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Other Sights in Campeche

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We had circled the path of the old fortifications which once protected the city, and taken a trip into the jungles of the interior to visit Maya ruins, but it wasn’t until our final hours in Campeche that we spent much time exploring the city itself.

Campeche Church

Comprising a five-by-eight grid of streets, the center of Campeche hasn’t changed much since the fortifications were erected in the early 1700s. We ambled along the roads, climbing up onto the exaggeratedly-elevated sidewalks when a car would pass by, and directed ourselves to a few of the city’s sights.

First up, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, which took nearly two centuries to complete. The baroque facade is impressive, but inside it’s much the same as any cathedral. It does, however, have a small museum full of macabre religious relics, the best of which is a black wood and silver coffin holding a Jesus corpse.

Mansión Carvajal

Nearby the cathedral, we stopped in at the Mansión Carvajal. This baroque residence was built by one of the city’s most important businessmen and is today home to government offices. Visitors are free to wander through, although there’s nothing specific to see here, apart from the interesting architecture.

San Jose Church Campeche

Across town, we sought out the Ex-Temple of San Jose, which is most notable for the lighthouse sticking out of its roof, and for the blue and yellow tiles of its exterior. During our visit, this former Jesuit convent was hosting an exhibit of modern art.

On the southern side of the Plaza Grande, visitors can tour the Centro Cultural Casa 6. This colonial-era home doesn’t have the most inspiring name, but it’s filled with authentic period furniture and does a good job of illuminating how the upper crust of the eighteenth century lived.

We only had a brief taste of Campeche, and were left wanting more. Its cobblestone streets, colorful houses and colonial architecture are hard to dislike. To experience the city at the relaxed pace that it seems to encourage, you’d need at least three or four days. Perhaps even 91.

Locations on our Map: Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception | Mansión Carvajal | Ex-Temple of San Jose | Centro Cultural Casa 6

List of hotels in Campeche

More photos from the Cathedral
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More photos from the Mansión Carvajal
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More photos from San Jose
San Jose Church Campeche
San Jose Church Campeche
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San Jose Church Campeche
More photos from the Centro Cultural Casa 6
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January 26, 2014 at 10:13 pm Comments (0)

The Ramparts and Museums of Campeche

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At the beginning of the eighteenth century, the construction of Campeche’s fortifications rescued the city from the devastation of unrelenting pirate attacks. Three hundred years later, the surviving walls and fortresses have shifted their focus to tourism, and are presently home to the city’s best museums.

Seven of Campeche’s original eight bastions are still standing, and a satisfying tour of the city can be had by simply following their circular path. We started at the Baluarte de Santiago, which today hosts Campeche’s Botanical Garden. A walk about the small and attractive garden requires very little time, and costs next to nothing.

A bit farther west down the coast, we visited the sea-facing Baluarte de la Soledad which is home to the Museo de Arquitectura Maya. Spread across the bottom floor of the old fort, the museum introduces visitors to the basic concepts of Maya architecture. Each stele, or carved stone column, is accompanied by a point-by-point description of all the elements and glyphs, along with their probable meaning, which really helps in understanding the cryptic art of the Maya.

Next up was the Baluarte de San Carlos and the Museo de la Ciudad. With all the pirate attacks, Campeche has had a more colorful history than most cities, and this museum presents some of its more exciting and blood-soaked episodes. While I was in the bowels of the fort, reading up on the exploits of buccaneers and swashbucklers, Jürgen was on the roof snapping pictures of the city.

On the other side of Campeche is the Puerta de Tierra, a bastion which served as the city’s main entry point. Today, it’s most well-known for its light-and-sound show, performed three times a week. We arrived early for a performance, but didn’t know that a ticket was required. And by the time we realized our error, the show was sold out. Frustrating, because it’s supposed to be rather good.

Fuerte de San Miguel

All of these bastions were impressive, but for the best fortress and museum, you have to travel a couple kilometers outside of the city and scale a tall hill to reach the Museo de Cultura Maya inside the Fuerte de San Miguel. From the top of this fortress, you can enjoy an excellent view over the sea and city. The museum is spread out across ten rooms, with exhibits that focus on archaeological finds from around Campeche State, including some priceless pieces like a glowing jade mask in perfect condition.

Cheap Accommodation in Campeche

Locations on our Map: Baluarte de Santiago | Baluarte de la Soledad | Baluarte de San Carlos | Puerta de Tierra | Fuerte de San Miguel

More photos from the Baluarte de Santiago
More photos from the Baluarte de San Carlos
More photos from the Puerta de Tierra
More photos from the Fuerte de San Miguel
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January 25, 2014 at 6:26 pm Comment (1)

A Trip to Campeche

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With a historic center that’s been protected for centuries by an impenetrable set of fortifications, Campeche has a reputation as one of Mexico’s most beautiful cities. We were completely won over by its picturesque charm, during a two-day excursion from Mérida.

Campeche

Campeche was founded in 1540, on the site of a Maya city called Kinpech. Almost right away, the new Spanish settlement drew the attention of pirates who were operating in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. Among the many who sacked Campeche, some big names appear… Henry Morgan, Roche Braziliano, John Hawkins, Francis Drake. Pirate League All-Stars! Their villainy was relentless; as soon as Campeche had recovered from one attack, the next would begin.

Things came to a head between 1663 and 1667, when the city was sacked almost without pause, the people terrorized and butchered by ever more greedy and bloodthirsty pirates. Finally, the Campechanos demanded that their Spanish rulers build a set of walls. Completed in 1702, the fortifications were successful in protecting the city from further assaults, and the real-life Pirates of the Caribbean moved on to easier fare.

Campeche’s historic town center is still defined by its life-saving fortifications. Seven of the eight balustrades remain standing, and a couple sections of the walls can be visited. The city has spread out far beyond its original size, but the fortified area remains the center of life, home to most of the touristic sights, with a charming colonial atmosphere that’s out-of-step with hectic modern Mexico. The cobblestone streets in a checkerboard layout, the thoughtfully-restored Baroque houses, and the walls themselves led UNESCO to declare Campeche a World Heritage Site in 2007.

We were visiting just before the New Year, while the town was still in the throes of its Christmas celebrations. The main plaza was lit up dazzlingly, and the atmosphere was so festive it bordered on insane. Noise and lights are always fun, but in Campeche we most enjoyed the quieter side of things; strolling along gorgeous colonial streets, drinking a beer on a balcony overlooking the plaza, or sitting by the ocean while the sun disappeared behind the Gulf. Simply put, this is a lovely city; the two days we spent here weren’t nearly enough.

Location on our Map

List Of Hotels In Cempeche

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January 25, 2014 at 12:37 am Comments (4)
Other Sights in Campeche We had circled the path of the old fortifications which once protected the city, and taken a trip into the jungles of the interior to visit Maya ruins, but it wasn't until our final hours in Campeche that we spent much time exploring the city itself.
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