I will start by saying that I was in Mexico for almost 3 months. I will not write about the capital itself – Mexico City, as the Internet is full of information and often a visit to Mexico is limited to only visit this city.
I want to tell you about small, but very colorful Mexican towns that won my heart.
Toluca de Lerdo is a town located 63 km southwest of Mexico City, the capital of the state of Mexico. It is one of the richest industrial cities in the country, where the famous Mexican poet, writer and journalist Juan Bautista Garza Murguía (1852-1916) was born and died.
Toluca de Lerdo is also called the coldest Mexican city because of its proximity to the mountains. I will say that when we took a cab to the hotel, a very talkative (like most Mexicans) cab driver told us that it used to be really cold here. But now the climate has changed a lot, and it’s not cold. However, that doesn’t stop Mexican women from wearing fur-trimmed boots even when it’s +20°C or higher. As one Mexican woman I know told me, “It’s beautiful!
If your visit to Toluca de Lerdo is limited to 1-2 days, then I would recommend visiting several places. I will tell you about them in this article.
What to see in Toluca de Lerdo first of all
1. Botanical Garden Cosmovitral
It is a botanical garden with an art nouveau facade in the historic center. As is often the case, most of the attractions are concentrated here. Surprisingly, the luxurious, striking building of the botanical garden formerly belonged to the September 16th Market, until the authorities decided to take advantage of its original design with huge windows and turn them into stained glass windows and inside gather a collection of exotic plants from around the world (more than 400 species).
The design was developed by engineer Manuel Arratia, and the stained glass windows were the fruit of the creativity of artist Leopoldo Flores. Altogether 75 tons of blown glass in 28 different colors were used for the creation of the stained glass, which were brought from Italy, Japan, Belgium, France, Canada and several other countries.
Opening hours of the Botanical Garden: daily from 10.00 to 18.00
Cost of admission: 10 pesos.
2. Toluca Portal (Los Portales)
This 120-arched building was laid out in 1832, when Toluca de Lerdo became the state capital of Mexico City, and was originally intended to house the government and their families. Los portales is the center of Toluca’s social and commercial life. And now it hosts all sorts of city events.
The Church of Santa Veracruz (another name is the Black Cross Santa Veracruz), built in 1753 in the Baroque style by the Spaniards who lived in Toluca de Lerdo. This church is sometimes called the symbol of Toluca. The interior of the church, like most Catholic cathedrals, is very rich and more like a museum.
The church is open daily from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. The admission is free.
The entrance is free.
3. The Cathedral of San Jose
The Cathedral of San Jose in Toluca de Lerdo is in the shape of a Latin cross 90 meters long and 45 meters wide. Construction of the cathedral began in 1867 and in 1956 it received the status of a diocese.
Mode of operation: daily from 7.00 to 19.00.
Admission is free.
4. Plaza de los Martires
Plaza de los Martires is the main square of Toluca de Lerdo, its heart, also known as Civic Square. The square was named in honor of the tragic events of 1811 during the Mexican War of Independence; in October of that year, 100 indigenous rebels were executed in this square.
Plaza de los Martires has dozens of stalls with Mexican fast food: potato chips with different sauces, tacos, the famous boiled corn, ice cream, and cold drinks on ice.
Tip: Potato chips only in places where they fry potatoes in front of you, otherwise there is a risk to buy chips have been lying around for a long time and tasteless. As for the corn – it is tasty everywhere, but if you do not like spicy, you should ask either without chili pepper at all (“syn chili”) or with chili pepper, but not too spicy (“but pica”). There is also a choice of young (“soft”) and stiffer (“older”) corn. Choose young (“suave” or “tierna”, “tiernita”). Also, be sure to try the black corn – it’s unreal delicious! I don’t like tacos (corn tortillas with a filling, most often meat), but I recommend trying them in Toluca de Lerdo. Many become fans of Mexican food after a visit to Mexico.
The colorful houses of Toluca de Lerdo. There is a small ropeway in the historic plaza that you can ride up to see the lodges from above.
What else to do in Toluca de Lerdo
Take a ride on the tourist wooden painted streetcar. The streetcar stop is in front of the cathedral.
Operational hours are 11.00-18.00. Open only on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and during vacations.
Tickets cost: 60 pesos for adults; 50 pesos for children and people over 60; 40 pesos for the disabled.
The streetcar passes all the iconic places of Toluca de Lerdo. However, the tour is in Spanish. Interestingly, locals rent (for a fee) this streetcar for weddings, 15th anniversary celebrations, corporate parties and other events.
If there is a little more time, you can go out of town:
- Visit the Monarch Butterfly Reserve in Ocampo, where butterflies from Canada come every fall to pollinate the flowers. The ticket to the reserve costs 40 pesos. Each year the butterflies cover a distance of 2,000 to 4,500 km in one direction, and, respectively, the same amount in the other). By the way, Los Santuarios de la Monarca (the butterfly reserve) is recognized by UNESCO as a world natural heritage.
- If you want to see the habitat of the Monarca butterflies outside the reserve, you can take an excursion to Santuario Piedra Herrada (52 km from Toluca) in Toluca de Lerdo. The cost of the tour is 50 pesos per person.
- For lovers of mountains, volcanoes, snow and high-altitude bottomless blue lakes you can go to Xinantécatl Nevado de Toluca. The peak in this national park is the fourth highest in Mexico after Orizaba, Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl.
Been to Toluca? Tell us what you liked best in the comments 😉