Veracruz is a large city in the state of Veracruz in Central Mexico. The locals call their city "Puerto" (port) to differentiate the city from the state of Veracruz. The Port of Veracruz remains the core of its economy. It is also famous for its nightlife, and its spacious downtown area near the harbor (zocalo) comes alive with music and dancing with a strong Cuban influence. Highlights are the annual carnival celebrations around February when the party atmosphere is particularly raucous and hotel rooms become difficult to find.
Veracruz has a rich history. It has been the main gate of the country for sea travelers and products since its foundation. In this region, the Spanish first entered Mexico in the 16th century and remained for three centuries, forever changing the region. About 20 km northwest from Puerto Veracruz, in a town known as La Antigua Veracruz, Hernán Cortés first landed in Mexico. Veracruz would be one of the main ports of the Spanish Treasure Fleets. From its harbor, Mexican silver and the Asian silks, porcelain and spices of the Acapulco-Manila galleon trade were loaded onto galleons for transport to Spain. San Juan de Ulua fortress, located on an island off the city's coast, was built in the 16th century to guard against pirate attacks. It was the scene of the final stand of Spanish colonialism in the New Spain, being occupied by Spanish soldiers for four years after Mexico's War of Independence. Veracruz has witnessed four foreign invasions, earning the city the title 'Cuatro Veces Heroica' "Four times Heroic". Two of these attacks led to full-scale invasions of Mexico which retraced the route of Cortés, by the U.S. in 1847 and France in 1862.
Despite its status as the oldest European settlement on the American mainland, much of the colonial city was destroyed by invasions. The city walls were demolished during the era of Porfirio Diaz. However, there is some significant historic architecture, including two historic fortresses, several museums, and historical buildings in the Malecon.
The local language is Spanish. More than half of the hospitality workers speak English. Local people are known as jarochos. This denomination is not only for the people of the city but for the whole region of the State of Veracruz, known as "Llanuras de Sotavento." The jarochos are friendly people who love to be outdoors. The weather is mild, averaging between 25 and 32°C, but between January and March high winds from the north known as "nortes" can reach up to 120 km/h.
Veracruz has a small international airport, 1 General Heriberto Jara International Airport. The only direct US flights are from Houston, Texas. There are many options from other Mexican cities, including Mexico City. The airport is about 10 km west of downtown.
The ADO bus station is a short distance from the city centre. The bus trip from Mexico City TAPO terminal (located next to the San Lazaro metro station) takes 5½ hours. The bus trip from Puebla takes 3-4 hours.
- 2 ADO, Av. Salvador Díaz Mirón No. 1698. The central bus station, located south of city centre.
Veracruz used to be a major railway hub, but passenger services were cancelled in 1995. However the historic railway station, 3 Estacion Ferrocarril de Veracruz offers the occasional tourist excursion and is an minor tourist sight in itself.
Arriving at the bus station, you can buy a voucher for a taxi. The station is located on Salvador Diaz Miron Street. The bus station is only about 10 blocks (1 km) from one of the main tourist attractions of the city, Villa del Mar. It is about a 40-minute walk from the Zocalo.
Taxis are very inexpensive. A journey costs between US$2.50 and 5.00 according to the your zone destination. Passengers are advised to agree to the cost before entering a taxi.
The cheaper way to know the city is walking in the downtown and after that walk to the Malecon where several boats, historical buildings as well as tourist facilities and stores are located.
One very interesting possibility is to take the Bus "Boca del Rio", because it traverses the downtown area of the city to "Boca del Rio", a neighboring municipality with better hotels, modern infrastructure, and nicer beaches. The other public buses are not recommended for tourists, because they are old, in bad condition, and often very crowded and its paths are not easy understandable for new people in the city.
Veracruz often uses brightly painted US school buses for city buses. Fares are M$7.50 (pesos).
- 1 San Juan de Ulúa Castle, Zona portuaria. Tu - Su, 9:00am - 5:30pm. Last fortress of the Spanish Empire, later used as a prison during Porfirio Díaz's government, known as one of the most cruel prisons of that time, you can hear horror stories of torture. The castle is located near the piers. While it is physically quite close to downtown, it is not possible to access it on foot. You will need to take a tour or get there by taxi (this will cost around M$90). M$48.
- 2 Casa Museo de Agustín Lara, Blvrd Adolfo Ruiz Cortine, ☏ . The former house of famous music writer Agustin Lara is now a museum.
- 3 Zocalo de Veracruz. Come here for some enchanting "danzon" (traditional Cuban dance) impressions and views of the cathedral and palacio municipal. Enjoy a drink at the Los Portales, a series of porticoes and tables alongside Miguel Lerdo de Tejada Street bordering the zocalo, or, if coffee is more your thing, a coffee from Gran Cafe del Portal on the opposite side.
- 4 Museum of the City, Av. Ignacio Zaragoza 397, Centro, ☏ . Tu-Su 10ː00-17ː00, closed M. Traces the history of the city with dioramas and exhibits. Also functions as a performance hall for arts peculiar to the State of Veracruz.
- 5 , Calle Mariano Arista 418, Centro, ☏ . Tu-Su 10ː00-17ː00, closed M. Display of model ships and exhibits about the Mexican navy up to the present day. M$45.
- 6 Museo Baluarte de Santiago, ☏ . Last standing part from the wall that used to surround the old city fort that was built by the Spanish in 1635 as they endeavored to repel pirates wanting to take riches of the import/export trade going through Veracruz.
- 7 Casa Salvador Díaz Mirón, Av. Ignacio Zaragoza 322, ☏ . Tu-F 10ː00-17ː00, Sa Su 10ː00-14ː00, closed M. House where the noted poet Salvador Díaz Mirón lived.
- 8 Faro Venustiano Carranza. Old lighthouse of the port of Veracruz.
- 9 Malecon. Good sea (Gulf of Mexico) views here, as well as views of one of Mexico's premier ports; just don't drop your camera in the water. Also present are statues of Alexander von Humboldt and the Centinela de la Patria.
- 10 Faro Benito Juárez, Calle Benito Juárez 59. M-F 09ː00-15ː00. Another museum about the city, but much more scaled-down compared to the one above.
- 11 Zamora Park, Independencia. Heritage park of Veracruz and location of performances sometimes, but not a safe place to go at night.
- 12 Centro Cultural Atarazanas, Julio S Montero, ☏ . Tu-Su 10ː00-18ː00 (mostly). A cultural center that is the center of performing arts and merrymaking.
- 13 Institute of Culture (Instituto Veracruzano de la Cultura / IVEC), C. Francisco Canal 1517, ☏ . Tu-Su 10:00-17:00. A museum with rotating exhibitions built inside a lovely old convent.
- Carnival. The largest carnival in Mexico, hosted around February each year and lasting nine days with six major parades along with large public concerts, parties, special events and promotions in just about all the city's restaurants, bars and nightclubs.
- 1 Aquarium (Acuario de Veracruz), Boulevard Ávila Camacho 1737, ☏ . M-Th 10:00-19:00, F-Su 10:00-19:30. One of the best aquariums in Latin America. It has an impressive collection of different fish and sharks in the Gulf of Mexico. They have a dolphin show at 11:00 and 13:00. You can also see manatees here. Adult M$140, child under 12 years M$85.
- 2 Playa Villa de Mar, Blvd. Manuel Ávila Camacho 2431. Veracruz's beach with brownish-grey sand. An opportunity to work on your communication skills with touts and persistent vendors.
- 3 Take a jog in the sea air. Blvd. Manuel Ávila Camacho skirts Veracruz's waterfront.
Meals depend on where you eat, you can eat great sea food in Boca del Rio and Mandinga and Alvarado (but for this last one you have to travel about 45 minutes). Look for the palapas (huts) and you can have a great meal for little money.
Jarocho cuisine is unique among Mexico's regional cuisines in its pronounced Spanish and Afro-Caribbean influences. The long coastlines make Veracruz a seafood paradise. Seafood dishes include octopus and red snapper (huachinango) prepared a la veracruzana (a tomato-olive based sauce), arroz a la tumbada (tumbled rice) and caldo de mariscos. Baked plantains are a ubiquitous side. Other foods of Afro-Caribbean origin are pollo encacahuatado (chicken in peanut sauce) and mondogo (tripe soup). Veracruz is famous for its café con leche. Visit the city's famous coffee houses, El Gran Cafe de la Parroquia and El Gran Cafe del Portal.
In Veracruz, as in most Mexican cities, you won't notice much difference in taste between tacos from a fancy restaurant on the plaza and tacos from a street cart, it all more or less tastes fantastic. If you're on a budget, it's best to stay away from restaurants on the plaza, where you'll pay a premium for location. Street carts are definitely the cheapest option, but if you like to sit down and eat, a good compromise that's still dirt-cheap is any of lunch counters at the Mercado Hidalgo.
All these are in the city center:
- 1 Tampico Mariscos, 91700, Av. Francisco I..
- 2 Antojitos doña Bella, Nicolás Bravo 3015.
- 3 Tacos Pepe, Av. González Pages.
- 4 Antojitos Charito, 91700, C. Mariano Arista 1060.
- 5 Hao Lai, Av 5 de Mayo 1171.
- 6 Prim Homemade Food, Av. Gral. Prim 260.
- 7 Taqueria Alan, C. Hernán Cortés 515.
- 8 Gran Café de la Parroquia, Av. Valentín Gómez Farías 34 (several locations). Try the lechero, or espresso with fresh and creamy milk. The picadas y gorditas con huevo (fried, handmade tortillas topped with salsa and scrambled eggs) make a good breakfast. The rest of the food is overpriced.
- 9 El Bayo, Carmen Pérez 31 (on the road to Xalapa, by the exit to San Juan de Ulúa), ☏ . Daily 11:00-20:00. Excellent seafood, especially the seafood cocktails and arroz a la tumbada (red rice with seafood).
- 10 Restaurante Rio De La Plata, Jesús Reyes Heroles 52 (located two blocks away from "Plaza de Armas"). Daily 12:00-8:00. It is a traditional Mexican cantina, where you can find delicious and fresh fish. Waiters usually make "rifas" of sea food salads. The ticket costs about US$3 and it is really funny.
- 11 Mariscos Villa Rica, C. Mocambo 527, ☏ . Daily 11:00-21:00. A household name in Veracruz. Excellent seafood and service right on the beach. The restaurant does host large parties, however, and get can quite noisy.
- 12 Nieves del Malecón ¡Pásele Güero Güera! (several locations). Good ice cream sorbets. If you are very hungry, or have a companion, try a champola de guanábana, a huge milkshake of guanabana ice cream and condensed milk.
Night clubs are the most expensive places. They will ask you to buy a bottle (whiskey, rum, vodka, whatever) in order to give you a table to seat. If you don't mind standing you can drink single drinks around US$13 for a Cosmopolitan, for example. Men have to pay at the entrance US$5-10, women enter for free.
- 1 Bar Titos, Av. Ignacio Zaragoza 208 (just south of C. Aquiles Serdan), ☏ . Daily 10:00-00:00. A great local bar, but be prepared for an awkward silence if you're a gringo walking in the door. Relax and be polite and the regulars will undoubtedly warm to you and try to get you to salsa dance with them. Beer and drinks are much less expensive than in more touristy bars. Also, unlike many Mexican dive bars, the clientele is coed and well-mixed. And, there's usually a late-night taco cart right outside for a snack when your night's over.
- 2 La Parroquia de Veracruz, Insurgentes Veracruzanos 340, ☏ . 07ː00-00ː00 daily. This place is almost like an institution going on two centuries or so and something that you must do when you are in Veracruz. It has an iconic drink called a lechero (unique espresso/milk blend), and supposedly you bang your spoon against your glass to get another waiter to bring some milk after you have first been brought the glass of espresso. A better explanation exists in the website link.
- Hotel Amparo, Aquiles Serdan No. 482, ☏ . Clean rooms with private bathrooms, secure attached vehicle parking, two blocks from the Zocalo.
- Hotel Trianon, Nacozari 76, ☏ . Located in downtown near the coast. Private bathroom and air conditioning. Ask for special prices.
- Hotel San Angel, Av. Ricardo Flores Magón, ☏ . Near waterfront, outdoor pool. M$1000 for three nights (Oct 2014).
- Hotel Bello Veracruz. Great hotel, reasonable prices, swimming pool but no beach.
- Hotel Villas Dalí. Also great at reasonable prices.
- Hotel Veracruz Centro Historico. It is just around the corner from the Zocalo. Rooms are clean, comfortable and reasonably priced.
- 1 Fiesta Inn Malecón, General Figueroa 68, ☏ . Near downtown in front of the pier and the Venustiano Carranza lighthouse. A great hotel, but unlike most other hotels in town it does not have a swimming pool or direct beach access.
- 2 Fiesta Americana, Blvd. Manuel Ávila Camacho, ☏ . Upscale beachfront hotel with world class swimming pool.
- 3 Hotel Camino Real, Blvd. Manuel Ávila Camacho 3650, ☏ . Great hotel, but expensive.
- 4 Gran Hotel Diligencias, Calle Independencia 1115, ☏ . It is in a great location right on the Zocalo. It has large rooms and free internet.
- The Italian Coffee Company, Costa Verde. SSID: ITALIAN COFFEE. No power available
- Carl's Jr, Soriana parking lot. SSID: linksys. No power available
- VIPS Acuario, Waterfront by the Aquarium. SSID: VIPS ACUARIO. No power available
- Romania, Km. 433,7 Carretera Mexico-Veracruz, via Xalapa, Colonia Tejeria, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Honorary Consulate (Does not provide consular services. Instead, Romanian citizens in need of assistance should contact the embassy in Mexico City.)
- 1 USBI (Unidad de Servicios Bibliotecarios y de Información) (on the corner of Calzada Juan Pablo II s/n and Bv. Adolfo Ruíz Cortines), ☏ (Ext. 22105). A large library and study space hosted in a modernist building with a garden and a pond full of turtles.
The picturesque lakeside town of Catemaco lies nearby. The bus takes around 4 hours and you'll find some nice beaches, water activities and more.