Tijuana is a large, modern, and colorful city. Its location in the top left corner of Mexico, right on the border of the United States south of San Diego makes it a popular spot for day trippers who just want to hop across the border to enjoy some Mexican color, eat some great food, and do a bit of shopping before heading back. But those who wish to spend more time will find that Tijuana has lots to offer beyond the main tourist drag. Here are some of our favorite activities to enjoy in and around Tijuana.
Stroll Along Avenida Revolución
Revolution Avenue, known to locals as "La Revu," is Tijuana's main tourist drag, and is within walking distance of the U.S. border crossing. If you want to do the stereotypical tourist thing, buy a big sombrero and have your photo taken with a donkey that has zebra stripes painted on it, this is the place for it.
But after that, you should take the opportunity to discover some of the shops, restaurants, and galleries that you'll also find along this strip. There's more than just t-shirts, postcards, and drug stores selling cheap medicine. You'll also find silver jewelry, quality handicrafts from around the country, and boutique shops selling all manner of luxury items.
Visit a Traditional Market
Besides the modern shopping experience, you can also visit a traditional Mexican market. There are a few around Tijuana, but the Mercado Hidalgo is most centrally located. Here you'll find creatively stacked fruit, locally produced cheeses, and a plethora of goods from South and Central Mexico. You can have a snack at a food stand, sample some traditional Mexican candies and haggle for a souvenir.
Explore the Centro Cultural Tijuana
You'll recognize the Tijuana Cultural Center by the distinctive spherical building. Nicknamed "La Bola" for its shape, the ball houses an IMAX theater. The cultural complex is also comprised of a theater and a cubic-shaped exhibit space, and the adjacent Museo de las Californias has a permanent exhibition detailing the history of the region from prehistoric times to the present day, and also hosts temporary exhibits on a variety of themes. There are a number of cultural events that take place in the cultural center's esplanade year round, so it's worth checking it out to see what's on during your visit.
See the Bullring by the Sea
Some call it an art form, many call it a horrific form of animal abuse. Bullfighting is certainly not for everyone, and there have been calls to ban it as a cruel and inhumane practice. This tradition was imported from Spain in the 16th century and soon gained popularity in Mexico, particularly in the north of the country. The Congress of Baja California State has considered bills to prohibit this activity, but in the meantime, if you want to see this traditional spectacle (whose days are surely numbered), you can witness the Fiesta Brava at the Plaza Monumental de Tijuana, known in English as the Bullring by the Sea, usually from May through September.
You can also come just to see the iconic building, which can accommodate over 20,000 spectators, is the third largest bullring in the world and an example of Postclassic architecture dating to 1960. It also has a unique location, by the ocean and just across the United States border wall.
Savor Some Mexican food
Tijuana has become a foodie destination in recent years. Although you can still enjoy the quintessential street and market food, there are many options to choose from, both traditional and contemporary.
Many claim the caesar salad was invented in Tijuana by chef Cesar Cardini, and Caesar's Restaurant Bar is where you can enjoy the original recipe, along with many other Mexican and international specialties. Or you can explore Tijuana's emerging food scene at some of the newer, innovative restaurants serving Baja-Med Cuisine, a combination of the ingredients and flavors of Baja California with those of the Mediterranean and Asia. Seek out chef Miguel Angel Guerrero's restaurant El Colegio on Avenida Revolución. Or discover chef Javier Plascencia's take on Baja California cuisine at his restaurant Mision 19 in Zona Río, Tijuana's business district.
For a more casual dining experience, a visit to Telefónica Gastro Park is in order. It's a food truck park where you can sample some local artisanal beer and delicious food in a laid back atmosphere.
Check out Plaza Santa Cecilia
Plaza Santa Cecilia is one of the oldest squares in Tijuana and is located on Calle Primera and Avenida Revolución. The modern iconic arch that represents the city of Tijuana and symbolizes the connection between Mexico and the United States, contrasts with the traditional arches behind the plaza's stage. Walking around this area gives you a feel for traditional Mexico and what Tijuana may have been like way back when. The patron saint of music, Saint Cecilia, gives this plaza its name. There are frequent concerts and dance performances taking place here. If you're lucky, you'll come across some mariachis performing, or a Mexican folk dance troupe giving a show.
Hit the Beach
Tijuana has its own beaches, but if you want to spend a day enjoying sun and sand, it's worth making the half an hour drive to Rosarito Beach, a quaint beach town a bit farther south along the coast. This is not the place for a quiet getaway, but you can have a fun time enjoying the seafood restaurants, sampling margaritas or micheladas, and playing in the surf.
Take a Day Trip to the Valle de Guadalupe
Mexico's wine region is not far from Tijuana, and if you have time, it's definitely worth a trip to the Valle de Guadalupe to check out some of the vineyards. The region's more than 150 wineries produce around 90 percent of Mexican wines and are one of the fastest growing wine regions in the world. Spend the day sampling the fantastic reds, admiring the rustic scenery, and snacking on fresh seafood and tacos.