Best Things to See and Do in Merida You Can't Miss
We've put together this detailed travel guide to inspire you to visit Merida, one of the prettiest colonial cities in Mexico. Merida as a travel destination has so much to offer not only in the city itself but in the near surroundings as well such as cenotes and Mayan ruins. Get inspired by the best things to see and do in Merida.
Merida is the largest city on the Yucatan Peninsula, but it is also a city where you can feel a strong influence of Maya culture, thanks to many indigenous people living in the city. Merida is often nicknamed Ciudad Blanca alias White City, but even though you will for sure find here some white buildings every now and then, there are definitely less white houses than those colorful ones.
It would be unfair to say Merida is like any other colonial city on the Yucatan Peninsula. Yes like many other (colonial) cities in the area, it has a large plaza in the historic center with the awe-inspiring cathedral, colorful streets (we cannot even count how many of them we've already seen), splendid architecture, lively market, cenotes, and Mayan Ruins around.
Yet, you can feel that you've arrived in the capital city of the Yucatan Peninsula. The atmosphere is more open, people more energetic, and the mansions bigger. Do not worry that you will get tired of Merida anytime soon.
Here's a list of the best things to see and do in Merida and its surroundings.
BEST THINGS TO DO IN MERIDA
There are so many things to do and places to see in Merida or its near surroundings that the destination will easily keep you occupied for days.
In case you do not want to explore only the city itself but also cenotes, Mayan ruins, and maybe even the colonial cities around, allocate at least three days for Merida.
You won't be disappointed.
Plaza Grande | Plaza Grande is the real heart of Merida. The square is lined with many notable buildings with high archways, you will find here Merida's cathedral, upscale restaurants, and if you are looking for some cultural experience, the chances are that during your visit there will be a concert or a dancing show. Most of the shows take place on weekends when Merida is often visited by locals. Every Sunday Merida's Plaza Grande hosts a large craft fair. As on almost every square in Mexico, you can find here beautiful trees, and the cheesy colorful sign with the city’s name for photos, so the plaza looks more like a park.
Catedral de San Ildefonso | The Merida's Cathedral standing on Plaza Grande cannot be overlooked. One of the oldest cathedrals in the Americas was built on the brink of the 16th century, and until now you can marvel at the splendid architecture. We like when the historic buildings have simple lines and look modest from the outside, and Merida's Cathedral is exactly the prototype how the religious architecture should look like (according to our opinion, of course).
Palacio de Gobierno | The Government Palace is another building you can enter for free and roam its hallways and rooms as you please. The palace was built in the late 1800s, you can find inside some impressive murals, and when walking around at night you might even see the building lit up.
Palacio Municipal | On the west side of Plaza Grande stands Palacio Municipal which, thanks to its pink facade, high archways, and a small clock tower is one of the most photogenic buildings in the historic center. It is possible to go inside the palace for free and take a photo of the square from the balcony.
Palacio Canton | Palacio Canton is one of the noblest buildings along Paseo de Montejo. The mansion was built in the 1900s in neo-Baroque and Neoclassical style, and when walking around, you can notice many details on the facade.
Santa Lucia Parque | We stumbled across this park by accident, but it immediately became our favorite place in Merida. Although the park is popular among tourists and locals alike, it did not feel crowded, and we had plenty of time to admire the architecture, and especially the friendly vibe here. The park is lined with many restaurants and boutique shops, and even we could not splurge because of our budget, it was a nice place to spend a while.
Colorful Streets | If you have only limited time to visit Mexico, and want to see the famous colorful cobblestone streets, you won't make a mistake if you decide to visit Merida. Having traveled to quite many colonial cities, you can trust us on this. We recommend you not to follow any guide book. Simply head to the city center, and stroll around the beautiful architecture with a camera in hand.
Visit the Gran Museo Del Mundo Maya | It is impossible to travel around Mexico and not come across Maya culture. If you need an introduction to the Mayan world, or you want to learn about this ancient culture so significant for Mexico (many Mayan descendants still live in the country, especially in this region), you should not miss the largest museum in the world focusing on this civilization. The museum is open from 8 AM to 5 PM, every day but on Tuesdays and the visit will set you back Mx 150 in case you are not Mexican.
Lucas Galvez Market | Mexico surprised us in a positive way, as almost every city had a great authentic market where we could shop for fresh fruit and vegetables. Lucas Galvez Market has almost everything you can think of. You can do here grocery shopping, buy clothes, handicrafts or flowers just to name a few. Definitely try tacos here. The market is open every day (it is usually closed on Sunday when the large market takes place on Plaza Grande), but the selection is the best in the morning, as the market closes quite early, around 4 PM.
Walk Paseo de Montejo | The wide boulevard Paseo de Montejo is a must-see attraction when in Merida. It is basically a huge avenue lined with many notable and important houses. The street is pedestrian-friendly, which is not always the case in Latin America, but a popular way how to see the most is hiring a carriage.
Relax on the Beach | Mexico has so many beautiful beach resorts along the coast, that not many travelers even consider Merida as a place to stay for relaxing on the beach. The truth is, although Merida is not located right on the coast, in only 30 minutes drive, you will get to Progreso or Eladios beach, so it is definitely worth checking.
Explore Chichen Itza | No matter where on the Yucatan Peninsula you are, it is possible to visit Chichen Itza, the most famous Mayan ruins in Mexico from any place. Chichen Itza is only 123 kilometers from Merida, and you can either take a public bus, drive by car, or take a tour. Expect crowds and higher prices, but this World's Wonder is worth it.
Uxmal Ruins | Other amazing ruins near Merida are Uxmal. Uxmal was one of the prettiest ruins we've seen in Mexico and the main highlight here is Pyramid of Magician, an awe-inspiring structure standing near the entrance gate. It is easy to get from Merida to Uxmal by bus, but you can also take this popular guided tour. Uxmal was once a powerful Mayan city, and you can see the former grandeur everywhere around, so take your time to fully appreciate the splendid architecture.
Ruta Puuc | Merida is surrounded by archeological sites and Mayan ruins, and the traditional architectural style for the area is called Puuc. In case you want to explore the path less traveled, you might be interested in discovering several less-known sites along the 41-kilometer stretch of road built in this style. It is not hard to visit this place with a rental car, the public bus traveling along the road is scheduled only every Sunday and private guided tours on Monday.
Swim in Cenote | The whole Yucatan Peninsula is dotted with thousands of cenotes, waterholes with crystal clear water. The weather in Merida is often hot and humid, so cooling down in one of many cenotes is a pleasant activity. There are literally hundreds of cenotes around Merida so just randomly choose one. One of the most popular ones are near small towns close to Merida, Homun or Cuzama.
Take a day-trip to Valladolid or Campeche | If you do not have enough of pastel-colored colonial cities, we have some more recommendations for you. Not that far away are cities or Valladolid and Campeche, where you can enjoy leisure afternoon. Again, these places are best visited by car as it is more comfortable and faster, but ADO buses are frequent and reliable as well. In case you do not want to travel by bus, you can visit Campeche with a tour from Merida.
WHERE TO STAY IN MERIDA
Merida is a touristy city, and finding accommodation should be an easy task.
What can be a bit problematic is to find a well-reviewed hotel in your budget, as hotels in Merida are often overpriced for what they offer. Some popular dates can be booked out a long time in advance, so always check if something is happening during your travel dates, so you can secure your room on time.
We've handpicked three best places for every type of traveler.
Budget | Akasha Hostel - This hostel is centrally located and you can choose from private rooms and dormitories. The place boasts with complimentary breakfast, terrace, kitchen, and garden.
Mid-range | Maison del Embajador - Simple, clean and reasonably priced hotel offers accommodation in a colonial house in the historic center.
Luxury | Casa Lecanda Boutique Hotel - Very elegant hotel with beautiful tiled courtyards, a pool, and luxurious rooms. This is a place where you won't be missing anything, and the only thing you will do is relaxing after all day out.
Alternatively, search for your accommodation via Hostelworld.
HOW TO GET TO MERIDA
Merida is the capital city of the Yucatan Peninsula, so it is obvious it is not hard to get to the city or from Merida to your next destination.
ADO buses run frequently from either Tulum, Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Valladolid or Campeche, and from many other cities, but those mentioned above are the heavily-visited ones travelers usually have on an Mexico itinerary.
We traveled extensively around Mexico by bus, and all rides were without the slightest problem and buses ran on time. It is always worth it to buy a bus ticket at least one day in advance, especially when you are traveling in high season, and it is cheaper to buy a ticket on the bus terminal rather than online.
It is easy to rent a car in Mexico and get around this way. Actually, we had a feeling most of the people travel this way, and we completely get it as it is comfortable, and as holidaymakers have less time, the car saves plenty of it.
Merida is not the classic first destination for travelers in Mexico, but you can find here international airport, in case you need to get quickly from one place to another.
When looking for flight tickets you can search Skyscanner to find the best price.
WHAT TO PACK FOR VISITING MERIDA
If you've gone through our list of the best things to do in Merida, you know that you can combine visiting the city with Mayan ruins and swimming in cenotes.
That's why you should pack clothes, swimsuit and sun protection, as it is hot and humid in Merida almost all year round. And it rains during the wet season from April to November.
Here are five essential things you should pack for visiting Merida.
Sunscreen | Sun is harsh in Mexico, and when visiting Mayan ruins, there is rarely a shadow, so protect your skin appropriately.
Rain Poncho | Rain poncho or umbrella is must-have when visiting Merida during rainy season.
Canon M50 | All colonial cities in Mexico are super photogenic, so remember to pack your photo gear.
Filtered Water Bottle | Tap water in Mexico is not drinkable, so in order to reduce your plastic footprint, purchase this amazing filtered water bottle.
SAFETY IN MERIDA
Although you might have heard stories about the safety situation in Mexico, Merida is actually one of the safest cities in the country, therefore it is a place where many expats live.
You still should use your common sense when walking around the city and watch your valuables, but there is really no reason why not to enjoy the visit of Merida without worries.
When traveling to the suburbs, it is probably better to take Uber or taxi, but not because you should have safety concerns, but because it is much faster.
TRAVEL INSURANCE - SIMPLE & FLEXIBLE
We never leave our home without travel insurance which is designed to help cover your expenses if something goes wrong on your trip. World Nomads Travel Insurance has been designed by travelers for travelers, to cover your trip essentials.
Travel smarter and safer!