Exploring Old Town In Puerto Vallarta By Justin Burch - Most visitors to Puerto Vallarta are familiar with the beaches and resorts of the Hotel Zone and Marina Vallarta. Yet, many tourists overlook historic Viejo Vallarta, the most authentically Mexican section of this amazing city. Here you can experience a true ‘South of the Border’ environment with a friendliness not known in the more tourist-dominated areas.
Viejo Vallarta, also known as Old Town, is a maze of cobblestone streets lined with charming inns, independently-owned restaurants and galleries showcasing the area’s artists. Perhaps the first thing you will notice when walking through Old Town is the lack of modern development. Amongst the traditional brick buildings and tree-lined paths, you will find bakeries turning out dozens of delicious pastries, boutiques with handmade clothing, relaxing sidewalk cafes and tiny markets with unique local products.
In addition to families that have lived and worked in the area for generations, many expatriates also reside here. These Americans and Europeans are drawn to the old-fashioned ambiance of the neighborhood in addition to the more relaxed way of life. Just like the residents, you will easily find everything you are looking for on your Mexican vacation, from shops with truly unique souvenirs to independently-owned markets with all the essentials.
One of Puerto Vallarta's most popular activities is to stroll down the famous Restaurant Row, located on Basilio Badillo Street in OldTown. This area features several blocks of restaurants, bars and cafes that can cater to any palette with everything from gourmet European cuisine to rustic local recipes. After you are done eating, there is plenty of entertainment to be found with live music and dancing in the numerous cantinas and clubs. Many of the bars and restaurants also allow you to sample many of the tequilas that this region is known for.
Another popular event in Viejo Vallarta
is the Old Town Art Walk. Every Wednesday between October and April, 17 galleries hold free cocktail receptions that are always open to the public. In the galleries, you will find everything from authentic Mexican arts and crafts to contemporary paintings from the region’s most challenging artists.
One of Puerto Vallarta’s most recognizable landmarks, the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe, also rests within the narrow streets of Old Town. The church towers above the neighborhood and has been at the center of local religious life for nearly 80 years.
Built over a 12-year period beginning in 1929, the cathedral’s open-air theater has been used for events and festivals since its construction.
If you are planning a Mexican vacation, the month of December may be the best time to visit Viejo Vallarta. You will be able to enjoy the 12-day Festival for Our Lady of Guadalupe centered at the grounds of the cathedral, wander through the galleries and enjoy some of the finest cuisine Mexico has to offer.
It should be noted that many Puerto Vallarta tours avoid Viejo Vallarta altogether, opting instead for more-expensive tourist destinations. Try to find a tour that highlights Old Town, or simply visit the neighborhood on your own. If for any reason you fear leaving the safety of the Hotel Zone, keep in mind that Viejo Vallarta is incredibly clean and safe for visitors of all ages.
Unlike other areas of Puerto Vallarta, Viejo Vallarta simply allows you to meander, relax and shop without commissioned salesmen. Furthermore, once you leave your resort, the values you will find in Viejo Vallarta might surprise you. Even if you enjoy all the glitz and glamour of the Hotel Zone, keep in mind that there is an authentic Mexican town just around the corner. If you travel to Puerto Vallarta hoping to get a taste of the real Mexico, Viejo Vallarta should definitely be part of your itinerary.
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