A Traveler's Guide to Morelia, Michoacan

Fuente de las Tarascas, Morelia
Suzanne Barbezat

Morelia, the state capital of Michoacan in ​Mexico, has a population of about 500 thousand and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city has over 200 historical buildings, many built of characteristic pink quarry stone. With many lovely plazas, gardens and atriums and a well-earned reputation as a regional cultural center, Morelia is a destination for those who enjoy colonial architecture and local culture.


Morelia was founded in 1541 by Antonio de Mendoza. Its original name was Valladolid, but that name was changed after Mexico's War of Independence, in honor of one of its heroes, Jose Maria Morelos de Pavon, who was born in the city in 1765. Of Morelia's many beautiful historical monuments, the cathedral and the aqueduct are the most impressive.

What to Do in Morelia

  • Stroll around Morelia's Historical Center
  • Visit the Museo del Dulce to learn about local traditional sweets
  • Buy crafts at the Casa de Artesanias
  • Have a swim in the mineral waters at Balneario Cointzio (about ten km away)
  • Go horseback riding
  • Learn Spanish at one of the city's numerous Spanish schools

Day Trips

Possibilities for day trips include the lovely colonial city of Patzcuaro and Santa Clara del Cobre where you can see local artisans making copper tools, dishes, and decorative items.

Butterfly Sanctuary

If you're in Michoacan between December and February, you may want to make the trip to see the migratory monarch butterflies at the Monarch butterfly reserves. It would make for a very long day trip, so if possible, do this as an overnight trip.

Where to Eat

Morelia is a great place to sample traditional Mexican food. When the UNESCO was considering naming Mexican cuisine as part of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity, they looked at the food of the state of Michoacan as an ideal example. Some of the dishes to try in Morelia include carnitas, enchiladas placeras, uchepos, corundas, churipo, and ate. Here are a few recommended restaurants:

  • Emiliano's, Artilleros del 47, Centro. 
  • San Miguelito, Av. Camelinas, corner of Centro de Convenciones Fracc. La Loma. 
  • Los Mirasoles, Av. Madero Poniente 549, Centro Histórico. 


Getting There

Morelia has an international airport, the General Francisco Mujica International Airport, with flights from San Francisco, Chicago, and Los Angeles, as well as Mexico City. By bus or car, the trip from Mexico City takes about 3 and a half hours.