Tijuana in Mexico has such a bad reputation. I remember going to San Diego years ago, in my early twenties, and being warned not to go there. Especially as a young female. It was safer to stay in America. But years later, a bit older and wiser, I had the opportunity to travel south across the America-Mexico border and see this city first hand. So what is Tijuana like, really? I’m here to tell you if the rumours are warranted or not!
Don’t believe the rumours: This is what Tijuana is REALLY like:
Where is Tijuana?
Tijuana is in ‘Baja California’, which is a peninsula that America’s California is a part of as well. Baja means ‘low’ in Spanish; hence it is the lower part of the peninsula. It’s in the northwestern corner of Mexico, south of San Diego. Many people take a day trip from southern Californian cities into Mexico to experience a new culture just miles away. If you’re curious to know more about the geography of Baja California, check out this post.
I’ve heard the rumours…
On my first trip to San Diego about 17 years ago, my sister suggested we go to Tijuana for the day. I said, ‘No way! Isn’t there a lot of crime and drugs there?’ I didn’t feel safe. Two young, attractive females traveling south of the border would surely be putting themselves at risk. It didn’t sound like a fun time. I wanted to make it back home without being involved in, or the victim of, crime after all. But years later I had the opportunity to visit on a group trip and I was blown away.
What Tijuana is REALLY like
I couldn’t believe what a thriving city it is. Dare I say there’s even a bit of a hipster movement going on? They have craft beer and food truck parks popping up! We felt safe. The usual rules applied like they would for any foreign city: be aware of your surroundings, pay attention, be courteous, etc. The best thing was how close ‘to home’ it was and the ease we experienced crossing the Mexican border.
What to do
There’s such a wonderful variety of things to do there. Here are a few of my favorites…
Visit Tijuana Cultural Center (CECUT)
The best way to learn about the region is to visit Tijuana Cultural Center (CECUT). It was built in the early 1980s and focuses on the culture of the northwest region of Mexico. They have an IMAX movie theater (inside the big sphere, pictured below), a performance theater, museum and sculpture garden on the property.
Indulge at Telefonica Gastro Park
This place wasn’t just cool to see, it was delicious to taste! There’s a lot of wonderful chefs participating in innovative cooking here with cuisine suitable for all palates, from vegans to carnivores. It’s especially great to visit if it’s a nice day outside, as all of the seating is outdoors (some seats are under the shade of table umbrellas).
Quench your thirst at Norte Brewing Co.
The craft beer movement is alive and well across the globe and Tijuana is no exception. Stop by Norte Brewing Co. for a flight or a pint. I’ll leave the view as a surprise – spoiler alert: it’s stunning and overlooks the city!
Shop at Mercado Hidalgo
If you’re in need of any Mexican candy, sugar skulls, spices, nuts, pinatas or other assorted fun kids toys and food, take a walk around Mercado Hidalgo. This place is splashed head to toe with vibrant colors; it’s reason enough to enjoy a walk around the market.
Dine at Caesar’s
Do you like Caesar salad? I sure do! Are you able to say you have dined where it was invented? If not you should definitely stop at Caesar’s when you’re in Tijuana. Watch a waiter create the world-famous delight, creating the distinctive dressing from scratch, then gobble it up. It was most definitely the best Caesar salad I’ve ever had and I’ve had many! They have a full menu as well in case you’re in the mood for additional food items.
Unleash your creativity at Pasaje Rodriguez
If there was anywhere that revitalization was most apparent on my trip to Tijuana it was here. The mostly underground passageway has about 24 stalls that are studios for local artists. This once dilapidated area had new life breathed into it when an artist came to the owners with a vision. The result is a wonderful alleyway filled with murals (#instagramworthy), complete with artists selling painting, photographs and sculptures. Be sure to check their Facebook page for current events - they have many throughout the year.
So are the negative rumours true? Absolutely not! Tijuana is a city full of innovative ideas, attractions and a thriving culture. If this article has piqued your interest at all, I urge you to go and experience it for yourself!
Visiting Mexico? Also check out:
- Why I Can’t Stop Thinking about Tulum
- Exploring the Forgotten Mayans Ruins of Coba
- Food Truck in Tijuana
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Disclosure: I was welcomed to Tijuana as a guest of the tourism board, but as always, this post is an honest reflection of my experience in the city.
Would you visit Tijuana, Mexico?