Mexico conjures up images of glorious white-sand beaches, crumbling jungle ruins, vast deserts and pretty colonial churches. This vibrant culture is best experienced in Mexico’s cities, where it all comes together. Mexico’s cities, like all cities, are full of contrasts, but in Mexico, this translates as a constant flow between indigenous culture, Spanish influence and, of course, the effects of modernity.
In this article, we’ll be looking at cities in Mexico and why they are the best. We’ve ordered the list alphabetically by the cities’ states, which means they are located in proximity to other cities in the list to be included in longer itineraries. If you don’t see a state listed behind a city, that is because the state goes by the same name.
- Cities In Mexico
- 20 Mexican Cities For Your Bucket List
- 1- La Paz, Baja California Sur
- 2- Los Cabos, Baja California Sur
- 3- Campeche
- 4- San Cristobal De Las Casas, Chiapas
- 5- Guanajuato
- 6- San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato
- 7- Acapulco De Juarez, Guerrero
- 8- Taxco, Guerrero
- 9- Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco
- 10- Mexico City
- 11- Morelia
- 12- Oaxaca
- 13- Puebla
- 14- Cancun, Quintana Roo
- 15- Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo
- 16- Tulum, Quintana Roo
- 17- Chichen Itza, Yucatan
- 18- Izamal, Yucatan
- 19- Merida, Yucatan
- 20- Zacatecas
Cities In Mexico
20 Mexican Cities For Your Bucket List
1- La Paz, Baja California Sur
Less busy than the other famous cities in Baja California Sur, La Paz is a pretty capital with some gorgeous beaches and some of the most bio-diverse waters on Earth.
La Paz is also famed for its seafront promenade known as the Malecon, with many bars and restaurants found here.
You won’t be lost for things to do in La Paz, so add it to your list.
2- Los Cabos, Baja California Sur
The Los Cabos area incorporates two cities, the city of Cabo San Lucas and the city of San Jose del Cabo, which are connected by the Tourist Corridor, a 20-mile (33 km), 4-lane highway, passing desert and beach.
This area once attracted Hollywood stars.
These 2-in-1 cities are on our list for their perfect year-long climate and ample things to do. See our article for the best things to do in Los Cabos.
Los Cabos is a top tourist destination in Mexico, thanks to the endless activities, such as a luxury sunset sailing adventure, water sports and golf.
There is some unique wildlife to be seen here too and a whale-watching catamaran experience is worth doing.
Another fun experience is a food tour and market visit in San Jose del Cabo.
Don’t miss: El Arco in Cabo San Lucas, an impressive natural sea arch from where you can sometimes spot sea lions.
The port city of Campeche, the state’s capital that goes by its name, makes this list because this city is a photographer’s dream.
Campeche looks like it’s right out of a Disney fairytale with its picture-postcard pastel-coloured buildings and churches.
Campeche is also well-connected to many interesting ancient Mayan ruins sites if history and jungle exploration are up your street.
Mayan archaeological sites include Calakmul, Edzna and Isla Jaina, which you can visit on a tour from Campeche.
4- San Cristobal De Las Casas, Chiapas
The colonial San Cristobal de las Casas is in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, high up in the hills.
This city has the title of ‘Pueblo Magico’, awarded to cities in Mexico for their history and culture.
San Cristobal de las Casas is home to several indigenous minorities, some descended from the Tzotzil Mayans, who are experts in ritual healing. Many visit this city for spiritual experiences.
Adventure seekers are drawn here too, with many excellent hiking options like jungle treks or hiking in Sumidero Canyon National Park, waterfalls and eco-reserves.
Guanajuato is one of Mexico’s most colourful capitals and is on our list for its unique subterranean streets that make the city a multi-levelled experience.
These subterranean streets once carried a river but are used by pedestrians and cars today to get around efficiently.
This means that above ground, Guanajuato, is surprisingly quiet and a great place to explore on foot (book this guided walking tour if it’s your first visit to the city).
Guanajuato began as a mining town after silver and gold were located in the city’s surrounding mountains.
Guanajuato is home to one of the richest silver mines in the world, La Valencia.
Nowadays, Guanajuato is more of an art and university town with a youthful atmosphere.
For more adventures in Mexico, read:
- 20 Things To Do In Tijuana
- 20 Things To Do In Merida
- 20 Things To Do In Ensenada
- 20 Tulum Day Trips
- Where To Stay In Tulum
- 20 National Parks In Mexico
- 20 Day Trips From Mexico City
- 20 Day Trips From Cancun
- 20 Things To Do In Cancun With Kids
- 20 Things To Do In Mexico City At Night
- 20 Things To Do In La Paz
- 20 Things To Do In Monterrey Mexico
- 20 Things To Do In Acapulco
- 20 Things To Do In Chihuahua
- 20 Things To Do In Puerto Vallarta
- 20 Things To Do In Oaxaca
- 32 States In Mexico
- 20 Cities In Mexico
- 20 Islands In Mexico
- 20 Famous Landmarks in Mexico
- 20 Best Beaches in Mexico
- 20 Ways To Spend Christmas in Mexico
- 10 Things To Do In Baja California
- The Wonder of Chichen Itza
- When Is The Best Time To Visit Mexico?
- A Guide To Las Grutas De Tolantongo
- A Guide To Valle De Bravo
- 20 Best Cenotes In Mexico
- 20 Interesting Mexican Traditions
- 20 Mayan Ruins In Mexico
- 20 Things To Do In Veracruz
- 25 Things To Do In Guadalajara
- 20 Mexican Cocktails and Drinks
- 20 Things To Do In Mazatlan
- 20 Things To Do In Cancun
- 20 Things To Do In Los Cabos
6- San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato
San Miguel de Allende in Guanajuato is recognised year-on-year by the media as one of the world’s best cities to live in.
This city is all about art and culture, and there is always something happening here.
The beacon of San Miguel is its pale pink Gothic cathedral, the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel and its plaza, the tourist and culture hub of the city.
Visitors to San Miguel will find charming cobbled streets, boutique hotels, art galleries, sprawling vineyards and top restaurants run by some of Mexico’s most famous chefs, making it a great place for foodies.
San Miguel is also very popular with ex-pats thanks to its good weather all year. You can visit as a day trip from Mexico City.
7- Acapulco De Juarez, Guerrero
Acapulco de Juarez makes our list because this port city is futuristic. Think hyper-modern, gigantic skyscrapers next to vast beaches.
In the 1950s, this city was a favourite destination among the stars of Hollywood, and it was once called the ‘Pearl of the Pacific’.
Nowadays, Acapulco de Juarez is one of Mexico’s top three tourism cities, along with Mexico City and Cancun.
The beaches are what draw most to Acapulco, and they are lovely.
Popular beaches include Hornos, Icacos, and Papagayo, all stretching around the crescent bay where Acapulco is situated.
Another unique thing to experience here is the diving that happens from the jagged sheer face of La Quebrada Cliff, a tradition that has been passed down for generations and demonstrated each day here. Find out more here.
8- Taxco, Guerrero
Taxco is known as ‘The Silver Capital’ for its quantity of silver deposits and its intricate silver craftsmanship.
Its titles don’t stop there.
Taxco was awarded the City of Light for its architecture and is also one of Mexico’s ‘pueblo magicos’, a title bestowed to Mexican towns of culture or historical relevance.
Don’t miss the symbolic and distinctive double-spired Baroque church of Santa Prisca Cathedral, from whose bell towers you can enjoy breathtaking views of the verdant Taxco. Here’s a tour you may like.
9- Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco
Located on Mexico’s Pacific coast among the verdant Sierra-Madre mountains, Puerto Vallarta, ‘Vallarta’ or even ‘PV’ still holds onto that small-town feel.
Beaches are the draw here, and Puerto Vallarta is also well known for its water sports like scuba diving, sailing, kite surfing and deep-sea fishing.
Rich in wildlife, you can see manta rays, dolphins and even humpback whales in the waters around PV. Nature cruises are extremely popular, so book online to secure your spot.
Besides beaches and water sports, PV is also known for its vibrant nightlife (this Rhythms of the Night Cruise & Dinner Show is worth doing) and is a prominent LGBTQ destination.
Puerto Vallarta makes our list because it is a city and beach combined, and what’s not to love about that?
10- Mexico City
Mexico City, the country’s colossal capital, dates back to the very birth of Mexico when it was formerly the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan.
What makes Mexico City worth your time is its history and the fact that you won’t be lost for things to do with over 1200 art galleries and museums to explore.
It’s worth hiring a guide or joining a downtown walking tour to get our bearings and the basics.
When you’re all ‘museumed-out’, enjoy world-class shopping and gastronomy.
Don’t miss Templo Mayor (skip the lines and prebook your entry ticket), an original part of the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan, Chapultepec Park, one of the world’s largest parks, complete with its own castle and, of course, the Centro Historico – the heart of Mexico City.
This city makes it on this list because it is the most European city in Mexico.
Unlike the usual colourful colonial buildings often found in Mexican cities, here you will find natural stone.
An impressive stone structure in the city is the Baroque Cathedral of Morelia.
Morelia is full of colonial architecture to admire, with over 200-listed buildings.
When you need to sit back and relax, Plaza de Armas is a massive square and a great place to people-watch because it is surrounded by shopping, dining and touring options.
Pronounced “wa-ha-kah”, Oaxaca, the capital city of a state of the same name, was once a major city for an ancient tribe known as the Zapotecs.
Today, it is one of Mexico’s most important cultural cities and a great place to visit for those wanting to sample a real taste of Mexico.
Oaxaca has beautiful colonial buildings painted every colour of the rainbow and bursting from the surrounding mountain-valley scape!
Oaxaca is a top destination for foodies, known for its seven kinds of mole (sauces made from chiles, chocolates, seeds and nuts), mezcal (an alcoholic drink from a cactus plant) and hot chocolate. Join a cooking class and visit the markets with a local chef.
Oaxaca also sees some of the best Day of the Dead celebrations.
Not to miss while in Oaxaca are the ruins at Monte Alban, which are some of the best-preserved ruins in Mexico!
One of Mexico’s largest cities, Puebla, is situated among mountains in the striking shadow of an imposing volcano!
It’s a town brimming with history and a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Puebla is most known for the Battle of Puebla, where Mexico was victorious against the French, an event celebrated wildly every Cinco de Mayo (5th of May).
It’s a city big on gastronomy, too, famed for its mole poblano, so be sure to give that a try.
Puebla is known for its iconic cathedral and abundance of churches; there’s a running joke that there is a church for every day of the year.
In the historic centre alone, there are over 70 churches and more than 1000 colonial buildings. A guided foodies tour with a cathedral visit is a classic thing to do and the hop on hop off bus will get you to many places.
14- Cancun, Quintana Roo
Cancun is a fun and lively resort city to visit in Mexico and, with its highly-connected international airport, Cancun International Airport (CUN), it is most people’s first experience of Mexico.
Cancun was built in the 1970s for tourism and has two distinct zones, the Hotel Zone, with its upmarket hotels and all-inclusive resorts and the more residential Downtown Cancun.
Cancun may not have much in historic charm but is on our list because it’s a city that many can enjoy, with endless things to do and a great base from which to explore the rich Mayan world of the Yucatan peninsula.
Whether lounging on white-sand beaches enjoying luxury resorts, swimming, snorkelling and scuba diving, partying all night or climbing pyramid ruins, Cancun has it all. You may like this tour from Cancun to Isla Mujeres.
15- Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo
In recent years, this once tiny fishing village, Playa del Carmen or simply ‘Playa’ has become a booming resort town.
Located at the heart of the Mayan Riviera, Playa del Carmen has fabulous beaches, excellent snorkelling and scuba diving opportunities, and is an all-around base for the adventure of the Mayan Riviera offers.
The heart of this small city is 5th Avenue or Quinta Avenida, a 5km palm-lined pedestrian avenue with a wide array of restaurants, bars, nightclubs (don’t miss the Coco Bongo club) and hotels.
16- Tulum, Quintana Roo
Situated on the turquoise shores of the Caribbean, Tulum is the perfect blend of adventure and relaxation.
This small city is home to some of the most picturesque ruins in Mexico, the ancient Mayan ruins of Tulum, from which the city takes its name.
The Tulum Ruins are perched on a cliff beside the aqua shores of the Caribbean and even has a hidden beach to swim in during your visit.
Modern-day Tulum is known for its vibrant nightlife and laid-back vibe.
Tulum is also very conveniently situated, providing many exciting day trip opportunities to visit jungle ruins, beautiful beaches or one of the many cenotes for swimming, snorkelling and scuba diving.
17- Chichen Itza, Yucatan
It’s one of the most popular attractions in Mexico and a New Seven Wonder of the World.
Chichen Itza was an ancient Mayan city said to have been built in accordance with Earth’s rotation and the sun’s position.
The Astronomical Observatory at Chichen Itza once housed a telescope to track the planet Venus which the Maya believed was a god of war.
They kept track of this planet’s position in the sky to plan their battles accordingly.
The largest pyramid at the site, El Castillo has 365 steps altogether, one for each day of the year.
Although sadly, Chichen Itza is not as freely explorable as it once was, we still think it’s worth at least one visit in your lifetime!
It’s really easy to incorporate a visit to Chichen Itza into your itinerary as it’s well-located with other well-known destinations in the Yucatan peninsula like Cancun, Tulum, Merida and Playa del Carmen, all of which feature on this list.
18- Izamal, Yucatan
The city of Izamal makes it here because ‘it’s all yellow’. No, really! And no, not the song – every single building in the city of Izamal is, in fact, yellow.
This is one of the world’s only monochromatic cities and one of Mexico’s UNESCO World Heritage cities.
You can’t be down in this bright city, and this is why it just couldn’t not feature here as one of Mexico’s best cities to visit.
The ancient Mayan ruins in the city centre make this city even cooler.
Izamal city can easily be visited as a day trip from Merida, next on our list. So come along to Izamal city, explore on a walking tour and be happy.
19- Merida, Yucatan
Merida, founded in 1542 by the Spanish, is among Mexico’s oldest cities.
It is nicknamed the ‘White City’ because of its many white limestone buildings.
Because of its rich historical past, Merida is the cultural capital of the state of Yucatan and has many art galleries, museums and colonial buildings to admire.
You can feel European influence everywhere around this city. The hop on hop off bus will get you where you need to go.
Merida is on our list of best cities to visit because it is one of the less touristy cities in the Yucatan region.
This region offers a lot to explore with its jungles, beaches and ancient temples!
Merida also offers countless great day trips to nearby quaint beach towns like Progreso and Celestun and fascinating archaeological sites like Uxmal.
Situated between two hills, Zacatecas was once a very important mining city.
It is always important to remember what silver-mining towns meant for the indigenous culture.
The beauty of Zacatecas holds this curse.
Other than just silver, Zacatecas is also rich in exquisite colonial architecture, history and charm.
An important feature of Zacatecas is its majestic 18th-century cathedral which overlooks Zacateca’s winding streets, charming you and taking you back in time.
There are many breathtaking views to be found in this city.
One of the most popular viewpoints or ‘miradors’ is experienced by taking a cable car up to Cerro de le Bufa to be rewarded with a spectacular city panorama.
Don’t miss Mina El Eden too, as this silver mine is almost as old as the city itself.