The artist colony of Santa Fe has a rich history and beautiful architecture. The blending of three distinct cultures – Hispanic, Native American, and Anglo – contribute to its vibrancy. About one in six residents works in the arts and the artistic legacy is everywhere.
t The Pueblo Revival-style architecture of historic downtown Santa Fe
Experience Santa Fe and Northern New Mexico
n Double-tap image to read the labels
This 1795 adobe church of Santuario de Guadalupe is dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe, patron saint of both the Mexican and Pueblo peoples. The church marked the end of the old Camino Real (Royal Road), the main trade route from Mexico. A painted altarpiece of the Virgin graces the interior.
This museum is dedicated to New Mexico’s most famous resident artist, Georgia O’Keeffe. Some of her best-loved paintings are on display here, including Purple Hills II and Ghost Ranch, New Mexico (1934), as well as her sculptures and lesser-known works, such as paintings inspired by Lake George and New York City.
The Palace of the Governors is the oldest public building in continuous use in America. Built in 1610, it was the seat of regional government for 300 years. Exhibits here trace the history and culture of New Mexico from 1540 to 1912. Among the highlights are rare Native American hide paintings and a stagecoach, but the real star is the build-ing itself. Free daily tours bring to life all that happened here. Downtown walking tours (for an additional fee) are also offered April to October.
Buy beautiful jewelry, fine pottery, and other lovely Native American crafts directly from the artists, who spread their wares daily under the portal of the Palace of the Governors.
Adjacent to the Palace of the Governors, the New Mexico History Museum presents fascinating stories of the American West. Using striking displays and interactive exhibits, each gallery highlights a different chapter of the state’s rich past, from early Native tribes to modern times.
Housed in a Pueblo Revival-style building, this museum contains the National Collection of Contemporary Native American Art. Traditional pottery, textiles, and beadwork are displayed alongside modern paintings and mixed-media works.
Built to showcase New Mexico’s growing art scene, this building is one of the earliest examples of modern Pueblo Revival-style architecture – a blend of Spanish Colonial and Native American styles. The design owes much to the nearby Pueblo mission churches. The collection comprises over 20,000 pieces of Southwestern art from the 19th century onward.
t The facade of the New Mexico Museum of Art, built in 1917
t Masks and other objects on display at the Museum of International Folk Art
This charming museum houses a stunning collection of folk art from all over the world, including toys, miniature theaters, dolls, and paintings, as well as religious and traditional art.
The eastern gallery holds the awe-inspiring Girard Wing, the largest collection of cross-cultural works in existence. More than 100,000 objects – including icons, paintings, puppets, dolls, and small clay, wood, paper, and cloth figures from more than 100 countries – are displayed at various heights; many artifacts even hang from the ceiling. The highlights include ceramic figures arranged in attractive scenes, ranging from a Polish Christmas to a Mexican baptism.
The Hispanic Heritage Wing contains Spanish Colonial and Latino decorative art, such as rare hide paintings, while the East Bartlett Wing displays rugs, blankets, textiles and costumes from Africa, Asia, and South America. It is easy to see the depth of craft and detail in each piece.
Wealthy Chicagoan Florence Dibell Bartlett founded the Museum of International Folk Art in 1953.
The New Mexico Culture Pass covers admission to four top Santa Fe museums as well as 11 other attractions across the state. It is valid for one year, and can be purchased at any state museum or historic site.
The cathedral’s French Romanesque-style facade is an anomaly in the heart of this adobe city, yet its honey-colored stone, glowing in the afternoon light, makes it one of its loveliest landmarks. It was built in 1869 under Santa Fe’s first archbishop, Jean Baptiste Lamy, and designed by Antoine Mouly. The building replaced most of an earlier adobe church called La Parroquia, except for the side chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary. This houses the oldest statue of the Virgin Mary in North America, known as La Conquistadora. Carved out of wood in Mexico in 1625, the figure was brought to Santa Fe where it gained mythical status, as settlers fleeing the Pueblo Revolt in 1680 claimed to have been saved by the Virgin’s protection.
t Stone statue of the Virgin Mary holding rosary beads outside St. Francis Cathedral
This Neo-Gothic chapel, now used as a museum and a wedding chapel, was fashioned after Sainte-Chapelle in Paris by the architect of Santa Fe’s St. Francis Cathedral. It is most famous for its staircase, a dramatically curved spiral that winds upward for 21 ft (6 m) with 33 steps that make two complete 360-degree turns. The spiral has no nails or center support – only its perfect craftsmanship keeps it aloft. When the chapel was built, it lacked access to the choir loft. Legend has it that a mysterious carpenter appeared, built the staircase, and vanished without payment. Research suggests that the highly skilled craftsman was the Frenchman François Jean Rochas.
EXPERIENCE Santa Fe and Northern New Mexico
Hotel Santa Fe
Owned by the Picuris Pueblo peoples, this welcoming hotel is stylishly decorated, making full use of striking Native American arts and crafts in public places and in guest bedrooms. The restaurant serves fine food using locally sourced ingredients.
⌂ 1501 Paseo de Peralta ∑ hotelsantafe.com
La Fonda on the Plaza
On the site of a 1610 adobe inn on the historic Plaza, this luxurious grande dame is full of original artworks by local artists, including fantastic hand-carved and hand-painted furnishings. There is even a seasonal out-door cocktail bar.
⌂ 100 E San Francisco St ∑ lafondasantafe.com
Inn on the Alameda
This delightful pueblo-style boutique hotel has a social hour late every afternoon when guests can mingle over complimentary wine and cheese. Rooms are decorated in colorful Southwestern style, and it’s close to the Canyon Road art district.
⌂ 303 East Alameda St ∑ innonthealameda.com
Originally an Indian track between the Rio Grande and Pecos pueblos, Canyon Road was later used by burros (donkeys) hauling firewood down from the mountains. This upscale half-mile convent road is today lined with more than 100 private art galleries, artists' studios, clothing boutiques, and stores selling Native jewelry, pottery, folk art, handmade crafts, as well as home furnishings and antiques, and gourmet restaurants, all housed in historic adobe structures. Canyon Road still attracts painters and sculptors to its studios, where the public can watch them at work.
The chapel of San Miguel is thought to have been built around 1610, making it one of the oldest churches in the US. It was built by Tlaxcala Indians, who traveled from Mexico with the early Spanish settlers. The original dirt floor and adobe steps are still visible at the front of the altar. This simple church has great roof beams that were restored in 1692, having been burned 12 years earlier in the Pueblo Revolt. A carved wooden reredos (altarpiece) frames the centrally placed statue of the patron saint, San Miguel, while the side walls have paintings of religious scenes on deerskin and buffalo hide.
Learn to make mouth-watering tamales, salsas, or tacos at one of the most famous culinary schools in the USA. Its three-hour cooking classes book up well in advance, and tend to focus on one typical Southwestern dish. You can also take restaurant tours to enjoy private tastings with four of the city’s top chefs (125 N Guadalupe St; www.santafeschoolofcooking.com).
Established in the early 1700s, El Rancho de las Golondrinas (“Ranch of the Swallows”) was a historic way point on the Camino Real, the old royal road trading route that ran from Mexico City to Santa Fe. The 200-acre (80-ha) ranch served as a paraje, an official rest stop for settlers and explorers, and a chance for them to water their animals. Over the last three centuries, it has been home to many families, including the Bacas, who held it for 200 years. Now a living history museum, with restored buildings and historic features, this working farm re-creates life on a typical 18th-century Spanish ranch. Authentic historic crops such as squash and corn are grown here, and burros and horses are used to work the fertile land.
t A wagon and storage hut at El Rancho de las Golondrinas
t Apache Mountain Spirit Dancer sculpture by Craig Dan Goseyun, Museum of Indian Arts and Culture
Alongside the Museum of International Folk Art, three other important museums are found on Museum Hill. The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture is dedicated to traditional Native American arts and culture. Its main exhibit, “Here, Now & Always”, tells the story of the Southwest’s oldest communities in the words of Native Pueblo, Navajo, and Apache people.
The Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, established in 1937 by wealthy philanthropist Mary Cabot Wheelwright of Boston, was built to resemble a Navajo hogan traditional dwelling. The museum’s focus is on its changing exhibitions of contemporary work by Native American artists and on the gallery devoted to Southwestern jewelry. In the basement, the excellent Case Trading Post re-creates the first trading posts established on the Navajo Reservation. The Museum of Spanish Colonial Art holds an extensive collection of Spanish Colonial art, with over 3,000 objects including textiles, furniture, religious santos, and ceramics. Many galleries take you back through time to paint a picture of the arrival and evolution of the Spanish Colonial arts in New Mexico.
⌂ 710 Camino Lejo # 10am–5pm Tue–Sun (May–Oct: also Mon) ¢ Public hols ∑ miaclab.org
⌂ 704 Camino Lejo # 10am–5pm daily ¢ Public hols ∑ wheelwright.org
⌂ 750 Camino Lejo # 10am–5pm Tue–Sun (May–Aug: also Mon) ∑ spanishcolonial.org
EXPERIENCE Santa Fe and Northern New Mexico
Housed in a 1756 building with adobe walls and kiva fireplaces, this intimate restaurant serves superb South-western fusion dishes, such as tellicherry-rubbed elk tenderloin and mesquite-grilled Maine lobster tails.
⌂ 724 Canyon Rd ¢ Lunch ∑ geronimorestaurant.com
Santa Fe Bar & Grill
Succulent slow-roasted, tamarind-chipotle baby back ribs and sinful adobe mud pie are the popular dishes here. Wash them down with a tequila or margarita from an extensive drinks list. Colorful Mexican furnishings, pottery, and artworks decorate the dining area.
⌂ 187 Paseo de Peralta ∑ santafebargrill.com
Built to resemble the sun symbol of the Zia Pueblo people, the circular State Capitol is the house of government of New Mexico. The building houses works by New Mexican artists from the Capitol Art Collection. A high-light is Holly Hughes’ sculpture The Buffalo (1992), which uses paintbrushes for hair.
t SITE Santa Fe’s Sky Terrace
From humble origins in an old beer warehouse in the Railyard district, this exciting art museum has expanded to become a world-class venue, lauded for its dramatic architecture as well as its cutting-edge contemporary art shows. Through changing exhibitions, which feature international artists, it aims to present the most innovative visual art of our times in new and engaging ways. It is also renowned for groundbreaking biennial exhibitions, which have highlighted international art and art of the Americas.
t Detail from The Storm on the Sea of Galilee (2015) by Kota Ezawa
Located just north of Santa Fe near the pueblo of Tesuque, the outdoor auditorium is the setting for one of the finest summer opera companies in the world. Running since 1957 with five operas in rotating repertory each season, the Santa Fe Opera is renowned for innovative productions of both new and established operas, including a number of impressive world premieres, which attract international stars. A state-of-the-art electronic system allows the audience to read translations of the libretti on the seats in front of them. Backstage tours are available late May through August.
Visitors are advised to come prepared for Santa Fe’s changeable weather when watching the performances, with warm clothing, umbrellas, rugs, and waterproof gear.
Just a 30-minute drive from historic downtown Santa Fe, the beautiful ski area sits in a 12,000-ft- (3,660-m-) high basin of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, surrounded by forest. The resort has 79 trails to suit skiers of every ability, ranging from beginners to experts, and snowboarding runs are also open. Check the website for the latest snow report. A lodge, equipment rentals, ski school, and childcare are available, as are a variety of ski packages.
From late September to mid-October, chairlift rides (on weekends, holidays and during Balloon Fiesta Week) offer splendid views of the fall colors. The RTD Mountain Trail Shuttle from downtown Santa Fe gives easy access to the ski area.
t Santa Fe Farmers’ Market in the Santa Fe Railyard district on a Saturday morning
Spreading out from its historic train depot, the Railyard is Santa Fe’s lively arts and entertainment district. Along with contemporary art galleries, unique shops, tempting restaurants, and nightlife venues, it contains a relaxing, family-friendly park and plaza with performance space for special events and festivals. A center-piece of the Railyard is the open-air Farmers’ Market on Saturdays, which features live music and stalls with cheeses, chiles, and fresh local produce. There’s also an Artists’ Market where you can buy fantastic art and crafts from a range of friendly and talented Northern New Mexico artisans.
The Railyard is home to impressive spaces, including El Museo Cultural, a Hispanic arts and culture center; Santa Fe Clay, a ceramics art center and gallery showcasing tradi-tional and contemporary artists; and the highly acclaimed SITE Santa Fe Contemporary Art Museum. It is also the northern terminus for the New Mexico Rail Runner, a 100-mile (161-km) commuter train network that connects the city with Albuquerque and beyond.
On the last Friday of every month, the brilliant contemporary art galleries of the Sant Fe Railyard district host the free Last Friday Art Walk, when they open from 5 to 7pm. All of the galleries are within a short walk of each other. SITE Santa Fe offers free admission all day on Fridays and on Saturdays from 10am to noon during the Santa Fe Farmers' Market.
EXPERIENCE Santa Fe and Northern New Mexico
Juan de Oñate founds the New Mexico colony and establishes the city of Santa Fe.
Santa Fe becomes the capital under Governor Don Pedro de Peralta.
Settlers flee the colony following the Pueblo Revolt.
Mexico gains independence from Spain.
New Mexico is ceded to the United States.
New Mexico becomes the 47th US state, with Santa Fe as the capital.