Campeche is a Mexican city where planners did almost everything right. We like virtually everything we see.
Campeche was walled off to keep pirates out in colonial times, and everything inside that wall had facelifts and repairs beginning in the 1990s that lasted well into the 2000s. A local told us the planning began way back in the 1980s. I don’t know who exactly was responsible for this wonderful vision, but the planners were true city leaders.
Calle 59 is a street closed to cars and restaurants have tables and chairs outside in the road. It’s popular.
I don’t drink alcohol, so I brought a chocolate frappe to the table from a great shop on Calle 59 – info on that here from Instagram. And, there are plenty of great places to eat off that street as well, including this one I wrote a quick review for on Instagram.
The old wall no longer goes all the way around the city – parts are missing. However, tourists can walk on the portions still there for quite a long way if you pay admission to the museums, which have interesting displays.
We paid less than $1 USD for admission into the museums on the bottom, and then that gives you access to the wall walk on top. Do this. The views are stunning.
You can see where nature has reclaimed some of the city – but the facades hide and you don’t notice it from street level. Again – that excellent city planning. It makes it seem like this is how it was in the 17th century, when the wall was first built to keep out invaders.
For photographs, the sun’s shade starts to impede facades by around 3:00 p.m., so start your shots well before then, with around the noon hour being ideal for no shadows.
We also took a trolley tour around the old city for less than $6 USD each. Note, this tour is only in Spanish – no English – so unless you want to simply take a ride and enjoy the sights, you may want to think twice about taking it.
That said, we enjoyed it very much, even though we understood only a little. (I haven’t seriously studied in a few months – with trips to New York and Belize, where they speak English.)
The ride goes around the old city, and then out onto the malecon (waterfront boardwalk) for a little stretch. There are Catholic influences throughout Campeche, including on the malecon.
Again – great city planning here. The malecon has separate running and bike paths, and, there is even a spot with free exercise equipment. The views may be best in the afternoons, because the sun hits the city from the west, over the Gulf of Mexico.
Some nights feature live music in the square in the old city, and every night has a light show that is highly entertaining about human history and humanity in this region of the world.
While all of this is designed for tourists, there aren’t too many tourists here. Campeche is one of the least populated states in this country. It’s not as easy to get here as some other areas of the Yucatan region, because it’s a long drive from the economical flights into Cancun – about seven hours by car, longer by bus. (Note, there is an airport in Campeche, but I do not know pricing and flights.)
We took a bus here from Chetumal, near the Belize border. That route took us about 6.5 hours. The ride is mostly through rural areas – but the road was in great shape and if you didn’t know any better, you’d think you were back in the U.S.
People have asked me if I worry about being away from the more heavily-traveled tourist areas, like Cancun and Playa del Carmen and Tulum. The answer is no, not at all. I’ve never once feared for our safety.
Generally speaking, Mexicans are good, hard-working people who live moral lives. The majority of Mexicans who are religious are Catholic. Here in Campeche, the main church is gorgeous, with two towers and an ornate altar area.
Right next to the church it is an interesting museum. There are old headstones cemented into the walls, and I even found my last name! Turns out there was a McGregor sent here by the U.S. government as a consulate in the early 1800s, according to a quick Google search.
To anyone who needs more reassurance about the safety of this charming city: police make regular patrols on segways within the walled city, and we’ve seen many police cars outside the wall.
Almost everything you need during a stay in Campeche is on a stretch of road called Centro Calle, from large grocery stores, a Mexican WalMart, the ADO bus station, several shops and even some doctor offices and clinics.
The local bus runs up and down Centro Calle every few minutes. It costs 7 pesos, or $.40 cents. The buses also go in other parts of the city, so you don’t need a car.
Our experience here with people is that they are kind and helpful, and happy to see tourists visit. Many Mexicans here know English, but not as many as in Cancun or Playa del Carmen or other areas of Mexico. With some effort and patience, you will be able to communicate with the most basic palabras en espanol.
We are staying just outside the walled city down Calle Centro a couple of kilometers. My husband found this place on AirBnB for $17 a night. It’s clean, has a soft bed, fans and A/C, fridge, TV (with CNN so we did watch a little TV on the Belgium attacks), coffee maker and a hot shower. So you can visit this city for little money if you don’t eat out every meal, every day.
Despite being on the Gulf of Mexico, Campeche has no beach. With temperatures nearing 100 degrees these days, we decided to take a day trip by bus a couple of hours south in search of white sand. We found a place – and that will be the next post I write.
To close this post on Campeche – it’s totally worth your time and money. This colonial city is a romantic and bright, and it’s a happy place with great vibes.