AAA Editor Notes
Old Town is .5 mi. s. of I-40 exit 157A via Rio Grande Blvd. to 303 Romero St. N.W. Albuquerque began where Old Town stands today, and the focal point of community life in the city's beginnings remains a place where people come to meet, sightsee and above all, shop. It doesn't look much like it did some 3 centuries ago, but Old Town's narrow streets, winding brick walkways, hidden patios and wrought-iron benches do invite visitors to relax and stay awhile.
The focal point of this village-like setting is a tree-shaded plaza with a gazebo, the scene of frequent impromptu musical performances. Standing on the plaza's north side is the San Felipe de Neri Church, founded in 1706 by Fray Manuel Moreno, a Franciscan priest. The original church building collapsed during the very rainy summer of 1792; the present adobe structure, in the shape of a cross and with walls 5 feet thick, dates from 1793. The church's rose garden is a lovely, quiet spot to relax.
Surrounding the plaza is a pedestrian-friendly district (bounded north/south by Mountain Road and Central Avenue and east/west by Rio Grande Boulevard and 19th Street) containing more than 150 shops, boutiques, galleries and artist studios. Browsers will find all things Southwestern, of course, but Old Town shops offer everything from handmade Native American jewelry, Oaxacan woodcarvings and Mata Ortiz pottery to painted ponies, Christmas ornaments and Route 66 memorabilia.
Across from the plaza's east side, in the 200 block of San Felipe Road, vendors and local artists display their wares on blankets under the building portal (porch). And it's a sure bet that before you leave you'll see a couple of ristras, those hanging strings of dried red chile peppers that all but shout out “New Mexico.”
Pick up a free Old Town map at the information center in Plaza Don Luis (303 Romero St.).
Guided tours are available. Food is available.