What are the best cities to visit in Mexico?
Mexico City is, no doubt, one of the greatest cities in the world. It’s also one of the largest, with a population that hovers around 20 million (this includes the surrounding areas, as well). Its history dates back to the Aztecs, who founded it on a lake in 1325, and then the Spanish conquered it in the early 16th century. Today, a vibrant, art-forward culture has plastered the city with modern architecture, murals, sleek cocktail bars, and some of the most delicious food you’ll ever taste. Just take a walk through the streets and it’s entirely possible to see an Aztec ruin next to a baroque townhouse next to a sleek five-star hotel.
Rising in the ranks as a destination in its own right is Merida, the capital of the state of Yucatan. It’s a colonial gem just a few hours north of Cancun, much smaller than Mexico City but still packed with culture, art, and a sizzling restaurant and bar scene.
San Miguel de Allende is a favorite for Americans. Roughly 10,000 expats live there full-time now, and it has been voted Travel + Leisure’s favorite city in the world for the last two years. The reason? It’s visually stunning, with an iconic cathedral overlooking a valley of cobblestone streets and colonial architecture. The entire city is a UNESCO Heritage Site, but it’s also one of the most modern Mexican cities in terms of fine dining, boutique hotels, and art galleries.
Oaxaca (the city, as well as the state) is a foodie heaven. Most of the dishes that we consider to be classic “Mexican” come from here. There are literally dozens of flavors of mole (and who can forget that sweet, sweet mezcal). Other cities in Mexico have their own specialties, like ceviche in Puerto Vallarta, slow-roasted pork in Quintana Roo, or rich chocolate in Chiapas.
Guadalajara is Mexico’s second-most populated city, and the home of two Mexican classics: tequila and mariachi. Tequila comes from the eponymous city, which is just outside Guadalajara. And no, we’re not talking about Cuervo (although the Cuervo headquarters are located there and if you get actual, quality Cuervo you would not have college PTSD) -- we’re talking about some of the highest quality of tequila in the world, which you can sip like a fine whiskey. Guadalajara is also a prime destination for handicrafts, with the local suburb Tlaquepaque having one of the largest open-air markets in the country.