OLD TOWN ALBUQUERQUE

Historic Old Town has been the heart of Albuquerque since the city was founded here in 1706. Today, Old Town is the city's cultural center, with numerous museums and more than 100 shops, galleries and restaurants.

At a Glance: Old Town

Distance from Airport 8.7 miles/14 kilometers
Attractions

ABQ BioPark
ABQ Trolley Co.
Rio Line Train
History & Ghost Tours of Old Town
Tingley Beach
American International Rattlesnake Museum
Tricentennial Tiguex Park
Explora
New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science
Turquoise Museum
Visitor Information Center (in Plaza Don Luis)

Activities Museums, shopping, parks, fishing, family fun, art galleries, aquarium, gardens
Highlights History (original Albuquerque neighborhood), museums, shopping, dining

Old Town was Albuquerque's first neighborhood. More than 300 years after its founding, it remains a center for culture, architecture, shopping, art and cuisine.

Old Town was established in 1706, when a group of Spanish families settled here, not far from the Rio Grande. The settlers organized their new town in the traditional Spanish colonial way, with a central plaza anchored by a church.

When the original adobe church collapsed after the long, rainy summer of 1792, the townspeople rebuilt, and in 1793 the San Felipe de Neri Church was completed. Today this adobe church, with walls that are five feet thick, is the oldest in Albuquerque; its white towers mark Old Town from a distance. San Felipe de Neri remains a functioning Catholic church. As you wander around the neighborhood, you may see couples posing for wedding pictures in the plaza's gazebo.

Most of the architecture in Old Town is adobe, in the Pueblo-Spanish style. These traditional buildings have flat roofs and stuccoed walls with rounded edges, and their ceilings are supported with heavy wooden beams called vigas. The arrival of the railroad in 1880 brought new architectural styles, and you will find numerous Victorian buildings that house shops, offices and bed and breakfasts. Despite centuries of change, Old Town has retained its charming, walkable character.

Suggestions

Museums:

To learn more about the region's history and culture, you can visit some of Old Town's museums. Just off the plaza, the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History showcases the cultural heritage of New Mexico through its vast collections; the museum also features traveling exhibitions. Across the street, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science stands out with the prominent dome of its planetarium. This innovative and hands-on museum explores botany, geology, computer science and paleontology (dinosaurs!). The museum's planetarium is world-class, and the DynaTheater has been completely renovated to offer visitors a state-of-the-art digital 3D experience. At Explora, kids of all ages will be amazed by more than 250 interactive science, technology and art exhibits. Fans of Southwestern jewelry will enjoy the Turquoise Museum, where visitors can experience the depths of a turquoise mine and view rare and spectacular turquoise specimens from all over the world. To test your bravery, visit the American International Rattlesnake Museum. This unique museum in the heart of Old Town offers the world's largest collection of live rattlesnakes!

Outdoor Activities: 

Old Town Albuquerque is also a great place to explore nature. On a leisurely stroll through the ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden, you'll discover unique local plants, while at the ABQ BioPark Aquarium, you can visit sharks and other marine creatures in their 285,000-gallon tank. Enjoy the scenery and fun while fishing at Tingley Beach. Don't miss a ride on the narrow-gauge, ¾-scale train that connects the botanic garden, aquarium and Tingley Beach with the nearby ABQ BioPark Zoo. You can find details on the train as well as current events at the Visitor Information Center in Old Town.

In Old Town: 

Old Town Albuquerque is a significant fine arts center, where collectors will find an enviable selection of paintings, sculptures, photography, ceramics and crafts. There are over 100 boutiques, galleries and shops in the neighborhood. Whether you're looking for souvenirs, trendy clothing, authentic Southwestern jewelry or fine art, you are sure to find it here.

And when you get hungry, the Old Town area is the perfect place to try traditional New Mexican food. Just find a spot on one of the area's quiet patios, and enjoy a big plate of enchiladas layered with green chile sauce, shredded chicken and melted cheese. Or try a sopaipilla stuffed with ground beef and slathered with red chile sauce. When you need a break from chiles, you can always get a burger at a retro diner or relax at one of Old Town's chic contemporary restaurants. On a warm afternoon, there's nothing better than a cold margarita sipped on a sunny patio in Old Town.

More Information:

If you choose to stay at one of the full-service hotels or historic bed and breakfasts in the Old Town area, you'll be within walking distance of nearly all the area's attractions. Old Town has recently made some great enhancements for visitors (look for shops open later in the evenings), and there are cultural festivals and celebrations happening seasonally throughout the year. 

For more information on Old Town, see Walking Tours.