Bright pastel facades and cobblestone streets make Campeche ’s city center one of the most beautiful in the whole peninsula. Add to that its famous walls and bastions  (and all those pirate tales) and it’s no wonder the United Nations designated Campeche’s walled center a World Heritage Site in 1999.
The central plaza is a pleasant, shady spot to rest your feet, and a good place to begin and end a tour of the many sites. Better yet, on Saturdays and Sundays  the streets around the central plaza are blocked to traffic and fill up with food carts and small vendors, and local families come out to chat and stroll about.
In the evening, one or two lotería games start up—tourists are welcome—and the municipal band gives a classic oompah concert, blaring forth on trumpets, clarinets, tubas, and cymbals with the energy of a great orchestra.
On one side of the plaza is Catedral de la Concepción Inmaculada (Calle 55 between Calles 8 and 10), the city’s cathedral and one of the oldest churches on the Yucatán Peninsula . Construction was ordered by Francisco de Montejo in 1540 and completed in 1760 (and you thought it took the contractor a long time to finish your deck). On another side, an arcaded passageway known as Los Portales provides an airy shaded corridor for a number of small shops and restaurants.
Built by the Jesuits in 1700, the Ex-Templo de San José (Calle 10 at Calle 63) is a beautiful structure, decorated with an impressive blue and yellow tile facade. The history of the building is as varied as that of the city of Campeche: It has gone from being a church to being the first lighthouse in Campeche (check out the spires) to library to warehouse to—today—an art museum.
The Galería de Arte Joaquín Clausell (Calle 12 between 51 and 53, tel. 981/811-3653, 9 a.m.–2 p.m. and 4–8 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 9 a.m.–2 p.m. Sat., free) and the Sala de Arte Domingo Pérez Piña (Calle 12 at Calle 65, no tel., 9 a.m.–1 p.m. and 5–8 p.m. Mon.–Sat., free) are small galleries featuring changing works of art by regional artists.
Peek into the Archivo General del Estado de Campeche (Calle 12 between Calles 57 and 59, tel. 981/816-0939, 8 a.m.–3 p.m. and 6–8 p.m. Mon.–Fri., free), the state archives building, to see its latest art or historical exhibit. Displayed on the 1st floor, the shows are usually compiled by INAH or ICC, the national and state history and cultural institutes, and can be quite good.
Like the Centro Cultural Casa No. 6, the Mansión Carvajal (Calle 10 between 51 and 53, tel. 981/816-7419, 8 a.m.–2:30 p.m. Mon.–Fri., free) is an old mansion that has been restored to its original beauty. Built at the beginning of the 1800s to be the home of the wealthy Carvajal family, by the late 1900s it had been converted twice—once into a hotel, later into a dance hall. Today, it houses the offices of DIF (the family services branch of the state government). Open to the public, it is well worth a quick visit: Check out the Moorish-style architecture, art nouveau staircase with Carrera marble steps, iron balustrade, and the black-and-white tile floors.
The modern concrete and glass building near the waterfront with the colorful mosaic is the Palacio de Gobierno (Calle 8 between Calles 61 and 63). The strange concrete building next to it—the one that looks like a UFO—is the Palacio Legislativo, the state legislature building.