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CAMPECHE

The Old City of Campeche is a remarkable museum piece of the colonial era. Cobbled streets of aged houses painted in delicate blues, greens, and ochers still sit within the city walls, which were built to fend off pirate attacks when this was one of the great trading strongholds of the Spanish empire. Campeche’s actual museum, housed in an old fortress, displays spectacular Mayan relics from the excavated forest city of Calakmul.

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Map of Campeche

NEED TO KNOW

prac_info Visitor Information: Casa Seis, Av Ruiz Cortines; (981) 127 3300

prac_info Palacio Centro Cultural: Calle 8, between 55–7, Zona Centro; (981) 811 0366, (981) 816 7741; open 10am–7pm Tue–Sun

prac_info Museo de las Estelas Mayas: Puerta de Mar; open 8am–5pm Tue–Sun; adm $2

prac_info Puerta de Tierra: open 9am–8pm

prac_info Fuerte San Miguel Museum: open 8:30am–5pm Tue–Sun; adm $2.50

prac_info Fuerte San José Museum: open 9:30am–5:30pm Tue–Sun; adm $3

Google Map

  • “El Guapo” buses run to the fortress museums from the Parque Principal.
  • Cheerful Luz de Luna (Calle 59, No. 6) offers a range of good-value Mexican dishes.

1. Palacio Centro Cultural

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Housed in an attractive colonial-era building on the Parque Principal, this museum innovatively charts the history of the city through multimedia displays, a sound and light show, and exhibits that include a replica Spanish galleon.

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Street in Campeche’s colonial Old City

2. Fuerte San Miguel Museum

Google Map

A hilltop fortress just south of the city, this is now home to a fine collection of Mayan relics, including a set of beautiful jade funeral masks.

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Canons line the top of the Fuerte San Miguel Museum

3. Puerta de Mar

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After the city walls were built, Puerta de Mar provided the only gateway to the harbor. The bastion houses the Museo de las Estelas Mayas, displaying Mayan carvings from sites around Campeche.

4. Casa Seis

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A gracious old house on the west side of the Parque Principal, this has been restored to re-create the home of a prosperous 19th-century Campeche merchant. The house’s patio hosts a tourist information desk and also features concerts and exhibitions.

5. The Malecón

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This waterfront has been attractively restored and is a popular place for locals to take an evening stroll. There are often superb sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico.

6. Cathedral

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Begun in the 1560s, the cathedral in Campeche was not completed until the 19th century. Its facade is one of the oldest parts, designed in a Spanish Renaissance style typical of many churches built in the reign of King Philip II.

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Campeche Cathedral in the main square

7. Puerta de Tierra

Google Map

Built in 1732, the Puerta de Tierra (“Land Gate”) was the only way in or out of Campeche on the landward side. Within is a museum of maritime and pirate history.

8. Baluarte de Santiago

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This isolated bastion has been imaginatively used to house a dense and verdant botanical garden, with giant palms and other lush tropical flora.

9. Fuerte San José Museum

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This sturdy Spanish fortress houses the Post-Conquest sections of the town’s museum. There are lovely sea and city views from the ramparts.

10. Edzná

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This city, 30 miles (48 km) southeast of Campeche, once rivalled Chichén Itzá and Uxmal in size and wealth. Its palace-temple, known as the “Building of the Five Stories”, is one of the largest, most intricate Mayan buildings.

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Building of the Five Stories in Edzná

THE PIRATE PLAGUE

Between the 1560s and the 1680s Campeche was attacked again and again by pirates such as Henry Morgan and the Dutchman known only as “Peg-Leg.” Finally, the Spanish governors and city’s merchants had suffered enough and ordered the building of a solid ring of walls and bastions. Campeche was transformed into one of the largest walled cities in Spanish America.

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