This post is part of the series Yucatán
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After spending 3 days in exploring the region around Valladolid we kept heading west to Mérida, the capital of Yucatán state in Mexico. Mérida is the biggest city of Yucatan peninsula with around one million inhabitants, well known for being one of the safest and cleanest cities in Mexico! Mérida is also home to many digital nomads and food junkies and after spending some 4 days in the city I can easily understand why!
Mérida is a beautiful and colourful city with a great location. Mérida is full of history, authentic people and has the best food on Earth! Mérida ’s atmosphere is peaceful and its vibe – carefree. Mérida’s colonial architecture is European-influenced and is still glitz and glamour.
Mérida in Mexico has truly so much to offer to its visitors. With its colonial past, Mérida boasts rich culture, history, art and traditions. Probably that’s why Mérida has been the only city to be selected twice as the American Capital of Culture in the years of 2000 and 2017. Another interesting fact is that Mérida was said to house more millionaires than any other place in the world… But you don’t have to be a millionaire in order to enjoy the city at its fullest!
The best way to explore the city is by walking through the Mexican heaven! The downtown buildings are painted in bright shades of yellow, pink, blue, purple and red – it is just impossible to get in a bad mood while strolling through the streets of Mérida. The city is one of the most beautiful and colourful cities you will be able to visit while in Yucatan. Art, culture, food and history – my choice of 4 words to describe Mérida.
If planning a trip to Mérida – don’t plan anything! Mérida isn’t a place for Google Maps and plans. Being spontaneous is the best to-do plan you can have when visiting the capital city of Yucatan
Things to do in Merida
Visit a Museum: As a capital city of Yucatan, Mérida has many museums where you can spend a hot afternoon. If you want to learn about Yucatan’s history you can choose between Macay Contemporary Art Museum, Museum of the City, Museo de Arte Popular de Yucatan – Casa Molina, or Museo National de Antropologia – Palacio Cantón. If you want to learn more about the Mayan people, culture, and history, go to Gran Museo de Mundo Maya.
Stroll through Paseo de Montejo – the most beautiful street in Mérida: Paseo de Montejo is known as the Mexican Champs-Élysées! Here you can visit some of the most important for the city historic mansions, have a coffee or two in one of the many fancy cafes (like Sukra or Pistache), or enjoy Mayan liquor called pox in la Posheria! My favourite time of the day to enjoy Paseo de Montejo was one hour before sunset 🙂
Visit the Plazas: Do what the locals do – spend a late afternoon at the Plaza! The three main plazas in Mérida are Plaza Grande, Parque de Santa Lucia and the plaza near the monument A Los Montejo. Be sure – something is happening always there! Two more Plazas are also a must visit while in Merida: Parque Santa Ana and Parque Santiago. My favourite Plaza is the main one – Plaza Grande. Here is so much to see and do and almost everything is for free! Starting with the gorgeous Catedral de Mérida which was built in the 16th century, and moving to Casa Montejo Museum and Museum Fernando Garcia Ponce-Macay. Both free to visit.
Lucas de Galvez Market: A visit to Lucas de Galvez market Mérida is a must to get a taste of local life in Mérida. The history of the bustling market dates back to the late 1800s. Here you can try some unusual fruits, vegetables and meat. You can enjoy the beautiful scent of fresh flowers in the air. Or you can shop for handmade clothing and hammocks, blankets and standard tourist trinkets abound.
Do a Free Walking Tour: Everyday there are two free walking tours in Merida: one is in the morning at 9:30 and the second one is in the afternoon at 6 pm and the meeting point is infront of the tourist office at Plaza Grande. The free walking tour provides a good overview of Mérida which could be very helpful especially during the very first hours in the city.
Visit the Balcony at Palacio Municipal for Free: … and do it during sunset! The balcony overlooks Plaza Grande and Catedral de Mérida.
Visit Palacio de Gobierno and Government Palace: Both are located at Plaza Grande and both are free to experience! Palacio de Gobierno now houses some large and impressive hisotrical murals.
Explore Mérida by Horse-Drawn Carriage Ride: A good option if you are not keen on walking or hop-on-hop-off busses is to explore the city by horse & carriage! The standard tour takes about 45 minutes and includes Centro and Paseo street.
Eat and Drink: Eating is literally the best thing you can do in Merida! There are hundreds of restaurant you can choose from and no matter where you are eating, you will enjoy it! The city is home to many food bloggers, and I can already guess, it is not hard to work here!
When it comes to drinks, Hermana Republica became our favourite place especially for draft beer. The food here is a bit expensive but you can simply enjoy a beer or two after having dinner somewhere else.
Where to stay in Merida
We stayed at Hotel Del Peregrino with a great location and only 10 minutes walk from the city centre. All the staff were very friendly, helpful, and efficient. There are a number of different areas inside and outside to sit and relax. The area is very quiet and peaceful! My favourite thing about this hotel is definitely the breakfasts!
Visit at Least One of the Many Beautiful Haciendas near Merida
The countryside around Merida is home to numerous haciendas, that made the region rich during the colonial period. Some of the Best Haciendas near Merida are Hacienda Yaxcopoil, Hacienda San Antonio Millet, Hacienda Xcanatun, Hacienda Santa Cruz, and my personal favourite – Hacienda San Pedro Ochil!
We visited Hacienda Ochil after exploring the Archaeological Site of Uxmal. Hacienda Ochil is only 30 minutes drive from Uxmal and 40 minutes from Merida. This is one of the most beautiful haciendas we visited during our trip to Mexico! Here you can enjoy the delicious Yucatan food which affordable and tasty! You can choose from many different dishes like salbutes, kibis, panuchos, poc chuc, tacos, empanadas, and many others!
Visit the Best Cenotes of Yucatan
One of the coolest things to do in the Yucatan Peninsula is visiting a cenote and this was also my favourite activity during our road trip in Mexico! Probably the most beautiful cenotes of Yucatan are located near Valladolid. There are also many other cenotes located near Merida, Tulum, Playa del Carmen and Cancun.
This post is part of the series Mexico Other posts in this series: Is Cancún…
Day Trip from Merida to Celestun
Have you ever seen a flamingo in flight? Before travelling to Mexico I had seen flamingos only in Vienna’s and San Diego’s Zoo. But the chance to see them in their natural surroundings excited me A LOT! Next to the Mayan ruins, seeing flamingos in the wild was at the top of my wishlist for our trip to Yucatan.
We decided to visit the flamingos in Celestun. The fisher village is considered as a “back to nature” attraction for travellers. And we were not disappointed! Celestun is heaven to observe the elegant pink creatures and many other birds! The village has more to offer to its visitors than the beautiful flamingos at Reserva de la Biosfera Ría Celestún – here is a great place to relax on the beach, explore the mangroves and enjoy the great food of Celestun.
Day Trip from Merida to Valladolid
Valladolid is a small and colourful colonial city in Mexico and a visit should be on every traveller’s list! When planning a trip to Yucatan, Mexico, many travellers will choose to stay in Mérida. But the colonial city of Valladolid is quite simply one of the most vibrant, authentic places you’ll find in Yucatan! Valladolid is the hidden gem of Yucatan and is still off the beaten path which makes it a great opportunity to experience the more authentic Mayan culture and history.
Many tourists visit Valladolid on a day trip from Cancun and Playa, or they just skip it! Travellers and backpackers just stay for one night while passing through to Chichen Itza and other destinations. Not us though, we stayed here for three nights as the city is a great base for excursions to Ek Balam, Coba, Chichen Itza and countless cenotes in the area. But we didn’t use the town as a home base for discovering the region’s attractions only – Valladolid is worth exploring too!
Day Trip from Merida to Chichen Itza
Holding the title as one of the new seven wonders of the world, Chichen Itza is the most well-known and frequently visited Mayan ruins site in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and the second most visited archaeological site in Mexico. The pre-Hispanic city in Yucatan and UNESCO World Heritage Site has a challenging 1000-year-old history. The most famous attraction of Chichen Itza is the Temple and Pyramid of Kukulcan, known also as El Castillo.
Although I generally tend to prefer exploring lesser-visited places that are situated a little further off the main tourist path, Chichen Itza is a magnificent place and it is definitely a site worth visiting when travelling to Mexico. Chichen Itza has a very central location in the Yucatan Penninsula. The Mayan ruins are extensive and cover 300 hectares but many sections have still never been excavated.
This post is part of the series Mexico Other posts in this series: Is Cancún…
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Rental Car in Mexico
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If you are the type of person who prefers joining a tour, there are all kinds of guided tours around Mexico including Merida.
Enjoy the day!
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Continue reading this series:
Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico