Literary City Guide | Santa Fe, New Mexico

He domesticated and developed the native wild flowers. He had one hill-side solidly clad with that low-growing purple verbena which mats over the hills of New Mexico. It was like a great violet velvet mantle thrown down in the sun; all the shades that the dyers and weavers of Italy and France strove for through centuries, the violet that is full of rose colour and is yet not lavender; the blue that becomes almost pink and then retreats again into sea-dark purple—the true Episcopal colour and countless variations of it.
— Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop

Tour Guide: Aviva Markowitz

Aviva Markowitz

Aviva recently moved to the Land of Enchantment after growing up in the mountains of Vermont. When she’s not busy teaching children how to garden, you can find her hiking in the Sangre de Christos, baking bread, or biking around the city. (Photos by Aviva Markowitz)


Relationship to Santa Fe: Northeastern girl moves to big sky country

Writer you'd like to invite to dinner: Milan Kundera

Chef you'd like to prepare the meal: Deb Perelman

Writing soundtrack: Broken Social Scene, Radiohead, The Internet

Pen or Pencil: Pen

Coffee or Tea: Coffee

Paperback or Hardback: Paperback

Good Reads


Big Star. A great used bookstore nestled in an old adobe home, their selection ranges from art to novels to music to great cookbooks. I have found every book I have ever searched for at unbeatable used book prices.

Collected Works. A bookstore and a coffeehouse with a roaring fire surrounded by couches to entice you to forget your plans for the day and curl up with a new book. They also host a series of literary events.

Op Cit. With a recent move to the Railyard, the inventory is still substantial and the fiction section is phenomenal. A great place to shop for book gifts.


Santa Fe Public Library.  There are 3 branches of the Santa Fe Public Library and as usual, a visit to the library is a great window into the local culture. The downtown location is a block away from the plaza and features a long-tabled room great for silent work, and countless armchairs nestled into the stacks. The La Farge branch and South Side branch are in two residential areas of town.


The Lannan Foundation Series. The Lannan Foundation in Pursuit of Cultural Freedom hosts monthly lectures, readings, and discussions at the beautiful Lensic Performing Arts Center at an affordable price of $6 (only $3 for students). Topics range from climate change to literary readings and are always educational and engaging. 


Georgia O’Keefe Ghost Ranch One of the most beautiful places in Northern New Mexico, Ghost Ranch is located in Abiquiu and has been the site of inspiration for countless artists, including Georgia O’Keefe. You can take a tour of the facilities, or go on several beautiful hikes that climb through the white canyon walls or up to Chimney Walk to see a view of the entire Chama River Valley. 

Jean Cocteau Theater This newly renovated theater is owned by George R. R. Martin, author of the Game of Thrones series. Look for a wide array of movie titles played nightly (from old sci-fi films to recent indie releases) and every Monday there is a screening from the Game of Thrones TV series, but you have to get in line early!

Good Eats


Betterday Serving Stumptown Coffee and some of the best lattes I’ve ever had, this is my go-to coffee shop when I want to get some work done. The white stucco walls and booths are covered with local art and bike frames, and the menu also includes a short list of vegetarian breakfast items made in-house. Occasionally, the back of the shop is a venue for local musicians, transforming the coffee shop into a hub for local culture.

Counter Culture.  With an extensive and diverse menu, this coffee shop and café is a great spot for breakfast or dinner, or just a nice hang-out if you are trying to get some work done. Free refills on coffee and a cozy fire place in the winter! 

Iconik. This coffeeshop is a new comer in the Santa Fe café world, and is making splashes by roasting their own beans in house. The fresh aroma filters around the eclectic sitting room, with couches, tables and stools. Located off of Second St and the railrunner bike path, it’s the new local hangout as it’s sort of tucked away. Delicious coffee!


Tune-Up Café. This neighborhood spot is home to not only the best breakfast in town (the huevos rancheros are to die for) but also an equally spectacular dinner menu and overwhelming list of homemade desserts. The chef is from El Salvador but the enchiladas and chile rellenos are still smothered in red or green chile in the typical New Mexican fashion. The Tune Up is always packed with locals, but in the warmer weather a front patio provides extra tables for the crowds.

Jambo A fusion of West African and Caribbean cuisine, Jambo Café serves a delicious and unique meal, including curries, lentils, meat dishes, and plenty of delicious drinks.     

Casa Chimayo. If you are craving a classic New Mexican meal or if you have never experienced red and green chile, this is the place to go. The owners are an old New Mexican family, the recipes have been passed down for generations and the rugs decorating the walls were made in a weaving shop in Chimayo. The portions are generous and the chile is spicy!

Tecolote Café. A Santa Fe classic, this breakfast spot is always busy and always delicious. Be prepared for a wait that is worth it! 


Kakawa Chocolate House. One of the best parts of winter in Santa Fe, this chocolate shop serves 9 different types of “drinking chocolate elixirs,” ranging from unsweetened Meso-American chocolate to modern Mexican chocolate mixes and even a chocolate chai! They also serve a variety of truffles which are great for gifts and different flavored ice cream. The cozy café area is a perfect place to slowly sip your chocolate as you watch the snow swirling outside.

Ojo Caliente. This Spa and Mineral Springs Resort pipes in water from naturally occurring hot springs into 4 different types of minerals to relax your body and ease tension from your muscles. About 45 minutes away from Santa Fe, they also host a full spa, restaurant and hotel rooms area if you wish to spend the night. If you are on a tighter budget but still want to experience New Mexican hot springs, look for a reduced sunset rate after 6 pm from Monday to Thursday. 

The Tea House. With hundreds of different types of teas from around the world, The Tea House off of Canyon Road also creates their own types of flavored tea. With a ample seating inside and a beautiful patio during nicer weather, this is a great spot to surf through the novel of a menu and split a pot of exotic tea with a close friend. 

Aviva's 5 Favorites

1. Favorite view: Watching the sunset over the Jemez Mountains in the expansive New Mexican sky. 

2. Favorite place to write: Sitting at my table, looking out the window.

3. Favorite museum: Museum of International Folk Art

4. Favorite coffee shop: Betterday Coffee. Delicious lattes with an ever-changing cast of characters for great people watching. 

5. Favorite thing about Santa Fe: Being ringed in by mountains. The close-knit community. Being able to bike to all my favorite coffee shops. Great hiking spots within an hour of town. The fact that everything is smothered in red and green chile!