Campeche is a colonial fairyland, its walled city center a tight enclave of perfectly restored pastel buildings, narrow cobblestone streets, fortified ramparts and well-preserved mansions. Added to Unesco’s list of World Heritage sites in 1999, the state capital has been so painstakingly restored it almost doesn't seem like a real city. But leave the inner walls and you’ll find a genuine Mexican provincial capital complete with a frenetic market, peaceful malecón (boardwalk) and old fishing docks.
Besides the walls and numerous mansions built by wealthy Spanish families during Campeche’s heyday in the 18th and 19th centuries, no fewer than seven of the baluartes (bastions or bulwarks) have also survived. Additionally, two perfectly preserved colonial forts guard the city’s outskirts, one of them housing the Museo de la Arquitectura Maya, an archaeological museum with many world-class pieces.
Relatively few tourists visit Campeche, and its citizens - the big-hearted and proud campechanos - are likely to show you an unobtrusive hospitality not seen in other regional capitals. The city's central location on the Gulf of Mexico also makes it the perfect base for day trips to Edzná, the Chenes sites and neighboring beaches. And at night, the gauzy lights on the illuminated church and other central landmarks add an almost magical atmosphere to this gem of a destination.