Welcome to Veracruz, Mexico!
The port city of Heroica, Veracruz sits on the Gulf of Mexico, gazing out towards Cuba, Miami, and the Bahamas. Although it boasts the nearest coastline to Mexico City, chilangos flock west rather than east, to the glitz and glamour of Acapulco rather than the grit and edge of Veracruz. However, there is a wealth of beauty and excitement just below the surface in this melting pot of Mexican, African, Caribbean, and colonial Spanish culture, just waiting to be discovered by the adventurous traveler.
Anyone can explore the well-known attractions, but worldwide locals do it better. This is an insider guide on some of Veracruz’s finest spots.
Dancing in Veracruz
Veracruz has been highly influenced by Cuban culture over the years, and shares some of its edgy, sensuous, and vibrant atmosphere, underscored by music and dance. Travelers wanting to plug straight into this energetic rhythm of life should start in the Plaza de las Armas, known locally as the Zocalo. Here you’ll find mariachis, street sellers, and bands playing throughout the day, while crowds of locals tempt strangers into a danzon, a delicate and elegant local couples’ dance.
Worldwide Local Tip: To really get a flavor of the music of Veracruz, head to the Callejon de la Campana, just off the Zocalo. The square is always packed with musicians and dancers enjoying the traditional son jarocho of Veracruz.
The Neighborhoods of Veracruz
Veracruz is defined and molded by its status as a port city. Wandering through the Faros neighborhood, enjoying the Veracruz weather, gives you a real taste of the rich naval past and present of the city, and where you’ll likely catch young kids bravely (dangerously) diving for coins between the ships in the harbor. Stroll a little further to the Barrio de la Huaca, an extraordinarily colorful neighborhood of driftwood and packing crates, founded by African slaves three centuries ago. Soak up some of the picturesque decrepitude on Callejón Toña la Negra to get a sense of history in one of the most authentic places in the city.
Worldwide Local Tip: Grab a bite to eat at El Saborcito, a Veracruz restaurant famous for picadas, gorditas, and cheese empanadas. On the weekends you’ll also be able to catch some of the best Cuban music in the city! Of course, don’t miss the Veracruz tacos, which you can find on every street.
For the Coffee Addict
Veracruz State is famous for producing some of the best coffee in Mexico, and indeed the world. The city is a haven for coffee lovers, and they take the rituals very seriously. There are coffee shops throughout the Old Town, but you shouldn’t miss the Gran Cafe del Portal on the Zocalo. Another recommendation is La Parroquia, the oldest coffee shop in town at 200 years old, located just a few blocks away. Sip on your brew and listen to the locals debate the chances of the popular Veracruz FC.
Worldwide Local Tip: To really do as the Jarochos do, order your coffee lechero-style. The process of making a good lechero can be quite a show. Don’t forget to tap your spoon on the side of your glass for a refill, as if you were making a wedding toast, to really fit in!
Have an Amazing Time in Veracruz, Mexico!
The real magic of Veracruz is in its edgy, exciting atmosphere, rather than any magnificent architecture or fancy cuisine. There is a beautiful decadence to some of the faded grandeur of this wonderful port city, where travelers looking for music, dancing, and a good vibe won’t be disappointed. Exploring the city as a worldwide local will allow any traveler the privilege of unearthing gems and truly an amazing experience.