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Albuquerque History

Native American groups first inhabited the region 2,000 years BC. The Spanish arrived in the 1500s but it was another 200 years, in 1706, that a settlement was founded on the banks of the Rio Grande.

The site developed as an agrarian outpost but thanks to its location, it also provided protection from, and trade with, the Indians in the area. The colony’s Spanish Governor, Francisco Cuervo y Valdez, wrote to the Duke of Alburquerque back in Spain to report their newly founded town, which was subsequently named after the duke. Over time, the first “r” was dropped, leaving Albuquerque spelled as it is today.

Albuquerque grew in prominence as an important stop on the Camino Real, a vital trade route from Chihuahua to Santa Fe. By 1821, Mexico had gained independence from Spain and trade with the United States grew. The famous Santa Fe Trail, which led from Missouri to Santa Fe, connected with the Camino Real into Albuquerque. As commerce grew, so did the population.

The construction of Albuquerque’s railroad terminal in 1880 helped the city’s trade and population to boom further. In fact, Anglo settlers began moving to Albuquerque en masse, transforming the ethnic and geographic structure of the city. The main commercial centre moved downtown and the Old Town fell in prominence. By 1891, Albuquerque was incorporated as a city.

Historic Route 66, which became a famous automobile road in the 1920s, weaved through Albuquerque, helping new motels, restaurants and gift shops to flourish and attracting tourists.

In 1928, Albuquerque gained its first airport, and within 20 years was propelled into the high-tech era when Kirtland Air Force Base was established in 1940.

The following decades saw key developments: the Sandia Peak Tramway, the longest of its kind in North America, opened in 1966 and in the 1970s, Bill Gates set up Microsoft in Albuquerque. But the 1990s brought decline to the downtown area. It took another 20 years before the district was rejuvenated and in 2006, Albuquerque celebrated its Tricentennial.

Did you know?
• San Felipe de Neri Church dates back to 1793 and is one of the oldest surviving buildings in the city.
• After the creation of the airport, celebrity fliers such as Charles Lindbergh, Laura Ingalls, Amelia Earhart and Roscoe Turner were attracted to the city.
•The city's famous balloon fiesta has its roots more than a century earlier when a local bartender piloted a "gas bag" from the centre of town up to nearly 14,000ft before it landed, intact, a few miles away.

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Hotel Andaluz

Built just before World War II by local-born Conrad Hilton, as the flagship property for his new hotel chain, this magnificently restored downtown gem is a delightful place to stay. Guest rooms are beautifully furnished and very comfortable, while the public spaces are superb, and include an excellent Spanish restaurant.

Hotel Blue

Just west of downtown along legendary Route 66, this four-storey 1960s hotel has spacious, airy rooms at reasonable rates, decorated with a certain Art Deco flair. The rooms are on the small side, but there's complimentary breakfast, coffee, and a free shuttle service to and from the airport, bus or train station.

Hotel Albuquerque at Old Town

A short walk north of Old Town, this 11-storey hotel blends Native American, Mexican, Spanish and Western cultural traditions and includes a fitness centre, two well-respected restaurants and bars, and an Olympic-size outdoor swimming pool. There's even a wedding chapel, should you decide to get hitched.

Embassy Suites Hotel Albuquerque

One of the city's most attractive hotels, on the northeast edge of downtown, this all-suite property features a full-service day spa and a lovely open atrium with a cascade and meandering water trails. Each of its sizeable suites features a separate living area with sofa bed, armchair and well-lit work/dining table, wet bar, refrigerator, microwave and coffeemaker.

Sandia Resort & Casino

Showcasing the native American heritage of the Southwest this swanky Pueblo-owned hotel occupies a dramatic mesa-top location in the city's northeastern quadrant. Amenities include a full gaming casino championship golf course full-service spa and several outstanding restaurants. Some of the fanciest rooms in the state boast lavish bathrooms and enjoy breathtaking views of the Sandia Mountains and Rio Grande Valley.

Econo Lodge Old Town

It's hard to find cheap rooms near the Old Town, so this attractive, well-kept chain motel, just a couple of minutes' walk west towards the river, is a real boon. Features include free breakfasts and wi-fi, and a heated indoor pool.