By Lila Battis
July 10, 2019
Elijah-Lovkoff/Getty Images

All talk of walls aside, Mexico remains one of the most compelling destinations for American travelers. Reasons to love the nation are many on the food front alone — tacos, conchas, sotol, pulque, mole, and did we mention tacos? — but chief among the factors that draw Travel + Leisure readers on a regular basis is the diversity of experiences they find there. And nowhere is that more evident than in Mexico’s cities, which are richly varied, each offering a cultural experience you won’t find anywhere else.

Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, Travel + Leisure 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.

RelatedThe World's Best Awards 2019

Guadalajara, our fifth-place winner, has made a name for itself among travelers for a vibrant arts and culture scene where locals are exceedingly welcoming. It’s the beating heart of the country’s mariachi tradition, but it also has Modernist architecture, contemporary art galleries, and a booming tech industry. “Even the police are friendly,” noted one reader. “They let us tour a building even though it was closing time. Our tour guide took us to the best restaurants for lunch. Could’ve spent a month there.”

Oaxaca, which took third place, draws visitors for its multilayered culinary heritage, handicraft traditions passed down through generations, and easy access to ancient sites that offer a deeper look at Mexico’s indigenous roots. “You can find most any type of entertainment and shopping,” observed one traveler. “Ancient sites, as well as colorful and interesting ages old villages, are all within short drives.”

RelatedThe Top 5 City Hotels in Mexico

And of course, there’s CDMX: always a favorite, No. 2 Mexico City has gotten more popular than ever with travelers. “Possibly one of the most exciting cities in North America,” gushed one frequent visitor. “I go at least once per year, and every time I do it's a new and exciting experience.” The metropolis is huge and sprawling, which only means more opportunities to chase down exactly what speaks to you, whether it’s wandering Chapultepec Forest, strolling the ruins of Templo Mayor, scoping out artwork by Diego Rivera and glimpsing Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul, or perusing the wares at Merced. Don’t miss the chance to explore stylish Condesa and boho Roma, take in the nightlife in Zona Rosa, and eat your way through Tepito.

Below, find out which other cities made the cut, and which talked-about town snagged the top spot.

5. Guadalajara

Elijah-Lovkoff/Getty Images

Score: 84.49

4. Mérida

Jean-Pierre Lescourret/Getty Images

Score: 85.70

3. Oaxaca

John and Lisa Merrill/Getty Images

Score: 89.16

2. Mexico City

Lindsay Lauckner Gundlock

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 89.30

1. San Miguel de Allende

Luis Antonio Rojas/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Score: 90.23

Travel + Leisure readers just can’t get enough of San Miguel de Allende. “A truly fairytale city — lovely people, magical, and a great place to visit and maybe even retire,” wrote one fan. The sweet cobblestoned streets lined with colorful Spanish-colonial buildings, with the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel towering over it all, would make the city charming enough even without anything else to recommend it. As another reader enthused, “Its weather is unmatched, and the people are wonderfully friendly.” But then consider that San Miguel has an artistic soul, a blossoming restaurant scene, and a bevy of luxurious hotels that opened within the past few years — not to mention that large swathes of the city are now a designated UNESCO World Heritage site — and the appeal becomes even clearer. Just be sure to bring a good camera to capture all of the city’s photogenic sights.

See all of our readers' favorite hotels, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2019.

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