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 Antingua 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."
A few beaches can be found north of Veracruz, but the beaches and water are not very clean; beach lovers might want to go north to Tecolutla or south to Los Tuxtlas.
Local language is, of course, Spanish. More than half (but not all) 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 degree Celsius, 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, 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 10km west of downtown.
The ADO bus station is located a short distance from the city centre. The bus trip from Mexico City TAPO terminal (located next to the San Lazaro metro station) takes 5 1/2 hours. The bus trip from Puebla takes 3-4 hours.
Veracruz used to be a major railway hub, but passenger services have been cancelled since 1995. However the historic railway station, Estacion Ferrocarril de Veracruz offers the occasional tourist excursion and is an minor tourist sight in itself.
Arriving at the bus station, one can buy a voucher for a taxi. The station is located on Salvador Diaz Miron Street. The bus station is located 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 Taxis are very inexpensive. A journey costs between 2.50 and 5.00 USD according to the your zone destination. Passengers are advised to agree to the cost before entering a taxi.
Walking 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.
By bus One very interesting possibility is to take the Bus "Boca del Rio", its path almost goes across the Boulevard of the City to the downtown of "Boca del Rio", a city joined in fact with Veracruz that has the better hotels, modern building and beaches of the Region. Almost the other public buses are not recommended for tourists, because they are old, in bad conditions and often very crowded and its paths are not easy understandable for new people in the city.
Veracruz brightly painted US school buses are used for city buses. Fares are M$7.50.
- San Juan de Ulúa Castle, Zona portuaria. Tu - Su, 9:00am - 5:30pm. The entry fee is 41 pesos (group or student rates are also available). Last fortress of the Spanish Empire, later used as a prision during Porfirio Díaz' 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 50 pesos).
- Baluarte de Santiago. Last standing part from the wall that used to surround the old city.
- Casa Museo de Agustín Lara, Blvrd Adolfo Ruiz Cortine, ☎ +52 229 937 0209. The former house of famous music writer Agustin Lara, now is made a museum.
- Downtown. To watch people dance "danzon" a traditional Cuban music adopted in Veracruz. You can see the cathedral and enjoy a drink at Los Portales.
- Boulevard. Walk seeing the sea, or run, skate, bike by the boulevard.
- City Museum
- Culture Hause (IVEC)
- Atarasanas Building
- Villa del Mar
- Acuario de Veracruz, Boulevard Ávila Camacho 1737, ☎ +52 229 931-1020. This is an impressive collection of different fish and sharks in the Gulf of Mexico. They have a dolphin show at 11AM and 1PM. 100 Adults.
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 cities 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.
- Helados El Malecón, Güero Güero Güera Güera - 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.
- Gran Café de la Parroquia - 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.
- El Bayo (It's on the road to Xalapa, by the exit to San Juan de Ulúa). Excellent seafood, especially the seafood cocktails and arroz a la tumbada (red rice with seafood).
- Rio de la Plata 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 USD 3.00 and it is really funny. It is located two blocks away from "Plaza de Armas".
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 13 USD for a Cosmopolitan, for example. Besides men have to pay at the entrance 5-10 USD, women enter for free.
- Bar Titos, on the corner of Aquiles Serdan and José Ma. Morelos. 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. Plus, there's usually a late-night taco cart right outside for a snack when your night's over.
- Hotel Amparo, Aquiles Serdan No. 482, ☎ +52 229 932-2738. Clean rooms with private bathrooms, secure attached vehicle parking, two blocks from the Zocalo.
- Hotel Trianon, Nacozari 76, ☎ +52 229 931 2121. Located in downtown near the coast. Private bathroom and air conditioning. Ask for special prices and an cable for internet.
- Hotel San Angel, Av. Ricardo Flores Magón, ☎ +52 229 931 8380. Near waterfront, outdoor pool. MN$1000 for three nights (Oct '14).
- Hotel Bello Veracruz. Great hotel, reasonable prices, swimming pool but no beach.
- Hotel Villas Dalí. Also great at reasonable prices.
- Hotel Veracruz Centro Historico. Is located just around the corner from the Zocalo. Rooms are clean, comfortable and reasonably priced.
- NH Veracruz. Luxurious hotel offering a spa, swimming pools and a fantastic view of the ocean.
- Fiesta Inn Malecón, General Figueroa 68, ☎ +52 229 923 1500. Located 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.
- Fiesta Americana, Blvd. Manuel Ávila Camacho, ☎ +52 229 989 8989. Upscale beachfront hotel with world class swimming pool.
- Gran Hotel Diligencias, Calle Independencia 1115, ☎ +52 229 923 0280. Is in a great location right on the Zocalo. It has large rooms and free internet.
Although Veracruz was once a safe haven from drug related crime prevalent in Northern Mexico, as of 2011 violence is steadily increasing.
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.
- 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