Merida is the capital of the Mexican state of Yucatan and a historic, colourful city where you can experience authentic Yucatan culture. From visiting museums and admiring architecture to tasting Yucatan food, having fun at festivals and shopping in markets, there are lots of things to do in Merida to fill a few days.
Merida is also a doable day trip from Mexico’s famous landmarks such as Chichen Itza and Cenote Ik Kil, Uxmal and Ruta Puuc. What’s more, staying in Merida is also more affordable than many popular Mexican beach destinations. That means you’ll be able to make your budget stretch further and see and do more with smaller crowds.
- Merida, Mexico
- 20 Things To Do In Merida
- 1- Take A Free Walking Tour
- 2- Party At Merida Fest in January
- 3- Walk Along Paseo de Montejo
- 4- Visit Monumento a la Patria
- 5- Eat Yucatan Food As Seen On Netflix
- 6- Admire Charming Architecture
- 7- Explore Santa Ana Park
- 8- Visit Centro Historico
- 9- Visit San Ildefonso Cathedral
- 10- Shop At Merida en Domingo Sunday Market
- 11- Visit Gastronomy Museum, MUGY, Museo de la Gastronomia Yucateca
- 12- Walk Beneath Merida’s Arches
- 13- Discover Maya Culture At Mayan World Museum
- 14- Visit Casa Montejo 495 of the Casas Gemelas
- 15- Visit the Regional Museum of Anthropology of Yucatan, Canton Palace
- 16- Relax On Progreso Beach
- 17- Explore Celestun Biosphere Reserve
- 18- Take A Day Trip To Visit Chichen Itza and Cenote Ik Kil
- 19- Take A Day Trip To Uxmal and Ruta Puuc
- 20- Explore Dzibilchaltun Mayan Ruins and Cenote Xlacah
- 20 Things To Do In Merida
20 Things To Do In Merida
1- Take A Free Walking Tour
Merida’s Tourism Office offers a free walking tour of the city.
The tour guide speaks English as they walk through the city, talking about the history of Merida. The guide carries a pink umbrella and takes their guests to Casa Montejo, Catedral de San Ildefonso, Pasaje de la Revolucion, Parque Hidalgo, Palacio de Gobierno, Plaza Grande, Palacio de la Musica, Gran Hotel, Teatro Peon Contreras, and the Universidad de Yucatan. This tour is based on tips, so guests of this activity are highly encouraged to tip their guide.
The walking tour runs daily at 10 am or 5.30 pm, even if it’s raining, at Parque de Santa Lucia.
2- Party At Merida Fest in January
Every January, Merida celebrates the city’s founding with various artistic and cultural displays for a few weeks.
Hundreds of artists from all over Mexico and the world gather in Merida and perform in shows that display creative talents in music, dance, theatre, literature and visual arts.
These shows take place in theatres, community centres, parks, auditoriums, and any other public space available for performances.
In addition to celebrating Merida’s culture through art, they celebrate their culture through fashion and food.
Food is the festival’s star every year because you can’t truly understand Yucatecan culture without trying the food.
3- Walk Along Paseo de Montejo
The most famous road in Merida is Paseo de Montejo, also known as the “Heart of Merida.”
Paseo de Montejo runs for more than 3.7 miles (6 km) and connects the downtown neighbourhood of Santa Ana to the highway close to the Gran Museo Maya.
Many historical points of interest in Merida lie along this road, and visitors to the city should make an effort to walk along its length.
The best time to walk along Paseo de Montejo is on Sundays between 8 am and 12.30 pm when the road closes to vehicular traffic.
Many people take advantage of this time and walk, run, skate and bike on the historic street.
For more adventures in Mexico, read:
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- 20 Things To Do In Merida
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- 20 National Parks In Mexico
- 20 Day Trips From Mexico City
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- 20 Famous Landmarks in Mexico
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- 20 Ways To Spend Christmas in Mexico
- 10 Things To Do In Baja California
- The Wonder of Chichen Itza
- When Is The Best Time To Visit Mexico?
- A Guide To Las Grutas De Tolantongo
- A Guide To Valle De Bravo
- 20 Best Cenotes In Mexico
- 20 Interesting Mexican Traditions
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4- Visit Monumento a la Patria
The Monumento a la Patria, the Monument to the Fatherland, is on the Paseo de Montejo.
A Columbian sculptor, Romulo Rozo, sculpted the monument from quarried stone from 1945 to 1956.
It took Rozo 11 years to construct the intricate details of the monument to represent all of Mexico’s rich history, from the founding of Tenochtitlan to the first half of the 20th century.
The Neo-Mayan style of this monument is like nothing else found in Mexico.
Monumento a la Patria is at P.º de Montejo, Zona Paseo Montejo, Centro, 97000 Mérida.
5- Eat Yucatan Food As Seen On Netflix
Yucatecan cuisine is well-known for blending traditional Mexican foods like beans, corn and tomatoes with regional flavours such as sour orange, habanero and achiote.
The foods from Yucatan state are so popular that foodie shows on Netflix have featured restaurants in Merida.
Netflix’s “Taco Chronicles” has featured the restaurant Manjar Blanco whose specialty is Cochinita Pibil.
Manjar Blanco is next to Santa Ana Park at one end of the Paseo de Montejo.
The Netflix series “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat” featured the Taqueria La Lupita, located a few blocks from the Gastronomy Museum.
This taqueria offers traditional foods such as panuchos and salbutes and traditional beverages such as the piña con chaya.
Foodies from all over Mexico flock to Merida to eat at these restaurants.
6- Admire Charming Architecture
Merida contains many historic and modern buildings like El Pinar house, a mysterious pink mansion in downtown Merida constructed in the early 1900s.
The building recently opened to the public for guided tours, and visitors can hear the stories and legends surrounding this mansion for more than a century.
The historic Hotel Casa Azul, located just off of the Paseo de Montejo, provides a luxurious place for visitors to Merida to stay.
Explore the historic building constructed during the 1800s.
The Rosas & Xocolate Boutique Hotel was created from two renovated Spanish colonial-style mansions.
This bright pink luxury hotel also houses a popular spa and restaurant.
7- Explore Santa Ana Park
Santa Ana Park, Parque Santa Ana, is at one end of the Paseo de Montejo.
This tranquil area attracts many visitors who sit in the famous “Tu y Yo Chairs”, also known as “Kissing Chairs.”
The large cathedral, Parroquia Santa Ana, is located right next to the park.
Every day of the week in the park, the Mercado Santa Ana draws people who want to sample regional foods and snacks such as cochinita pibil, sopa de lima, panuchos and salbutes.
8- Visit Centro Historico
The Centro Historico of Merida is a fun downtown area that visitors to Merida should explore.
Plaza Grande provides a beautiful backdrop to the photos taken in front of the colourful letters that spell out MERIDA.
Palacio Municipal is a historic building you can explore.
You can also find street food and ice cream here.
9- Visit San Ildefonso Cathedral
Located in the Centro Historico, the San Ildefonso Cathedral is a historic landmark in Merida.
Every Friday at 8 pm, a video mapping show is displayed on the outside walls of the cathedral.
This 20-minute show tells the history of Merida and the Yucatan using the sacred stones or Piedras Sagradas.
On Wednesday nights at 8 pm, an ancient Mayan Ball Game called Pok Ta Pok is reenacted in the square outside of the cathedral.
Fortunately for the players of the game, the winners are no longer sacrificed as they once were during the pre-Hispanic period at the height of Mayan civilization.
10- Shop At Merida en Domingo Sunday Market
Set within Plaza Grande in Centro Historico, the Merida en Domingo or Sunday Market is a great place to buy traditional handmade Mayan crafts and souvenirs.
During the day, visitors can watch the Vaqueria folkloric dancers perform or watch a reenactment of a traditional wedding ceremony called Boda Mestiza.
Merida en Domingo is a must-see place to experience Merida’s colourful and rich Yucatecan culture.
11- Visit Gastronomy Museum, MUGY, Museo de la Gastronomia Yucateca
The Gastronomy Museum or MUGY (Museo de la Gastronomia Yucateca) educates visitors about the rich history and traditions of Yucatecan cuisine while sampling these traditional foods.
It’s a museum experience using all five senses.
Adjacent to the museum restaurant, there’s a Mayan village with a kitchen where you can see traditional cooking methods once used by the people in this region.
12- Walk Beneath Merida’s Arches
Merida once contained eight colonial arches meant to restrict movement within the city and protect the wealthy that lived in the city’s centre.
After the last few hundred years, only three colonial arches remain standing.
The Bridge Arch, Arco del Puente, and the Dragon’s Arch, Arco de Dragones, are close to Calle 50.
The Arch of Saint John or Arco de San Juan is on Calle 64.
13- Discover Maya Culture At Mayan World Museum
The largest museum in Merida, the Mayan World Museum or Gran Museo del Mundo Maya, contains over 1,000 pieces of art and artifacts that tell the story of Mayan culture and daily life.
This museum is the best in Merida for visitors interested in Mayan history as well as the colonial era. This unique building is located 20 minutes from downtown Merida.
14- Visit Casa Montejo 495 of the Casas Gemelas
The Casas Gemelas, located on Paseo de Montejo, are two mansions adjacent to each other that look very similar, which is where the name gemelas or twins is derived.
They were constructed in the early 1900s in the European Renaissance style.
One of the mansions is still privately owned, but the other is now open to the public.
This mansion museum is now called Casa Montejo 495.
Visitors can walk through the mansion and see tapestries, paintings, sculptures, art, stained glass windows and other items from around the world.
15- Visit the Regional Museum of Anthropology of Yucatan, Canton Palace
The Regional Museum of Anthropology of Yucatan, Canton Palace, is set in a large, yellow European-style mansion in Merida’s Centro Historico.
This mansion was built in the early 1900s when General Francisco Canton lived there with his family.
His family sold the building to the government shortly after his death, and it housed schools, governors, and later, anthropologists.
This building is the most photographed in Merida, probably because of its bright yellow facade.
The museum contains a collection of Mayan art and artifacts and offers a space for conferences, workshops, and other events that educate the public about pre-Hispanic peoples.
16- Relax On Progreso Beach
Merida is near the coast, so try Progreso Beach if you want to spend time at the beach.
Progreso Beach is only a 45-minute drive from Merida on the Gulf of Mexico.
Public transportation is readily available from Merida to Progreso Beach by using the AutoProgreso bus.
This beach has a lovely malecon promenade lined with souvenir shops and restaurants.
You can rent a beach chair or go to a beach club for a day.
17- Explore Celestun Biosphere Reserve
The Celestun Biosphere Reserve is a UNESCO site 2.5 hours from Merida.
Flamingoes and other migratory aquatic birds are the biggest draws to this location.
Visitors to Celestun can take a boat ride into the mangroves to glimpse the birds that use this vital wetland on their migration.
The best time to visit Celestun is from November to February, as during these months, mating season for flamingoes occurs, and you can find thousands of flamingoes there.
18- Take A Day Trip To Visit Chichen Itza and Cenote Ik Kil
Mexico’s most visited Mayan ruin is Chichen Itza, an iconic and world-renowned archaeological site.
It’s a two-hour drive from Merida and well worth a day trip.
Many tour companies offer one-day tours to this site from Merida’s hotels.
If you prefer to visit independently, there are public buses between Merida and Chichen Itza, or you can rent a car.
The most visited cenote, Ik Kil, is 15 minutes from Chichen Itza, and it’s worth booking a tour to see both Chichen Itza and Ik Kil on the same day.
19- Take A Day Trip To Uxmal and Ruta Puuc
The Ruta Puuc is a route that connects five Mayan ruins along a 36-mile (58 km) trail.
These archaeological sites are much less crowded than Chichen Itza but no less spectacular.
The largest of the Mayan ruins on the Ruta Puuc is Uxmal.
The Uxmal site is only 1.5 hours from Merida.
The other four archaeological sites on the Ruta Puuc are Kabah, Sayil, Xlapak, and Labna.
20- Explore Dzibilchaltun Mayan Ruins and Cenote Xlacah
The closest Mayan ruin to Merida is the Dzibilchaltun archaeological site, only a 45-minute drive away.
This archaeological site is relatively small, but you can climb many of its structures.
A small museum is also located on the property.
In addition to the museum and archaeological ruins, the cenote Xlacah can also be found here.
So you can climb Mayan ruins, visit a museum and swim in an open cenote, all at one convenient location.