Merida is the capital city of the Yucatan state in Mexico and features a vibrant colonial and Mayan past. It’s miles away from the party areas of Cancun and Playa Del Carmen, both in geography and style. The closest beach is approximately 30 minutes away in Progreso, so visitors to Merida are primarily interested in the city’s culture, historical attractions, and some of the best food in the Yucatan.
This chaotic market is worth navigating the daily crowds. It’s an important part of the local culture and where you’ll find everything from homemade crafts to delicious cheap eats.
Visitors to Merida should take a walk down the Paseo de Montejo, which provides a look into Merida’s wealthy past. The street has been compared to Paris’ Champs-Élysées and for good reason. Here is where you’ll find a number of historic mansions, some of which have been restored and now house museums and cafes. You’ll find restaurants and bars, many of which have maintained the structural integrity of the old mansions. The most picturesque part takes about 30 minutes to walk each way and runs from Plaza Santa Ana to the Monumento a la Patria.
Merida is full of scenic plazas and squares where locals enjoy family time or take a rest from shopping. Many of these plazas have delicious quick eats nearby, and when the sun goes down, there are often cultural events taking place on certain nights of the week. Don’t miss Merida’s signature dual-facing chairs that make chatting a breeze.
The Gran Museo de Mundo Maya Merida is an important museum that shares the history of the Yucatan peninsula, starting with the meteorite that made dinosaurs extinct. There is a permanent collection of over 500 artifacts, including textiles, engravings, and sculptures.
On Friday nights, head to Calle 60 by the Plaza Grande to catch a reenactment of the ancient Mayan ball game called Pok Ta Pok.
There are other museums in the city, including the Natural History Museum, housed in the former government building, the Palacio del General Cantón. This 19th-century building houses materials from the Maya civilization, including artifacts from the cenotes around Chichén Itzá.
Merida is filled with historic buildings, including the Catedral de San Ildefonso. It sits on the site of a former Maya temple and is the city’s largest cathedral that was started back in 1561. Some of the stones from the Maya temple were used in the cathedral’s construction.
Casa Montejo by Plaza Mayor is considered one of the best examples of Spanish colonial architecture and dates back the mid-1500’s. It served as the residence of the Montejo family. Another building of interest is the Palacio de Gobierno, or the Government Palace. The beautiful building dates back to 1892 and features murals hand-painted by Fernando Castro Pacheco, a noted artist from Campeche. You’ll find other Mexican artists’ paintings showcased here as well.
Merida is a great base for exploring some of the lesser-known areas of the Yucatan peninsula. Day trips to places like Chichén Itzá are doable, but so are the Maya ruins of Uxmal, the Cuzama cenotes, the cities of Campeche and Izamal, and Celestun where you’ll find thousands of beautiful flamingos.
While not affected as much as other parts of the Yucatan, Merida is still subject to some weather disturbances during Atlantic Hurricane Season. If you plan to travel to the region during hurricane season, it’s highly recommend you purchase a travel insurance policy that can help protect you in the event of a natural disaster.
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Erin is a travel and food writer who currently splits her time between the Netherlands and Belize. She's traveled to 60+ countries on 5 continents with a passion for culinary travel, luxury hotels, and all things Disney. Her writing has appeared in numerous online outlets including Gadling, BootsnAll, CNN, Art of Backpacking, TravBuddy, CBS, and more. She was the major author of Belize's official visitor magazine, Destination Belize 2013; wrote the official AFAR Guide to Belize; and is also AFAR Magazine's local Belize expert.. In addition to writing for other publications, Erin maintains several blogs, Our Tasty Travels, No Checked Bags, Pooh's Travels, and the brand new Caye To Belize. Follow Erin on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google Plus.
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