Something for Everyone
Popular with Mexican vacationers, Veracruz offers a relaxed atmosphere with a few major sights. The center of action here is the sixteenth-century
Things to Do
The city has been the stage for many events in Mexican history, including the drafting of the Mexican constitution. It tells you of its compelling history through its historical monuments and attractions and museums.
Veracruz begs to be explored. Along the older streets of town, the faded clay-coated walls of ocher, gray, pink, blue, and green shield out the intense heat of the sun. Iron bars cover the windows, but great wooden doors swing wide open, revealing barbershops, print shops, doctor's offices, even banks, all open to the public view. You can either walk from the
The bell tower of the La Ermita del Santa Christo del Buen Viaje (The Hermitage of the Holy Christ of Good Journey), containing the chapel of the dark-skinned Christ and protector of travelers since 1598, said to be one of the oldest churches in the New World, rises to one side. Unlike other plazas in town, this square offers a green oasis of shade trees, a fountain, and an ice cream parlor. Stop and have your shoes shined at one of the numerous shoeshine stands. Over a block on Calle Zaragoza, the Museo de la Ciudad (Museum of the City of Veracruz), formerly the old Zamora Orphanage, offers a look into pre-Hispanic Veracruz's past through excellent collections of archaeological material and art from the Olmec, Totonac, and Huaxtec cultures, including Totonac
Three blocks northeast, the tiny Baluarte de Santiago (Santiago's Bulwark), now a museum, is the only remaining bulwark out of nine built in 1526 to protect the city. Here, you can view an exhibit of pre Columbian jewelry and weapons.
RAINY DAY FUN
Most museums in and around Veracruz have free admission. Ask at your hotel if you are wondering about the admission for a certain museum.
Heading back to the
Across from the Portales de Miranda on the southeast side of the plaza stands the eighteenth-century Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (Our Mother of the Ascension), known to
Afterwards, stroll along Calle Miguel Lerdo toward the harbor. Follow the aroma of fresh tobacco just off the
Across the street, boats depart for harbor cruises, costing $5 per person, that include a running commentary on port sights sung out by the guide like a sailor's chant. Here, also, boats go to Castillo de San Juan de Ulua, a fort on an island east of the harbor. You may also want to take a boat to Isla de los Sacrificios (The Isle of Sacrifices), so called because the Spaniards witnessed a human sacrifice there. Today, it's known for its sandy beaches.
If you love the Agustín Lara song
For the Kids
Veracruz's ultramodern Acuario (Aquarium), north of Playa Villa del Mar, continually packs in the crowds. Designed by Hiroshi Kamio, it includes 100 tanks featuring salt and freshwater fish from Mexico and other Latin American countries, a touch-me table, tropical rain forest, and closed-circuit television showing algae and small life forms. The aquarium's gigantic circular main tank, holding 325,000 gallons of salt water with fifteen species of sharks, sting rays, and groupers, is the largest in Latin America (229-932-7984).
Though Veracruz has a variety of beaches, only those farther south, away from the port, are good for swimming. Even though those closest to town — Playas Hornos and Villa del Mar — have hard-packed sand and murky waters, you can still watch fishermen repairing their boats and mending their nets. If you want to swim, you're better off doing so in your hotel's pool.
Five miles south of Playa Villa del Mar lies the fishing village of Boca del Río and Playa Mocambo, one of the best beaches, alive with concessions and watersports activities. Both it and Playas Costa de Oro and Los Arcos have finer sand and sometimes heavy swells, making all three perfect for WaveRunners, windsurfing, and surfing. Weekends, they overflow with Mexican families, as vendors, selling seafood and beer, and dancers move to continuous tropical rhythms.
Beyond Boca del Río, along the Río Jamapa, you'll come upon the village of Mandinga, which means Devil's Corner. Here, on Laguna Mandinga, a mangrove lagoon, you can munch on huge shrimp and soft-shelled crabs, washed down with an ice cold