Santa Fe has long ranked among the chic-est cities in the US, a favourite destination for upmarket travellers in particular. Its romantic appeal rests on a very solid basis: it's one of America's oldest and most beautiful cities, founded by Spanish missionaries a decade before the Pilgrims reached Plymouth Rock. Spread across a high plateau at the foot of the stunning Sangre de Cristo Mountains, New Mexico's capital still glories in the adobe houses and baroque churches of its original architects, while its newer museums and galleries attract art-lovers from all over the world.
As upward of a million and a half tourists descend yearly upon a town of just seventy thousand inhabitants, Santa Fe has inevitably grown somewhat overblown. Long-term residents bemoan what's been lost, while first-time visitors may be surprised by the depressing urban sprawl on the edge of town. There's still a lot to like about Santa Fe, however, Once you get used to the rigorous insistence that every building should look like a seventeenth-century Spanish colonial palace, strolling around its compact, peaceful downtown is a real pleasure.