The Top 10 Colonial Cities in Mexico

Head south of the border to enjoy tradition, history and culture.

International Living
Topping International Living's table of favorites is San Miguel, which stands out for its vibrant, exciting atmosphere

Mexico is rich in beautiful colonial cities. But topping our table of favorites is San Miguel, which stands out for its vibrant, exciting atmosphere. Go to a gallery opening, watch traditional dance, have cocktails at a trendy new bar, or take a class. It’s all possible in San Miguel—and in beautiful surroundings, too.

Mérida, Oaxaca and Guanajuato are pretty much a three-way tie. Oaxaca and Guanajuato may have the edge in sheer beauty. But Mérida’s grandeur is kept lively by the music in the streets most evenings.

You may not have heard of a few of our picks, such as Pátzcuaro or even nearby Morelia, both in west-central Mexico. Their expat communities are smaller and they’re a bit off the radar…but they offer magnificent colonial living. Really, for beautiful surroundings you can’t go wrong with any on this list—or with a dozen other scenic cities in Mexico.

Below is International Living's top 10 picks for the best colonial cities in Mexico.

1.      San Miguel de Allende

2.      Mérida

3.      Oaxaca

4.      Guanajuato

5.      San Cristóbal de las Casas

6.      Querétaro

7.      Guadalajara

8.      Morelia

9.      Campeche

10.    Pátzcuaro


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First Published September 12, 2011

Share Your Thoughts!


Sofia Morales06.25.2012

All of the cities and towns in International Living's top 10 colonial cities are indeed quite beautiful. Patzcuaro being more of a village than a city I would have perhaps replaced it by Zacatecas which is farther north but well worth the trip. 5 of the cities listed are all within short driving distances (Queretaro, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Morelia and Patzcuaro). They can all be visited within a few days if you rent a car or take a tour. The funkiest option I have found so far are road trip organized by Beetle enthusiasts that will prepare the itinerary for you, book your hotels and let you take the tour in your own Beetle ( ). Another option is to hop on buses and travel from town to town. Whichever option you decide to go for this is a trip well worth taking. The cities are beautiful, the landscapes breathtaking and Mexicans are just charming.

Sofia Morales06.25.2012

I agree with International Living's tops pics. All the cities and towns mentioned are simply unique. 5 out of the 10 listed (Queretaro, San Miguel, Guanajuato, Morelia and Patzcuaro) are located north of Mexico City and are all within short driving distances. You can travel from one to another by bus, rental car or by joining a tour. The coolest tour I have found so far is organized by a friendly group of Beetle enthusiasts ( ). They will prepare your itinerary, take care of all the details and give you a vintage Beetle convertible to travel in. Kind of funky if you ask me. If driving isn't your cup of tea, some rental agencies offer you the possibility to rent a car with a chauffeur. Last but no least, I would have added the following city to the list: Zacatecas as it is absolutely beautiful.

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