There’s a local saying that states that in Xalapa you can find everything you love about Mexico —well, everything but the beaches. Unique flavours, art, colours and music combine to make sure you never forget you were here. Xalapa is one of those special places that mix all a capital city has to offer with the magic and tradition only small towns have. That is Xalapa’s gist, that’s what makes this city simply unforgettable.
Yes, Xalapa has one of the largest archaeological museums in Latin America, but even if its collection is quite impressive (it holds artefacts and relics from every major pre-Columbian culture settled in the state of Veracruz, like the Olmecs and the Totonacs), it’s not the only landmark worth paying a visit. Walking through the crowded and somewhat chaotic streets of the city’s downtown is the best recommendation for your time here.
The perfect day in Xalapa starts with enjoying breakfast and locally grown, freshly roasted coffee in one of the many restaurants. Veracruz state is home to one of the most delicious cuisines in Mexico and it’s also famous for the wonderful coffee harvested here. Chilaquiles, empanadas (‘quesadillas con queso’ in Mexico City), giant gorditas or even a shrimp cocktail will give you the energy to walk or bike your way through the city. One thing though: be prepared for steep cobblestone roads and alleyways, since that is something characteristic of Xalapa.
Now it’s time to start taking everything in. Round every corner you will find local artists making music, painting and acting… just enjoying life and making you want to sing and dance along with them. Even doing something so ordinary as going to the bank transforms into a colourful experience with the many marimbas playing tunes on the street. If there is something that Xalapa doesn’t lack is culture, and the many festivals hosted here will prove it. Whether it’s a jazz or a classical music festival, even rock or blues and drama, Xalapa always has something to offer.
Sitting down and enjoying another cup of coffee is a good idea if you are feeling tired of all the walking. Almost every coffee house has its own brand, so any cup you drink will give you a whole different experience. In the afternoon, you can join local cuenta cuentos for getting to know the city’s hidden places and the stories that accompany them. Finally, you can settle in a bar to enjoy live music and artesanal beer or liquor, another of Xalapa’s charms.
Xalapa might be a small, somehow unknown city for most backpackers but trust me: once you experience it, you won’t want to leave.