A combination of altitude, desert, and pueblos has produced a magical city that bears little resemblance to nearby Albuquerque or anywhere else for that matter.
Santa Fe is the United States’ longest continuously occupied state capital. Located high and dry in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, this well preserved center of Southwestern art and architecture attracts visitors with its galleries, cuisine, and play of light on its adobe buildings.
Santa Fe is referred to as “the city different,” a city that honors its Native American, Hispanic, and Anglo heritages and embraces its natural environment unlike any other in the United States. A city whose beautiful, brown adobe architecture blends with the high desert landscape and a city that is, at the same time, one of America’s great art and culinary capitals.
When Spanish colonists arrived in 1607, they found the ruins of an American Indian pueblo at the site where the state’s capital city now stands. Some of the colonists were aristocrats who knew how to lay out a proper Spanish city. They established the plaza as the heart of the town, the place to which all the trails and, eventually, the roads would lead. And they named the town “La Villa de Santa Fe”—“City of the Holy Faith.” In 1610 Santa Fe became the capital of New Mexico.
Today, the magnificent Santa Fe Plaza and surrounding structures are still the heart of this beautiful thriving city, along with interesting buildings and shops, charming hotels, stylish boutiques, distinct restaurants, historical sites, world class galleries, and the capitol complex, and daily activity that fills any state capital of this size.
There is so much to do and see that it is impossible to do it all in a few days or even in a few weeks.
Come with us as we take a short walk downtown to see just where the fascination and enchantment began.
What better place to begin our tour than at La Fonda on the Plaza, home to one of our favorite Santa Fe restaurants, La Plazuela. While Santa Fe has been intriguing and charming travelers for more than 400 years, La Fonda on the Plaza has been providing warm and friendly accommodations for generations. This historic, landmark hotel sits quite literally at the terminus of the Santa Fe Trail. La Fonda is steeped in history, filled with art and offers authentic Santa Fe hospitality.
Although the current structure is a definitive example of Pueblo Deco style built in the 1920s, the Hotel has a very well documented history as the Exchange Hotel during the last half of the 19th century. Good descriptions even exist for the inn or “Fonda” which stood on this same corner in 1822 when the first merchant wagons arrived via the Santa Fe Trail from Missouri. Other accounts of visitors at La Fonda go back to the 17th century. Very few hotels have such roots! Indeed, it was also the site of one of Zsa Zsa Gabor’s many marriages—this time to Conrad Hilton in 1942.
Exiting La Fonda on San Francisco Street we turn left toward the Plaza, the heart of the town.
On the south side (San Francisco Street), a small granite marker commemorates the end of the Santa Fe Trail. The tall obelisk in the center of the Plaza is a Civil War memorial. At one time the Plaza had a ring for bull fights and was also used for planting corn and alfalfa.
Note: This is the first of a four-part series on Santa Fe, New Mexico
Part 2: Historically Significant Santa Fe
Part 3: The City of Holy Faith: Santa Fe
Part 4: Historic Walks of Santa Fe
I think New Mexico was the greatest experience from the outside world that I ever had. It certainly changed me forever….The moment I saw the brilliant, proud morning sunshine high over the deserts of Santa Fe, something stood still in my soul, and I started to attend….In the magnificent fierce morning of New Mexico one sprang awake, a new part of the soul woke up suddenly, and the world gave way to the new.