Morelia, Michoacan

Self-guided walking tour in the Historic Center of Morelia

Almost all of Morelia’s notable sites lie in its historic center area. The historic center of Morelia is roughly equivalent to the original layout of the city when it was founded in 1541.

Most of this layout has survived intact to the present day. Anticipating growth, this original layout had very wide streets and plazas for the time, with streets systematically arranged to allow for elongation.

The streets are systematically laid out, but not rigidly squared, with most having gentle curves designed into them.

Most of the grandest structures were completed during the 18th century. During the same time period, infrastructure such as the city’s aqueduct and various plaza fountains were constructed.

The heart of the historic center is the Cathedral and its surrounding plazas: the Plaza de Armas, also known as the Plaza de Los Mártires, the Juárez Plaza, and the Melchor Ocampo Plaza.

This route will take you through some of the most iconic landmarks and attractions in Morelia.

Cathedral of Morelia

Start your tour at the stunning Cathedral of Morelia, an iconic Baroque masterpiece. Explore the interior of the cathedral, including its impressive altars and artwork.

The first church on the Cathedral site was built in 1577, It was a modest structure of adobe and wood. Many years later, this structure would be almost completely destroyed by a fire.

Originally, the Cathedral of Michoacán was in Pátzcuaro in a church that now is the Basilica of Nuestra Señora de la Salud. When cathedral status was moved from there to Valladolid in 1580, the city became the civil, religious, and cultural capital of the territory.

In 1660, Bishop Marcos Ramírez del Prado placed the first stone of the new Cathedral, which was designed by Vicenzo Baroccio. Of the major churches of the early colonial period, only this and the Mexico City Cathedral do not face west, as was customary.

The Cathedral of Michoacán is also unique in that it is dedicated to the Transfiguration of Jesus, rather than some form of the Virgin Mary. The Cathedral was consecrated in 1705, even though it was not yet finished.

The facade is a relief of the transfiguration of Christ and the east nave is dedicated to the sheepherders and Wise Men of the Nativity. Built of pink Cantera stone, the Cathedral’s two sixty-meter-high towers still dominate the skyline of the city and are the second tallest Baroque towers in Mexico.

The Cathedral’s official name is the Cathedral of the Divine Savior of Morelia. Since it was built over the 17th and 18th centuries, elements of Neoclassical, Herreresque, and Baroque architecture can be seen in the building.

The facade of the Cathedral is mostly decorated with pilasters rather than columns and relieves rather than sculptures. There are more than two hundred pilasters but no columns, the only church built this way during the colonial period.

Inside, there are a number of elements that stand out. The baptismal font was made of silver in the 19th century and was used to baptize Mexico’s first emperor, Agustín de Iturbide.

A three-meter tall monstrance made of pure silver adorns the main altar and is unique in that it can be disassembled and reassembled.

Also on the altar is a 16th-century cornstalk paste image of the Señor de la Sacristía (Lord of the Sacristy), whose gold crown was a gift from Philip II of Spain. A newer addition is the organ from Germany, which has 4,600 pipes and is one of the largest in Latin America.

On Saturdays, at 20:45 the Cathedral sponsors a sound and light show.

The Government Palace

Located opposite the Cathedral of Morelia, it is made in the Baroque style.

The Government Palace’s construction began in the year 1760 and ended in the year 1770. Originally the Tridentine Seminary of Valladolid, but from the year 1867 it became the seat of executive power of the State.

The school had graduates such as José María Morelos and Melchor Ocampo.

It has three murals by artist Alfredo Zalce Michoacan, which depict various episodes in the history of Mexico.

The facade is mostly the original, with only the seal of Mexico added in the mid-19th century when this building was converted for use as the home of the Michoacán state government.

Inside are three courtyards with the walls of the first courtyard covered in murals done by Alfredo Zalce in the 1960s.

Don’t miss the massive bronze statue of José María Teclo Morelos y Pavón in front of the palace.

Plaza de Armas

Plaza de Armas, the main square, is surrounded by colonial architecture.

Plaza de Armas has been remodeled several times since it was designed in the 16th century.

This square has been renamed several times as well, from Plaza de la Constitución to Plaza de la República and then to its current official name of Plaza de Los Mártires. But popularly it still retains the name of Plaza de Armas.

The alternate name, Plaza de Los Mártires (Plaza of the Martyrs) is in honor of people like Mariano Matamoros, Guadalupe el Salto, and others who were executed here during the Mexican War of Independence and later in 1830 during political unrest.

The plaza is surrounded by portals, and colonial-era buildings such as the Banca Promex, the Virrey de Mendoza Hotel, the Juan de Dios Gomez House, and the old town hall, also called the Michelena House.

Until the late 19th century, a monument to Morelos had been here. The monument was removed along with the fountain and replaced by a kiosk that was brought from London and remains to this day.

Continue to Plaza Benito Juárez, a charming square with benches and greenery. Relax and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere.

Visit the Santa Rosa de Lima Church, an architectural gem. Admire its intricate facade and interior decor.

Michoacán Regional Museum

The Regional Museum of Michoacán was founded in 1886 and its design was heavily influenced by French ideas of museum design of the time. It is housed in a building that belonged to Emperor Maximilian I and is of ornate Baroque design.

Most of the exhibits are about the history of the region with rooms dedicated to pre-Hispanic artifacts and colonial art. One noted piece is the painting called “Traslado de las Monjas” which is considered to be the finest work produced in Michoacán during the colonial period.

Other important works include the original volume of the Voyage de Humboldt et Bonpland, edited in Paris in 1807, and the murals done by Alfredo Zalce, Federico Cantú, and Grace Greenwood.

There are also interactive exhibits on the origins of the earth and life.

The museum also has conference rooms, a library, and a reading room.

Casa Natal de Morelos

Discover the birthplace of José María Morelos, one of Mexico’s independence heroes.

The José María Morelos y Pavón House Museum contains a collection of items from the colonial and early independence periods of Mexico’s history, including articles that belonged to Morelos himself.

Morelos bought the house in 1802 but did not live there much, especially in the years just before and during the Mexican War of Independence because of his involvement with the movement.

In 1933, the house was declared a national monument, and in 1939 became the property of INAH to be converted into this museum. Later, the building underwent another round of restoration work and was re-inaugurated in 1991.

The lower level is mostly dedicated to Morelos with the rooms on the upper level dedicated to the war in general. The museum is also the archive of the Bishopric of Michoacán and contains documents from the 16th to the 20th century.

The Casa Natal de Morelos (Morelos’ Birthplace) is the house where José María Morelos y Pavón was born in 1765. The building is a large mansion with a Neoclassic facade and a Baroque interior. In 1888, the original building was destroyed to build a farmhouse.

This is the building that has been restored and turned into a museum in 1964, for the coming bicentennial of Morelos’ birth. The museum contains documents and belongings of Morelos including ones he signed, money he had coined, paintings, and a large library.

Head to Plaza de San Agustín, a smaller and quieter square with a lovely church.

Visit the San Francisco Church and Convent, known for its colonial architecture. Explore the courtyard and the church’s interior.

Take in the sights of the Fountain of Tarascas.


The Morelia aqueduct is one of the most important aqueducts in the state of Michoacán. Built during the colonial period, throughout its history it underwent numerous remodeling and reconstructions.


This self-guided tour will allow you to immerse yourself in the rich history and architecture of Morelia while taking in the city’s cultural and natural beauty. Enjoy your exploration of this charming Mexican colonial town!

Museums in Morelia

The Orquidario of Morelia is an orchid museum that houses approximately 3,400 species of flower. The botanical garden consists of three greenhouses with some outside space. The museum is managed by SEMARNAT as part of a program to preserve wild species.

The botanical garden has a surface area of over 990 sq m and was founded in 1980.

The Museo del Estado (The State Museum) is dedicated to the state’s past and present.

It was opened in 1986 and divided into three sections – archeology, history, and ethnology of the state. There is also an exhibit of the old Mier Pharmacy with its equipment from 1868. The museum is a mansion dating from the 18th century.

The Museo de Arte Colonial (Museum of Colonial Art) holds a collection of documents, old books, religious ornaments, and maps from the colonial period. Its main attraction is its collection of more than 100 figures of Christ done in cornstalk paste.

These figures were created by indigenous artists, starting under the direction of Vasco de Quiroga, between the 16th and 19th centuries. There are also paintings done by Miguel Cabrera and José Padilla from the 18th century.

The museum is in an old Baroque residence from the 18th century. Prior to the building’s use as a museum, it was the site of the first official government press in the state, founded in 1821.

The Museo de la Máscara (Mask Museum) presents two mask collections, totaling more than 165 examples from cultures in twenty Mexican states. It is located in the Casa de Artesanias de Morelia (Handcraft House of Morelia).

The Alfredo Zalce Museum of Contemporary Art mostly contains works done by Alfredo Zalce and Efraín Vargas, both renowned Michoacán painters. It also holds temporary exhibits by Mexican and international artists.

Morelia Historic Center on Google Maps

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