San Cristobal de las Casas is one of the more picturesque and authentic pueblos magicos or magic towns in Mexico and certainly the most beautiful town in the state of Chiapas. Known for its cobblestone streets and colorfully painted colonial-style architecture, San Cristobal is the perfect city to explore on foot. Not only are the buildings colorful, but San Cristobal is home to the most colorful artisan markets I have seen; there are stalls upon stalls and shops upon shops of Mayan textiles, clothing, local stones such as obsidian, jade, and amber, jewelry, and beautifully painted wooden animals. Additionally, there is a burgeoning music scene and great bars and restaurants making nightlife as vibrant as the daytime. Here are some of my favorite places to explore by day and by night in San Cristobal.
Chiapas has one of the largest indigenous populations in Mexico and the mixture of the Mayan with the colonial is evident in the architecture of the churches, plazas, and markets. A prime example is the church and ex-convent of Santo Domingo on the street Calle Utrilla where you will see exhibits of local highland and Guatemalan Mayan textiles as well as historical exhibits of the Chiapan highlands.
Another street strictly for walking is the Andador Turistico Miguel Hidalgo is replete with bars and restaurants as well as a famous landmark, known as the Arco del Carmen.
The street Calle 20 de Noviembre has high-end artisanal shops for high-quality hand-made clothes textiles and jewelry made by surrounding Mayan communities for fair-trade prices that may be expensive, but they also benefit local artisans directly. Calle 20 de Noviembre hits Parque Santo Domingo where the artisan market is located. Here you can spend hours negotiating for local art, textiles, clothing or stones; certainly an experience worth having in Mexico.
For travelers interested in Mayan culture, history, and art there are plenty of museums to explore including museums dedicated to amber, cacao, and jade. The Museo Nabolom specializes in Lacandona Mayan culture, which is a forested region between Palenque and San Cristobal.
Cultural Centers worth exploring or at least checking to see if there are functions or exhibits are: Casa Corazon de Jade, Kinoki, and La Ensenanza. Casa Corazon de Jade offers workshops, has a beautiful garden as well as a delicious restaurant with many vegetarian options. La Ensenanza is a cultural center that contains a coffee shop, library, and rooms for art exhibits. Kinoki is an independent movie theatre, live theatre, tea house and restaurant where you can also reserve private movie rooms for events. Kinoki is highly recommended by locals and visitors alike so be sure to check out current events at the time of your stay.
The best street for nightlife in San Cristobal is Real de Guadalupe where you will find many bars, restaurants, and live music venues. I recommend Bar Revolucion for live music and great drinks.
Walk around the bustling cobblestone streets of San Cristobal by day and by night and you will surely be dazzled by the richness and pride with which local culture is presented and honored in this gem of a pueblo.
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