The port of Veracruz (otherwise known as Veracruz, Veracruz) is one of my favorite cities in Mexico. When I lived in Puebla, we drove the five hours to Veracruz about once a month, leaving after Mario got off of work and arriving about midnight. We´d first stop at El Gran Café La Parroquia and have a café con leche under the stars while watching the cargo ships in the port.
Taking the kids this time, the malecón (boardwalk) is still the best place to enjoy Veracruz. The main reasons for this: nieves and café con leche at the Parroquia are both very near the malecón.
El Gran Café La Parroquía
Café con leche at El Gran Café La Parroquia is a bit on an institution in Veracruz. One waiter brings a tall glass, filled with just a shot of espresso. Then they ring for the milk man, who comes to the table armed with a kettle of steaming milk. He then tops off the glass. Mexicans generally prefer their coffee insanely sweet. So don’t be shy–go ahead and add those three generous spoonfuls of sugar, and enjoy the Parroquia’s café con leche as it was meant to be enjoyed.
Nieves (sherbets) are Veracruz’s other taste sensation. Decent sherbet is easy to find throughout the country, but the jarochos take their sherbet to a whole other level. They have flavors that aren’t found readily elsewhere. The nieve stands are happy to combine flavors in one cup, and that really is the way to go. Try a coconut and passionfruit combination, mamey and strawberry, or vanilla and lime. Trust me, vanilla sherbet is not at all related to that ho-hum vanilla ice cream! My mother fondly remembers a peanut sherbet that she had in Veracruz 15 years ago–these sherbets are that memorable!
The road leading to the malecón from the zocalo is dotted with nieve stores. Most have employees out on the sidewalk, trying to attract customers, belting out, “¡Güero, güera–nieve, nieve, NIEVE!” At first that’s a little overwhelming, but it’s another of those decidedly jarocho touches. May they never change.
Being on the Gulf coast, stopping at the beach was a must. There are decent beaches north of the city, others within walking distance of the malecón, and others by large hotels on the south end of the city.
Being blessed with a nearly endless supply of gorgeous beaches, most Mexicans consider the beaches near Veracruz to be substandard. However, I’ve reaffirmed my opinion that Veracruz’s beaches are still my favorites. The sand might not be as pristine as the Yucatán, the waves are certainly calmer than on the Pacific (that’s a bonus in my book), and in Veracruz there are always cargo ships dotting the horizon.
But that is precisely what I like about Veracruz. Beachgoers don’t have to drive very far (if at all) from a busy, thriving city. That, and the fact that crabs pop their heads out of the sand and scurry off sideways, fleeing curious children. As ubiquitous as picture books make them, real, live crabs are hard to find on beaches today!
Veracruz is one of the oldest cities in Mexico. In fact, they’re gearing up to celebrate their 500th anniversary in 2019–already selling commemorative T-shirts on the malecón! But throughout history, Veracruz has been a great foothold for invaders coming into the country. The Spanish established the port here, as they began their march to Mexico City, on their way to destroy the Aztec empire. The French used the same port when they invaded in 1862, as the the did US when they invaded Mexico in 1914. Pirates were also attracted to Veracruz. So early on in Veracruz’s history, the fort of San Juan de Ulúa was built. It no longer serves as a fort (or a prision), but is now a museum, giving visitors a glimpse into Veracruz’s history.
Veracruz is a great place to visit, offering a little something for everyone–a modern city with a well-preserved colonial past, surrounded by accessible beaches, and filled with delicious restaurants and sights for visitors. On the zócalo, it´s likely visitors will catch groups of older couples dancing danzón. The cathedral´s stations of the cross are worth a view–they capture the passion of Christ with pictures of only Christ´s hands–impactful in its simplicity. And for families, Veracruz boasts Mexico´s largest aquarium! There´s something for everyone.
|The Port Authority
|Watching ships load while enjoying nieve.
|The road from the zócalo to the malecón.