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The 5 Best Cities in Mexico

Not only was Mexico named Travel + Leisure’s 2022 Destination of the Year, but travel to the country is rapidly returning to pre-pandemic numbers. Already this year, tourism is up 138 percent from Q1 2021 to Q1 2022, per Tourism Minister Miguel Torruco Marqués, with more people going through commercial airports from January 2022 to March 2022 than during the same period in 2019. Then again, it’s always been a favorite destination for Travel + Leisure readers, who, unsurprisingly, have strong opinions when it comes to the best cities in Mexico.

Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated cities on their sights and landmarks, culture, cuisine, friendliness, shopping, and overall value.

Perennial favorite San Miguel de Allende, which has repeatedly topped this WBA category and was ranked as the best city in the world in 2021, holds the No. 2 spot on this year’s list. One T+L reader called it their “favorite city in all of Mexico,” while another touted its “wonderful history, restaurants, easy walking, and great shopping.” SMA is known for its excellent hotel scene — Rosewood San Miguel was named the No. 1 city hotel in Mexico this year, while Hotel Amparo earned the same distinction in 2020 — but travelers who generally prefer booking a vacation rental are also spoiled for choice. “We rented a fabulous house with a rooftop where we could see the town, churches, and surrounding area,” shared one reader.

In addition to ranking as some of the best cities in Mexico, Mexico City (No. 3) and Mérida (No. 4) both made the list of the best cities in the world. Yucatán capital Mérida is a gateway to a few of the country’s Pueblo Magicos (like nearby Izmal) and Mayan archaeological sites, including Chichén Itzá, just 75 miles to the east. And Mexico City has long tempted our discerning readers, to the extent that one particularly enamored respondent asked, while discussing the city’s food, art, and culture, “Who needs Paris?”

This year’s winner’s circle is rounded out by Guadalajara at No. 5, with a WBA voter praising the city’s “great Belle Époque architecture” and “marvelous shopping opportunities.” And as for the gold medalist? Oaxaca has extended its winning streak in this category to three years. Read on for more on why it clinched the coveted top spot, along with securing No. 1 on this year’s list of the best cities in the world.

1. Oaxaca

Best Cities in Mexico

T+L readers cannot get enough of this alluring southwestern city. Oaxaca’s cup runneth over with exceptional flavors, from the seven varieties of mole to the abundance of locally distilled mezcal and potent cocktails that mezcal enlivens. The flavor of Oaxaca, however, is not relegated to the food. It is equally felt in the city’s craft markets, where there are handwoven rugs and intricately carved jicaras, which adults use for drinking mezcal, and alebrijes, or colorful wooden animals, an expression of traditional Mexican folk art, for the children. Indigenous Zapotec and Mixtec influences are endemic to Oaxacan culture, and the locals are keen to explain how the ancient cultures inform every element of Oaxaca — from the mole to the textiles. Our readers gushed over the Oaxacan art, Indigenous food, shopping, and people. As one succinctly put it, “It is a must-visit city.”

Score: 92.96

2. San Miguel de Allende

Best Cities in Mexico

Score: 91.77

3. Mexico City

Best Cities in Mexico

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 90.90

4. Mérida

Best Cities in Mexico

Score: 90.00

5. Guadalajara

Best Cities in Mexico

Score: 86.45