Things to Do in Old Town Albuquerque

Old Town, Albuquerque

Your Old Town Albuquerque Travel Guide

There is so much to do and explore in Old Town Albuquerque! The quaint streets and centuries-old adobe houses in Old Town Albuquerque are home to artisan shops selling fine art, jewelry, rugs, and pottery. The New Mexican eateries in Old Town serve traditional enchiladas, fajitas, sopapillas and more! The rustic streets, plazas, and alleys of Old Town beg to be explored. Take a walk back in time and immerse yourself in the history and culture of Albuquerque! This travel guide is your preview of the best of Old Town, Albuquerque.

Old Town, Albuquerque - Things to Do
Sweet Williams are in bloom at the Blue Moon Marketplace in Old Town, Albuquerque.
Native American Gift Shop, Old Town, Albuquerque
Goodies at a Native American gift shop in Old Town, Albuquerque.
Old Town, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Adobe eye candy! Old Town. Albuquerque.
Old Town, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Blackbird Coffeehouse, Old Town, Albuquerque

Old Town, Albuquerque

Old Town, Albuquerque, New Mexico by bicycle
Rent a bicycle in Old Town, Albuquerque at Routes Bicycle Tours and Rentals
New Mexico - Old Town, Albuquerque, New Mexico
One of the many quaint shops in Historic Old Town, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Old Town, Albuquerque
Old Town, Albuquerque in the fall season.

Old Town Plaza is the heart of Old Town, anchored by the 18th-century San Felipe de Neri Church. It is where you can enjoy free concerts and you’re guaranteed to see a few of Route 66’s best classic roadsters on any given summer Saturday afternoon. Read on for events, museums, restaurants and more in Old Town Albuquerque!

Old Town, Albuquerque, New Mexico
A Native American handcrafted jewelry shop in Old Town.
Old Town, Albuquerque
Peak fall colors in Old Town Plaza, Historic Old Town, Albuquerque, NM
Old Town, Albuquerque, NM
The timeless patina of Historic Old Town, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Old Town. Albuquerque
The charming patina of Old Town, Albuquerque
Old Town, Albuquerque, New Mexico
A Native American craft shop in Old Town, Albuquerque.
Things to do in Old Town, Albuquerque
Native American vendors in Old Town, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Old Town, Albuquerque, art gallery
An art gallery in Old Town, Albuquerque, NM.

Historic Old Town, Albuquerque, Nm

The History of Old Town Albuquerque

The charm of New Mexico lies in how things grow old in place here. That is especially true of Old Town Albuquerque. Founded in 1706 by New Mexico Governor Francisco Cuervo y Valdés, Old Town Albuquerque is a historic ten block district built around a central plaza that served the earliest Spanish settlers in this area.

Old Town, Albuquerque, Guide
La Hacienda Restaurant, Old Town, Albuquerque
The Chili Patch home goods store, Old Town, Albuquerque
The Chili Patch home goods store, Old Town, Albuquerque

Like other Spanish colonial settlements, Albuquerque consisted of a central plaza (created in 1780) surrounded by a church, government offices, and residences. Adobe buildings, many refurbished in the pueblo revival style of the 1950s, are grouped around the tree-lined plaza.

Old Town, Albuquerque, New Mexico
A gift shop in Old Town, Albuquerque.

For much of the 18th century, the Old Town area served as a spiritual hub for the farmers of Albuquerque, anchored by the San Felipe de Neri Church. Albuquerque, along with the rest of New Mexico was annexed by Mexico in 1821 after the Mexican War of Independence and recaptured by US forces in 1846. During this time it was also growing as a center for commerce and trading.

The Old Town Albuquerque area entered a period of decline when the railroad reached what is now Downtown Albuquerque two miles away in 1880. Business and commerce shifted to the downtown area. By the 1930’s few businesses were still in operation around Old Town Plaza.

Old Town’s fortunes began to improve in the 1940s as Albuquerque citizens founded the Old Albuquerque Historical Society to protect its historical features. Old Town was annexed by the city in 1949, bringing municipal improvements like paved streets and sidewalks for the first time. Since then, Old Town has developed into a popular tourist attraction, with most of the adobe houses re-purposed into shops, restaurants, and galleries.

Thing to do in Old Town, Albuquerque
Gift shops in Old Town, Albuquerque

Facing the north side of the plaza is the San Felipe de Neri Church, the oldest building in Albuquerque, dating back to 1793. Most of the historic buildings in Old Town were built between 1870 and 1900. During the 20th century, many of the buildings were remodeled to facilitate modern commerce using Pueblo Revival style architecture.

If you enjoy the art, culture, and history of the southwestern United States, then you will love Old Town Albuquerque! Explore cobbled-brick pathways that lead to hidden plazas and patios rich in historical details. Native-American and Spanish culture live on in the architecture, food, and art featured in historic Old Town.

Old Town, Albuquerque, NM - Adobe Wall
An Adobe wall in Old Town, Albuquerque

You can also use Old Town Albuquerque as your hub for a bicycle tour of some of the city’s most appealing attractions and features.  Routes Bicycles in Old Town, is a great place to rent a bike or join one of their local daily tours.

Old Town, Albuquerque
Classic cars posing in historic Old Town, Albuquerque

Location

Old Town Albuquerque is located Northeast of Central Ave. and Rio Grande Blvd. NW. This ten block district is compact and very walkable. Its charm is timeless and unrushed. There are lots of small streets and plazas full of delightful surprises that you don’t want to miss! It is an easy commute by bus on the new ART rapid transit service that services the Route 66 (Central Ave.) corridor.

Insider’s Tip: A great way to see the attractions of Albuquerque without a car is to download the free ABQ Ride Mobile Transit App provided by the city of Albuquerque. ABQRIDE+ provides riders with powerful tools to easily navigate the ABQRIDE transit system, purchase mobile tickets, discover nearby attractions, and more. Click the button below for the ABQRIDE+ web page for more information and downloads.

Official ABQRIDE+ Mobile App Web Page


Old Town Albuquerque Attractions

Here are some of the attractions you have the opportunity to explore during your visit to Old Town:

Special Events & Concerts in Old Town Albuquerque

During the summer months, free music, dance, and theatrical events are featured in the Plaza Vieja Gazebo in Old Town Plaza. There are also classic car shows, food fairs and other special events in Old Town throughout the year. Special events are also scheduled in Old Town for the week of Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta and for major holidays. To see an up-to-date list of currently scheduled events, check out the City of Albuquerque Historic Old Town Events web page (link below).

Historic Old Town Albuquerque Events Listings

Another great source for up-to-date listings of events in Albuquerque is ABQtodo. They list upcoming events for all of Albuquerque. The link to the ABQtodo website is below.

ABQtodo Albuquerque Events Listings

Finally, here is a link to TravelHost Albuquerque Magazine which features events, attractions, and restaurants in and around Old Town Albuquerque. A great resource worth browsing for additional travel ideas. Click the image below to access the latest TravelHost Albuquerque magazine:

TravelHost Albuquerque Magazine
TravelHost Albuquerque Magazine (Free, Read Online)

Freebies, Discounts & Coupons for Old Town Albuquerque Visitors

Gift Shop in Old Town, Albuquerque
A Gift Shop in Old Town, Albuquerque

Free Walking Tours of Old Town Albuquerque

Albuquerque Museum of Art & History docents offer free walking tours of historic Old Town Tuesdays – Sundays at 11 a.m., from late April through November. Check the Albuquerque Museum web page for details and contact information. Also, a free self-guided walking tour brochure of Old Town is available by request at the Museum’s admission desk.

Free Events & Concerts in Old Town Albuquerque

Free events are scheduled in Old Town throughout the year by the City of Albuquerque Cultural Services Dept. Music, dance and theatrical events are held in Old Town Plaza during the holidays and throughout the year. Schedules are usually posted on the City of Albuquerque Historic Old Town Events web page.

Online Coupons and Discounts

Groupon Albuquerque: Albuquerque museums, hotels, restaurants, spas and shops offer fantastic discounts on Groupon. Check them for an up-to-date list of current discounts and coupons in Albuquerque.

VisitAlbuquerque.org Coupons & Discounts: This is a great source of discounts on hotels, bed & breakfasts, restaurants and attractions. This is a great place to look for discounts on lodging near Old Town Albuquerque. Be sure to click on the link ‘Download Coupons’ link on this webpage for all of the latest restaurant coupons. This link is for discounts on trip-planning (lodging, tours) and this link is for discounts on things-to-do (balloon flights, bicycle rentals, attractions). Also, you can order a free Albuquerque Visitors Guide on this website that may contain additional discounts and coupons.

ABQonthecheap.com: Albuquerque On The Cheap is an amazing website that sniffs out freebies and discounts all over Albuquerque. Lots of great discounts here! If there is a discount on dining, shopping, and events anywhere in Albuquerque, you will probably find it on this website!


Old Town Albuquerque Galleries & Shops

Old Town is a great place to buy local art, gifts, and souvenirs when visiting Albuquerque. You will discover paintings, sculpture, pottery, decorative arts, furniture, textiles, costume, drawings, pastels, watercolors, collages, prints, artists’ books, photographs, &  installation art. Native American, Western and Mexican art are featured in the galleries and shops. At times, the artist whose work you are purchasing may be present in the gallery to discuss their work.

There are over 150 stores packed into Old Town Albuquerque. A maze of cobbled courtyard walkways leads to hidden plazas and gardens, where many of Old Town’s galleries and shops are located. The very helpful visitor center, which provides advice, maps, and recommendations, can provide assistance in navigating all that Old Town has to offer. Also, you can get a complete listing of Old Town Albuquerque shops & restaurants at albuquerqueoldtown.com.

Old Town Gift Shop, Albuquerque
Old Town Gift Shop, Albuquerque

You will certainly find plenty of the typical tourist trinkets and t-shirts. However, there is also lots of high-quality art and pottery for the more discerning shopper. Good deals can be found. Generally, the prices here are lower than you will find in Santa Fe. Most galleries do tend to close at 5 PM so just keep that in mind when you visit. There is something for every member of the family in the Old Town Albuquerque gift shops, including clothing, hats, t-shirts, jewelry, posters, books and more! Browse a wide range of fascinating mementos to fit every budget. Pueblo and Navajo artisans often display their pottery, blankets, and silver jewelry under the awning of the La Placita Restaurant. Whether you are seeking classic New Mexican style or something more contemporary, you will find the perfect boutique for your fashion sense in Old Town Albuquerque.


Old Town Albuquerque Restaurants

Eat like a New Mexican! There is a diverse choice of restaurants and cafes in and around Old Town Albuquerque. Whether you yearn to sample classic New Mexican cuisine or just want a great burger or pizza, you can find it here! Albuquerque Old Town is jam-packed with enticing family-owned eateries (as is Albuquerque in general) that fit every budget. You will find lots of online reviews of local restaurants (including my own on this website) but here is a good tip to follow: The locals know where to go for the most authentic and affordable food in the Old Town area. They tend to be very loyal to places that serve good food. Ask for their recommendation!

A Few Personal Dining Recommendations In Old Town Albuquerque

These are a few of my favorite places to eat when visiting Old Town:

Golden Crown Panaderia

Golden Crown Panaderia, Old Town Albuquerque
Golden Crown Panaderia, Old Town Albuquerque

Perfect for casual meals. Golden Crown is a culinary gem that serves amazing pizza with a New Mexican touch, and satisfying sandwiches featuring their excellent bread baked in-house. They also feature local craft beers. Golden Crown Panaderia is ranked as one of the best bakeries in New Mexico. Read my full review of Golden Crown Panaderia here.

Golden Crown Panaderia
1103 Mountain Rd NW, Albuquerque NM 87102


Church Street Cafe

Church St. Cafe, Old Town Albuquerque
Church St. Cafe, Old Town Albuquerque, NM

Great New Mexican food, ambiance and hospitality await you at Church Street Cafe. Housed in a charming residence building that dates back to the early 1700’s, you are treated to a memorable dining experience in a beautiful setting. During the summer months, the spacious and beautifully adorned rear patio at Church Street Patio is THE place to dine in style!

Church Street Cafe
2111 Church St. NW, Albuquerque NM 87104


Duran Central Pharmacy

Duran Central Pharmacy - Albuquerque
Duran Central Pharmacy, Old Town Albuquerque

If you want to sample authentic New Mexican food, this is one of the best places in the Old Town area to do so. Duran Central Pharmacy has a traditional drug store lunch counter and cafe seating. Its modest exterior hides an excellent kitchen cooking traditional New Mexican classics. Read my full review of Duran Central Pharmacy here.

Duran Central Pharmacy
1815 Central Ave NW, Albuquerque, NM 87104


Blakes Lotaburger

If you just want a burger and some fries, skip McDonald’s and head for Blakes Lotaburger. This is considered the best fast-food green chile cheeseburger in Albuquerque. Blakes Lotaburger is a local chain with locations all over Albuquerque, including one in Old Town across the street from the Hotel Albuquerque at Old Town. Read my full review of Blakes Lotaburger here.

Blakes Lotaburger
777 Rio Grande Blvd NW, Albuquerque, NM 87104


Old Town Albuquerque Museums

Old Town Albuquerque is home to great museums showcasing New Mexican culture and art, along with international exhibitions. The four don’t-miss museums in Old Town are as follows:

Albuquerque Museum of Art & History

Albuquerque Museum of Art & History, Old Town Albuquerque
Albuquerque Museum of Art & History, Old Town Albuquerque

The Albuquerque Museum of Art & History offers visitors locally curated and world-class traveling exhibitions. Discover some of the most remarkable artifacts and works of art from the region and the world. Also, they play host to the Albuquerque Museum Car Show in May of each year, one of the most popular yearly events for car enthusiasts!

The New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science

New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science
New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science

The New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science preserves and interprets the distinctive natural and scientific heritage of our state through extraordinary collections, research, exhibits, and programs designed to ignite a passion for lifelong learning. This is a great museum for families as it offers something for every age group.

Explora Museum

Explora Museum, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Explora Museum, Old Town Albuquerque

The mission of Explora museum in Old Town Albuquerque is to create opportunities for inspirational discovery and the joy of lifelong learning through interactive experiences in science, technology, engineering, art, and math. This is a hands-on museum that encourages children to learn in an interactive way. This is a great museum for young children and parents.

ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden & Aquarium

The ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden & Aquarium offers 1.5 miles of paths through colorful formal and whimsical gardens designed to delight your senses along with a fascinating aquarium display of aquatic animals.

A setting in ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden
A setting in ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden

Old Town Albuquerque Hotels

Here are three hotels that put you in the heart of the historic Old Town Albuquerque district.

Bottger Mansion of Old Town

Bottger Mansion, Old Town Albuquerque
Bottger Mansion, Old Town Albuquerque

This charming Old Town Albuquerque bed & breakfast can boast that Elvis slept here and Sinatra sang here. The 1912 Bottger Mansion is one of only a few mansions built in Albuquerque and remains virtually in its original form. This is the only one of four Victorian-era mansions in Old Town to remain virtually in its original form. Located on the corner of Historic Route 66 (Central Ave.), the Bottger Mansion is on the National Register of Historic Places and is the only bed & breakfast in the Old Town Historic District. Click here for the Bottger Mansion website for more information and bookings.

Hotel Albuquerque at Old Town

Hotel Albuquerque at Old Town
Hotel Albuquerque at Old Town

The beautiful Hotel Albuquerque at Old Town pays homage to the classic adobe style of many New Mexico territorial historical buildings. The grounds include a 19th century-style chapel and courtyard, as well as Spanish gardens and a Victorian-style pavilion. Their signature restaurant, Garduño’s at Old Town, with its cloth walls, turquoise ceiling, punched tin light fixtures and painted glass windows, is designed to make you feel like you are in a historic New Mexico home. For more information and bookings, visit the Hotel Albuquerque at Old Town website.

The El Vado Old Town

The newly reopened El Vado retains the classic charm of the historic former motel in its revival as a luxury boutique hotel. Although expanded and upgraded, it retains the classic Route 66 beauty of the old El Vado Motel. It not only offers boutique-style hotel accommodations (at quite reasonable prices), but it hosts a delightful range of eateries and gift shops. Visit the El Vado in Old Town website for more information.

El Vado, Albuquerque
A popular coffee shop at the El Vado

Hopefully, all of this has whet your curiosity! Be sure to stop by on your next visit to Albuquerque!

Old Town Albuquerque Visitors Center
Plaza Don Louis – 522 Romero Street NW – Albuquerque, NM 87104

All photos by [email protected], the man in the Panama hat …