Traveling to Mexico is so much more than its beautiful beaches. When most people think of Mexico one of two things usually comes to mind. People either think of its beautiful white sand beaches or they think of drug cartels. However, Mexico is so much more than the popular beach resorts of Cancun and the negative propaganda that has given this beautiful country a bad reputation. Mexico is a country full of rich culture, historical monuments, ancient ruins, great food, and lots of beautiful cities.
Here are the top five cities to visit in Mexico.
Mexico City is not only the largest city in Mexico, it is also one of the most densely populated cities in the world. Mexico City is currently ranked the 12th largest city in the world with approximately 26 million people living in the region. Mexico City is a booming metropolis, known for its culinary cuisine, historic neighborhoods, and vibrant nightlife. The city is made up of 16 different districts. Each district includes several unique neighborhoods.
Things To See
Start your visit off in the heart of Mexico City by taking a stroll through the historical center known as Centro Histórico. In the center, you will find the largest, historical main square of Zócalo. Zócalo is the largest square in Latin America. The Zócalo is also surrounded by other historical monuments. It is surrounded by the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral, the National Palace, federal district buildings, and many more. Throughout the central historical district, you will find over 1500 national heritage buildings. Stroll through the neighborhood and discover this culturally rich, colorful town.
Chapultepec Park is one of the largest urban parks in the world. Much like central park in New York, this park is surrounded by the city. It covers 1,695 acres and includes nine different museums and an amusement park. This park is easy to get to with metro stations nearby in addition to several bus lines.
If you want to experience a taste a luxury head on down to the affluent neighborhood of Polanco. Polanco is known for its upscale shopping district located along the Avenida Presidente Masaryk. This neighborhood is where you will see countless luxury condominiums and mansions. Polanco is where you will also find the highest number of Michelin star restaurants in all of Mexico.
Zona Rosa is one of the more desirable neighborhoods in Mexico City for tourists to stay. This is a residential area known for its vibrancy. Here you will find plenty of shopping choices which will include large brands as well as smaller local shops. Zona Rosa is known for its lively night scene teeming with bars, clubs, and restaurants.
Although all of Mexico is LGBT friendly, this neighborhood is especially known for its LGBT scene and is also where the annual Gay Pride Parade is held.
La Condesa is also a well-known spot for travelers. La Condesa has a cool metropolitan feel with an artistic vibe. This neighborhood is a shoppers paradise. Here you will find a unique shopping experience with lots of vintage shops, bookstores, and local boutiques. La Condesa is a neighborhood full of restaurants, bars, and clubs. This is the area you will definitely want to be in if you plan on staying out into the wee hours of the morning. The neighborhood of La Condesa is also known for its gastronomical food scene. Here you find not only great Mexican food, but culinary cuisine from all over the world.
When arriving from the Mexico City International Airport, the easiest way to get into the city is by metro. The metro will take you directly from the airport to the city center in less than 15 minutes. There is also a bus that runs directly from the airport to the center of town. If you prefer to ride, you can take a cab or an Uber, which is available in Mexico City and is usually cheaper than taking a cab.
Mexico City is extremely easy to maneuver due to its large Metro system. The Mexico City Metro, (Sistema de Transporte Collective), or STC as it’s known, is the second-largest metro system in North America, with the New York City subway being the first.
The city of Guadalajara resides in the state of Jalisco and is Mexico’s second-largest city. For some reason, Guadalajara does not receive as many visitors as Mexico City does. This amazing city is by far the most underrated city in all of Mexico. Guadalajara has a sub-tropical climate and is surrounded by lush green mountains and the largest Lake in Mexico, Lake Chapala.
Due to its rich history and culture, Guadalajara is considered to be the cultural center of Mexico. This city has birthed many of the things associated with Mexican pop culture. It is home of the Mariachi band as well as tequila. Outside of the city, you will find beautiful blue fields of agave tequilana, also known as blue agave, which is the base ingredient used in the production of tequila.
Guadalajara is a global city that has two major universities which are, the University of Guadalajara and Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara. This city is also the host of the Guadalajara International Film Festival as well as the Guadalajara International Book Fair.
Things to See
A visit to the historical center of Guadalajara is the best place to start your exploration of this amazing city. This area is a playground for those who love history, architecture, and art. Here you will find the beautiful Cathedral of Guadalajara, which is edged by four plazas, connected to form the shape of a cross.
In the center, you will also find countless museums and historical buildings including the Teatro Degollado. The Teatro Degollado is a beautifully designed theater where there are ballet performances and performances by the Jalisco Philharmonic Orchestra.
There are four plazas around the cathedral where you can explore some of the other architectural buildings and fountains. Here you will find a lively atmosphere with street vendors, food trucks, artists, and musicians playing on the street.
Visit Mexico’s Largest Market
Although known for its rich history, art, and culture Guadalajara is also considered to be the shopping capital of Mexico. This city is filled with malls, street vendors, and boutiques. However, no visit is complete without visiting one of the famous markets that you will find in Guadalajara. If you only have time to visit one, Mercado Libertad is the one to visit.
This Market is the largest indoor market in the entire country. The market has three floors and over 2800 vendors. You can easily spend half the day here. On the first floor, you will find local fruits, vegetables, and spices. You will also find some of Jalisco’s local snacks and desserts. On the second floor is where can sit and enjoy a meal at one of the many restaurants. The third floor is where you can shop for souvenirs, textiles, and handcrafted items.
Day Trip To Tequila
If you have time you can take a day trip to the town of Tequila, home of Mexico’s world-famous alcoholic beverage, tequila.
Tequila is two hours away from Guadalajara, but it is absolutely worth the trip.
When arriving in Tequila you will be greeted with a cute little town filled with shops, restaurants, cafes, and best of all, distilleries that you can visit to sample tequila and to learn more about the process of tequila production. The town of tequila is surrounded by a mountain view and endless blue fields of the tequila plant called blue agave which is the main ingredient for the production of tequila.
There are many different ways you can get to the town of tequila from Guadalajara. You can book a tour with one of the many vendors which you will find standing around the city center offering guided tours. You can rent a car and drive. There is also a bus that leaves hourly from Guadalajara. The bus ride is approximately two hours. This is a great option for those that want to explore the town on their own time.
There are direct buses that will get you from the Guadalajara airport to the city center within 30minutes. You can also take an Uber or Taxi if you have a lot of baggage.
Getting around Guadalajara is easy. The city has a light rail system with 3 lines that run between the hours of 5am-11pm.
Uber does run in Guadalajara so getting around the city is not a problem.
The city of Guanajuato is arguably the most beautiful city in Mexico. This city is absolutely stunning. The city of Guanajuato was once a silver mining town located in the state of Guanajuato. This town was built within a narrow valley. This created a hilly landscape of houses and narrow cobblestoned streets that intertwine in a disorganized fashion. A large portion of this city is too narrow for cars, so the town is full of quaint walking streets and little plazas. A lot of the thoroughfares are connected by tunnels that weave in and out of the city. There is no reason to question why this entire town was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988.
Things To See
The historical center of this city is the best place to kick off your exploration of Guanajuato. The center is full of colonial-era buildings and has no shortage of tourist attractions. Here you will find the famous cathedral (Parroquia de Basílica Colegiata de Nuestra Señora de Guanajuato) built in the 17th century. You will also find several museums and plazas. This neighborhood is also a great place to just take a walk and admire the beautiful hilly architecture and the cobblestoned streets.
The Mummy Museum (El Museo De Las Momias)
If this kind of thing doesn’t creep you out, don’t leave Guanajuato without visiting its famous Mummy Museum. The mummies on display are over 100 years old and are the result of naturally mummified bodies that were placed in outdoor crypts during the cholera outbreak that happened in Guanajuato around 1833. Between the years 1870 and 1958, a portion of the bodies were removed and stored in a building nearby. Some of the cemetery workers began charging visitors to view the body, and this is how the Mummy Museum was born.
Ride The Funicular
Ride the funicular (cable car) which runs from the Juarez Theater all the way up to the monument of El Pipla. This stone monument of a man holding a flaming torch is dedicated to a local hero, nicknamed El Pipla, for his heroism during the Mexican War of Independence. The best time to visit is during sunset. This site sits hi on the hills giving you an amazing view of the city of Guanajuato below.
Guanajuato is fairly small so the easiest way to get around is on foot. You can pretty much walk anywhere you need to go within the city.
San Miguel de Allende
Of all the cities mentioned so far, San Miguel de Allende is probably the most popular among tourists. It is often considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in Mexico. San Miguel de Allende is a city located in the far eastern region of the state of Guanajuato. This is a small interesting town that was built into the side of a mountain and is not as easy to get to as some of the other cities mentioned here. However, if you can add this city to your Mexico itinerary it is worth the trip. San Miguel de Allende is full of UNESCO World Heritage sites, quintessential Mexican architecture, and beautiful cobblestoned streets.
Things To See
Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel
Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel is a neo-gothic, castle-like church that sits in the center of the city. This church is at the heart of the city and can be seen from almost anywhere. It’s especially breathtaking at night when the church lights are on. Entry to the church is free.
El Charco del Ingenio Botanical Gardens
El Charco dol Ingenio is a 170-acre botanical garden set on an ecological reserve that doubles as both a botanical garden and a wildlife and bird sanctuary. The gardens are a place where you can go to see rare Mexican plant species, go on bird watching excursions, or just spend the day walking through the gardens where you will see waterfalls, bridges, and wildlife. The
Botanical Gardens are easy to reach. It’s about a 30-minute walk from the city center.
Spend some leisurely time in San Miguel de Allende’s famous square El Jardin. This spot is a lively square near the church where everyone gathers to relax under the large manicured trees to enjoy the live Mariachi bands, enjoy a nice meal at a restaurant, or just take a stroll through the square.
Bajío International Airport in Leon is the closest airport to San Miguel de Allende. It is about one hour and fifteen minutes drive from the airport to the city. You can catch an Uber or Taxi from the airport.
There is a bus that goes from the Leon Airport to San Miguel de Allende but the bus does make a stop in Guanajuato so the ride is 2hrs long. I would suggest that if you have plans to visit Guanajuato, start your trip there where you can stay for a couple of days before moving on to San Miguel de Allende.
Getting around San Miguel de Allende is best done on foot. The city is walkable and it is sometimes difficult to maneuver a car through the narrow streets. There is no public transportation within the city but there are buses available for excursions outside of the city.
Morelia is another highly underrated city that for some reason, tourists seem to skip. Morelia is the largest city located in the state of Michoacán. This city dates back to the 1500s and has preserved most of its colonial buildings and landmarks. In 1991 the city of Morelia was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Things To See
One of the major historical landmarks of Morelia is the aqueduct that was erected sometime in the 18th century. This well preserved landmark has 253 arches and is about 1.3 miles long. You will also find a depiction of the aqueduct on the back of Mexico’s 50 peso note. The front side of the note has a picture of José María Morelos, a rebel who fought in Mexico’s War of Independence for whom the city is named after.
Plaza de Armas
Plaza de Armas is a plaza in the historic downtown area and was built in 1541. Most of the UNESCO heritage sites and buildings in Morelia can be found around this square. Be sure to also visit the nearby Morelia Cathedral where inside, you will find murals painted by Mexico’s famous artist, Alfredo Zalce. These paintings are depictions of historical events such as the War of Independence and other important events that took place during that time.
International Festival national Morelia Music
The International Morelia Music Festival which started in 1988 usually takes place every year in the fall. This is the largest festival in Morelia featuring artists from all over the world. These concerts take place in different venues consisting of different orchestras, soloists, pianists, and choirs.
Morelia International Music Festival
The International Film Festival in Morelia takes place annually during the second week of October. This festival showcases up and coming talented filmmakers in Mexico and also promotes its cinematography to the international world.
If you are coming from Guadalajara you can arrive by bus in 3 1/2hrs
If you are arriving by plane, the General Francisco Mujica International Airport (MLM) is only a 25 minute Uber or cab ride away from the center. Uber has lower rates so that would be your best bet.
When traveling throughout the city you can use city buses, cabs, Uber, or hail a “Combi” like the locals do. These are shared vans that you can catch throughout the city. It’s only 9 pesos and when you are ready to get off there is a buzzer for you to pull or you can just tell the driver.