Shoe-horned into a narrow ravine, GUANAJUATO was for centuries the wealthiest city in Mexico, its mines pouring out silver and gold in prodigious quantities. Today it presents a remarkable sight: upon emerging from the surrounding hills you come on the town quite suddenly, a riot of colonial architecture dominated by the bluff (and rather ugly) bulk of the university, tumbling down hills so steep that at times it seems the roof of one building is suspended from the floor of the last. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Zone in 1988, Guanajuato is protective of its image: there are no traffic lights or neon signs here, and the topography ensures that there's no room for new buildings.
This is an extremely enjoyable place to visit: peaceful, yet with plenty of life in its narrow streets (especially during term time), lots of good places to eat and drink and plenty to see – it's never dull and always surprising. There's an old-fashioned, backwater feel to the city, reinforced by the students' habit of going serenading in black capes, the brass bands playing in the plazas and the town's general refusal to make any special effort to accommodate the flood of tourists – who thankfully never really manage to disturb the daily ebb and flow.