7 things not to miss in Veracruz, Mexico’s most famous port

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The city of Veracruz is one of Mexico’s most important ports in the Gulf of Mexico. The thriving port has a rich history; it was here that the first Spanish explorers arrived in the early 1500s, making Veracruz the oldest colonial city in Mexico. History buffs, architecture buffs and foodies have plenty of reasons to explore this historic city.

Enjoy the folklore

Visit Las Armas Square, grab an ice cream and enjoy live folk music – the town’s main square is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike, all looking to sample the town’s traditions. Watch couples young and old alike dance to the slow beat Danzon and sample a wide variety of local street food specialties while shopping for arts and crafts until sunset. It is the heart and soul of Veracruz – although there is a lot to see and do in Veracruz, it is the people who will leave the most lasting impression.

Spend a day at the beach

Veracruz may be a huge trading port receiving dozens of massive freighters and merchant ships every day, but there are many small beaches along the Gulf of Mexico. Playa de Hornos, Playa Martí, Isla del Amor, Playa Villa del Mar, and Cancuncito are popular public beaches, all just minutes from historic downtown Veracruz in nearby Boca del Río. And they all await you with beautiful tan sand, water sports and the freshest local seafood specialties.

Visit the ancient forts

Back then, Veracruz was no stranger to pirate attacks and more than one attempted foreign invasion. Proof of this are the impressive forts and fortresses, including the Castle of San Juan de Ulúa. Built between 1535 and 1769, this impressive complex of fortifications and prisons was once home to Francis Drake’s crew and has been the site of many historic battles. If you love naval history this is a must visit. If you don’t like history, visit the castle for a solo humility experience.

Enjoy a cup of coffee

The Veracruz region stretches inland into the highlands of Mexico, home to the country’s most prized coffee plantations. It goes without saying that the cafes of Veracruz serve the best coffee in the country. Los Portales and La Parroquia are arguably the most popular cafes in the city of Veracruz, but even the smallest restaurants serve up a delicious cup of coffee. The coffee here is served in a tall glass, and the concentrated brew is topped with hot, frothy milk for a heartwarming coffee specialty you won’t find in any of the chain cafes any time soon.

Visit the port

Stroll along the boulevard bordering the city of Veracruz along the Gulf of Mexico to experience the magnificence of one of America’s most important trading ports. Ships as big as buildings, coming from all corners of the earth, line up to deliver their cargo. Logistics is inspiring in itself. The best part? Dozens of restaurants and cafes with a view of the maritime spectacle are everywhere.

Not your average aquarium

Every big city has an aquarium, and Veracruz is no exception. The Veracruz Aquarium is nothing like what you have seen before – it is the largest aquarium in Latin America. With see-through underwater tunnels and cages for swimming with sharks, the park has something for everyone, and it’s rewarding, especially if you’re visiting with kids. From manatees and penguins to an entire jellyfish exhibit, the Veracruz Aquarium is one you will remember for a long time.

Eat like never before

If you think you know Mexican food, think again. Veracruz has a unique cuisine focused on the bounty of the sea. The famous chilpahole, a crab stew, is legendary, and the whole Veracruz-style fish, served with tomatoes, capers, onions and olives, is as filling as seafood. Fried fish, shrimp or oysters, and all the seafood in Veracruz is of the most extraordinary quality, and it is always freshly caught. And if you want to try something really remarkable, the crispy chicatana ants are a specialty here. Yes, you will love them, so give the ants a try!

Veracruz shows a side of Mexico that no one expects, in a good way. With over five hundred years of history, traditions run deeper in Veracruz than in any other city in Mexico or the entire Americas for that matter. So come visit Veracruz for a totally different experience in Mexico.

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