A weekend in Xalapa, Veracruz

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August 29, 2011Travel116 Comments

Dancing to huapangos at Xalapa's La Casona del Beaterio

Crayton and I have a friend, Chris, who works as a biologist outside Coatepec, Veracruz. Last month we finally had a chance to visit him. Originally I’d wanted to combine a trip to Veracruz City, too, but a helpful email from Leah at In Veracruz cleared that up — traveling to Coatepec and nearby Xalapa was enough for one weekend.

We caught an early-morning bus from Mexico City’s TAPO terminal and arrived bleary-eyed in Xalapa at about 11 a.m. We decided to use Xalapa as our homebase because friends had told us great things about the city. One friend compared it to Seattle, with its drizzly weather and coffee shops. On Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree forum, though, people weren’t as nice — some said it was ugly and urban, and not worth spending even a day there.

In the end, Xalapa was just okay. It’s a little too gritty to be Seattle, and the coffee shops weren’t as abundant as I thought they’d be. Also, I expected the people to be a little nicer. At the market one day, two vendors brushed me off when I asked what type of chiles they were selling. “No sabría decirle,” they said, which roughly translates to, “I wouldn’t know.”

I also had trouble hunting down good regional food. Taxi drivers pointed me to an al pastor stand and a grilled meat place. I thought there’d be something more specifically Xalapeño. Maybe I didn’t ask the right people.

I did take a really cool bike tour in Xalapa, though. And I enjoyed the Anthropology Museum. In the end, I’d recommend stopping in Xalapa for a day and a night, and then moving on to some of the smaller villages in the area — specifically Xico.

Here’s a list of a few things I liked in Xalapa. The Xico post is coming in a few days, with lots of gorgeous food.

What I loved about Xalapa:

1. A bike tour with Xalapa Roy.

A break in the rain, during a bike tour with Xalapa Roy

Roy, an American expat, has lived in Xalapa for more than 35 years. He’s a passionate bike-rider and offers tours of the city that start at 2 hours long. Ours was maybe three hours — he took us through some of the pretty parks downtown and through the gorgeous, almost jungle-like university.

It rains a lot in Xalapa, so we got drenched at least three times. But it was a blast. I loved not caring about the rain falling, and feeling the water drip off my helmet onto my face. I’d mentioned that I wanted to stop at a market, so Roy took me to two.

2. The Anthropology Museum. What everyone says is true. The place is phenomenal — the ancient cultures that existed along the Gulf are explained in painstaking detail, in both English and Spanish. It’s nearly impossible to see in one visit. (I skipped a few rooms toward the end to make time to see the codices.) It’s located about 20 minutes from the downtown center. If you’re hungry afterwards, there’s a decent seafood restaurant around the corner on Avda. Orizaba called Nueva Tamiahua.

3. Coffee and sweet bread at La Parroquia.

I know, it’s a chain, but I couldn’t find any other Veracruzan coffee and sweet bread in the two days we were there. Plus the coffee here is fantastic: concentrated and topped with streams of hot milk. And you can get a bomba, or concha, spread with refried beans. (Of course I had to get one.)

A concha, or "bomba" as it's called In Veracruz, with a side of refried beans

And I got some panuchos, too.

The pickled jalapeños in Xalapa, by the way, are fantastic.

Here are a few more pictures from my trip:

A plaza near one of Xalapa's markets. We stopped here on the bike tour.

A picadita, or a large sope, topped with beans, cheese and plantain.

Xalapa's erratic weather: sun, pouring rain, then sun again. I loved it.

A lakeside path in Xalapa, when it was sunny. We biked here.

Dried tejocote, seen at a Xalapa market. I've never seen it in DF.

A gorgeous izote flower, spotted at the Xalapa market downtown. You pluck off the flowers and stew them.

This guy was selling homemade jamoncillos outside Xalapa's central market downtown.

The jamoncillos -- I bought one coconut-flavored, and one pineapple.

Pre-hispanic candy, sold by the same man

Xalapa's typical moody sky.

One night Roy took us to a restaurant called La Casona del Beaterio. They had live music — huapangos, the traditional style of Veracruz — and dancers.

Photos from the Xico portion of our trip coming soon!

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116 Responses to “A weekend in Xalapa, Veracruz”
  1. phillegitimate

    Did the concha with beans work?!?! I would never have imagined putting them together. Panuchos look amazing. How many Olmec heads did you see?

    • Lesley

      We saw five Olmec heads, I think. One in the lobby, two on the patio and the rest in the first sala of the museum. On the concha — it was okay. The beans didn’t really add much. (Or maybe I didn’t get it.) I still prefer it solo. But it was fun to try!

  2. Brian

    Very nice pictures. I always love to read about a bike tour, especially in a medium sized Mexican city.

    Was it just warm enough to enjoy the rain? I always think of Xalapa as being in the mountains and therefore not very warm, at least compared to Veracruz City.

    I look forward to the Xico report.

    (BTW, that’s a sope, not a sopa. Looks good with the plantain, though.)

    • Lesley

      Did I really write sopa? (*cringe.*) Fixing that now.

      And yes, it was warm enough to enjoy the rain! It was fabulous. Getting drenched was one of the highlights of our trip.

  3. Scooter

    the last 15 picture links appear to be broken.

  4. thehouseisonfire

    As a true Mexi-phile, I enjoyed reading this a lot – had considered a trip to Veracruz a few years back but never went, still thinking of it…heard the seafood there is phenomenal.

  5. ncc19825

    It´s great, I live in San Luis Potosí and don´t know so many things about my own country, in fact, I ended up here just because i was checking my own blog. I Can´t wait to see Xico (i didn´t even knew such place exist)

    • ncc19825

      Know, Know (sorry about my english =)

  6. PCC Advantage

    Beautiful photos! And the “bomba” looks delicious! Thanks so much for sharing them and congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  7. fornormalstepfathers

    I want to move to Mexico. Everything looks so …awesome!
    I love how you honor your father this way!

  8. Mikalee Byerman

    Wow … must try panuchos…those look amazing!

    :)

  9. pjmgfashionn11

    These pictures are lovely!

  10. The Gbox

    This totally warms my heart! I used to live in Xalapa and my family is still there, such a colorful place!

  11. nod 'n' smile

    Beautiful photos- I also appreciate that you show such a balanced perspective of your trip. Sometimes I think there’s pressure to only discuss the good, and I appreciate that this post resonates true and authentic.

  12. thebigbookofdating

    wow love the photos amazing post!

  13. Carlie Chew

    Amazing pictures, you really captured the feel of the great food and culture.

  14. Jonathan Payne

    I lived in Xalapa for a month and a half and really felt people were some of the warmest, friendliest, welcoming, laid-back people I have met. They enjoy eating, drinking, dancing and it seems in the culture. Xalapa is a very artistic city and the climate is ever-changing but always refreshing at around 4,000 ft in comparison to Veracruz and other sea-level cities. There are a lot of university students living in Xalapa and many small coffee shops with coffee being grown on the edge of the city between Coatepec and several other smaller towns. There are good rapids pretty close and Pico de Orizaba, the highest point in Mexico over 18,400 ft, can easily be seen on a clear day with snow capping the top. ALL the food I had I loved there. La Sopa, La churreria del recuerdo, Asadero cien were a couple of good restaurants I remember enjoying, Cafe Bola de Oro for coffee but any restaurant or coffee shop around downtown you won’t go wrong. There are hundreds of small hole-in-the-wall restaurants churning out great Mexican food. You WON’T find burritos and nachos here on any menu!

  15. zenlifefrugal

    Great Post! Mexico es muy buena para visitar. I hope to return there on my world ventures when things take off financially for me. Hope you keep up the good work!

  16. reflectionseed

    After the long college years my best and myself traveled about the entire country. He, a sociologist and myself – anthropologist, were seeking for their true ethnic heritage through our trip. Veracruz was our focus about their music. One of the richest in the country. However, they lack anything about their food. Sadly, most middle class and up restaurants fail to honor their true local recipes. I see this like Chinese food. You find almost the same everywhere in the world but if you eat in China, the whole is so much better and different.
    Los mercados are the best places to savor their true local food. That, of course, if your immune system is ready to battle the many bugs that “defenseless” people, like the american people had suffered by eating in places like that. However, Veracruz is rich in seafood dishes. But as well, many of the classical things like sopes, have their own twist Veracruzano. I hope you return and visit smaller places that in many cases offer incredible delicacies. Such as their langonstinos. Martinez de la Torre have some of the best (in the world!) in season as well as a beach town called Casitas.
    Thank you for taking me into the “memory lane” of Mexico. Every single time I go there and when I think of the country, food is the #1 quest and memory. Last, people in Veracruz are very friendly in my experience but not as easy as many other places in Mexico. It takes time to figure them out.

    • Lesley

      Hi there: I definitely plan to return. We didn’t even make it to Veracruz City, or the Emerald Coast, or Papantla. Saving those for the next trip. Thanks for your suggestions.

  17. bonzoWhale

    If you’re ever there again, there’s two must-places to eat (in my opinion). One of them is called “La Casa de Mamá”, there’s something called “Arroz Casamiento” which is basically rice with beans and chile, it’s freaking delicious.

    The other one is a nice dining place called “Churrería del Recuerdo”, where you can have very well-made typical Mexican dishes. There’s great hot chocolate and, of course, churros.

    • Lesley

      Thanks so much for the tips. I’ll file them away for next time. Cheers!

  18. riplipboy

    Really nicely done! I never write comments, but was compelled to tell you how much I enjoyed your blog. We live in La Paz in Baja about 100 miles north of Cabo San Lucas and run a small fishing fleet and restaurant. You captured things well! Felicidades y mil gracias!

  19. Kai

    Lovely pics..I love the culture

  20. travelingeyes

    I really enjoyed your adventure in Mexico and the great photos you took. I hope to become just as brave of writer as you!

  21. thoraaron

    food looks amazing

  22. aliciaenvivo

    the pics were phenomenal! …and for a second, I left the States. Maybe someday I can move to Mexico too! cheers to the beautiful life you’re leading. :)

  23. tudobeleza

    Drooling over the photos taken of food

  24. Mary Royers

    As someone who constantly takes mental notes of places to travel in the Spanish-speaking world, I thank you very much for this post. I liked that you were so honest about the place you saw, without leaving out the parts you liked. Well done ^^

  25. Angeline M

    Wonderful photos and post! I love the idea of the concha and side of beans. Wait until I try this with the family!

  26. phylliskirigin

    Wow! What a great blog. I enjoyed reading about your travels and viewing your photos. I love Mexican food. I studied with Diana Kennedy and learned to make many authentic dishes.

  27. GraceLynneFleming

    this post is GREAT!

  28. ahhhpoetry

    I loved that you called your blog Mi’ja….my parents called me that all the time. I look forward to reading/seeing more….gracias!

  29. inidna

    I can see three of my favorite things on that Panuchos – I absolutely must try it now! Mmm… What a great thing to wake up to see in the morning :) All your pictures are wonderful! Thanks for sharing and congrats on being Fresh!

  30. gaycarboys

    loved the dancing shots. from the looks of the food I could get very fat living there! LOL Thanks for sharing them with us.

  31. jorgeckat

    Lesley. “Yo amo a Xico”, estuve hace seis años por el mes agosto, me gustaría verlo y visitarlo de nuevo, por favor no te tardes en mostrar imágenes de este hermoso y maravilloso lugar. Lo conocí por casualidad, iba de paso por Xalapa, con destino al Puerto de Veracruz y decidí quedarme con mi familia a pasar la noche, ya que estaba muy cansado de manejar, a la mañana siguiente al tomar el desayuno, vi un tríptico que decía “Visite Coatepec”, y ya estando en Coatepec nos recomendaron visitar una cascadas que se encuentran cerca de Xico. Bueno, para no hacerla tan cansada, me quede casi una semana en Xico y ya no fuimos al Puerto de Veracruz.

    • Lesley

      Sí, Xico tiene un encanto, no? Voy a subir los demás fotos hoy. Me gustaría mucho regresar un día…

  32. aparnanairphotography

    Your photos, particularly those of the dancers, are lovely!!

  33. fey's diary

    Wow. The place looks very calm. Wish to taste those foods someday.

  34. juliacastorp

    i always wondered how is in veracruz, nice!

  35. Wow your photos are absolutely beautiful and each one tells a story. I love this!

  36. sheokhanda

    the food seems to be so yummy….

  37. vishaldogra120

    beautiful!
    I love this

  38. Break The Norms

    Nice pictures I love your story, feeling to go once to Mexico.

  39. Break The Norms

    I love Mexican food, nice pictures and blog. Great Job :-)

  40. Red Toenails

    I love to read posts of people’s travels. This was great.

  41. migueltio

    Thank you for this blog. Years ago I went to Mexico and the food there was phenominal compared to what I knew at the time in the US. I remember the sweets in the market both post and pre-hispanic. I wish I could try some more again today!

  42. 92issues

    My brother lives in Xalapa now. To be honest, I really do not like it that much. I mean the food, the people and the music is all fine. But when you really look into it, it is not very appealing. When I went there I was surrounded in beggars, desperate vendors and when I went to the markets, there were dead or sick dogs everywhere. Some were even pregnant and dying. For travelling for a short time may be okay, but that really put me off. Glad you had fun though.

  43. gabbyvillarreal

    What an excellent post! I love the shot of the feet dancing.

  44. mihokomori

    What a beautiful photos! They put a big smile on my face :)
    Thank you for sharing.

  45. bergiepowers

    I might have to go there for the coffee, sounds so good!
    Really awesome pics.

  46. Ross Zamorano

    Hola!
    Es increíble, vine a checar si hago o no un blog aquí y me llamó tanto la atención ver en primera plana Xalapa! yo soy de Xalapa y tengo muchos amigos en Coatepec también! ahora vivo en Washington DC, de verdad me sorprendiste con tu post de mi linda y mojada ciudad! :D
    Creo que de haber sabido te hubiese podido conectar con gente de allá bastante interesare, lugares nocturnos con buena música y comida por su puesto.
    Me alegra que estes en México sacando lo mejor de él. Dónde tienes un restaurante?
    Y aquí entre nos, te sugiero fuertemente vayas a probar el verdadero Arroz a la tumbada en Alvarado Veracruz!
    (checa la fecha de la fiesta tradicional del arroz a la tumbada! :) Mucho que experimentar por Veracruz.
    Espero estemos en contacto ! te dejo mi correo !

    • Lesley

      Gracias por el comentario Ross! No tengo un restaurante — sólo estoy estudiando la comida y dando recorridos culinarios para extranjeros acá en DF. Me encantaría probar el arroz a la tumbada… ojalá la próxima vez!

  47. marie-claire p.

    wow, i think i want to visit mexico now! and eat everything!

  48. Jean

    Very interesting. Hope you get more adventures in Mexico to enjoy and blog. Food looks fresh and delicious!

  49. I Made You A Mixtape

    Que rico!! The food looks amazing!

  50. bikashsoft

    wow amazing Photos and article. dear sir thanks for sharing really nice ….

  51. Liv

    ohhmygosh! Conchas! I used to eat those all the time when I lived in Mexico!

  52. Steve Morgan

    Enjoyed the pictures and stories. My family lived in Xalapa for 5 years. I get back there occasionally. Thanks for sharing. I love that city. I also met Roy when I was there.

  53. Patricia DeWit

    A bike tour following a local would be fun. The fickle weather would get me down, so good on your for rolling with it. Your photos are quite similar to my town, Bangkok, right now. Unfriendly townsfolk? That would definitely make me want to skedaddle!
    Well done on the fp!

    • Lesley

      Hi Patricia: Thanks for the comment — it’s funny because the rain in Mexico City isn’t as new or exciting or fun. Somehow in Xalapa, I loved it! My husband and I hope to visit Bangkok next year. We’ll see.

  54. embonbon

    lovely pictures!

  55. chhatrabandhu

    Marvellous. I wish i had been there.

  56. tailaimulan

    very interesting

  57. Juan Carlos (Peter Odette)

    Hasta dan ganas de ir a visitar Xalapa… :-)

  58. sillystyle

    Awesome pictures! I was born and raised between Mexico and the US (Tijuana and San Diego to be exact), and I feel I am very lucky to be part of two countries. I’m currently living in Italy, so these pictures really put a smile on my face. Thanks for sharing this dishes and your experiences with us. Great blog!
    Que tengas un lindo dia !

    • Lesley

      Thank you! Glad I could bring you a little bit of home.

  59. princesayasmine

    Beautiful! It looks a bit like Mexico.

  60. Joy Felix

    Great pictures – wonderful descriptions – your blog makes it feel like you have transported us to that place, where you can see it in your mind! Enjoyed it

  61. Harry Brake

    It’s exciting you see your blog! I recently moved to Mexico City from Delaware! :) I work at ASF, and if you get a chance, check out my blog as well! :) PAVEing a blog is the title! I like to see the places I have yet to be! Thanks for your blog!

  62. travelgirlseesworld

    Wouldn’t have looked at this post on an empty stomach if I had known what delicious food pictures awaited! I’m a huge fan of street food, so I love the idea of your company. If I ever visit Mexico City, I’ll be sure to take one of your tours! Great post and beautiful photos.

  63. leadinglight

    You’ve got a knack for describing the food and culture. Nice balanced perspective too!

  64. askaformercrackhead

    Word.

  65. ns

    Beautiful. Makes me want to buy a ticket right now. Thanks for posting!

  66. Vinod

    Cheers to you for beautiful life you are having..!!

  67. mexicrave

    Green with envy here. I was born in Mexico and one of the things I miss the most is the food, especially street tacos! My dad would bring bags full of conchitas, vanilla and chocolate. They were his favorite. I enjoyed your blog and wonderful photos! Thank you for sharing.

    God Bless,
    Adriana

    • Lesley

      Thank you! Conchas are my favorites, too. :-)

  68. Farkhanda

    oh woww nice one =)

  69. 7cakes

    The panuchos look so awesome. Really, any authentic Mexican food makes me drool =D

  70. angloadventure

    I love this – thank you. And now I’m really craving good Mexican food.

  71. melani rae

    I grew up in Phoenix, where you can find some really great Mexican food (my favorite!) if you know the right people. I now live in Sweden. No Mexican food. Your post practically had me licking the computer screen.

    • Lesley

      Hi Melani: But Swedish food is supposed to be good, too, right? Isn’t a famous chef living there? Or maybe I’m thinking of Denmark. I’m sorry you can’t find any Mexican food… sending you a virtual chile through the computer screen.

  72. Matt

    Great pics! I don’t know why but I have always felt that most of the things that you would see in Mexico would stand on their own as a work of art… Congrats on getting ‘pressed’!

  73. Jamila

    Thanks for the post! I’ve not seen much written about Veracruz so this is much appreciated. I love the pictures too. This will help as I plan a trip to visit Veracruz and Oaxaca.

  74. pnwauthor

    What fun! From one Latina to another.

  75. luaydpk

    I like your blog, is very nice about food and tourism. I find Mexican food, but I can’t imagene how taste it… I see that beoutiful food.

  76. alex

    Interesting trip ever! I’d like the dancing photos and live music than others! And i get a snapshot of life in Mexico. The food, the market…..

  77. sqktong

    Beautiful. Makes me want to buy a ticket right now. Thanks for posting!

  78. sqktong

    wow, i think i want to visit mexico now! and eat everything!

  79. Tayyab

    What a nice place to visit! Love all the pictures. Please upload more if available.

  80. Daniela Mendoza

    Hi Leslie, I´m mexican and I’ve lived in Xalapa for the past four years (my mom lives in Coatepec). Now I´m studying in Venice, Italy. I tell you all this because lately I´ve been missing my home (and the food) and your post brought a comforting feeling to my day. It´s incredible how small the world is, I also know Roy! I have some contacts in Coatepec (an amercian friend who knows pretty much everyone there) If you need some good advices about where to go :). saludos!

    • Lesley

      Thanks Daniela! I’ll get in touch with you if I visit again. I’d love to have some recommendations on where to eat.

  81. weddinggiftstips

    What a beautiful photos! They put a big smile on my face
    Thank you for sharing.

  82. Spiritual Healing

    Nice story and pictures, thanks for sharing.

  83. Laptop

    It’s exciting you see your blog! wow amazing Photos and article Thnk you

  84. nmaha

    Congratulations on being freshly pressed.

    I love travel blogs and your’s specially stands out for it’s honesty.

  85. Dame Peters

    Thanks for the read. I like your blog. Very nice to capture your culture in this way. Now I’m hungry from all of the food photos :) If you are so inclined, please visit my blog about my own Journey. I look forward to reading more from you.

  86. Daniela

    I love Xalapa ♥♥

  87. sandi patriawan

    I like this blog. This blog inspires me much. And for the photos, I give it two thumbs up!

  88. theworldviastandby

    Love the pictures! Great post!

  89. Rodrigo de Araujo

    The pickled jalapeños in the Xalapa seem to have avocado, which doesn´t seem so good to me for not finding that combines with the other ingredients. I prefer avocado as guacamole or as a milkshake. The other foods are simply fantastic, especially the jamoncillos and “pre-hispanic” candies. These sweets are very common in my region of Brazil, even though they are made ​​from peanuts and sugar cane, without that ingredient, that looks like sesame. Your blog is favorited! :)

  90. Connie

    The pre-hispanic candy looks like what I used to give my parrot for a treat. Does it taste good? Nice photos.

    • Lesley

      Yes, it’s fabulous — it’s amaranth seed with honey and peanuts.

  91. Zach

    Fun post, congrats on the fresh press.

  92. IweddingDressShop

    Nice pictures. I always want to visit a place like this. Fascinating!

  93. Jaipur Sightseeing

    Jaipur is also very famous place for spending holidays like Xalapa, Veracruz

  94. Tim O'Connell

    Well the weather was misty and maybe you found some of the people to be rude, but my memory of Xalapa comes from a birding trip there in 2006. I think we wandered around a volcano park within the city and found many tropical feathered delights. Getting directions to this park in my infantile Spanish was almost as much fun as the birding itself, especially as I tried to explain to people that I was looking for birds!

  95. yp25

    Wow, the food looks great! Congrats on Freshly Pressed.

  96. ahhhpoetry

    Como me recuerdan de mis visitas a San Luis Potosí y San Juan de los lagos todas estas fotos. ¡racias por compartirlas!

  97. jack

    thats so beautiful city scape…!

  98. aRVee

    Great blog and I love the food…. Delicioso…

  99. rakhikankane

    enjoyed reading :) nice blog!

  100. trialsinfood

    looks like a worthwhile weekend trip. and the food looks delicious!

  101. anni

    it’s been four years and i’m still dreaming about coffee from la parroquia…. mmmmmmm. extra strong coffee with milk this morning? yes please.

  102. Nashely

    Hi Lesley,
    I’ve read & commented your blog before but have to say it’s been a long time since the last time. When I was younger & danced folklorico we’d travel into Mexico for classes and meetings. One year, we made it to Xalapa and I absolutely loved what I saw of it (although I was in dance class 8 hours a day.) I loved the cobblestones and the markets we were able to venture. I’ll always remember crossing the street to the tiniest restaurant and I’d order my horchata. My family raved about the food. You could tell it was a great place to eat since the restaurant was so full.
    We also had a side trip to Xico followed by a trip to Papantla and even Catemaco. Another place we visited was Cordoba. The family we stayed with was so nice having given up one of their houses for my family and I fondly remember little things like being woken up at 6 am to a fresh cooked breakfast they’d gotten up early to make for us. We’d walk to the near-by river to look at animals and the coffee beans. Beautiful. The people were so friendly. They asked if I’d wanted a mango and when I said yes they proceeded to throw rocks up a tree and hit a few mangos down for me. The family still sends us coffee every other year or so.
    Having lived in Seattle, I agree that I never thought of comparing the two cities. I’m sorry to bore you with my comment. I just want to thank you for writing this blog. The border violence by me (Rio Grande Valley-Reynosa) hasn’t let me enjoy the Mexican trips of my youth and I want to thank you for letting me live vicariously through your adventures.

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