VILLAHERMOSA, the state capital, is a virtually unavoidable road junction: sooner or later you're almost bound to pass through here on the way from central Mexico to the Yucatán or back, especially if you hope to see Palenque. It's a large and prosperous city, and at first glance it can seem to be subject to as bad a case of urban blight as any in Mexico. The longer you stay, though, the more compensations you discover. Quite apart from the Parque La Venta and sudden vistas of the broad sweep of the Río Grijalva, there are attractive plazas, quiet ancient streets, impressive ultramodern buildings and several new art galleries and museums. In the evening, as the traffic disperses and the city cools, its appeal is heightened, and strolling the pedestrianized streets around the Zona Remodelada or the lively malecón, where everything stays open late, becomes a genuine pleasure. The Zona Remodelada, which encompasses the area between the two main squares, Parque Juárez to the north and Plaza de Armas just beyond the southern end, is also known as the Zona Luz – or simply La Zona, and is the city's historic heart. Villahermosa's modern commercial centre, 2km northwest of the Zona Luz, is known as Tabasco 2000, and is a smart area of government buildings, a conference centre, high-end hotels and the Galerías Tabasco, a vast shopping mall serving the state's wealthy elites.