop terraces which offer an amazing view of the cupolas of San Francisco. Secondly, the food is delicious. The menu is very varied, ranging from classical Mexican dishes and local favourites to pizza and pasta. I tried the “Oruga vegetariana”, a delicious ciabatta filled with grilled vegetables, but other dishes also looked great. Thirdly, La Oruga y la Cebada is famous for its great beer selection.
Address: Av Universidad 169, Centro (just around the corner from Jardín San Francisco
Frailes right next to La Oruga y la Cebada is another great option. The rooftop terrace is a little higher up and usually less crowded than its neighbour and the view is equally amazing. The enchiladas potosinas were especially yummy here. The only negative was that the service is incredibly slow.
Address: Av Universidad 165, Centro (right next to La Oruga)
El México de Frida
Probably the most folkloric restaurant in the city and a favourite spot for business dinners, La Casa de Frida is colourful place which even has its own selfie spot. It is what you would expect Frida Kahlo’s Mexico to look like: Deep blue on the outside, red, yellow, green and pink on the inside with colourful wooden chairs and all sorts of folkloric décor on the walls. The menu is traditional Mexican with an interesting twist to it. Prices are very fair for the quality of the food and the special atmosphere.
Address: Valentín Gama 646, Jardín, Cuauhtemoc
La Parroquia Potosina
One of the favourite eateries for locals is La Parroqia. Around lunch and dinner time, there always is a crowd. La Parroquia serves solid regional and national favourites, such as tacos potosino, arrachera and enchiladas. The cooking is good, but nothing special. What makes La Parroquia so popular, I think, are the very reasonable prices and large portions. They also have a breakfast buffet which is very popular with locals.
Address: Av Venustiano Carranza 303, Centro Historico
Café La Pizca
If you are looking for a light bite or a coffee break, Café La Pizca is an excellent option. The small dishes are prepared with care. An indoor patio with plants and the friendly décor in the two adjacent rooms make for an excellent place to take a break, read a book or do some creative work.
Address: Avenida Universidad 285, Centro Historico
Beside the many green plazas in the city centre, there are two large parks on the outskirts of San Luis Potosí. One is Parque Tangamanga I and the other is Parque Tangamanga II. We went to Tangamanga I, because it looked a lot larger on the map, and I believe this is the Tangamanga that people recommend. It is a very, very big park and you better remember well where you left your car. Tangamanga I has different areas, some with open fields, others wooded, and it has an artificial lake and an old airplane. It seems they were currently re-constructing the interior of the plane to make it accessible to visitors, but we are not sure what the plan is. Tangamanga I also is home to the city’s zoo.
If you are staying in San Luis Potosí longer and are looking for excursions outside the city, there is plenty to do. You can visit the Huasteca Potosina, about 4 hours east of San Luis. La Huasteca is a lush green region stretching all the was from Veracruz to Tamaulipas. It consists mainly of rainforest. While I have seen a few lush green areas in Mexico, the Huasteca’s incredibly density of plants still stunned me, especially after having driven through desert-like landscapes for hours.
The main attractions of the Huasteca are the waterfalls. We went to Tamasopo, which is the closest to San Luis. After having seen some travel bloggers’ videos about the area, we expected a natural paradise. Instead, we found a fully commercialized aquatic park constructed around the natural basins and the waterfalls. If you blend out the human infrastructure, nature’s work is still pretty amazing. But the swimming pool feeling is hard to wash off. Another recommended destination in the Huasteca Potosina is the magic village of Xilitla. We have yet to make it there.
Instead of heading west, you can also head east to reach Zacatecas and Aguascalientes, both major Mexican cities with historic city centres. Or you can drive south to Querétaro or San Miguel de Allende, both very pretty cities with beautiful colonial architecture.
Where to stay in San Luis Potosí
I highly recommend you stay in Gran Hotel Concordia. The rooms are very modern and the location is perfect. Jardín Hidalgo literally is just a few steps away. You can walk pretty much anywhere from the hotel and the street it is in is still quiet and safe. The beds were also extremely comfortable. Check your dates and prices here.
Another option in similarly good location with the additional comfort of a and a swimming pool is Hotel Panorama. Click here to check availability and prices.
If you are looking for a cheaper or more individual option, try Airbnb. We were very happy with out Airbnb, a charming colonial building with high ceilings and a beautiful patio just off Venustiano Carranza. Click here to get a 33 € discount on your first Airbnb booking.
Please not that the accommodation links provided in this article are affiliate links, meaning that if you purchase via those links, I will receive a commission. I am always completely honest in my posts and only recommend accommodation I have booked or would book myself. There are no additional costs to you if you buy though an affiliate link and it’s a great way to support my work. However, the decision to buy is entirely up to you.
Have you been to San Luis Potosí? What are your favourite spots?