There are so many reasons to visit Mexico: the rich history, the stunning beaches, the unique blend of European and indigenous cultures, and—of course—the food.
If you’re one of those people who plan their entire vacation around what they get to eat, here are 12 Mexican cities you should definitely add to your bucket list.
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1. Oaxaca City
Formerly known best for its eponymous cheese, Oaxaca City—the capital of Oaxaca state—has quickly gained a reputation as “Mexico’s Culinary Capital” over the past few years. Try elevated spins on the region’s classic cuisine at Chef Alejandro Ruiz Olmedo’s Casa Oaxaca El Restaurante or sample local favorites at Mercado de Abastos.
2. Mexico City
The country’s capital is a bustling hub of culture and activity with a vibrant food culture to match. Enjoy a traditional culinary experience in the cantinas and taquerias of the Centro Histórica, or head to the fine dining establishments in Colonia Roma for something more trendy. And don’t forget to sample classic street food options, like tacos al pastor and tostadas.
3. Puerto Vallarta
If you’re a seafood lover, you’ll want to make your way to the beach city of Puerto Vallarta on the Bay of Banderas. You can get excellent ceviche or try your fish grilled over hot coals using the same Pescado Zarandeado method locals have used for 500 years. For a unique breakfast, sample the sweet and sour Birria stew.
Tijuana is not only the birthplace of the Ceasar salad and fried fish tacos; it’s also where the distinctive “Baja Med” movement got started. Baja Med combines Mexican, Mediterranean, and Asian flavors with fresh Baja ingredients to create mouth-watering dishes like the Pulpo Querncia, an octopus tostada.
If you want to do more than just eat Mexican food, you can learn all about the history of Mexican cooking at Puebla’s Museo de la Gastronomia. This city is famous for being the home of mole poblano, a rich, spicy sauce made with chili peppers, cacao, and nuts. For another sweet-and-savory delicacy, try chiles en nogada, or poblano peppers stuffed with a mix of ground meat, fruits, nuts, and spices.
Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is home to many important sites related to the region’s pre-colonial history, and Mayan food is still alive and well in the city of Merida. In addition to classics like tamales and carneasada, you can try regional specialties like sopa de lima or European-Mayan fusion dishes like queso relleno.
Monterrey is the destination for steak lovers in Mexico. This dry, arid region in the north of Mexico has produced a unique culinary style with a heavy focus on charcoal-grilled meats. While most tortillas were traditionally made from corn meal, Monterrey is famous for having invented the flour tortilla.
This tropical east coast city is separated from the rest of inland Mexico by the Sierra Madre mountains. As a result, it has developed a unique culinary character with West African and Spanish influences. Many of the most famous dishes incorporate seafood, such as chilies rellenos veracruzanos—jalapenos filled with garlic and crab.
Valle de Guadalupe
If you love a fine glass of wine with your meal, you’ll want to take a trip a few hours south of the California border to Valle de Guadalupe. The unique mineral composition of the soil produces red and white wines that are unlike anything you’ve ever tasted. There are also numerous restaurants serving up fresh Baja cuisine made with locally sourced ingredients.
San Cristobal de Las Casas
San Cristobal offers amazing street food and fine dining, but what sets it apart from other Mexican cities are the cafes. San Cristobal offers a wide range of varieties and preparations of hot chocolate, some up to 80-100% cacao. In recent years, the city has also gathered a lot of attention for its locally grown and roasted coffee.
Located in the western state of Jalisco, the metropolis of Guadalajara is home to some of Mexico’s most unique and iconic dishes. Just north of the city, you’ll find the town of Tequila, where the country’s famous distilled agave-based spirit hails from. Tacos de barbacoa and Adobera cheese (best enjoyed in a quesadilla) also got their start in Guadalajara.
San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel de Allende has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site as a crossroads of Ancient Mexican and European Colonial culture. This blend of influences has resulted in a unique cuisine. Some of the city’s specialties include deep-fried beef patties called pacholas and the light and refreshing agua de betabel—literally beet-flavored water.
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This article was produced by Our Woven Journey. Featured Image Credit: Marcos Castillo/Shutterstock