THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO MERIDA, MEXICO
It’s no secret that Mexico is full of hidden treasures (San Cristobal being one of my faves!), head off the beaten track of the tourist destinations like Cancun & Tulum and you can find many incredible towns bursting with colour, incredible food and plenty of culture! I got to experience one of these very special places a few months ago, I had been on a tour that visited Mexico City, Oaxaca and many other places when I finally arrived at the beautiful city of Merida…
WHAT TO DO IN MERIDA
EXPLORE & TAKE THE WALKING TOUR
First things first one of the best parts of Merida is the beautiful streets lined with a rainbow selection of buildings, I really recommend getting lost just wandering and exploring but a great way to start is to have a walking tour in the morning! There’s one every morning that leaves from the central Plaza Grande, and a friendly guide will give you a lesson on all of the history that Merida holds as well as helping you find your way around town and getting your bearings! It’s the perfect overview and will really help you get to know Merida, after that you can explore to your hearts content!
You can meet any morning at 9:30 at the Merida tourism office for the tour.
MARVLE AT THE MANSIONS ON PASEO MONTEJO
Fun fact about Merida, it was once home to the most millionaires in the world! Crazy right?! I was totally blown away when I found this out, and because of this there are many abandoned mansions left lining the streets of the famous avenue Paseo Montejo! Some of them have been converted into museums, others are banks and some are still lived in, either way it’s so worth a visit to check out these beautiful buildings! The avenue stretches from the Santa Ana neighbourhood ending with the grand and unmissable Monumento a la Patria at the end!
VISIT THE PANTEON FLORIDO CEMETERY
I know that visiting a cemetery sounds morbid but I promise it’s actually really touching and incredible to visit this cemetery. Their tombstones are not quite like ours, they’re built to symbolise and represent the deceased’s houses as it’s believed to ease the transition from life to death. Because of this tradition the cemetery is filled with a rainbow of sculptures and creations to represent loved ones that have passed on. Spend an afternoon wandering around and reading about the people there and be sure to marvel at some of the huge tombs that have been built too!
CHECK OUT THE CHURCHES
Another great option while in Merida is to check out the churches that the town is home to, each one is unique and has it’s own park to accompany it! You’ll usually find mini markets in these parks too with a ton of traditional food to try and handmade trinkets and items! My favourite church of the bunch is the Catedral de San Ildefonso!
HEAD TO THE MARKETS
Me and my friend Vu decided to head to one of the markets one afternoon while we were there and boy was it an experience! It was a MAZE of pretty much everything you can think of, traditional food, decorations, homemade drinks, fresh fruit, souvenirs, candy, wrestling masks, local clothing and so much more! Part of the fun is weaving your way in and out of the craziness and soaking up that atmosphere! We went to The Lucas de Galvez Mercado, but there’s more options too if you’re a big market fan! For daily markets head to San Benito Market, again you’ll find plenty of local produce here and food! Another great option one evening is to head to Mercado 60, not only can you get buckets (YES BUCKETS) of beer here, but there’s also a ton of outdoor food stalls which make it a great choice for dinner one night by sampling a few dishes from a few different places!
EXPERIENCE POK TA POK: THE TRADITIONAL MAYAN BALL GAME
If you’ve been to Mexico before it’s likely you’ve heard of Pok Ta Pok (especially if you’ve visited Chichen Itza) but if you haven’t then let me give you a super brief overview! Pok Ta Pok is a game that the mayans used to play using a ball made of rubber. Imagine a kind of extreme football if you will, where the Maya wore heavy body padding and belts and could only hit the ball with their elbows, hips and knees (but never the hands of feet). Ok now instead of imagining that, go and check out the re-creation on a Saturday night in Merida! It takes place at 8:30pm on Calle 60 in front of the Cathedral at Plaza Grande! It’s totally free to attend, but definitely try to arrive 15-20 minutes early to get a good spot in the bleachers, and make sure to cheer LOUD if anyone scores since this is quite a rarity due to how hard the game is!
VISIT EACH OF THE PLAZA’S
We’ve already spoken about Plaza Grande as the meeting point for the guided tour of Merida, it’s probably the most famous of all the plaza’s since it’s so central but there are definitely a few others you should check out while you’re in town! Parque St Lucia is the second most popular as it’s lined with great restaurants and is home to the big oversized ‘me and you’ chairs, stop here and grab a photo! There’s also free concerts here on a Thursday night! Parque Santiago is great because it hosts a Tuesday night orchestra with dancing! There’s also plenty of food vendors at that one too! Finally why not head to Parque Santa Ana, which is in the northern part of Centro, it’s a gorgeous open plaza with plenty of palm trees!
WHERE TO STAY IN MERIDA
I was only in Merida for 2 nights and we stayed at Hotel Santa Maria, which wasn’t the fanciest of hotels but it did the job for us and was in a great location! We could literally walk to everything from here! I find it hard to recommend other places without having stayed in them myself but as always AirB&B offer some great properties or if you want something really special then why not check out some private Haciendas? The perfect balance between luxury and still getting a taste for the culture and historical importance!
WHERE TO EAT IN MERIDA
LA CHAYA MAYA
On our first morning in Merida we woke up and had breakfast at La Chaya Maya restaurant, well known for it’s mayan cuisine and beautiful courtyard area! I ended up just having guacamole on toast though since it was what I was craving that morning but my friend enjoyed some local food for his meal! We also both had some fresh juices which were delicious and I had an horchata for something sweet to finish! This restaurant is so easy to find and very central to everything, definitely worth a visit for it’s beautiful decor too!
Okay, if you don’t what chilaquiles are or have never tried them then ADD THEM TO YOUR LIST IMMEDIATELY. Hands down my favourite breakfast to eat while in Mexico and Chillakillers happen to do some pretty delicious dishes of these! Their style is build your own, choose your tortilla chips and toppings to your liking and enjoy!
ROSAS & XOCOLATE
This restaurant is actually located inside a beautiful boutique hotel in Merida (I mean, the building itself is a gorgeous shade of pink!) and was honestly some of the best food I had on my entire trip around Mexico, we sat in the idyllic courtyard of the hotel and had a leisurely lunch here and I enjoyed every single mouthful! Do not miss this spot!
Head here for dinner and get a seat outside by the big mural, not only will you get to enjoy some superb tacos but you’ll get a light show too! What a bonus! Expect to pay a higher price for the food in this place though.
A special restaurant where you can find a real mix of Mexico, Oaxaca and Yucutan! A firm favourite amongst locals and visitors alike, personally I didn’t get to try this place but wish I had! The reviews are GREAT and everyone says you have to try the mezcal if you visit!
Our group went here for our last dinner and Merida and were super happy with the food AND the size of the portions! The staff were really friendly and the cocktails were absolutely delicious too!
If you’re craving a change from Mexican food then this Italian restaurant comes highly recommended! I didn’t get chance to try it but a cosy restaurant with fresh pasta is right up my street!
WHERE TO DRINK IN MERIDA
After our dinner at Amaro we walked to La Negrita for a drink and I immediately loved the atmosphere of the place! First of all, we had to walk through saloon like doors just to get in and were then greeted with beautiful murals, live music and a buzzing energy in the air! Also, when you order a drink here you get free snacks known as botanas that go well with your beer! Winning!
This place is actually a restaurant but I would recommend stopping by just for drinks if you like! The layout is pretty cool in the sense that it’s a converted Colonial era home where each room is unique decorated! Besides, what’s not to love about a fun tropical vibe that serves up cheap and delicious cocktails?!
Okay this is another place that I did not get chance to visit but I’ve seen a lot of reviews online about this speakeasy! Finding it is part of the fun! Apparently it’s located in a parking lot that looks like the entrance to a kitchen, the address is Calle60 x 55 Local 508-511, Parque de Santa Lucía, 97000 Mérida, Yuc. and if you find it please let me know! haha! The cocktails are supposed to be AMAZING and on Wednesday nights the drinks are 50% off from 8 pm – 10 pm! What a treat!
HOW TO GET AROUND MERIDA
I heard a rumour that Uber is actually illegal in Merida, I’m not sure how true this is but they definitely still operate in the city because I used Uber the entire time I was there! Apparently they just try to be discreet with it (and because of this you will struggle to get an uber from the airport) but I honestly had no issues whatsoever using it to get around town while I was there! Apart from that on foot is a great option, you get to see everything and most places are within walking distance! You can also rent bikes from one of the places on Calle Paseo de Montejo!
Just be careful of the midday heat because it can get HOT and if you’re walking or riding a bike it is pretty exhausting so maybe opt to stay out of the sun during those peak times!
HOW TO GET TO MERIDA
I visited Merida as part of a tour with G Adventures but if you’re staying in Cancun or Playa Del Carmen and are hoping to visit then you can easily get to Merida on the ADO bus. From Cancun it will take around 4 and a half hours and will cost about 400 pesos (around £17) depending on what time you choose, you can check the schedule and book your tickets here!
To get to Merida by plane you’ll likely fly to either Cancun or directly to Merida. Currently Merida does have a small, quiet airport though many US visiorits can reach Merida with a simple change and for Canadians a direct flight is available from Toronto! If you’re flying from Europe or from the UK like myself then the best option is to fly to Cancun and then either get a flight from there to Merida or catch a bus as I mentioned earlier.
TRIPS FROM MERIDA
Whilst there are plenty of things to do in Merida, it’s also a great hub for some trips to some other beautiful places close by! I wish I had the chance to visit Izamel, a ‘magic town’ close by which is famous for it’s bright yellow buildings and there are also lots of gorgeous cenotes close by! If you want some more information on tours from Merida then head over to Catherwood Travels and check out their options, they’ve got tours to archaeological sites like Uxmal (SO WORTH A VISIT) as well as the cenotes we’ve touched upon and much more!
Okay, I think that’s just about as much advice as I can offer in one post! Ha! If you made it this far then good work and if you’re planning a trip to Merida soon then I really hope this has helped and I hope you’ll let me know how it goes, trust me you’re in for a real treat when you visit this magical place! xxx