The colonial town of Campeche was the biggest surprise on our road trip through Yucatán. The reason: Campeche is beautiful, colourful, wonderfully calm and above all very authentic. We had very little expectations and were ultimately very impressed. In Campeche you won’t find impressive sights or attractions, but rather perfect Mexican vibes.
Yucatán is not exactly known for being a secret destination, nor is it known for its absence of mass tourism. Fortunately, Campeche completely contradicts this stereotype. In this blog article, we show you why a stopover in Campeche is highly worthwhile. We will also share with you our tips for this colourful colonial city.
1. Campeche in Mexico: Authentic Colonial Town of Yucatán
If you want to experience Yucatán off the usual tourist hotspots, you should go to the west coast. There, lies a lovely colonial town by the name of Campeche in the state of Campeche. Campeche, officially dubbed the “San Francisco de Campeche”, is pretty much your typical Mexican City cliché come true.
Down every alley, you are greeted by colourful houses with wrought-iron window grilles. To our surprise, many of the building fronts have been renovated and really stand out in their beautiful colours. Old VW Beetles take over the cobble-stoned streets. Women and men push their bikes through the roads with mobile food stalls. And on the main square in front of the Cathedral (“Plaza de la Independencia”), old and young gather around, relax and read newspapers.
Campeche is less buzzing than you might expect. This is also due to its smaller size: There are just over 200,000 inhabitants here in Campeche. For a Mexican city, this is not very much. It is the slow, relaxed coziness that we know and love Campeche for.
Who is Campeche suitable for?
Campeche is suitable for those who want to travel and explore more “off the beaten track” side of Yucatán. For some reason, Campeche is not on the list for many travellers to stop by, and we’re not quite sure why. However, that means that Campeche is somewhat of a little secret, as most people tend to flock to nearby Mérida. Nevertheless, Campeche does have a long history of naturally grown tourism, so don’t come expecting an undiscovered city, as those don’t exist in Mexico!
Although Campeche is located by the sea, there are no beaches. You also can’t go swimming in Campeche itself. Therefore, if you’re after a beach vacation, this is not the place for you. However, it’s perfect for those who want to enjoy a relaxed Mexican lifestyle and just want to get lost in amongst all the colourful streets.
How long should I stay in Campeche?
Campeche is comparatively rather small. It’s not hard to see all the highlights one afternoon. Nevertheless, we would recommend you to stay two nights (as we did). We found this period just right, as it also leaves enough free time to stroll aimlessly through the streets without any plans or goals.
2. Top things to do in Campeche: Sights and Activities
Campeche promises colourful photo opportunities on every corner, but less of your typical touristic sights. The good thing about it, is that you can enjoy your time in Campeche without having to rush from one sight to the next.
Plaza de la Independencia & Campeche Cathedral
In heart of the historic centre of Campeche is the main square called “Plaza de la Independencia”. Around this rectangular square, are some of the city’s most important buildings. One of them is the Cathedral of Campeche, which goes by a very interesting name: “Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción”.
In the park of the main square, you will find one shoe cleaner adjacent to the next – just like in Mérida and Valladolid. The people getting their shoes cleaned simply sit comfortably in the chair and perhaps read the newspaper, while their shoes are neatly cleaned and polished. Sounds nice, right?
Centro Cultural Casa No. 6
As we looked through the open window of the Centro Cultural Casa No. 6, we become rather curious and so we spontaneously decided to pay a visit to this particular cultural centre. It is located on the western side of the main square (“Plaza de la Independencia”) and is intended to give an insight into former life in Campeche.
In the 18th century, this grand colonial mansion was home to a wealthy influential family. On the ground floor of the building, there are several rooms which you can visit, but the highlight in our opinion is the inner courtyard. Overall, don’t expect too much, but we personally found the Centro Cultural very interesting and above all very photogenic.
Address: Calle 57 (at the main square), 24000 Campeche
Admission: 20 Pesos per person
Opening hours: daily from 8 am to 9 pm (Saturday and Sunday from 9 am)
City Wall & Museo de La Arquitectura Maya
You should certainly visit part of the former city wall. It may sound a bit more spectacular than it really is, but in the late afternoon, just before sunset, we found it very nice up there. You don’t have a proper view, but you can at least see the towers of the cathedral.
Access to this part of the city wall is via the Museo de La Arquitectura Maya. To get to the city wall, you have to pay admission to the museum, which is why we also spent the time to look around there. Conclusion: not exactly a must-see, but can be interesting.
Address: Calle 8, 24000 Campeche
Admission: 45 Pesos per person
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 8am to 5pm (unfortunately, you can’t experience the actual sunset on the city wall itself.)
Walk through the Old Town
Of course, the alleyways around the main square and the city wall are not all that Campeche has to offer. We also found the former church called Ex Templo de San Jose very worth seeing. Although it looks pretty run-down, but with the colourful tiles on the front, it is definitely something rather unique and special. The inside houses a small art market.
Sunset on the beach promenade
The mile-long waterfront (“Malecón”) is more of a traffic way than a magnificent boulevard. This is something that should be addressed, because during our visit, there was construction in just about every corner. It seems like they should focus more on the waterfront.
Anyway, sunset is worth stopping by, as you can watch the sun from here as it disappears across the horizon of the sea.
3. Food & Drink in Campeche: Tips for Restaurants and Cafes
Small but nice – that’s how we would describe the restaurant selection in Campeche. There are not many options, but we really liked the restaurants we visited. Of course, we do not want to deprive you of our favourites.
La María Cocina Peninsular
Wow! In this rather secluded eatery, we actually tasted the best guacamole of our entire Yucatán trip. The other two dishes we ordered were an absolute dream. The big advantage: there were comparatively many vegetarian dishes on offer. (In reality, it’s just a few dishes, but for Mexico that’s considered quite a lot.)
Too bad that you can’t sit outside. That would have been the icing on the cake. But you can still dine inside, situated between colourful walls and it feels very comfortable and authentic. The restaurant seems to be very popular with tourists, but it did not bother us. Conclusion: we would gladly come again!
Address: Calle 8 (between Calle 53 and 55), 24000 Campeche
Prices: Dinner incl. Drinks for two approx. 350 Pesos
We visited the very lovely and cozily furnished Luan for a nice breakfast. The majority of the guests around us were all Mexicans.
The menu is only available in Spanish and the dishes are also very authentic. There are countless egg dishes, but also other things such as pancakes or muesli with fruits. The staff is very accommodating, but unfortunately hardly understands a word of English. Google Translate was once again our saviour.
Address: Calle 14 (between Calle 57 and 59), 24000 Campeche
Prices: Breakfast for two incl. Coffee cost 250 Pesos
Our favourite spot to get some creative work done in Campeche, was the air-conditioned Chocol’Ha. This small Chocolaterie serves good coffee and of course cocoa (hot or cold) in many varieties. There are also a few small snacks and sweets, but we did not test them out. In the entrance area, a few souvenirs are offered for sale, including coffee and soaps.
Address: Calle 59 (at Calle 30), Campeche
Prices: Cold Cocoa was 42 Pesos, Espresso was 25 Pesos
In order to escape the afternoon heat, we found ourselves in the Sotavento Café for coffee and cake. The decor is very typical Mexican: colourful, jumbled, beautiful tiles and just really nice! We ordered a flan and two espresso. Both were very delicious. Would gladly come again!
Address: Calle 55 (between Calle 12 and 14), 24000 Campeche
Prices: 1 Flan and 2 Espressi cost 132 Pesos
4. Overnight in Campeche: Our Accommodation Recommendation
We stayed for two nights at the Casa Mazejuwi, which we can highly recommend. Of all the places we stayed at during our entire Yucatan trip, this was the accommodation, which won the best value for money.
Our deluxe room (with a king bed) was on the first floor and very large. The decor is very tasteful: a bit Mexican, a bit oriental and above all a lot of attention to detail! We slept exceptionally well in the large king bed and we paid about 90 Euros for two nights. There are also cheaper rooms on the ground floor.
The owners were amazing: So accommodating and helpful, something we seldom come across. Abraham made us feel right at home from the first moment. The breakfast is excellent and also prepared with a lot of love.
The location is also great: very central, a few streets from the main square, but still quiet. Conclusion: If we go back to Campeche, then we will definitely stay there again.
Here you can book the accommodation: Casa Mazejuwi
This blog article contains our personal recommendations in the form of so-called affiliate links. If you book or buy something through the links, we will get a small commission. For you, this does not change the price at all. A million thanks from the both of us!
Have you ever been to Campeche? If so, did you like it as much as we did? If you have any more tips or experiences you’d like to share, then we would love to hear them in the comments below. Thanks so much!