Puerto Vallarta's cobblestone streets are a pleasure to explore; they're full of tiny shops, rows of windows edged with curling wrought iron, and vistas of red-tile roofs and the sea. Start with a walk up and down the malecón.
Among the sights you shouldn't miss is the municipal building on the main square (next to the tourism office), which has a large Manuel Lepe mural inside in its stairwell. Nearby, right up Independencia, sits the picturesque Parish of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe church, Hidalgo 370 (tel. 322/222-1326), topped with a curious crown held in place by angels -- a replica of the one worn by Empress Carlota during her brief time in Mexico as Emperor Maximilian's wife. On its steps, women sell religious mementos; across the narrow street, stalls sell native herbs for curing common ailments. Services in English are held each Saturday at 5pm, and Sunday at 10am. Regular hours are Monday through Saturday from 7:30am to 8:30pm, Sunday from 6:30am to 8:30pm. Note that entrance is restricted to those properly attired -- no shorts or sleeveless shirts allowed. Three blocks south of the church, head east on Libertad, lined with small shops and pretty upper windows, to the municipal market by the river. (It's the Río Cuale Mercado, but I recently overheard a tourist ask for the "real quality" market!) After exploring the market, cross the bridge to the island in the river; sometimes a painter is at work on its banks. Walk down the center of the island toward the sea, and you'll come to the tiny Museo Río Cuale (no phone; Mon-Sat 10am-4pm; free admission), which has a small but impressive permanent exhibit of pre-Columbian figurines.
Retrace your steps to the market and Libertad, and follow Calle Miramar to the brightly colored steps up to Zaragoza. Midway is a magnificent view over rooftops to the sea, plus a cute cafe, Graffiti (no phone), where you can break for a cappuccino and a snack. Up Zaragoza to the right 1 block is the famous pink arched bridge that once connected Richard Burton's and Elizabeth Taylor's houses. In this area, known as "Gringo Gulch," many Americans have houses.
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