Mexico is a huge country, that well deserves a visit. I have been there 3 times and for as much as I try to explore a bit more every time, I am never quite done with it. It is one among the few countries I keep going back to, like Peru or Cuba, because it just has everything I can possibly look for when I travel. Amazing archeological sites, lush nature, beautiful beaches, deserts, interesting indigenous communities, delicious food and gorgeous colonial cities. I have been to many of them during my 3 visits, yet I have remained truly fascinated with Puebla, Merida and Oaxaca, which may well qualify as my 3 favorite cities in the country. So, here you can find what I think are
3 fabulous colonial cities in Mexico
Founded by the Spaniards in 1531 and originally called Ciudad de Los Angeles and later on Puebla de Los Angeles, this incredible city is set at 2160 meters above sea level, but it took my breath away for its beauty rather than for the altitude. The historical city centre is perfectly kept and there are many beautiful churches. My favorite is the Templo de Santo Domingo, which has a fabulous chapel, called Capilla del Rosario, which has an infinite number of stuccoed decorations covered in gold. I also like the cathedral, located on the beautiful Zócalo (main square).
Puebla has a very lively art and music scene, and there is an entire area of town populated with artists. It is also home of the mole poblano, one of the most famous Mexican dishes consisting of chicken covered with a thick sauce containing many ingredients including chilies, cocoa and peanuts.
Known as the “white city”, the capital of Yucatan if the perfect base to visit some of the best archeological sites in Mexico, such as Uxmal, Chichen Itza and Kabah. Yet, it deserves a visit in and of itself. The city was founded in 1540 by the Spanish colonizers, with the intent to conquer the Mayan groups of the region. It is a beautiful colonial city, with tiny alleys, airy squares and some of the best museums in the region. There are many great restaurants and a great food market too.
Among the places of interest in Puebla there are the Plaza Grande, dominated by the Catedral de San Idelfonso, which really is the heart of the city. Casa de Montejo, referred to by the locals as “Palacio de Montejo”, is a private home whose owners lived there until 1980, is nowadays occupied by a bank yet it is possible to take a look at the gorgeous building.
Paseo Montejo is a tree-lined boulevard originally intended to be as grand as the Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City, and is lined with some beautiful homes. One of the best museums in town is the Anthropology Museum, located in the beautiful Palacio Canton on Paseo de Montejo: the museum has an incredible exhibit of Mayan artifacts.
This is what I consider the most beautiful city in Mexico. It is a gorgeous colonial city, perfectly preserved, with an incredible market, breathtaking churches and great museums. Oaxaca is a great starting point to visit some of the best archeological sites in the country, such as Monte Alban. The region is inhabited by various ethnic groups, such as the Mixtec and the Zapotec, which to me is a bonus point for it is strikingly different from other states of Mexico.
I highly recommend stopping by the Zocalo, or main square, where the cathedral is located. It is a beautiful square, often the centre of some of the strongest protests by the indigenous groups living in the region. Listening to the various speeches is definitely a good way to learn a bit more about the issues of the country and about the local culture too. The Museo de las Culturas is a great anthropology museum, and the Museo Rufino Tamayo, focussing on pre-hispanic art, has a great collection which is perfectly portrayed. The most beautiful church in Oaxaca is the Iglesia de Santo Domingo, built between 1570 and 1608 and literally covered in gold.
However, I think that the places that really deserves to be visited are Oaxaca’s covered markets —Benito Juárez, Mercado 20 de Noviembre , and Abastos. Food in Oaxaca is very good, and the best place to eat is actually the Mercado 20 de Noviembre. Local specialties include cheese and chapulines (fried grasshoppers), although my favorite is tlayudas, a giant corn tortilla, spread with refried beans and either avocado or guacamole, topped with cheese and folded, then grilled on a brick oven and served with grilled pork chops.
Oaxaca is also a great place for shopping – there are several places in town that sell traditional textiles and leather shoes
Have you been to Mexico? What are your favorite colonial cities there?