Just west of Downtown Albuquerque, and if you blink you will miss it, is Old Town. But the 10 blocks of historic adobe buildings pack a cultural punch, as the city of Albuquerque can trace its roots 300 years back to when Old Town was founded in 1706. Centered around Old Town Plaza, the neighborhood is made up of museums, residential areas, galleries, restaurants, glamorous and iconic hotels, and more than 100 shops.
This area is surrounded by adobe buildings, charming courtyards, and winding brick paths that add to its charm and beauty. The rich cultural heritage of Old Town can be seen in the vibrant and colorful decorations, art galleries, and markets that offer unique crafts, handmade pottery, and jewelry.
This small neighborhood is completely walkable and is one of the most enjoyable strolls in Albuquerque. Walk up and down Rio Grande Boulevard to peruse Old Town’s many shops, or wander the block around the plaza on Romero, South Plaza, San Felipe, Church, and Plaza streets to see the area’s well-known architecture and some of the oldest buildings in Albuquerque.
Old Town’s Rich History
Known as the “heart of Albuquerque,” the Old Town Plaza — in the center of the neighborhood — is the area’s cultural center. Old Town was founded by Francisco Cuervo y Valdés from Spain, who eventually became governor of New Mexico.
On the north side of the plaza is one of the oldest buildings in the city, San Felipe de Neri Church, which was built in 1793. The church features adobe walls and wooden beams that were used in its construction. Visitors can attend mass and weddings or take a guided tour of the church.
From this central point, Spanish settlers expanded the town. While most buildings are southwestern in style — adobe with flat rooftops and long porches with built-in adobe benches to escape from the sun — you will find Victorian architecture dotting the neighborhood, too.
Museums & Art
Some of the state’s most iconic museums are in or near Old Town, offering visitors a glimpse into the history, art, and culture of the city. The museums feature an extensive collection of artifacts, paintings, and photographs that depict the city’s history and development over the years. Visitors can also attend special exhibitions and events throughout the year.
The area is also a boon for art lovers, with numerous galleries and studios showcasing the work of local artists.
Known for its Cuisine & Events
No visit to Old Town is complete without indulging in the local cuisine, which offers a blend of Mexican and New Mexican flavors. From classic dishes like enchiladas, tacos, and burritos to unique specialties like sopapillas and green chile stew, visitors can savor the authentic flavors of New Mexico in the many restaurants and cafes in the area.
Old Town is also famous for its lively festivals and events such as its annual Dia de los Muertos celebration, which honors the dead with colorful altars, parades, and music, and the Old Town Holiday Stroll, which features a tree-lighting ceremony, carolers, and holiday shopping. Old Town is known for its luminaria displays during the holiday season, particularly on Christmas Eve. Today, the plaza is still very much the heart of the area’s culture and events.
Upscale, Handmade Shopping Options in Old Town
For those looking to take a piece of the area home with them, there are plenty of shopping options available, ranging from traditional souvenir shops to upscale boutiques. Visitors can browse through paintings, sculptures, textiles, and other crafts made by local artisans. Whether you’re looking for a unique souvenir or a one-of-a-kind piece of art, Old Town has it. In addition to shops, the Old Town Portal Market is an occasional jewelry and craft market held on the east side of Old Town Plaza, where local artisans sell unique, handmade jewelry of the Southwest. something for everyone.
Getting Around Old Town
Old Town is less than 9 miles from the airport, Albuquerque International Sunport. ABQ Ride offers several transit lines that pass near Old Town — Routes 66, 766, 777, and 790. The closest bus stations are Central @ Clayton and Central @ Rio Grande. Albuquerque offers Rapid Transit (ART) between Nob Hill, Downtown, and Old Town.
The area is a unique and charming district that offers visitors a glimpse into the history and culture of New Mexico. Whether you’re a history buff, art lover, foodie, or just looking for a fun day out, it is a must-visit destination.
- Salvador Armijo House, built c. 1840
- Charles A. Bottger House, built in 1912
- Our Lady of the Angels School, built in 1878
- San Felipe de Neri Church, built in 1793
- Antonio Vigil House, built in 1879