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Best colonial cities to visit in Mexico – part I

The colonial cities can be found all over Mexico: from the center of the country to the border and coast. Each city is unique in character but all have lovely sights to offer to those who want to explore the culture and heritage. They are not just places to see; they are live places where festivals have taken place for centuries.

There are plenty of colonial cities to explore and here’s the first part of our list:

Mérida

The capital city of the state of Yucatan, Mérida is famous for the rich Mayan history. Known as the “white city”, it has some of the most important archeological sites in Mexico.

The Colonial Center is the most important tourist attraction. Plaza Grande is dominated by Catedral de San Idelfonso. The Municipal Palace and the Government palace are also located in the square. On the south side of the square, there’s Casa de Montejo (currently a bank).

There are hotels for any budget and festivals for any taste. Also, the city is a good starting point for exploring Mayan sites in the region, such as Chichen Itza.

Oaxaca

Firstly let’s get the name right: it’s pronounced “wa-hah-ka”. Oaxaca City is a blend of civilizations and experiences. The historical colonial center is dotted with little plazas and lovely architecture along the cobblestone streets. Having been restored in recent times, the colonial center is one of the most vibrant and well preserved in Mexico.

The center of the city is Zocalo (the Main Plaza) and is a pedestrian area only. Cafes and restaurants flank the sides making them the perfect place to do a bit of people watching or just enjoying the cuisine. The Cathedral, Palacio de Gobierno, Teatro Macedonio Alcala and Iglesia de Santo Domingo are also in the square.

If you want to visit the city’s oldest church, you have to do a bit of walking. About 2 blocks from Zocalo you’ll find Iglesia de San Juan de Dios (build in the 1500s and very popular among locals).

San Cristobal de las Casas

The city has a unique atmosphere which appeals particularly to European travelers. It may just be its bohemian flair or just the natural beauty. And they also come here for the great coffee!

The colonial center is dominated by Plaza 31 de Marzo. On the north side you’ll find San Cristobal’s Cathedral, while on the west side there are the Municipal Buildings. Here’s where you’ll find the tourist center as well. Templo del Carmen, Instituto de Bellas Artes and Templo y Ex-Convento de Santo Domingo are also located in the square. A little further from the plaza you’ll find Tienda de los Artesanos de Chiapas where you can buy textiles and other crafted objects originating from the surrounding villages. Templo de San Cristobal is the best place to catch a nice view of the city (all the way up in its tower).

Note: the people in this region don’t like photographs taken of them. If you venture out of the city you might find out that you are not allowed to take photos at all. Follow the rules unless you want to end up paying a hefty fine or spend a night in prison.

>>Don’t forget to also read Best colonial cities to visit in Mexico – part II

photos by luigig, RussBowling, TillinKa