Downtown Cancun is full of hotels, bars, hostels, restaurants, and squares, and although it does not have nearby beaches like the hotel zone, it does have a very vibrant life and is a perfect place to immerse into the culture and history of the city. Here’s a guide to the top seven things you can do in downtown Cancun.
Stroll the Parque de las Palapas
One of the most iconic and representative sites of downtown Cancun, it was the first main square of the city and is still a vibrant meeting place for locals. Here you will find culture, traditional Mexican food, dance shows, and other cultural events. The Park of the Palapas is a recreational space with a forum where many events take place, especially on the weekend. There are many restaurants and bars you can visit near this city area. Parque de las Palapas is located on Tulum Avenue in front of the Government Palace. It’s open 24 hours, but businesses open from 9 AM to midnight.
Explore Mercado 28
The Cancun flea market, better known as “Mercado 28,” is another place you must visit. Located in Plaza San Miguel in downtown Cancun, you can find all kinds of handicrafts and souvenirs in this market, including apparel, jewelry, ceramic, and clay sculptures, among many other Mexican artisan work. Don’t forget to haggle; it’s almost customary to negotiate the price. There are many small street-food vendors and low-cost restaurants and stalls within the market that offer delicious traditional food of the region. The market is located on Xel-Ha Mz 13, 28, 77509 Cancun, Q.R. It’s open from 8 AM to 7 PM every day of the week.
Shop at Mercado 23
Mercado 28 is not the only market you’ll find in downtown Cancun; there is also the Mercado 23, which is a bit similar, with the difference that local food, sweets, and handicrafts are the main offerings. Visitors looking to stock up on fresh fruit and produce will find the best variety. You will enjoy strolling around this market; although not as large as Mercado 28, it has the feel of a less touristy place with a more local vibe. The market is located on Ciricote 15, 23, 77500 Cancún, Q.R. It’s open from 8 AM to 7 PM every day of the week.
Go Taco Shop Hopping
One of the best things to do in Downtown Cancun is to go “Taqueria” hopping. There are many great taco shops in the city where you can taste authentic Mexican street food without paying exorbitant prices as you will in the Hotel Zone. Popular downtown “Taquerias” include Taqueria Coapeñitos, Taqueria Los Chachalacos, and Pescaditos. If you want to taste the best street food in Cancun, then you can book a guided street food tour that runs for approximately 3 hours and stops at the most famous spots. Just be sure you bring an empty stomach because there’s so much to eat and taste in this food tour.
Enjoy a Restaurant Feast
Cancun emanates endless magic while managing to stay true to its roots. You can experience the traditional gastronomy of Quintana Roo in downtown Cancun. Here you can eat, drink, discover, dance, and then go back to rest at your beautiful hotel. Although most restaurants in the hotel zone offer a great gourmet experience, it doesn’t compare with the local food, where the taste and smell of the region’s gastronomy will captivate your senses. The city also vibrates with culinary innovation, from fancy downtown restaurants showcasing international cuisine to eateries with local star chefs. Popular spots include La Habichuela, La Fonda del Zancudo, and Du Mexique. There’s a vast selection, and your only issue will be which one to choose.
Discover Mexican Street Art
Downtown Cancun is famous as the street art capital, with fantastic murals painted by world-renowned artists all over town. You’ll surely spot them when exploring the area; however, you can also book a street art tour that takes you to all the best sites in Downtown Cancun. Even though you can admire the murals by walking on your own, the best part about booking a tour is that you’ll also get the back story behind the artist’s vision and learn to identify different graffiti styles and techniques.
Experience the Nightlife like a Local
Even though you’ll find numerous bars in the Hotel Zone, downtown Cancun also boasts many unique bars. There are fabulous venues that offer live music, a DJ, craft beer, wine and cocktails, delicious local cuisine, and the best part is that all at more affordable prices than in the Hotel Zone. Mambocafé, and Congo Bar (a mini-version of the Coco Bongo nightclub) are where the locals go to party at night.
While most travelers and tourists will enjoy their stay at the paradisiacal beaches of the hotel zone, downtown Cancun also has a lot to offer. You’ll have a lot of fun trying out these downtown experiences in Cancun.
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