The 5 km long quay along the Gulf coast highlights a beautiful avenue lined with palm trees, gardens and monuments.
It features gorgeous viewpoints where some recreation areas have been constructed for families to enjoy the marine breeze and Campeche's sunsets. The boardwalk is constituted by pedestrian walkways, a cycling lane and a walking lane.
You will see some medieval guns there and bronze statues of real persons who lived in Campeche and several fairy figures.
The Church of San Francisco is the oldest Church in Campeche and was built in the 16th century.
It is situated close to the Cathedral of the Conception.
It contains five carved wooden altars painted in vermilion and white. The San Francisco monastery, somewhat further north on Miguel Alemán (Malecón) quay, is thought to stand on the site where in 1517 the first Christian mass was held on Mexican soil.
Located in the Main Square, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Conception is one of the most beautiful attractions in the center.
It's one of the oldest churches on the Yucatan Peninsula and was constructed between 1540 and 1705.
In the beginning it was conceived as a small church with a thatched roof when Francisco de Montejo junior ordered its construction in 1540. Later on, in 1760 the chapel and the sea-side tower were built. Between the years 1849 and 1850 the land-side tower was built and finally in 1916 the luminous 4-face clock that is used until today was installed.
Opening hours: 6:45am-12pm, 3:30pm-8:45pm
The Main Square, where some examples of Colonial architecture can be observed, as the recently remodeled House of the Old Times.
The cathedral church of La Concepcion stands on the Plaza Principal (Plaza de Independencia) which is also graced by beautiful old colonial houses.
You can watch my 3 min 35 sec Video Mexico Campeche out of my Youtube channel or here on VT.
The City Wall also contained four gates to allow access to the main quarters.
The main entrances are the Puerta de la tierra ("Land Gate"), built in 1732, and the Puerta del mar ("Sea Gate"). The Land Gate is kept as a tourist attraction, having a light and sound show three nights each week and keeping original supplies and items from the 17th century.
The other gates were Guadalupe and San Román, connecting to the outside neighborhoods.
The Land Gate was the original entrance to Campeche and visitors can observe how the forts and walls protected the city. You can take a tour on top of the stone walls offering a nice view of the city. Below is a museum with pictures, letters, guns and ammunition of the period and the pirates that once visited the city.
The city retains many of the old colonial Spanish city walls and fortifications which protected the city (not always successfully) from pirates and buccaneers.
Originally, the Spaniards lived inside the walled city, while the natives lived in the surrounding barrios of San Francisco.
Due to the constant attacks of both English and Dutch buccaneers and for almost 160 years, in 1686 the government started to fortify the city.
The French engineer Louis Bouchard de Becour was commissioned to unify all the defensive works that surrounded the city with a wall. At its completion, the wall surrounding the city of Campeche was 2,560 meters in length, forming an irregular hexagon around the main part of the city, with eight defensive bastions on the corners.
Unique among Mexican cities today, Campeche's Historic Center is still surrounded by the remains of a 2,560 meter-long defensive wall. Eight bastions, or baluartes, were constructed in the 17th and 18th centuries to protect the city, its citizens and riches from frequent attacks by French, English, Dutch and Portuguese pirates. Seven bastions and two gates remain standing today.
Named for the patron saint of sailors, Baluarte Nuestra Señora de la Soledad is the largest of Campeche's bastions. Today, it houses the remarkable collection of the Museum of Mayan Stele. Protected by the Soledad and San Carlos bastions, the Puerta del Mar, or Sea Gate, was the city wall's lone opening to the sea. One of the first bastions constructed, Baluarte San Carlos now houses the city museum. An armored knight on horseback greets you as you enter the exhibit. Protecting Campeche's western wall, Baluarte Santa Rosa is named for the first American saint, St. Rose of Lima (Peru). Exhibitions of painting and folk art are held here. The smallest of Campeche's bastions at 764 square meters, Baluarte de San Juan, protected the Puerta del Tierra. Outside, flying buttresses support the wall and a bell tower.
The Puerta de la Tierra was the main entrance to Campeche from the countryside. Built in 1732, this original fortification contains a museum of weaponry. The rebuilt Baluarte San Francisco was originally constructed between 1686 and 1690. It houses an auditorium and the Gustavo Martínez Alomia Library of archeology, history and anthropology
A broad boulevard runs along the sea, but directly on the sea, is a wide walking path, with a separate jogging/bike path that gets plenty of local use. In the evenings, many locals either walk, jog, skate, or just hang out along the Malecon. Many bring folding chairs and use it as a public patio - be forewarned, alcohol is not allowed. Much of the City will be found walking the paths here into the wee hours of the morning. Every so often, the way is festooned with statues, cannons and the monument to the flag, la Bandera. Look into the sea and you will notice an assortment of fish looking up at you.
55 km southeast of Campeche is the grand Mayan ruins of Edzna. The site is in a tranquil setting with little of the circus that goes on at Chichen Itza or Uxmal. The architecture is different from those areas, being mainly of Chenes style - though Puuc and other style influence. The star attraction is the Templo de los Cinco Pesos - the Temple of Five Stories - which is the highest Mayan temple at 30+ meters and 60 square meters. The site was founded as early as 600 BC though its peak was between AD 600 - 900. Much of the site is still unexcavated - every little mound hides something. Population at the site’s peak varied between 25000 to 75000, depending upon whom you and what you read. The main problem here, as in most of the Yucatan, was water. Besides the high temple there is also the interesting Temple of the Moon, a ball field and the Temple of the Masks ( Templo de los Mascarones) to view. Transportation to the site is the hardest thing to figure out. Not much in the way of public transport and it gets very hot out here - over 100F and 40C. Take along water. There is an entry fee - free on Sundays if you are Mexican. There is a special Mayan ceremony here in July to commemorate the return of the rains.
Tours from the Campeche hotels are around $40-50. Since Campeche is fairly easy as far as Mexican cities to drive within, you may want to get together with a few people to drive out here. Supposedly there is a public bus that can get you here, but I also read about hitchhiking and walking a long ways - it gets really hot out here!
Note that this is one Mayan site where the local mexican tourists actually outnumber the foreign tourists, but then it was Sunday:-)
For more on this site, see the off-the-beaten-path tips and more photos in the Edzna travellogue.
There are seven of the original eight fortresses remaining. The suggested city walk includes visiting most of these Baluartes. The Baluartes nearest the plaza (_____) is a museum (entry fee 50 pesos in 2006).
Baluartes Santiago is the most recent reconstruction - rebuilt in the 1950's. However they ran out of money, and all that was recreated is the four walls and watchtowers. Inside the fortress is now a botanical garden with 200 species of local plants - including a Cieba tree. It is a very small area however, and the plants are not that well marked (no entry fee to Baluartes Santiago).
However it is a great place to sit and have a short rest from your walking tour.
The waterfront (Malecon) in Campeche is a great place to come to watch the sun set into the ocean. Don't blink, you might miss it (the sunset, not the Malecon).
The Malecon has green space with two paths - one marked for walking, one for bicycles and a waterfront road. We saw a lot of joggers (as well as the Carnival parade and a sunset).
As I have mentioned before on VT, my wife is quite keen on mothers and babies, so if we come across anything along this line, we have to take a picture of it (or buy it).
This statue is on a boulevard in the middle of a busy Campeche street. Sandy says that her form is not quite right. Her back is straight (which is correct), but she's not holding the baby correctly.
There are actually a number of statues in different corners of Campeche. I don't know if I would normally go out of my way to check up on them, but mothers and babies are an exception.
The fourth photo is just a photo of a wooden pregnant-lady-carving displayed by our hotel -- nothing to do with the statue.
As with most cities in the Yucatan, the city revolves around the main Plaza. This is where people come to stroll about the town. One thing a little different is that in the bandstand in the middle of the plaza is a restaurant. We watched the action in the Plaza for a couple of hours one evening as we ate in a restaurant overlooking it (see restaurant tips). Interestingly at some point at night they lock the doors to the park.
As in Merida, Sunday afternoons are a special time with free concerts and lots of townspeople wandering about. Of course such things as the City tours start from one side of the Plaza, and inside it is a Tourist Information booth.
These photos are of two more of the buildings close to the plaza. The first, two blocks north of the Plaza is the Carvajal Mansion. This building was the home of a wealthy family in the early 1900's. Keeping up with the Jones in those days meant the building has Moorish arches, fancy iron railings and the builder's initials in all the windows. Today it is a public building - home of local Department of Family Affairs.
The second photo is some civic building right on the Plaza square, all lit up at night. I cannot ever remember if the building was open to the public, and we did not come back to check the next day.
Each year as Shrove Tuesday (or Pancake Tuesday) approaches, there is the madhouse that is Carnival parades. Each town in Mexico has a number of parades -- parades for kids, parades for folk costumes, parades for the beauty queens.
At the parades we viewed, normally participants throw out stuff to the crowds -- most often candy, but also T-shirts and other such stuff. Carnival parades truly are a madhouse. People line the parade route 5 people deep, and it can take hours to get away from the parade once its over due to all the people.
We watched one such parade in Campeche. The honourary parade marshalls were two local soap opera actors. They were so popular that they were constantly mobbed -- I think their names are Alexandra and Sebastian (means nothing to me). See the photos for views of some of the floats.