The archaeological zone of Tajin is a little way out from downtown Veracruz, but is nonetheless worth a visit. Take a bus from the ADO bus station; it takes five hours to get there, so bring some music and enjoy the view of the landscapes along the way. Tajin is an important historical zone: read about the Totonacas, and explore its ancient buildings. The town where it’s located is very peaceful, so just wander around and delight in some local food before returning to downtown.
Agustín Lara, better known as “El Flaco de Oro” (The Golden Skinny Man), is an icon of romantic music in Mexico. His house is nowadays converted into a museum that preserves the original design, where you can appreciate his story, music, and photos. Lara was not a conventionally handsome man, but he was the love of Mexican iconic beauty, actress María Félix. You can see a couple of love letters written by this romantic man exhibited in the museum. At night, hit Granada, a bar on the lower level of the house which plays trova music, which is retro Latin romantic music. Ideal if you want to hit a bar with a calm ambience.
Whether you decide to rent a kayak and paddle or get on board any of the boats in the Malecón, there’s a nice view of the main points of Veracruz, such as Isla de Sacrificios and San Juan de Ulúa. Any introvert would like to sail in the harbor at moonlight. There are boats in El Malecón, in downtown, that sail every night, every few minutes. It’s definitely not a typical night party boat, but a small one that takes you around the bay. The peace and calm side of the Veracruz coast at night can be absorbed in this boat tour under the starry sky. Feel the breeze while you listen to an explanation about the places where the boat passes, relax and enjoy.
Located in the Ursulo Galvan municipality, Cempoala was the Totonaca capital, also occupied by Chinantecas and Zapotecas. This is a lesser-known archaeological site, but is still very important and worth a visit. Pack a picnic basket and take it with you when you visit the place. It’s a very photogenic spot for those who love photography. With some luck you might even see the Papantla Flyers. Sit there, have your picnic, reflect on the history of the area, and just enjoy the peace and quiet.
On afternoons, local families like to go to El Malecón (The Boardwalk), whether for jogging or to enjoy some quality time. You might like to observe the mix of people walking around: workers on their way home, couples, people fishing, vendors, the families interacting, the kids playing, an interesting mixture you might enjoy if you are an observer. Look for a vendor of “raspados and glorias” (a typical sweet, icy drink), walk around, sit in front of the sea and enjoy.
Take a walk downtown and visit the Fototeca, a gallery in which you can admire high level artistic photographs. The images look at the world from different angles, and you can see typical Latin life captured by talented artists. Visit the Instituto Veracruzano de la Cultura (IVEC) and see a small vestige of the wall that divided Veracruz in the past, that is now part of the streets. If you’re interested in art, check which exhibitions are on during your vacation to see different interpretations of Veracruz’s history. Then head across the street and check out the Atarazanas, which features exhibitions of local art. Admire the architecture of these buildings; they’re old and have a colonial style.
La Huaca has inspired many artists who have photographed, painted and even filmed the area. The walls of its houses tell stories of Veracruz’s history; this neighborhood was founded by African slaves brought by the Spanish conquistadors to populate the harbor, building the houses with materials from the abandoned ships around the coast. Some famous musicians grew up here, like Toña La Negra whose statue you will find in the neighborhood. Take an hour in a café to read about La Huaca and then just take a walk around, look at the houses and know the history that may be lost on those without such an understanding of the area’s past.
Just the same as the parks, the Boulevard in Veracruz is a tradition, where the Veracruzanos like to go to exercise, meditate and spend time with family and friends. On Sundays there are cycles for rent, so pick one up and ride along the coast of Veracruz and Boca del Rio feeling the sea breeze. When you’re hungry, take a snack from the food trucks and sip on some refreshing coconut water. End your afternoon sitting in front of the ocean; you can be alone and still surrounded by people.