You want to travel to Mexico, but you don’t know yet which cities you will visit? Travel Owl tells you about the most important, interesting and beautiful Mexican cities when you travel to Mexico.
What you can see in Mexican cities is more than just paradise beaches and magical villages. Mexico is strongly marked by the Aztec and Mayan heritage, which attracts thousands of tourists.
Here is now our list of the 20 best cities to visit in Mexico.
Guadalajara – the Pearl of the West – is the capital of the state of Jalisco and the second largest city in Mexico. In Guadalajara there is not only one central plaza, but four squares around the cathedral. Pedestrian zones and lots of greenery give the big city a pleasant flair. One of the landmarks of Guadalajara is the Cabañas Hospice, the largest colonial building in Mexico. 23 patios (courtyards) are surmounted by a dome. The murals by José Clemente Orozco are well worth seeing here. Other murales by him can be admired in the Palacio del Gobierno.
Two important cultural landmarks of Mexico are attributed to Guadalajara: Charrería equestrianism (rodeo) and mariachi music originated here. Guadalajara’s International Book Fair annually causes a great stir in the Spanish-speaking world.
The suburb of Tlaquepaque is worth a visit for its traditional handicrafts and old colonial houses. Tonalá is the “cradle of pottery” from Jalisco.
In the surroundings of Guadalajara there is also the Lago de Chapala, the largest lake in Mexico. The hotels and fish restaurants attract mainly national tourists.
19. Puerto Vallarta
The city of Puerto Vallarta is, along with Cancún, Acapulco and Los Cabos, one of the most famous places on the Mexican beach and also a popular retirement residence, especially among US Americans and Canadians. Unlike Cancún, however, it is not an artificially created seaside resort, but a place with history. It was not until the 1970s that the number of hotels increased noticeably. Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific Ocean is still characterized by a pretty colonial-style old town. The Malecón (beach promenade) is a hive of activity both day and night. Many of the large seaside hotels are located in the hotel zone outside the “Centro Colonial”.
The magnificent beaches primarily attract sun-seeking travelers. However, the marine life off the coast of the city should not be underestimated. In winter, humpback whales can be observed and dolphins cavort in the waters of Bahía de Banderas all year round.
18. Mexico City
The capital of Mexico, Mexico City is located in the center of the country at an altitude of about 2,200 meters in a basin surrounded by gigantic mountain ranges. The metropolis itself has almost nine million inhabitants, the entire metropolitan region about 28 million. This makes it one of the largest agglomerations in the world.
Mexico City is still considered the “Sun of Mexico” and is therefore a must on any trip to Mexico! Like all Latin American capitals, Mexico City is the economic, political, social and cultural center of the country. It is here that the different cultures of the region, past and present, come together. It is also the main transportation hub as well as the educational center of the country with numerous universities and colleges. It is a mega-city almost bursting at the seams, and yet each “colonia” has its peculiarities, like a small village.
17. San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel de Allende is a small but extremely interesting city in the Mexican state of Guanajuato. The city, which today has 120,000 inhabitants, was originally founded in 1542 by a Franciscan friar under the name San Miguel El Grande. It was then renamed San Miguel de Allende in 1826 in honor of General Ignacio Allende. General Allende was one of the most important figures in the Mexican War of Independence against the Spanish colonial rulers and came from that very village. In 2008, San Miguel was included by Unesco in the list of World Heritage Sites. The reason for this was the outstanding Mexican baroque buildings and the mixture of Spanish and Latin American art.
Particularly worth seeing is the cathedral Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, which was built in the 17th century in Gothic style and underwent a reconstruction in 1880 based on the Ulm Cathedral. The peculiarity of this church is that it was built entirely of pink stone. Also interesting is the church of San Felipe Neri, also built with pink stone, but in rococo style. Other attractions in the city include the Plaza de Allende, the church of San Francisco, constructed in the Spanish Churriguera style, and the house of General Ignacio Allende, along with its museum.
16. Playa del Carmen
70 km south of Cancún lies the idyllic Playa del Carmen. The Mexican Caribbean coast enchants with its relaxed way of life. A few years ago, the former fishing village was still quite dreamy, but today countless bars line the impressive promenade along the beach. Even today, charm and tranquility characterize the Mexican coastal town with its famous historic lighthouse. Playa del Carmen belongs to the state of Quintana Roo and, thanks to its favorable location on the Yucatán Peninsula, offers many opportunities to take exciting tours of the surrounding area, even on vacation with children.
15. Cabo San Lucas
The extreme southern coastal strip of the peninsula is considered the most popular vacation center of the entire Baja California peninsula. Here are the towns of San José del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas, which especially attract thousands of party people every year. Here you can party non-stop, there are numerous activities such as banana boating, horseback riding, sailing or scuba diving. The area is also ideal for surfing, thanks to its reefs and surf. Dreamlike beaches are not missing here either, of course.
Along the east coast there are also “Los Barriles”, with strong winds a hotspot for windsurfers, “Cabo Pulmo”, a rather quiet place with beautiful coral reefs in the marine park, as well as “La Ventana”, an almost untouched place for marine animal observation.
Cancún – which means “snake’s cave” in the local dialect – is a city in Mexico on the Yucatán Peninsula. A vacation in Cancún is very popular with tourists, especially because of one attraction: the 23-kilometer-long sandy beach is a dream destination for lovers of the Caribbean and sun-seekers from all over the world. Cancún currently has over 700,000 inhabitants. In the 1950s, Yucatán was still a sparsely populated island with a few fishing villages. Cancún was founded only in 1970 and has grown into a tourist metropolis in a very short time. The majority of the hotel buildings are concentrated on a strip of land off the island, which was artificially connected to the mainland at the time. The actual city center is located on the land side. The surroundings of the city are characterized by lush nature and virgin forests.
Zihuatanejo is a city located directly on the Pacific Ocean. The name Zihuatanejo means “place of women”. Before the Spanish colonization, according to a legend, a border of rocks was built here on the beach so that women and children could bathe, protected from view. The border is still there.
The modern tourist resort of Ixtapa is located 5 km from the town. It was once a coconut and mangrove plantation until the government began to build a tourist center in the late 1970s. The superblocks typical of that time are located here.
On the coast of Zihuatenajo there are opportunities for surfing. Ixtapa offers two excellent golf courses (Palma Real Golf and La Marina) and a tennis club (Palma Real).
The waters along the coast of Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa are among the best Pacific areas for diving and snorkeling. You can see seahorses, humpback whales and much more. There are courses for beginners and also diving activities for advanced divers.
There are also opportunities to take classes with experienced North American yoga experts. Many hotels offer massage treatments.
Numerous boats can be rented for fishing, parties and excursions.
Mérida, the so-called “white city” combines impressive buildings of the Mayan culture as well as the colonial period. Today’s capital of the state of Yucatán offers a dazzling mix of art galleries, museums, boutiques and restaurants. The white facades of the buildings are characteristic and give the city its name. Colorful market hustle and bustle and visits to the time-honored colonial buildings offer a varied program of contrasts. During the annual “Carnaval” Mérida presents itself from its most splendid side. The city is an optimal starting point for tours across the Yucatán Peninsula.
Tijuana is the modern border city between the USA and Mexico, it is located directly at the international border at the Pacific Ocean and is not only appreciated by Californians for weekend trips.
The night and party life and the famous Avenida Revolucion belong to Tijuana like the colorful atmosphere and its streets.
One of the fastest growing cities in Mexico, it belongs to the state of Baja California in the northwest, where it was founded in 1889. The climate is mild and travel to Tijuana is possible all year round, as the region does not reach the high temperatures of southern Mexico, even in summer.
Acapulco is the classic tourist destination in Mexico. Here you can find beautiful beaches, sea, practice any kind of water sports, stay in hotels of different classes and comfort, enjoy delicacies in numerous restaurants, party or just relax.
As the largest and most famous tourist center of Mexico, Acapulco offers a wonderful contrast between tradition and modern tourism. The town is located in a picturesque landscape, surrounded by mountains, cliffs, the sea as well as palm-fringed beaches. The city itself can be divided into the “traditional Acapulco” and the “new Acapulco”.
The capital Oaxaca (de Juárez) of the state of the same name is located at an altitude of about 1,550m in a fertile high valley, surrounded by various mountain ranges of the Sierra Madre del Sur.
Tourists are always impressed by the wonderfully preserved city center of Oaxaca, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987.
On the traffic-calmed Zócalo, the main square, benches invite visitors to rest and observe city life. There is a bandstand here and all around there are numerous cafes and restaurants. In addition, the government palace, the cathedral and the baroque church La Compañía border the square.
Many other magnificent colonial churches, e.g. the church of Santo Domingo with its monastery, which today houses the Museo Regional de Oaxaca (including gold and gemstone jewelry from Monte Albán), as well as the colorful flat-roofed houses characterize the cityscape.
A visit to the Mercado Juárez arts and crafts market is worthwhile.
As Pueblos Mágicos, Taxco is one of the cities that is intensively supported for tourism due to its architectural, historical, cultural or natural characteristics.
Taxco has been exploited for centuries. Even though the silver mines are now heavily depleted, silver continues to be processed on a large scale, including as jewelry, vessels or cutlery. However, this does not come directly from Taxco, but mainly from the mines around Guanajuato.
But it is not only the silver that attracts people, but also the atmosphere. The city is considered one of the most charming in the country and is a protected monument. Especially worth seeing is the old town with the Plaza Borda, the Iglesia de San Sebastian y Santa Prisca, the monastery, the museums and of course the silversmithing museum.
After a ride on the cable car to the Cerro Lomas, you have a wonderful view of the city and its surroundings. In November, the “Feria de la Plata” takes place, a colorful folk festival dedicated to silver and related things like beauty and wealth.
Not far from Taxco is the “Grutas de Cacahuamilpa” National Park, which has a breathtaking maze of stalactite caves to explore.
The silver mining town of Zacatecas, capital of the state of the same name, is located at the junction between the central highlands and the barren northern Mexico at an altitude of 2500 m, marked by the barren foothills of the Sierra Madre Occidente. This region is known for its mining industry. With the mining of gold and silver, the former wealth can still be seen in the churches and palaces of Zacatecas. Squeezed between bare mountains, the colonial city has retained its charm over centuries. Bumpy alleys and romantic squares are lined with monasteries, stately churches and magnificent old buildings. Zacatecas is one of the most beautiful cities in the country and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993.
A special experience is the visit of the old silver mine Eden. First of all you will go through a 600 m long tunnel, where you will discover extraordinary rock formations. Crossing several suspension bridges, you will reach a 36 m high elevator that leads up to the El Grillo gallery. Afterwards, there is a cable car that will take you up to the local mountain, Cerro de la Bufa. From here you have a breathtaking view of the city of Zacatecas.
The city is an interesting destination for Mexicans, Europeans come comparatively rarely. Yet tourists get so much on your round trip through Mexico here in Zacatecas. The city is still considered an absolute insider tip.
6. Puebla City
To the southeast of Mexico City lies the fourth largest city in the country, Puebla.
The “City of Angels” is mainly attracted by its unique architectural style, the so-called “Poblano style”. Numerous churches and many houses shine in the impressive style, made so special by azulejos and talaveras (colorfully painted tiles), decorations and paintings.
Some inhabitants of the rural areas of Puebla still speak Náhuatl, the language of the indigenous people of the region.
In the history of Mexico, Puebla played an important role: on May 5, 1862, the French were defeated here, which is why a big festival is now celebrated in Puebla every year on that day. In 1910, Puebla was also the site of the first revolutionary battles, among others.
Impressive works of art are the “Iglesia Santo Domingo” with the Rosary Chapel, the Cathedral or the Palacio Municipal.
Also of great interest are the former bishop’s palace Casa de la Cultura with the Biblioteca Palafoxiana inside. The Teatro Principal is considered the oldest theater in North America. You can relax on the Zócalo, (Plaza de Armas), in the zoo or in one of the many other parks in Puebla.
The area around Puebla bears a rich handicraft heritage. Handicrafts made of onyx are especially popular.
Puebla is considered the culinary center par excellence in Mexico. The city is the namesake of the famous “mole poblano,” which was invented here. This thick chocolate sauce with chili is eaten with chicken and is the national dish of Mexico.
Guanajuato is a city located in central Mexico, and is located in the state of the same name. This city is one of the legendary silver cities, where in the past an enormous amount of silver was mined and traded, and even today silver plays an important role in the economy of Guanajuato.
What’s also particularly appealing is that there is a lot of early modern architecture here, so if you’re a fan of architecture, there’s definitely a lot to see here. The city is located in a narrow mountain valley, so the streets are very narrow and winding, which has a special charm. The area around this city is also very attractive for nature lovers and hikers.
The city was founded in the middle of the 16th century by Spanish colonizers. The name of the city comes from the homonymous Valladolid in Spain, then capital of the Kingdom of Castile.
Until the beginning of the 20th century, Valladolid was one of the most important cities of the Yucatán Peninsula, which is why a wealthy class of Creoles was formed there. To this day, many preserved beautiful houses in the Spanish colonial style still bear witness to this era.
Not least because of its enchanting architecture, Valladolid is considered one of the most beautiful colonial cities in Mexico. Above all, the church of San Bernardino de Siena with the adjacent Convento de Sisal is a magnet for visitors. The church is the oldest place of worship on the entire Yucatán Peninsula and also served temporarily as a fortress in the past. It is located on a small hill above the city center.
Other very special sights are the cenotes. These are several small wells inside and outside the city limits, which were part of the city’s former canal system used to irrigate the surrounding gardens and fields.
The most beautiful of them, Cenote Samulá, is located about seven kilometers from the center of the city and stands out for its organic fairytale-like construction. There is also the cenote Zaci and the impressive underground cenote Dzitnup.
Tulum in Mexico – so delightful that many want to spend their dream vacation here. Blessed with an international, hip flair and plenty of sunshine, Tulum is an absolute must-see on a Mexico trip.
The pretty town of Tulum is divided into two sections. The street along the ocean is lined with lovely boutique hotels and beach clubs. The actual village is about 5 kilometers from the beach and offers an exciting mix of international cuisine, cheap hotels and hostels, and all sorts of shopping. And then there are the eponymous Mayan ruins of Tulum, which are definitely worth a visit.
Tulum is for many the epitome of a Mexican dream vacation with Caribbean beaches, culture and numerous cenotes (fresh water holes). Located in the very south of the Riviera Maya, Tulum has become an integral part of any Yucatan tour.
Mazatlán is a Nahuatl word meaning “place of the deer”. Founded in 531, it remained an insignificant settlement with not even 5,000 inhabitants until the 19th century. Around 1850, a larger group of German immigrants arrived in the city, and these new citizens developed Mazatlán into a thriving port and trading town, importing equipment for the nearby silver and gold mines. Although Mazatlán was repeatedly fought over during the civil war of the 1860s and the revolution of 1910-17, this positive development continued.
Today, Mazatlán is Mexico’s largest Pacific port and an extremely popular vacation destination with wonderful beaches and numerous attractions. Along the large bay north of the historic center, in the “Zona Dorada”, numerous hotel and sports facilities have been built to fulfill the vacationer’s every dream. It is not for nothing that Mazatlán is called the “Pearl of the Pacific”. The German immigrants have left their mark not only economically, but also culturally: the local Banda music style, for example, shows clear influences of Bavarian folk music, and Mazatlán has also had one of the largest beer breweries in Mexico, “Pacifico”, since 1900.
Mazatlán’s landmark is the El Faro lighthouse. This lighthouse is located on a rock off the southern tip of the city at 152 meters above sea level, making it the second highest in the world after Gibraltar.
The city of Campeche, which is also the capital of the state of the same name, is located directly on the coast in a tropical climate. The eventful history of the coastal city can still be seen today in the old fortifications and in the enchanting colonial buildings, which give the city a very special charm. Founded by the Spanish explorers in the 16th century, the city offers not only flair and a beautiful location, but also historically significant sights. Immerse yourself in the history of the city and thus in the history of the colonial era and discover the most beautiful corners of the old colonial city of Campeche.
Among the most beautiful and also most interesting sights of Campeche are the already mentioned fortifications. In addition, the cathedral is the beautiful heart of the city and should not be missed. A walk through the city additionally reveals many charming buildings that should be quietly looked at more closely. By the way, since 1999 the historic old town of Campeche is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the fortifications are especially worth protecting. A stroll along the wide and beautifully designed waterfront is therefore particularly beautiful in Campeche and should not be missed.