While Albuquerque residents often refer to locations around the metropolis by their street addresses, a handful of distinctive pockets define the city’s personality.
Within each neighborhood, it’s relatively easy to explore by foot. However, Albuquerque’s sprawling geography means that traveling from one area to the next can be difficult. you will need to take public transportation, a taxi, or car (keep in mind that public transit doesn't run frequently at night).
Here are 10 neighborhoods to explore in Albuquerque.
Albuquerque's founding neighborhood, which was settled by the Spanish in 1706, is also one of the city's top tourist attractions. Today, boutiques, galleries, and gift shops fill the low-slung adobe and territorial-style buildings that line the square. The landmark church on the north side of the square, San Felipe de Neri Parish, was constructed in 1793. Take time to explore the back patios and courtyards—they tend to be quieter and exude historic charm.
If you’re looking for more history and art, duck into the Albuquerque Museum, which edges the main square. Families shouldn’t miss the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science (which houses a planetarium) and Explora, a hands-on science museum. Several New Mexican restaurants dot the area; for fine dining, head to Antiquity or Season's Rotisserie & Grill.
Within walking distance of Old Town is Downtown Albuquerque, home to several commercial skyscrapers as well as municipal and county complexes. The area isn't strictly business, though. In Albuquerque’s Civic Plaza, a children’s playground and outdoor stage have turned a once quiet square into a lively destination. Come sundown, downtown Albuquerque becomes the city’s nightlife epicenter. Venues such as Sister Bar offer live music, while breweries like Red Door and Safe House Distilling Co. deliver drinks and laid-back vibes.
A colorful district east of the University of New Mexico, Nob Hill is a mix of locally-owned shops, boutiques, restaurants, and coffee shops. Because the neighborhood unfolds from Central Avenue (aka old Route 66), it glows with vintage neon after dark. The main commercial district stretches a half-dozen blocks, so Nob Hill is exceedingly walkable. You could easily spend a morning or afternoon browsing shops like Albuquerque Retail Therapy and sipping espresso in Little Bear Coffee. Stick around for an elegant meal at Frenchish or live music at Zinc Wine Bar & Bistro.
The University/Midtown area is centered around the 600-acre University of New Mexico campus. The buildings epitomize the Pueblo Revival style, a prominent architectural design in the Southwest. Notable architect John Gaw Meem designed the university’s Zimmerman Library, which welcomes the public to view its grand halls. Albuquerque's largest performing arts venue, Popejoy Hall, draws visitors to campus for Broadway touring shows, dance company performances, and national speakers. Across Central Avenue from Popejoy Hall, Frontier Restaurant has been serving spicy green chile stew and buttery cinnamon rolls since 1971.
A counterpoint to the locally-owned shops in Nob Hill, Uptown is home to several of Albuquerque’s largest shopping malls. You’ll find big-name department stores at Coronado Center, Winrock Center, and the outdoor ABQ Uptown.
EXPO New Mexico, where the New Mexico State Fair is held each September, anchors the area between Nob Hill and the shopping centers. Throughout the year, it hosts concerts at Tingley Coliseum and live and simulcast horse racing at Albuquerque Downs.
This neighborhood is rich in Hispanic culture and abuts downtown Albuquerque. It flows south along Fourth Street to the neighborhood’s top tourist attraction: the National Hispanic Cultural Center. The cultural center celebrates the whole world’s Hispanic and Latin American cultures with visual and performing arts. Barelas Coffee House, a down-home neighborhood restaurant, serves savory New Mexican food at budget-friendly prices.
North Valley/Los Ranchos
The North Valley hugs the Rio Grande north of Old Town. Here, cottonwood forests flow alongside the river, giving locals and visitors alike plenty of opportunities for nature walks, hiking, and biking. The village of Los Ranchos de Albuquerque is nestled within a stretch of residential homes in this area.
An often-overlooked area south of Midtown, the International District is a dining capital. In a city whose culinary scene is often laden with chile, this neighborhood offers numerous global restaurants. Great Vietnamese cuisine can be had here, and some of the best can be found at May Cafe and Café Trang. Every Wednesday, food trucks park in the lot at Talin Market, an international grocery store.
The neighborhood is adjacent to Kirtland Air Force Base, so it’s fitting that the New Mexico Veterans Memorial anchors this neighborhood as well.
The Sandia Mountains form Albuquerque’s eastern skyline, and this neighborhood can be found in their foothills. Hikers and mountain bikers head to the trails here, as well as to the asphalt-paved path along Tramway Boulevard. The Sandia Peak Tramway departs from the terminal in the foothills and rises to the mountain peaks.
A largely residential area, the Westside stretches along the city’s western edge. A trio of dormant volcanos etch the skyline and preside over basalt mesas below. The Petroglyph National Monument—known for etchings made by Native Americans and Spanish settlers 400 to 700 years ago—protects and preserves three canyons here. A bounty of chain hotels and restaurants dot the neighborhood, including around Cottonwood Mall.