Things to do in Merida
Mérida is the capital of Yucatán, its most populated and traditional city, known as “The White City”.
What to do in Mérida?
First of all, to get to know the historic center. Start by visiting the Plaza Grande, the epicenter of Merida, where many of the city’s great attractions are located. Of course, here are the colorful letters of MÉRIDA.
The architectural jewel, the Cathedral of San Idelfonso was built in the 15th century and it is the oldest on the mainland in America. Inside is the “Christ of Unity”, considered the largest indoor wooden sculpture of Jesus Christ crucified in the world. On its facade, every Friday at 20:30 a light and sound show that you cannot miss is projected!
Right next to the Cathedral is the Macay Museum that houses samples of modern and contemporary art (free admission). It is linked to the cathedral by the Passage of the Revolution, a modern-style gallery with a rather imposing vaulted ceiling.
The Casa de Los Montejo, built between 1543 and 1549 by Francisco de Montejo, the conqueror of the Yucatan Peninsula, is definitely worth a visit. Today it is a house-museum whose portico remains practically the same as in the original building.
It is one of the few examples of Plateresque architecture in the American Continent. Inside you can visit 5 rooms and a garden to appreciate how the house should have been in colonial times. Admission is free and at 11:00 there is a free guided tour.
Continue to the Plaza Grande, this time, take a look at the Municipal Palace, which dates back to 1735 and which was used as a prison!
If you happen to be in Mérida on Monday, at 21:00 don’t miss a typical Yucatecan dance show (it’s called the Monday cowboy). It’s free. In addition, at any time you can go up to the second floor and look out the windows that overlook the square.
Another of the palaces that attract attention on the sides of the square is the Government Palace, which has 27 murals by the painter Fernando Castro that can be visited in the art gallery on the second floor. Admission is free.
The streets with the most atmosphere when night falls are Calle 60 and Calle 62, in the colonial neighborhood of Santa Lucia. There are many options for dinner or a margarita.
On streets Calle 60 and Calle 57 you will come across the central headquarters of the Autonomous University of Yucatán, one of the most famous in southern Mexico, in a beautiful white building dating from the 16th century. You don’t have to be a student to enjoy it, exhibitions and shows are frequently organized here, and on Fridays at 9:00 p.m. the University Serenade and the traditional Folkloric Ballet take place.
If you are looking for a 100% local place, where you can rest for a little while, we recommend Parque Hidalgo. It is also a great area where you can find good and cheap stalls and restaurants.
Other very handsome parks are the Parque de Santiago where a dance with music from the 40s is held on Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m., and a little further away from the Parque de las Américas, especially for children and where various activities take place on Sundays.
A park with a lot of atmosphere at night is Parque de Santa Lucia. Here on Thursdays at 21:00, a serenade is held, with Yucatecan music, dances, and dresses.
Guided tours by bus depart from this same square that runs through the center of Mérida, as well as Paseo Montejo and its mansions.
Buses leave at 10:00, 13:00, 16:00, 19:00 (on Sundays only at 13:00 and 15:00), the excursion lasts about 1:30 hours. You can book online or at the office.
At one end of this square is the Church of Santa Lucia, which today shines with radiant and vivid color. However, in the past, there was nothing alive here, since it was the city’s cemetery.
If you notice, in the little square at its entrance there is still an arch built into the wall, although now covered, which corresponded to the entrance to the cemetery. This area has been used for the construction of several hotels and, apparently, the cases in which guests are disturbed by strange companies are not isolated.
Do you want to be surrounded by Mexican art? Come to the Nahualli Gallery, the home of the artists Abel Vázquez and Melva Medina, open to the public so you can enjoy their works of painting and sculpture. Curiosity: Nahualli means hidden, hidden. It is located on Calle 60, number 405, in the Santa Ana neighborhood.
Other ideal places to get closer to local life are the Parque de San Juan, with the church of San Juan Bautista, the central fountain of La Negrita, and the arch of San Juan (one of the 5 arches that remain standing in the city).
And the Parque de la Ermita de Santa Isabel, with the hermitage, raised over an atrium that is reached by Calle 64A, for us, one of the most beautiful streets in Mérida.
One of the great attractions of Mérida is the Paseo de Montejo, which stretches for more than 5 km, being the longest street in the city. And one of the most curious: did you know that it is inspired by the Champs Elysees in Paris?
Although the narrow streets of downtown Mérida, full of colorful colonial houses, are the best, Paseo de Montejo has its charm, especially because it is dotted with the most elegant mansions in Mérida (Casa Peón de Minarete, Casa Quinta Montes Molina, Casas Twins).
This great avenue will be interrupted by the Monument to the Homeland, a tribute to the history and culture of Yucatan and Mexico.
Near here is the Temple of La Candelaria. Although on the outside it does not attract special attention, inside it keeps a great secret. Its altarpieces are the only ones that were saved from burning in the 1910 revolution.
Do you like to visit the local markets? Then go to the Lucas de Gálvez Market. Here you will find everything from street food to goodies to take home!
Bazar García Rejón is another market that you can visit, especially if you want to buy handicrafts.
If you have more time, you can take advantage of your stay in Mérida to take some excursions in the surroundings:
- The so-called Route of the Convents, a route that passes through villages and old convents. The main stops are Oxkutzcab, Maní, Chumayel, Mama, Tekit, Tecoh, and Acanceh.
- You can also tour the Puuc Route, which includes a combination of spectacular activities such as visiting Mayan temples, bathing in cenotes, or entering a cave. The essential points of this route are the archaeological sites of Uxmal, Kabah, Sayil, X-Lapak, Labná, Oxkintok, and the Calcehtok and Loltún Caves. If you don’t have a car, you can book this very complete excursion.
- Another very interesting excursion is to Celestún, where you will be able to see (with any luck) hundreds of flamingos. You can sign up for this tour.
- Obviously, you cannot leave the Yucatan Peninsula without visiting Chichen Itza. This tour includes transportation, entrance fees, a guide, lunch, and a visit to a cenote.
- Two other Mayan ruin sites near Mérida are Kabah and Uxmal. With this excursion, you can visit both on the same day. And another one that we loved was Ek Balam, don’t miss it!
- Another less known but just as interesting is the ancient city of Mayapán. Here we tell you how to do the visit on your own, and here you can sign up for a tour from Mérida.
This whole area is full of cenotes, if you have a car you can organize a day of cool dips, but if you don’t have it, we leave you a couple of tours:
- Excursion to the cenotes of Cuzamá
- Homún cenotes tour
Mérida is one of the most interesting cities with more things to see and do in the Yucatan Peninsula.