Historic Old Town
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The historic heart of Albuquerque is Old
Town Plaza, where the pace slows and pedestrians find refuge from fast traffic.
Old Town's official beginning was April 23, 1706, when Francisco Cuervo y Valdes,
Spanish Governor of New Mexico, certified the founding of the Villa de Alburquerque.
Spain's Laws of the Indies, in effect at the time, required setting a plaza at the
center of any villa.
Centered around the plaza, Albuquerque's Old Town comprises about ten blocks of
historic adobe buildings. On the north side of the plaza is the San Felipe de Neri
Church, the oldest building in the city, which was built in 1793. Surrounding the
church, the city's settlers had built their homes, shops and government
offices, many of which have since been converted into the restaurants,
art galleries and shops that comprise Old Town today. More than 100 stores
and 24 galleries feature a wide variety of Southwestern artwork including jewelry,
sculpture, paintings, weaving and pottery. In addition, the Albuquerque
Museum, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, the National Atomic
Museum, and the ¡Explora! Science Center and Children's Museum are all located
just to the east of Old Town, showcasing world-class exhibits.
Once running through Old Town Plaza
was El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, the Royal Road of the Interior Lands, which
connected Mexico City with New Mexico's Spanish capitals, San Gabriel and, later,
Santa Fe. From 1598 until the opening of the Santa Fe Trail in 1821, El Camino Real
was the main route into New Mexico for people, animals and goods from distant places.
Now El Camino Real is a National Historic Trail designated by the U.S. government.
Old Town today looks much like it did when it was built centuries ago, 70 years
before the American Revolution. Its Pueblo-Spanish style architecture with flat-roofed
buildings and soft contours of adobe mirror the Southwestern landscape. Long portals
(porches) line the fronts of most buildings offering shade from the New Mexican
sun. Bancos (benches) are often found built into the back walls of the
portals, providing the perfect place for weary walkers to sit and be soothed
by a Southwestern sunset. Activities and events still revolve around the picturesque
plaza, much like they did three hundred years ago. Visitors to Old Town will find
a treasure trove of history, hidden in plain sight at the center of modern Albuquerque.
See Travel Tools: Neighborhood Guide: Historic Old Town for more information