Beyond question the city’s outstanding sight is the Museo de Antropología (wwww.uv.mx/max), a brilliant museum with arguably the best archeological collection in the country after that in Mexico City. The collection is excellent in both scope and quality, and makes for a wonderful introduction to the various pre-Hispanic cultures of the Gulf coast. The building itself is also lovely, flowing down the hillside in a series of marble steps. Start your visit at the top of the hill, where the first halls deal with the Olmecs. There are several of the celebrated colossal stone heads, a vast array of other statuary and some beautiful masks. Later cultures are represented mainly through their pottery – lifelike human and animal figurines especially – and there are also displays on the architecture of the major sites: El Tajín, Cempoala and so on. Finally, with the Huastec culture come more giant stone statues. Some larger, less valuable pieces are displayed in landscaped gardens outside. Labels are in Spanish only, though there are a few English information sheets. There’s a café on the first floor, and also a shop selling fantastic, though expensive, masks. The museum lies 3km from the zócalo on the outskirts of town – to get there take a bus marked “Museo” from Camacho, on the northwest corner of the Parque Juárez, or a taxi.
Another worthwhile museum on the edge of town, especially if you have kids, is the Museo Interactivo (wwww.mix.org.mx), southeast of the centre on Murillo Vidal. Along with a permanent exhibit of Mexican cars and planes and a massive IMAX cinema, the museum features a planetarium and rooms dedicated to different sciences, such as space exploration, with interactive displays and impressive models. Take a taxi or a bus marked “Murillo Vidal”.