The City’s Walls
Campeche’s imposing walls, bastions, and forts lend a wonderful old-world ambience to the city. Most contain museums and exploring them is a great way to spend an afternoon, or whole day. Five of the seven bastions surrounding the city center can be visited (provided they aren’t being renovated) as can two forts on the city’s edges.
Just off the central park, Baluarte Nuestra Señora de la Soledad (Calle 8 at Calle 57, 8 a.m.–7 p.m. Tues.–Sun., US$2.25) is the largest of the city’s bastions, and home to a small but very worthwhile museum. The Museo de la Arquitectura Maya has a superb collection of stelae and other artifacts from the Río Bec and Puuc regions, accompanied by modern displays and explanations in both Spanish and English. With just four rooms, it offers a primer on Maya writing, sculpture, and architectural styles without being overwhelming. Outside the entrance are more stelae, and a ramp leading to the top of the wall.
Puerta de Tierra (end of Calle 59; 8 a.m.–8 p.m. daily, US$1) was one of two heavily fortified gates into the city. The entrance fee allows you onto the eight-meter (26-foot) walls, where a narrow causeway makes for a memorable stroll to Baluarte San Juan on one end and Baluarte San Francisco on the other. The latter has a small museum about pirates, which is included in admission.
The Puerta de Tierra is also where the Espectáculo de Luz y Sonido (Sound and Light Show; 8:30 p.m. daily in high season, Tues., Fri., and Sat. only in low season, US$3.75 adults, US$1 children), a 90-minute program that includes a brief film at Baluarte San Francisco and a live performance about Campeche’s violent past featuring colored lights, blasting speakers, some firecrackers, and a sword fight or two atop the wall. Pretty cornball but can be fun for the kids. English and French subtitles are projected onto a tiny screen—be sure to get a front-row seat to be able to read them.
Near the waterfront, Baluarte San Carlos (Calle 8 between Calles 63 and 65, 8 a.m.–7:30 p.m. Tues.–Sun., US$2.50, free Sunday) houses yet another small museum, this one about the city’s history. Explanations of Campeche’s development are incredibly detailed and in Spanish only, but the exhibits include some antique weapons and suits of armor if your eyes start to glaze over. San Carlos was completed in the early 1600s, the first of the nine bastions to be built.
Built in the 1790s, Baluarte San Pedro (Calle 16 at Calle 51, 9 a.m.–9 p.m. daily, free) has had several incarnations—a stronghold, barracks, INAH research center, and arts and crafts market. Today, it houses a tiny museum highlighting Campeche’s handicrafts. Exhibits include explanations on the origins and the processes of making various artesanía. Signage in Spanish only.
Baluarte Santiago (Calle 49-C at Calle 8, 8 a.m.–8 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 8 a.m.–2 p.m. Sun., free) was completed in 1704, nearly a century after the first. It was torn down in the early 1900s to make room for government offices, but was reconstructed at the same location in 1955. Today, this tiny fort houses the Jardín Botánico Xmuch’haltun, a small botanical garden that, at the time of research, was being redesigned.
© Gary Chandler & Liza Prado from Moon Yucatán Peninsula, 9th edition