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19 BEST Cities in Mexico

Looking to enjoy the ultimate Mexican cities? They’re a real treat and you’ll love their perfect mix of nature and culture! Check out this list of the best cities in Mexico and take your pick.

Mexico may be better known for its Mayan ruins and breathtaking beaches, but nowhere is the rich Mexican culture more alive than in its cities.

Mixing the old and the new, Mexican cities are packed with colonial buildings, cobblestone alleys, and spacious plazas. These contrast beautifully with modern skyscrapers, fancy resorts, and trendy shops. They are some of the best places to visit in Mexico!

Image of a woman looking at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City, one of the best cities in Mexico.

From big resort towns by the sea to low-key towns perched on the mountains, Mexico cities are full of examples of the country’s rich culture. Its tradition, art, architecture, and cuisine gives them a very distinct identity.

In this list of the best cities in Mexico, whatever your preferences, you’re bound to find just what you’re looking for. After all, there are so many magnificent locations! Ready to dive in?

MAP OF THE BEST CITIES IN MEXICO

You’ll see there are incredible cities all over Mexico!

MEXICO CITY

The multifaceted capital city of Mexico is the largest metropolitan area in the Western Hemisphere. It’s also the economic and cultural core of the country.

Built directly over the ancient city of Tenochtitlán, Mexico City has flourished into a dynamic urban center. It masters the art of combining pre-Hispanic, colonial, and contemporary elements into one beautiful symphony.

Home to more than 1,000 museums, archeological sites, and natural spaces, it’s a must if you want to understand contemporary Mexico.

Make sure to include in your Mexico City itinerary the Centro Historico, the Zocalo, and Xochimilco. This traditional neighborhood has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site all on its own.

I also love the hipster, more modern neighborhoods of Roma and Condesa. And please, take a day trip to nearby Teotihuacan. You won’t regret it!

CANCUN

A big celebrity among Mexican tourist cities, Cancun is like two cities in one. On the one hand, you have the long strip of beachfront filled with high-rise hotels, amazing restaurants, and bars of the Zona Hotelera.

On the other, there’s El Centro, providing a more authentic Mexican flavor. Here you’ll find many colonial and historic attractions as well as delicious tacos and eateries.

With unique natural wonders, water activities, international cuisine, and exclusive shopping centers, this major city in the Riviera Maya is hard to ignore! And if we add to the equation its unparalleled nightlife, then you get an attractive mix of things to do in Cancun.

If you want to explore the surroundings, you can visit cenotes, sail across the bay to Isla Mujeres, or visit the nearby Mayan archeological sites. Never a boring day in Cancun!

SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS

San Cristobal de Las Casas is a cultural gem set in the highlands of the Chiapas state. It boasts narrow cobblestone streets, colonial architecture, and colorful houses. Basically, an enchanting city center.

San Cristobal has become one of the most popular cities in Mexico for digital nomads. You’ll find a lively and active atmosphere, with streets full of life but still retaining a slower rhythm that makes it feel alive but never hectic.

Enjoy wandering the colorful alleys, visiting local handicraft markets, and savoring traditional food. You can also attend one of its many popular festivities and ceremonies.

There are tons of natural attractions in Chiapas too such as Canyon del Sumidero, and it’s also a good base to explore the famous Palenque Ruins. Totally worth the trip!

SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE

Landscape of San Miguel de Allende, one of the most beautiful cities in Mexico.

Welcome to what many consider to be the most beautiful city in Mexico!

Arriving in San Miguel de Allende feels like stepping into a time machine. The historic center has remained practically unchanged for 250 years.

It still features its cobblestone streets, and the colonial houses have turned into art galleries and world class museums. That’s besides an imposing neo-gothic cathedral carved out of pink sandstone that rises tall above the city.

This town has managed to retain its colonial charm while adding modern amenities —and even luxury. It offers fine dining and lively nightlife that attracts thousands of tourists every year, giving it a very cosmopolitan vibe.

San Miguel de Allende also enjoys beautiful natural surroundings, with vineyards and mountains to die for. It’s worth every minute of your time.

VALLADOLID

Welcome to Valladolid, where the magic of Mayan times can be seen, tasted, and felt on every corner. Time goes more slowly here, so take your time to wander around the many colonial barrios and take in the atmosphere and architecture. There’s plenty to do in Valladolid!

Nestled between the two main destinations in Yucatan (Cancun and Merida), Valladolid is a great base to explore the area away from the beach crowds. The main sights nearby include Chichen Itza, Merida, Las Coloradas, and a ton of cenotes, one of which is in the middle of the historical center. No kidding!

For food lovers, Valladolid is a top representative of Mayan cuisine. It has been refined over centuries, so don’t leave without hitting the markets to try many of the local delicacies.

OAXACA CITY

A woman standing next to a blue beetle car, in front of a colorful building in Oaxaca

Oaxaca City’s rich historical, cultural, artistic, and culinary legacies have turned it into one of the most famous Mexican cities.

The cute historical center with beautiful constructions of green quarry is a treat for the eyes. Then there’s Mercado 20 de Noviembre, a feast of colors, smells, and tastes, perfect to try many mouth-watering traditional foods.

Among the many things to do in Oaxaca, the most unique is probably joining the festivities of Dia de Los Muertos. In November the city transforms with parades, costumes, and traditional ceremonies.

Oaxaca is also the birthplace of mezcal, an agave-based smoky spirit drunk all over Mexico. Oaxaca, however, has the finest distilleries, so it’s a must while in town.

With incredible nature around, Oaxaca offers a fantastic base to explore the state of the same name. Attractions include the Mayan ruins of Monte Alban and Mitla, and the unique formations at Hierve el Agua.

PUEBLA

A very welcome escape from Mexico City, Puebla stands on its own as a cultural capital in the country. The cobblestone streets of Puebla teem with colonial architecture, museums, and colorful markets.

There are plenty of things to do in Puebla to keep you entertained for a couple of days at least.

Would you like to visit the largest pyramid in the world? Well, believe it or not, you don’t need to go all the way to Egypt. The biggest pyramid in the world, by volume, is in Cholula. This small town is only 10 km (6 miles) away from Puebla.

Puebla is also one of the top cities in Mexico for foodies. Don’t leave without trying all the magnificent traditional food around town. Mole Pueblano, chiles en nogada, memelas, and cemitas are a few specialties.

And don’t forget to stop at one of the candy stores on Calle de los Dulces (loosely translated as “candy street”). I’m not going to spoil it, but the name says it all!

GUANAJUATO

An image of the historic center of Guanajuato, seen from above

Guanajuato is a festive and hilly town known for its silver mining history, colonial architecture, and complex network of alleys.

The streets of Guanajuato are so narrow that the government had to create an underground network of roads for cars. This means little traffic overground, making Guanajuato a quiet haven and likely the best city in Mexico to walk around.

Guanajuato sits at over 2,000 meters (6,500 feet) over sea level and the mountainsides are steep, so I recommend you take the cable car to the top of the mountain. From up there you’ll get incredible views.

Then, simply start wandering downhill and get lost among its narrow alleys full of cheerful and colorful buildings. Don’t worry, they all lead to the charming colonial center!

PLAYA DEL CARMEN

Playa del Carmen is lucky to be located in a prime spot on the Caribbean coast. It’s surrounded by incredible white-sand beaches and natural wonders that are hard to find anywhere else in the world. 

No wonder, then, that it has become the heartbeat of the Mayan Riviera. It’s easily on the top 3 beach cities in Mexico, with endless entertainment options all day and all night.

Days are spent sunbathing on its palm-lined beaches, snorkeling around the coral reefs, or enjoying the many things to do in Playa del Carmen.

One of them is taking day trips to unique destinations, such as Chichen Itza, Holbox, and more cenotes near Playa del Carmen than you can count!

And when the sun goes down, this famous city in Mexico comes alive to the rhythm of the many restaurants and clubs. Techno to salsa clubs and hippie mezcalerías, (plus everything in between) is available.

PUERTO VALLARTA

This city seems to have won the location jackpot! Stunning beaches embraced by the lush mountains of the Sierra Madre Occidental, and the town tucked in between. 

Puerto Vallarta has been one of the most visited cities on Mexico’s Pacific coast since the 80’s. Millions of tourists flock every year to its dazzling sandy beaches, where water sports are the main draw.

But it’s in its picturesque historic center that Puerto Vallarta hits the charming note that makes it unforgettable. It has cobblestone streets, quirk shops, and artsy boulevards perfect for an evening stroll.

And at night, the city turns into a big party, with pumping nightlife and top-notch gastronomy that won’t leave anyone indifferent.

There are plenty of activities to keep you entertained in town, but you should also go on a couple of excursions from Puerto Vallarta. If the city is nice, its surroundings in my opinion are even better!

SANTIAGO DE QUERETARO

Image of an aqueduct surrounded by palm trees and with white houses dotted in the background. It's an image of  Queretaro, one of the Unesco World Heritage Sites in Mexico

Santiago de Queretaro is a university town in Central Mexico. It has a lively and youthful vibe in the air, which is pleasantly cool all year round thanks to its perennial spring-like weather.

Queretaro surprises as one of the safest cities in Mexico. It has squeaky clean streets framed by gorgeous plazas and well-preserved colonial architecture. There are also tons of museums, galleries, and churches.

The distinctive landmark here, however, is the Roman-style aqueduct from the 1700s that will make you feel in Europe for a minute!

The aqueduct is almost 2 kilometers long (1.2 miles) and has been bringing water to the city from the mountains for centuries now. Walk to the Mirador de Los Arcos lookout point for a panoramic view.

CABO SAN LUCAS

A woman on a cruise in Los Cabos, overlooking the rock formations on the water, and other boats

Springbreakers and celebrities. Cabo San Lucas brings party and luxury to the Baja California cocktail like no other place.

Filled with beach-front luxury resorts and world-class golf courses, this is among the best cities to visit in Mexico.

If you’re looking to get pampered at top-notch spas, enjoy modern facilities, and hit the beach without leaving your hotel, this is your place.  

Cabo San Lucas sits right at the tip of the Baja California Peninsula, with the rich Sea of Cortez at its door. The very same sea Jacques Custeau nicknamed “the aquarium of the world”.

If you dare to venture out of your hotel, there’s an underwater paradise waiting. One of the best places for snorkeling and desert adventures is Cabo Pulmo National Park.

You also should definitely include San Jose del Cabo in your itinerary. This is the quieter, more sophisticated sister of Cabo San Lucas, with the cutest city center – definitely worth a visit!

GUADALAJARA

An image of a fountain in a square, and a magnificent cathedral in the background, in Guadalajara, Mexico

This is as Mexican as it can get. Guadalajara, as their slogan says, is “where History, Tradition, and Art meet.”

The second-largest city in Mexico is by and large considered a cultural hub. It’s the birthplace of tequila and Mariachi music, two of Mexico’s finest exports.

Walking around Guadalajara is a pleasure. It boasts a jaw-dropping cathedral, a historic center, bustling markets, and tree-lined plazas. And in the background you’ll hear the sounds of the Mariachis – how more authentic can it get?

This is one of the best cities to visit in Mexico if you want to dive deep into the culture, so a piece of advice? Check out the calendar before you go, as there are festivals and celebrations all year round. Maybe you’re in luck!

MERIDA

An image of the center of Merida, taken from a vantage point

Every corner in this wonderfully preserved, impeccable colonial city seems to be photo-ready at all times. It’s one of the most beautiful cities in Mexico and has been named the American Capital of Culture more than once.

Make sure to visit the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya, and the Museum of Anthropology and History to learn more about this area and its rich history. But, mostly, hang out in the plazas, which are the center of public life, and burst with vendors and locals on their weekend markets.

Take this chance also to visit Uxmal, considered the prettiest Mayan ruin and which is way less crowded than Chichen Itza but just as magical. And don’t forget the cenotes! there are some incredible (and less known) cenotes around Merida.

MAZATLAN

An image of the beach and the sea, with a white construction in the background in Mazatlan, Mexico

Eclectic, historic, and with 12.5 miles (20 km) of golden beaches, Mazatlan is often called The Pearl of the Pacific.

It was an important port town during the mining fever in the mid-19th century, which brought an influx of German immigrants. They influenced the local culture and established Pacifico Brewery. Now you’ll see pilsner-style Pacifico beer all over! 

The town has experienced somewhat of a revival in recent years, and it’s a dreamy location to visit. During the day, hit one of the many beaches on the Sea of Cortez, with marine life to keep you hooked for weeks.

And in the evening, go back in time walking around the alluring historic core. You can otherwise watch the sunset from one of the many quaint bars dotted along the 12 miles of glorious promenade.

MONTERREY

A drone image of Monterrey at night, with the city completely illuminated

Just south of the border from Texas lies what many consider to be the most beautiful of Mexican cities.

The third-largest city in the country is a thriving urban center and business hub. It has great quality of life, a privileged climate throughout the year, and the best grilled steaks

Monterrey is a fantastic place to enjoy city life away from the admittedly overwhelming metropolis that is Mexico DF.

Home to the country’s top university, it has a youthful and lively atmosphere, vibrant nightlife, and a charismatic Old Town. There’s also an interesting cultural and gastronomic scene.

Thanks to its location in the Sierra Madre mountain region, you’ll find caves, waterfalls, and some pretty cool hiking spots in the area.

TIJUANA

An image of Tijuana, with mountains in the background and the sea, inserted in a post about the best cities in Mexico

Tijuana is literally a stone throw’s away from the U.S. This ever-evolving, hectic border town has people leaving with mixed feelings, but never indifferent. A large number of cultures meet on the streets, which is where everything happens.

Avenida Revolución, the city’s main avenue, bursts with life in the form of bars, restaurants, shops, and souvenir stores. And more sombreros than you can count!

Tijuana has excellent gastronomy and has been recognized as the “Craft Beer Capital of Mexico”, so make sure to roam the streets on a DYI food and beer tour.

Tragically, the wall that marks the border with the U.S. goes on into the water, but if beach is what you want, check out neighboring town Rosarito. After all, this is the same Pacific as in San Diego, remember?

LA PAZ

A beautiful image of vividly blue  sea and hills in the background in La Paz, one of the best cities in Mexico

La Paz, the perfectly middle-size capital of Baja California Sur, is a favorite among experienced tourists. Especially those who know Mexico well and want to get away from the crowds!

Its waterfront promenade is one of the best in Mexico, the beaches are surreal, and the diving is superb (La Paz is on the Sea of Cortez). There’s also a charming historic center, mountains inland, and great fresh food. What else could you ask for?

Going for a stroll on the promenade is a must, and you’ll find plenty of art shops, fish taco stalls, and low-key restaurants to enjoy the view over the water. 

Famous and magical Balandra Beach is close by, and chances to see whales, whale sharks, and sea lions are plenty. Try to take a boat tour or snorkeling trip for an unforgettable experience.

MORELIA

An image of Morelia's church, and the historic center in the background

Mexico really is a treasure trove of charming colonial towns and Morelia is no exception. The town feels frozen in time, and I mean this in the best way possible.

The pink stone colonial buildings that give the city its unique ambiance and looks are in impeccable shape. Besides, its historical center contains more architectural masterpieces than any other Mexican city.

I was going to say that you shouldn’t forget to check out the cathedral, but it’s pretty hard to miss! Its towers are among the highest in the country and can be seen from virtually anywhere in the city.

Morelia is also home to one of the few Roman-style aqueducts in the country. It gets illuminated at night and makes for a lovely sight perfect for photographs.

BEST CITIES IN MEXICO FAQs

What is the safest city in Mexico?

Merida in Yucatan is considered the safest city in all of Mexico.

What is Mexico’s wealthiest city?

Mexico City is the wealthiest city in Mexico, especially the neighborhoods of Polanco and Lomas de Chapultepec.