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Campeche City has to be one of the best-kept secrets in the Yucatán. Its beautifully preserved colonial district is brimming with historic sites, museums, cafés, and restaurants—all within easy walking distance of each other. Yet the city is far smaller and more easygoing than its Yucatecan cousin, Mérida. Its unique history—it was once a favorite target of seafaring pirates—has
left its mark. Many of the protective walls that were built to safeguard the city's inhabitants are still standing, and the colorful colonial buildings were constructed with safety in mind; they're markedly less ornate than their counterparts elsewhere on the peninsula, with well-barred windows and impressively heavy-looking doors. The 18th-century fort at the south end of town lets you imagine Campeche's dangerous past, and is home to a fascinating collection of Mayan artifacts taken from many archaeological sites, the highlights being the relics of the ancient Maya ruler Gran Garra de Jaguar (Great Jaguar Claw), who presided over the city of Calakmul's rise and decline.
The city is the state's most accessible spot, and makes a good hub for exploring other areas, many of which have only basic restaurants and primitive lodgings. The Edzná archaeological site is a short detour south of Carreteras 180 and 188. You'll need at least rudimentary Spanish—few people outside the capital speak English. If you plan to venture off the beaten path, pack a Spanish-English dictionary.