New Mexico's largest city has been described as having one foot in the past and one in the present, with its eyes firmly set on the future. This certainly sums up this multicultural city, spread across the desert plains beside the Rio Grande.
It is known for its high-tech research facilities and sentimental pride towards its historic Old Town, and offers a mix of museums, galleries, spicy restaurants, and great shopping centres to satisfy the appetite of every kind of visitor. Albuquerque has an ultra-relaxed attitude, with shorts and t-shirts the unofficial uniform and locals cracking jokes about living in a 'dusty hick town'. But the city's numerous attractions are on-hand to prove them wrong.
Albuquerque was born back in 1706 when a group of Spanish colonists decided that the point on the Rio Grande where the river made a sweeping curve, backed by the wooded slopes of the nearby Sandia Mountains, would be a useful place to start a settlement. Water for irrigation and wood for building was plentiful, and the local Indian pueblos were available for trading.
The new town, at first just a cluster of mud houses around a small adobe church, was named for Spain's 10th Duke of Albuquerque. Today the original church, San Felipe de Neri, stands enshrined in the centre of the historic heart of the city, the hub of various special holidays and feast days, drawing visitors and locals alike.
One of the most splendid sights Albuquerque has to offer happens only once a year: each October the International Balloon Fiesta has all eyes focussed on New Mexico's blue skies as hundreds of hot air balloons sail past.
Every day of the year, though, the city offers up its attractions such as the zoo, aquarium, museums, and vineyards, as well as an array of activities like skiing, golfing, mountain biking, hiking, or dancing. If all else fails, you can always eat - mild or with chilli, there is nothing to beat New Mexican cuisine to really add spice to life.
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