A sprawling city on the high desert a mile above sea level, Albuquerque is often skipped over in favour of its more quaint and historic neighbour, Santa Fe. Only recently did the acclaimed television series “Breaking Bad” put New Mexico’s biggest city on the tourist map.
But there’s much more to Albuquerque than tours of imaginary meth dens. Its striking setting—ringed by mesas, mountain peaks and the Rio Grande—and mix of Native American, Mexican, and Spanish traditions reward the curious traveller with a range of unconventional outdoor and cultural activities. It’s no coincidence some call it “Albuquirky”.
STAY at Los Poblanos. Listed in the National Registry of Historic Places, the inn’s 20 guest rooms sit alongside the lavender fields of a working organic farm. In town, Hotel Parq Central is set in a converted railway hospital. Its rooftop bar has panoramic views, while rooms reputedly offer the occasional ghost sighting.
RIDE a bike. The Paseo del Bosque trail along the Rio Grande was voted Top City Bike Ride in the country by Sunset Magazine. Rent a bike from The Bikesmith and pedal to the Rio Grande Nature Center, where you can admire the native wildlife (think porcupines and roadrunners) or take a break in the Antoine Predock-designed visitor center.
EAT at Church Street Cafe. Rather unassuming from the front, this restaurant is set in the oldest house in Albuquerque. Try the chile rellenos or handmade tamales in the beautiful main hall.
WALK the Old Town. Radiating from a central plaza, its 18th-century church and surrounding adobe buildings make a great place to stroll. Explore the hidden courtyards and pick up a chile ristra souvenir at the Aceves Old Town Basket & Rug Shop.
REFUEL at Golden Crown Panaderia. Stop for coffee and biscochitos, the crumbly aniseed ‘state cookie’ of New Mexico, at this old fashioned neighbourhood bakery.
DINE at Sadie’s. Having outgrown its earlier location in a converted bowling alley on 4th Street, forcing it to expand next door, this family-run restaurant remains a favourite with locals. It serves huge portions and the best salsa in town. Test your tastebuds with their spicy carne adovada or brisket enchiladas.
EXPLORE the museums. To better understand Albuquerque’s remarkable culture, head to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, which charts the still-evolving traditions of the Native Americans who first inhabited the region. Then learn about the city’s other major source of influence at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, which hosts a permanent art collection and an ongoing series of cultural events.
LUNCH in Nob Hill. Running along Central Avenue, part of historic Route 66, Nob Hill offers several blocks of eccentric shops and restaurants. Bistronomy B2B serves up burgers made with local, free-range beef and organic ingredients. Masks y Mas is a treasure trove of Mexican Day of the Dead paraphernalia.
ASCEND the Sandia Peak. Board North America’s longest aerial tram to the 10,000-foot summit of the Sandia mountains for amazing views across the valley. Take it all in over a comforting bowl of green chile stew at High Finance restaurant.
DRINK at Marble Brewery, a pioneer of Albuquerque’s burgeoning craft beer scene. Try its Wildflower Wheat beer, subtly accented with New Mexico wildflower honey. Or head deeper into the ‘warehouse district’ for the award-winning Elevated IPA at La Cumbre.