Where the rough Sierra Madre range turns abruptly into lush coastal plains, and the waters of the Bahía de Campeche rush up to meet rocky beaches and sandy dunes, the Old World first met the New with the arrival of Hernán Cortés on Good Friday, April 21, 1519. There, some 250 miles east of what's now Mexico City, in a land rich with Mesoamerican Indian tribal culture, Cortés planted a cross and called it La Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz (The Rich Village of the True Cross) and established the first settlement at La Antigua, sixteen miles north of the present city.
Today, over a million people call Ciudad de Veracruz (Veracruz City) home, Mexico's oldest city. Its maze of old colonial-style buildings with balconies and iron grills lining clean cobblestone-and-palm-lined streets harken back to the days of early Nueva España. Its distinctly Caribbean personality combines elegant Spanish heritage with Afro-Cuban rhythms and the spicy flair of Mexico. Veracruz has seen its share of Spanish invaders, pirates, slave traders, and armies from France and the United States, who all mixed with the Pre-Hispanic indigenous peoples resulting in a mélange that defies description. Its residents, commonly called
Best Time to Go
It rains a lot here, and the humidity is overpowering any time of year. And while Veracruz's Carnaval is going on, usually in February, it's almost impossible to find a place to stay. May through July, even though the temperature can reach the low 80s, the humidity can make it seem even hotter. From September through November, hurricanes blow in from the Caribbean, and the winds change to a northerly direction during the winter, making November to March the best time to visit.
The gastronomic mosaic that's Veracruz cuisine — a combination of indigenous, Creole, mestiza, and mulato — combines fresh seafood with aromatic herbs and spices and tropical fruits to produce a synthesis of ingredients like no other in Mexico.
For a light snack, go to the Pescado Mercado Municipal (Municipal Fish Market), where you can try slurping up oysters on the half-shell from ostionerías (oyster bars) accompanied by a bubbling
Or perhaps you'll prefer snacking on tasty
If you have a sweet tooth, you'll enjoy
Cautions and Safety Concerns
Veracruz is as safe a city as any in Mexico. However, watch out for pickpockets during Carnaval.
Getting Around Veracruz
After arriving at Veracruz's airport, you can catch a van into town for about $6 per person. You'll find taxis unmetered, inexpensive, and plentiful. Agree on the price before you get into the cab. Or you may want to hop on inexpensive, reproduction wooden trolley cars on rubber wheels, called Los Tranvías del Recuerdos (The Tramcars of Memories), that ply the streets as part of the city's public transit system.