As the oldest capital city in the United States, Santa Fe, New Mexico, is a haven for history buffs. With dozens of historic sites, cultural experiences, and museums dedicated to the city’s rich history, it’s easy to step back in time in Santa Fe.
Begin your journey into bygone days with a stay at one of the many budget-friendly historic Santa Fe hotels. Located just steps from many popular attractions in the heart of downtown, experience old world charm at the luxurious Hotel St. Francis or classic southwestern style at La Fonda on the Plaza.
Santa Fe is filled with historic sites. In fact, about one-fifth of the city is covered in historic districts, which include more than 6,000 buildings. All roads lead to the lively downtown hub known locally as the Santa Fe Plaza. Summer festivals, live music, and major markets are just a few of the exciting things to do at the plaza. As you stroll through streets filled with Native American artifacts and Spanish colonial buildings, you’ll feel as though you’ve taken a time machine to the eras of the earliest indigenous settlers and Spanish conquistadors.
From the plaza, you can make your way to some of the oldest buildings in the country. Built in 1610, the Palace of Governors is just one of a few dozen sites in the United States to be declared a National Treasure. For more than 60 years, Native American vendors have sold handcrafted goods outside the National Historic Site. Other nearby historic buildings include Basilica Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi, Loretto Chapel, and San Miguel Mission, the oldest Church in the United States.
Though the city itself dates back about 400 years, Native Americans first began settling in the area around Santa Fe hundreds of years earlier. Just a short drive outside the city, you can explore several ancient adobe pueblos made of sun-dried clay and mud.
Visit Santa Fe in the fall to experience the oldest festival in the United States. Each year since 1712, the Santa Fe Fiesta takes place at the Plaza in September to commemorate the reconquest of the city by General Don Diego de Vargas in 1692. Shop from local arts and crafts vendors, sample southwestern cuisine, enjoy live entertainment, and watch a reenactment of the reconquest.
For a small mountain town of only a little over 80,000 people, Santa Fe has more world-class museums than most major cities. Museum Hill houses four top-quality museums at one convenient location. At the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, you can see more than 70,000 Native American artifacts dating from ancient to contemporary times. Meanwhile, the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art showcases more than 3,700 pieces from the Spanish colonial period. It’s the only museum of its kind in the country.
The Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian features unique works of historic and contemporary Native American art. While the Museum of International Folk Art offers up 150,000 traditional works from around the world.
If you’re looking for the perfect place to indulge your inner historian, step back in time in Santa Fe. From exciting cultural experiences to historic architecture and engaging museum exhibits, Santa Fe offers plenty of things to see and do.