Taxco

Surrounded by steep slopes and awesome mountain views, Taxco is a popular colonial town with twisting, cobbled streets and many handsome buildings. It's now almost wholly dedicated to tourism. The first silver shipped to Spain came from the mines of Taxco. José de la Borda made his fortune here in the 18th century; he founded the present town and built the magnificent twin-towered rose-coloured parish church of
Santa Prisca
, which soars above everything but the mountains. The picturesque town is now a national monument and all modern building is forbidden.

Sights

The central area of Taxco is quite hectic. Roaring taxis, vociferous silver merchants, crowds of shoppers and gawping tourists all contribute to the sense of chaos. The district between the four-storey Mercado and the Carretera Nacional is much quieter, as are those parts up from the main streets where taxis can't go.

There are silver markets all over town that hawkers will try to rope you into visiting, including a large one next to the bus station where pieces can cost 50% less than shops in town (the quality tends to be inferior though). Make sure the silver you buy is authentic and has the '925' stamp . Alpaca, or nickel silver, contains no silver at all. If you're particularly interested in precious metals, consider visiting the Museo de la Platería, devoted to modern silver-working; and the Platería La Mina, where you can see mining techniques.

You can get superb views of the city's haphazard streets from a range of restaurant roof-top terraces, but the best of all are had from the Teleférico to Monte Taxco. This precarious cable car is reached by microbus along the main street from Santa Prisca. There is much festivity in Taxco during Semana Santa (Holy Week). At this time the price of accommodation rises steeply; book a room in advance.

Plaza Borda

The central Plaza Borda is the bustling heart of the city and an important orientation point. Various overpriced restaurants can be found here, as well as a plethora of expensive silver shops. That said, some of their designs are top-notch and worth the extra cost . Dominating the plaza is the rose-coloured churrigueresque
Iglesia de Santa Prisca
, designed by Spanish architects Juan Caballero and Diego Durán. Constructed between 1751 and 1758, its tiled octagonal dome is magnificent. The gilded interior is dazzling too, and there is a fine carved pulpit and paintings by 18th-century artist, Miguel Cabrera. Also on the plaza is the
Casa Borda cultural centre
, with an excellent bookshop. You'll find an economical
craft market
behind the church.

Museo de Arte Virreinal

Formerly Casa Humboldt, the museum is in the house where German explorer Baron von Humboldt once stayed. Beautiful religious paintings, expositions on colonial trade and objects pertaining to local figures like José de la Borda are among the museum's exhibits. Perhaps most interesting are a host of artefacts recovered from Santa Prisca, including ornate altar pieces, tapestries and textiles. The building itself is a handsome feat of colonial architecture. Labels are in Spanish and English.

Museo Guillermo Spratling

This museum houses pre-Hispanic artefacts bought by William Spratling, a North American
architect who came to Taxco in the 1920s. His designs in silver helped bring the city to world recognition and revived a dwindling industry. On his deathbed Spratling donated his small but diverting archaeological collection to the state. Labels in Spanish only.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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