Explore Downtown Veracruz
A Self Guided Walking Tour

Photographs and Text by John Todd, Jr.

Explore Downtown Veracruz

These are my Favorite Places.

Take a stroll through 475 years of History...
Browse the small shops on the Malecón...
Enjoy the Veracruz style Seafood Cuisine...
Visit the timeless Veracruz Seafood market...
Hear Music in the streets...
Legends of Pirates, treasure, and traditions of old Veracruz.
"El Danzón" on the plaza in the evening...


Veracruz Map

Morning Walking Tour of Downtown Veracruz:

Bring your Camera! Wear slacks, comfortable shoes, and a hat for the sun.

From Someone Who Took This Walking Tour:
Here´s a letter I got the other day from someone who took the walking tour:

Veracruz was often hot and often smelly. The area in front of the "Guero, Guera, Guero" ice cream shops smelled so badly, I don't know how people could be sitting there eating.

(** You guys must be Americans from some sterile part of California. I don't notice it anymore. I think that being around a certain degree of dirt and tobacco smoke helps keep your immune system strong and healthy.)

Your walking guide helped us, but on Monday many places (including the Naval Museum) were closed. The battlement (Is that the right word?) that houses a collection of gold that a fisherman discovered in recent years was open for free for some sort of holiday. Luckily, some one got wise to what was going on before all the stuff was melted down. Such beautiful treasures!

We had a delightful seafood meal in one of the upper floors of the fish market. I ate a mountain of crabs and fish!

The cafe with the "lecheros" was memorable.

Shrimp cocktails on the Zocolo - great.

1. We start from the Malecón at the Monument to Mexico´s sailors victims of Nazi U-Boats who went down with their ships in WWII.

Monument to the Lost Sailors
Sailors Lost in WWII
During WWII Mexico tried to maintain a posture of neutrality.

German U-Boats didn´t make much distinction of the nationality of the ships it sank and several Mexican oil tankers were included as victims of the war.

Off to one side of the Malecón is this monument to the Mexican sailors who lost their lives.

Most of them were Veracruzanos.
Monument to the Lost Sailors
After the sinking of these ships, Mexico finally gave up its neutrality, and declared war on the Axis powers.

2. Take a left, and go 3 blocks to explore Fort Santiago built after a pirate raid in 1683.

Fort Santiago
A couple of blocks away is the Baluarte de Santiago, or Fort Santiago which was one of the corner watch posts of the wall that protected Veracruz from pirates.

Built after 1683 in response to the bloody pirate attack of Lorenz de Graf, or "Lorencillo".

Recently I found some information that the leader of the raid may have been John Russell, an Englishmen illegally cutting wood near Cd. del Carmen.

However, "Lorencillo" wasn´t entirely innocent because he was there, too.
The Old Drawbridge
The fort was designed not only for the defense of the town of Veracruz, but provided and effective crossfire in support of the Fort of San Juan de Ulua.

By 1880, pirates were no longer a threat, and Veracruz had grown so much that the wall was demolished to make way for further growth of the city.

Buried treasure is still being found, and on display here is a portion of the treasure found by a fisherman about 20 years ago.

Of course, it was confiscated by the authorities.

On the backside is a small museum. I enjoy climbing around old forts.

On the way, we walk up one block to the Convent of Belén.

Turning left in front of the Baluarte Santiago are a couple of street scenes.
Plant Man
Mobile Plant Store
Old Naval Academy
Former Naval Academy

Up ahead just before we get to the Convento is "La Prepa" or High School which used to be the Naval Academy. Notice the "Bats" engraved on the doors of the State Police Station.

3. Now let´s rest a moment in a rocking chair in the peaceful convent of San Sebastian.

El Convento de San Sebastian
Originally built as a hospital and school by the Bethlemite Order from Guatemala in the 17th Century.

In the 19th and part of the 20th Century it became a hospital.

When the national Social Security hospital system came to Veracruz, it became the Veracruz Institute of Culture, also called the IVEC.

I enjoy coming here during the week to sit in one of the rocking chairs.
Original Wall
The last of the Original Wall
The Patio in the Back
One of my favorite places is the green patio garden in the back. It is cool and green.

There are a few places left in Veracruz where you can see the rest of the wall that protected the city from pirates.

Notice the thickness of the wall.

4. Let´s cross the street and explore the new Naval Museum.

Naval Museum
Large Model Ship
The Naval Museum
Now you go "aboard" the Naval Museum.

The museum is brand new and the many exhibits are a delight for anyone interested seafaring, and the challenges that faced the early Spanish explorers.

For many years, it was the Naval Academy, and was bombarded during the US invasion of Veracruz in April of 1914.

The have some of the original photos of the invasion, and you can see the Academy got shot up pretty bad.
Naval Museum
Walled Veracruz Exhibit
The History of Veracruz
In another section you can find out more about the history of Veracruz.

They have a scale model of the town complete with the wall that was begun as a consequence of a pirate raid in 1683 to protect the city.

The order for demolishment of the wall came about in 1880.

5. See the legendary "Guera! Guera! Guera!" fresh icecream shops of Veracruz.

Local Homemade Icecream
A Tradition in Veracruz
Guera Guera Guera fresh homemade icecream is an institution in Veracruz and in Mexico is more famous than Hagendaaz.

Hawkers out front shout, "Guera! Guera!, Guera!".

Guera means "blond girl", and it is an attention getter in a predominately Indian and mestizo country.

Most people take it in stride since the veracruzanos are known to be loud and in bad taste.
Hand made
Hand Made with Local Fruit
Real Cream
They start with real cream and salt the old fashioned way.

Originally these were mobile ice cream stands in stainless steel pushcarts on the sidewalk.

A couple of years ago the city of Veracruz built this area so they could be inside.

Many of them simply moved their equipment inside. The icecream is still hand made with fresh local fruit and has become a local institution.

The fresh icecream is good, too!

6. Music is the soul of Veracruz. Marimbas, street musicians, and the Danzón in the evenings.

El Zocalo
El Zócalo
El Zócalo
The 17th Century Zocalo was originally called "La Plaza de Armas", and after Independence from Spain the name was changed to "Plaza de la Constitución".
La Catedral de la Asunción
La Catedral de la Asunción
The historic "Catedral de la Asunción" is where the pirate Lorenz de Graaf confined the population of Veracruz for almost 4 days in May of 1683 while he sacked the town.
Los Portales
Los Portales
These are the various "refreshment" establishments in the famous "Los Portales de Veracruz".
Shoe Shine
Shoe Shine
You can also get a good shoe shine at "Los Portales".

7. Enter the historic cathedral where the Dutch pirate Lorenz de Graf held 5,000 people hostage in 1683.

8. Finish with a splendid Café con Leche in the Café de la Parróquia, as time permits.

El Lechero
Café con Leche
El Café de la Parróquia
The Spanish style Café de la Parróquia is another institution in Veracruz and dates back to the 1890´s.

Although this location now is called "El Café del Portal", it is site of the original Café de la Parróquia which moved to the Malecón several years ago.

El Café de la Parróquia, a landmark in Veracruz, is famous for its "Café con Leche", locally known as El Lechero.

It is served with a flourish!
La Marimba
La Marimba
Music is Everywhere
On the street in front of the church in front of the Café de la Parróquia, a marimba seems to always be playing for customers from very early in the morning to late at night.

Periodically the person who plays the güiro circulates among the customers asking for donations or requests.

It seems to add a special flavor to the rich mountain grown Mexican coffee.

9. Then back to the Malecon to end the tour browsing the little shops at the Mercado de Artesanías.

La Marimba
El Malecón
The Iceman
There´s a lot more to explore in Veracruz! The local custom of the Siesta in the afternoon is optional...but recommended!

(The self guided tour of Veracruz takes about 3 hours. )