Merida is a beautiful colonial city, and one of the biggest cities on the Yucatan Peninsula. This city is characteristic of old colonial Mexico, with bright white houses and buildings scattered in a sea of colors- from the buildings to the markets, there is so much to see in Merida!
Heavily influenced by Mayan culture, many locals are of Mayan descent. You can experience authentic Mayan culture, take day trips to the famous ruins, experience the friendliness of the Meridians. If you’re traveling to the Yucatan Peninsula, Merida should be first on your list!
What to Do in Merida?
Gran Museo del Mundo Maya
The Great Museum of the Mayan World is the perfect place to really learn about the Mayan civilization. From artifacts to historical explanations you will learn about all of the aspects of the Mayan culture, starting from the beginning of time. This museum was inaugurated the year in which the Mayan calendar ended, 2012. It’s a great idea to visit this museum before venturing out to the ruins, because it will provide a deeper understanding and knowledge of each significant ruin site. Because of the rich Mayan history and the impact on today’s descendants, visiting the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya is one of the top things to do in Merida, Mexico.
Attend a Festival
While Merida is not considered a ‘party city’ and you will not find any crazy clubs, there are yearly festivals that are not to miss, and some of the most fun things to do in Merida. If you’re lucky enough to be in Merida at the beginning of January, you’ll get to experience Merida Fest, which takes place Jan 5-26. During these few weeks there are daily fiestas happening all over the city, and the opening night includes a massive fireworks display that you can watch from Plaza Grande. About a month later in February you’ll be in town for Carnaval Merida, which takes place at the nearby fairgrounds where many parades take place. From 19 – 26 yo can enjoy colorful floats while socializing with friends and locals! November 1st brings the Day of the Dead, where many people pay visits to the cemetery and honor the dead. It’s truly a sight to see as not many people around the world celebrate this holiday in the same fashion.
Experience Cantina Culture
Try the best of Mexico’s spirits and cuisine as you try many of Merida’s authentic cantinas. If you are unsure of where to start, you can take a cantina tour, where a guide brings you to a few great spots with delicious beer and yummy snacks. For a fan favorite, you can go to La Negrita, which is recommended by everyone, especially if you are new to the cantina scene. But there is something for everyone if you are looking for a great time and willing to experience authentic Mexican culture!
What to See in Merida?
Merida’s lovely central square, Plaza Grande, is a great starting point for your trip. There is a huge colorful sign with the city’s name, and most walking tours will begin here. Plaza Grande hosts many events throughout the week, such as traditional Yucatan dancing on Mondays and a large artisanal craft fair on Sundays. You can also catch other events happening throughout the week and special events at certain times of the year. Plaza Grande also has free WIFI as all public spaces in Merida do. If there are no events going on, it’s a perfect place to sit under a shady tree and enjoy the day!
Paseo de Montejo
Merida’s famous main street is a favorite to stroll, wander the shops, and admire the colorful mansions that line the main road. With the best part of the main drag stretching from the Montejo Monument to the Monumento a la Patria, you’ll find delicious coffee shops and cultural gems all along the road. It’s easy to stroll the wide sidewalks as you peek into museums, mansions, and cafes, you’ll easily spend half a day or maybe more discovering all there is to see, no wonder Paseo Montejo is one of the best things to see in Merida!
Lucas de Galvez Market
A local market that has so much variety, you’ll wander the stalls two or three times just to see everything! You can purchase fresh fruits and vegetables, artisanal goods, clothes, and even meals. It’s the perfect place to pick up some groceries, or just enjoy the company of the locals while having a great meal. The Lucas de Galvez Market is a must see in Merida!
Catedral de San Ildefonso
One of the oldest cathedrals in the Americas, Catedral de San Ildefonso, was finished in 1598 and is impressively standing tall in the middle of Merida. Built in the Spanish style you can still see remnants of Spanish influence integrated into the architecture. On Fridays, there is a projected light show on the Cathedral’s walls, a unique must see in Merida!
Things to do Near Merida
About an hour from Merida, you can see some well preserved Mayan ruins that are easily accessible and provide a great look into Mayan architecture and history. Over 3,000 years ago the Mayans were thriving and this is when they built some of these ancient cities. At Uxmal you can even climb on most of the ruins, with the exception of the Pyramid of the Magician. But, every aspect of these ruins create the perfect photo op, and they’re a fun site for the whole family!
A bit further than Uxmal from Merida, Chichen Itza is the most famous Mayan ruin you could visit. The iconic pyramid is stuck in our minds as being the epitome of a Mayan Temple. When staying in Merida you are not too far from the famous spectacle, and around the Chichen Itza site, you can see many other well known ruins, and you can even visit some cenotes around the area as well. Dive into the heart of the Mayan culture when you take a day trip to Chichen Itza and the surrounding sites, it’s truly one of the best things to do near Merida.
What is Merida Known For?
Merida is known as a cultural hub in Mexico. The biggest city on the Yucatan peninsula, Merida is inhabited by Mayan descendants, so it is the perfect place to learn and experience ancient culture. Merida is also known for its peaceful beauty, with classic colonial architecture in bright whites and stunning colors. Wandering through the city is like walking in a painting!
Is Merida, Mexico Expensive?
Merida is a very inexpensive destination compared to some other Latin American cities. 5 EUR is about 132 Mexican pesos, if you are dining out and eating at a local place you will probably only spend about this amount of money for one person. Note, if you go to upscale restaurants or foreign restaurants, the prices may be higher. On the whole venturing around Mexico is not very expensive, and if you eat local it adds to the savings!
Is Merida Worth Visiting?
Long story short, yes. Merida is a colorful city bursting with culture. There is no better place to learn about and experience Mayan culture and Mexican Culture. With the impressive old town, lined with beautiful colonial structures that are still standing, painted in bright colors and clean whites. Experience authentic Mayan cuisine and rituals at local restaurants and annual festivals. And see for yourself the geniality of the Mayan architecture. At least 2-3 days is recommended in Merida, and more if your itinerary allows!