San Luis has more streets dedicated solely to the use of pedestrians than any of the other silver cities. The center of town is the Plaza de Armas, dating from the mid-1700s and shaded by magnolia and flamboyán trees. The bandstand in the center of the plaza was built in 1947 (in colonial style), using pink volcanic stone. Free concerts usually begin on Thursday and Sunday at around 7:30 or 8pm. On the west side of the plaza is the Palacio de Gobierno. It has been much repaired, restored, and added to through the centuries -- the back and the south facade were redone as recently as 1950. The front of the building retains much of the original 18th-century decoration. Upstairs, you'll find the rooms that Juárez occupied when he established his temporary capital here in 1863 and again in 1867. It's worth a peek. You can see it only at designated hours Monday to Friday at 10am, noon, and 2pm. There is a short tour of this room and a couple of others. The tour is free.
Across the plaza from the Government Palace is the cathedral. The original building had only a single bell tower; the one on the left was built in 1910 to match, although today the newer tower looks older. The Count of Monterrey built the Palacio Municipal, on the north side of the cathedral, in 1850. He filled it with paintings and sculptures, few of which survived the city's stormy history. When the count died in 1890, the palace was taken over by the bishop and, in 1921, by the city government. Since then, it has been San Luis's city hall. On January 1, 1986, it was firebombed during a riot. It has been restored and functions again.
East of the plaza is one of the city's most famous squares, Plazuela del Carmen, named for the Templo del Carmen church. From the jardín, walk east along Madero-Othón to Escobedo. The entire area you see was once part of the extensive grounds of the 18th-century Carmelite monastery. The church has a beautiful and complex facade, in which appear Elijah and Elisha, two prophets in the Old Testament who lived on Mount Carmel and are considered by the Carmelite order as spiritual founders. The other two large figures are St. Theresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, mystics who, in the 16th century, reformed the order in Spain and founded the congregation of the Discalced Carmelites, who held to stricter vows of poverty than the rest of the order. Inside the church are some beautiful baroque altarpieces.
The Museo Nacional de la Máscara (no phone) faces the plaza, too. The museum was closed for several years, and when it reopened in 2009, the number of masks displayed was greatly reduced. These are exhibited in a few rooms on the ground floor, while the upstairs rooms were restored to what they would have looked like in the 1890s, when the house was built. The house is an elegant mix of French architectural styles and holds plenty of features and designs to arrest the eye. Hours are Tuesday through Friday 10am to 6pm, Saturday from 10am to 5pm, and Sunday from 10am to 3pm. The cost of admission is 15 pesos.
Facing the museum from across the plaza is the Teatro de la Paz, built in the 1890s, too. It's difficult to get in to view the magnificent old auditorium, but attached to it is the Sala Germán Gedovius (tel. 444/812-2698), with four art galleries. It's open Tuesday through Sunday from 10am to 2pm and 4 to 6pm. Admission is free.
One block north of El Carmen is another plaza called San Juan de Dios. Here you'll find Museo Federico Silva (tel. 444/812-3848). This is a brilliant museum dedicated to the modern sculpture of Federico Silva, one of the masters of contemporary sculpture in Mexico. This museum is necessarily large, as it must accommodate Silva's massive pieces constructed of steel, stone, and concrete, including his modern take on the ancient rain god Tlaloc. The museum is open from Tuesday through Saturday 10am to 6pm, and Sunday 10am to 2pm. Admission is 30 pesos.
One block east of the Plaza del Carmen is a large urban green area known as La Alameda. Vendors sell handicrafts, fruit, and all manner of snacks. Facing the park on Negrete is the Templo de San José, with lots of ornate gold decorations, huge religious paintings, and El Señor de los Trabajos, a miracle-working statue with many retablos testifying to the wonders it has performed.
San Luis Potosí has more plazas than any other colonial city in Mexico. In addition to those mentioned above, the Plaza de San Francisco is south of the Plaza de Armas along Aldama, between Guerrero and Galeana. This shady square takes its name from the Franciscan monastery on the south side of the plaza and the church on the west side. The church holds some beautiful stained glass, many Colonial-Era statues and paintings, and a crystal chandelier shaped like a sailing ship.
Another square is Plaza de los Fundadores (Founders' Square), at the intersection of Obregón and Aldama, northwest of the Plaza de Armas. Facing it is the Loreto Chapel, with its exquisite baroque facade. The adjacent church of El Sagrario belonged to the Jesuits before the order was expelled from Mexico.
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