Merida is a city of contrasts. You will find elegant hotels, restaurants and malls in the northern part of the city. Downtown, there are hotels and restaurants to suit every budget. A large central market and numerous small shops are found all around the main plaza. Merida has a rich cultural life which also reflects its diversity. Many free concerts, performances and other events are held daily.
The city was founded by the Spanish Conquistadors in the 1540s on top of a centuries old Maya city called T'ho. The palatial home of the family of Conquistador leader Montejo can still be seen on the south side of the Zócalo or main square. Here and there bits of ancient Maya stonework can be seen reused in Spanish Colonial era buildings in the old part of town.
From the later 1800s to the 1920s, Mérida enjoyed prosperous boom times fueled by the henequen or sisal plant harvest, which made Yucatan the rope maker to the world. Progressive Mérida had electric trams and street lights before Mexico City. The wealthy constructed the grand Pasejo Montejo avenue north of the old town, inspired by the Champs-Élysées in Paris. With the development of artificial twines the sisal boom ended, and Mérida slowed to a more sleepy provincial capital until development picked back up in the late 20th century.
The city's ambiance is colonial and the climate is tropical. The daytime temperature varies; in January, it is about 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 Celsius) and in June, about 95 F (35 C). To beat the heat, most people are busiest in the mornings. They have lunch and siesta, then go back to work for a few hours in the late afternoon. The cool breezes from the Gulf of Mexico drift into Mérida in the evenings and this is when many of the residents spend their time outdoors. You can see them visiting and talking as they stroll along the streets, sit in the plazas or dine in the many sidewalk restaurants.
From Mérida, it is easy to take day trips to a vast array of destinations: archaeological sites, ecological parks, typical villages, caves, beaches, colonial missions and more. Take your time and really explore the Maya sites… walk for miles along the Gulf of Mexico… attend a village festival… photograph the wildlife… crawl through a cave or swim in a cenote...
Catedral de San Ildefonso, merida, mexico
Manuel Crescencio Rejón International Airport (IATA: MID) (ICAO: MMMD) with direct flights to Mexico City, Houston, Miami, Las Vegas and Europe. Travelers can also get to Merida by flying into Cancun and driving west on the carretera for 3 hours.
There are hardly any cheap 2nd class buses into Merida. It might thus be cheaper to travel to/from Cancun. In particular, there are no 2nd class buses between Merida and Mexico City. The cheapest 1st class bus to Mexico City is 1,182.00 Pesos (about USD $95.53). This is the cheapest ADO bus available. There are about 4 bus stations in Merida, so if coming from Mexico's TAPO station you need to ask to go to Meridas main terminal "Merida CAME bus station".
If coming from Cancun you can either choose to go to Meridas main terminal or the "Hotel Fiesta Americana" which drops of passengers coming from certain destinations and is only a short taxi ride to El Centro. If you decide on this stop you have all three ADO, ADO GL, or ADO Platino. ADO Platino being the highest class of service with free instant coffee packs in the back with hot water along with your choice to choose a single seat by yourself on the left side of the bus and TV's on the back of every seat allowing you to choose an array of movies and TV shows. Some even in English. These tickets will cost around 438 Pesos ($35.40 USD). ADO GL which is a step down without the extras but some more legroom that the regular ADO buses have will cost 322 Pesos ($26 USD) and finally the regular ADO buses are 268 Pesos ($21.66 USD). It's a four hour ride and the price difference isn't to wide. I personally always choose the ADO Platino when available.
Note 1: There is a toll highway between Cancun and Merida that is in excellent condition, the ADO Platino and GL Buses do the 380Km trip in just about 3.5 hours; there is a non-toll road that parallels the highway that goes through 70+ hamlets and 40+ villages and is both slower and bumpier and, the second class buses go this route.
Note 2: There are frequent buses between Cancun Bus Terminal and Merida CAME or Fiesta Americana and both destinations are about the same distance from Merida Centro; CAME is in a somewhat industrial area while Fiesta Americana Bus Terminal is right in the top sights area of Merida.
Note 3: There are a few direct buses from Cancun Airport to Merida; these are excellent vehicles, they seat about 15 but not with the same luxury as the big buses with driver mirrors that look like huge ant antennae...
Getting Around Merida
The streets in most of the parts of of interest to visitors are in a rough grid with numbers for street names. Even numbered streets run from north to south, with the numbers increasing as you go further west; odd numbered streets run from east to west, with the numbers increasing as you go further south. This makes it easy to tell how many blocks away from something you are (just remember to divide by two when counting blocks in the same direction). Addresses are commonly given as either intersections of two streets, or stated as on a street between two cross streets. For orientation in the old part of town, remember the Cathedral and Zocalo (main square) are at the corner of 60 and 61 ("Calle 60 x 61")
Note: Virtually of Merida Centro's roads are in a one way grid pattern, with every other road N/S or E/W going the opposite direction; one way signage is small and sometimes hidden from easy view, while locals on foot are helpful and tolerant, locals in vehicles are not pleased when driver in front dithers; just like Paris, Rome or Singapore.
If staying in the older central part of town, many attractions, restaurants, etc are within walking distance for those who don't much mind walking in the tropical climate. Buses and taxis are numerous and reasonably priced.
Organized tours are available from a variety of companies.
Rent a cheapo VW Beetle from México Rent-a-Car for around US$35 a day. Calle 57a between 58 and 60. They have strange opening times, but just ask at the restaurant next door. The man and his super friendly mother will tell you how to get out of town, and throw in some sight seeing tips.
The Zócalo, with the Cathedral in the distance.
Plaza Grande is for the city's central square, sometimes also called "el Zocalo". It is the heart of the historic center of town. The central park is pleasant to sit in and people watch, and it is surrounded by impressive historic buildings. On the east side is the grand Cathedral and the Museo Macay Museum of Contemporary Art. To the south is Casa de Montejo, the 1549 palace of Montejo the Conquistador. Now converted to commercial use (a Banamex bank with handy ATMs), don't miss the elaborate sculpture around the main doorway, including figures of Spanish Conquistadors standing on the heads of conquered native Maya -- a graphic illustration of the new order the Conquest imposed. On the west side is the Ayuntamiento , the old City Hall, with a distinctive clock tower. On the North side is the Governor's Palace, where it is free to go inside and upstairs to see the beautiful murals depicting local history.
El Paseo Montejo is a beautiful, tree-lined street, lined with houses developed by the henequen-industry barons. It's a great place to walk in the evening. Have a dish of ice cream, look at the renovated mansions. If you are walking during the day, make sure to go to the bakery at the Plaza de La Bandera circle (across from the McDonald's). The baked goods are delicious. Right outside, a family sells tamales every evening (and has been for decades). The tamales are cheap, fresh and absolutely delicious. Less cheap, but a romantic treat, is renting one of the horse drawn carriages, called calesas, that will drive you up and down the grand boulevard. You can catch a calesa at the Plaza Grande and take a trip down Paseo de Montejo and back.
Palacio Canton When you get to the giant pink mansion on Paseo Montejo at the corner of Calle 43, be sure to walk right in! It houses the Museo Regional de Arquaeología de Yucatán, the regional archaeology museum. There's a modest admission fee, but between the ancient Maya artworks and the setting in one of the grandest mansions of Merida's boom times, it's more than worth it. If you are hungry or thirsty afterwards, Hennessy's Irish Pub is just on the other side of Paseo de Montejo, a favorite hangout for both locals and visitors. The food and drink are reasonable, in a variety of settings (indoor, outdoor, non-smoking, smoking, etc.).
Quinta Montes Molina Another of the Paseo's grandest old mansions is also a museum, just north of Calle 35. It's still owned by the original family. Guided tours of the lavish interior Mon-Fri for a fee; tours in English at 9am, 11 am and 3pm.
Teatro Peón Contreras at the intersection of Calles 60 & 57 (2 blocks north of the Zócalo) is the city's grand opera house. The current structure was designed by a visiting Italian architect and opened in 1908 during the height of the boom times, replacing a less opulent earlier theater of the same name. The theater is the center of Mérida's high culture and in 2011 was recently renovated with a new stage and updated air conditioning. If opera, symphonies, and ballets aren't to your taste, the building is still worth a look for the impressive architecture. There is also a sizeable art gallery downstairs with changing exhibits.
Museo de la Ciudad de Mérida at Calle 56 at 65 (the old post office building, 3 blocks east and 1 south of the Zocalo). The Museum of the City of Mérida provides more evidence of the city's long history and rich culture. Admission is free, with guides who speak Spanish, English, and French. The museum has a very interesting permanent exhibit, as well as changing art exhibits upstairs. An added bonus is that the museum is just across the street from Merida's central market, Mercado Lucas de Galvéz.
Museo de las Ferrocarilles en Yucatan, Railroad Museum, 43 at 48. Rail buffs will love this mostly outdoor museum near the train station north east of Centro. Old locomotives and lots of quirky old rolling stock.
There is much to see in Merida, a city of a million inhabitants that is over 400 years old. Besides the centro historico, where most tourist attractions are located, there are many charming neighborhoods, shopping malls and parks. Progreso and the Yucatan Gulf Coast is only thirty minutes away to the north.
The 'Ayuntamiento de Merida' (City Hall) sponsors many cultural events during the week, free of charge. Almost every night visitors and residents alike can enjoy outdoor concerts or dances in one of the many downtown parks and squares.
Sunday evenings at the Zócalo (at and around the main square) are a particular treat, and perhaps the most charming time in Mérida. The streets around the square are closed to vehicles, and the locals dress up to go for strolls to see and be seen. Brass bands and dance orchestras hold free concerts, and couples dance -- if you're not shy, consider joining in, or ask a local to teach you the steps to a local dance like the jarana. Street vendors sell a variety of refreshments.
Merida has a growing number of art museums and art galleries. Be sure to see the MACAY gallery just off the Zocalo next to the Cathedral. Galleries include Artists in Mexico  and Galeria Merida .
Carnaval de Merida is an annual event; a week of celebrations leading to up to Fat Tuesday (date varies, ending at the eve of Ash Wednesday; mid February through early March) . Merida has one of the five most important Carnivals in Mexico.
Those who have time to spend several months in Merida, will also encounter many opportunities to become a volunteer — helping women, children, the disabled, the elderly, the sick and the illiterate. Places to volunteer include PPPN  for helping disabled children and AFAD  for helping unwanted dogs and cats find health and new homes.
If you are interested in learning Spanish, learning about Latin America and learning more about yourself in the process, Merida is an excellent place to do so.
Mercado Lucas de Galvez. Large, crazy indoor market, with small stalls that sell everything from shoes to clothes to fruit and dead turkeys. Truly a different experience for most travelers.
El Gran Museo del Mundo Maya (Great Museum of the Maya World), Calle 60 Norte (Beside the Convention Center Siglo XXI), . 8:00-17:00 Light and sound show at 21:00. Holds anthropological, historical and archaeological displays that exiting Yucatan Governor Ivonne Ortega described as fulfilling "a pending debt with our Mayan ancestors, our culture, with this land and with ourselves." Employing more than 6,000 tons of steel – an Eiffel Tower's worth – in an aggressively modern and highly technological design, it examines Maya culture both past and present. Hundreds of ancient artifacts are included in its cavernous showrooms – four for permanent exhibitions and another for temporary displays. Many pieces came from the galleries and storerooms of the Regional Museum of Anthropology and History in the majestic Palacio Canton, built in Merida's affluent, Eurocentric period during the reign of Porfirio Diaz in the early 1900s. Palacio Canton has narrowed its focus to regional history. Artist Richemont Xavier, known for light and sound shows he has designed in Europe, has created a special show for the new museum, which also includes a botanical garden, a 350-seat theater, a child care center, a cafeteria and a shop. The museum occupies 5 square miles adjacent to Merida's convention center on the Merida-Progreso Highway/Calle 60 in the northernmost reaches of the city.
Merida is a great place to pick up a good quality hammock. However, be aware that many people selling hammocks in and around Merida will try to get the highest price they can from a tourist. A good hammock costs between 300 and 800 Pesos, not dollars. The tighter the weave, the better the hammock. You should always insist on unfolding and viewing a hammock before buying it.
On Plaza Grande some friendly people try to involve you in small talk, telling you some historical facts about the surrounding. Lateron they recommend a shop for artesanias produced by an mayan cooperative. The tell you that the shop will close in about 1 hour so you need to hurry. This is not true and the products in the shops are extremly over-priced. Further, one could doubt that the products were produced by an non-profit coperative.
There are plenty of hand-crafted things to buy in Artesanias Bazar García Rejón at corner of Calles 60 and 65, as well as in the shops Calle 56A.
Alma Mexicana, Calle 54 No. 476 (x 55 & 57 corner of Calle 55), ☎ 52-999-923.4711, . Mexican folk art & crafts. Lighting & furniture, home decor items, Day of the Dead art, retablos & ex-votos, saints & angels, beautiful jewelry, hand-woven bedspreads, designer leather handbags, cards & stationary, curios & unusual gifts. Telephone +52-999-923-4711 Cel +52-999-155-6049. Open Mon to Sat, Hours 9:30 am - 6:30 pm. Sun open half day 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.reasonable.
Cafe Pop 57 x 60 y 62. Small and clean but with personality, a favorite of the students of the University of Yucatan just around the corner as well as knowing visitors for generations. The menu offers a curious combination of Yucatecan specialties along with old style diner & soda-fountain treats. Breakfast, lunch, snack, or dinner, inexpensive. 7a - Midnight. In the same building as the larger and more upscale Portal del Peregrino listed below.
D'Al a wonderful local hangout for lunch, menu includes very inexpensive tasty fare, specialties are seafood & local cuisine. Try the shrimp cocktail, delicious. Great specials & soups. Located on the corner of Calle 54 & 53, downtown, historical section.
La Parrilla on Paseo Montejo is a great outdoor restaurant. Be sure to have the Sopa de Lima, which is a chicken soup flavored with lime, a Yucatecan specialty.
Portal del Peregrino 57 x 60 y 62. European & Yucatecan fare in the historic centro; mid-range prices.
Taqueria Herrera, Calle 65 between 54 and 56 (We did not find it). Excellent tortas, priced mostly at 13 pesos.
Hennessys Irish Pub on Paseo de Montejo at Calle 41 is a favorite with locals, expats AND tourists. The restaurant has good food at reasonable prices, a full bar and, of course, Guinness beer. The two impossibly handsome owners are almost always on site and greeting customers. There are various distinct rooms, smoking and non-smoking, outdoors and air-conditioned... something for everyone. No need to dress up or make reservations.
Other favorite places to eat include The Blue Marlin, Cangrejitos, Wayan'e, Trotter's and Pancho's (owned by the same father-son partners), Rosas and Xocolate, Slavia and more.
El Trapiche, Calle 62 no. 491 (between Calle 59 & 61), ☎ 4169163377. Good en cheap mexican food, nice atmosphere, friendly staff.
Look for a drink called chaya. It's a cool, green, mildly sweet and very refreshing juice made by pressing a spinach-like vegetable.
Casa Nico, Calle 53 No. 517 (between Calle 68 & 66a), ☎ 9992868944, . checkin: 12:00; checkout: 12:00. Quiet, clean and cheap hostel with free wifi and good breakfast. Private rooms and 6 bed dorms. Enough common space to meet others.
Hostel El Jardin, Calle 70 No. 509 x 61 and 63 (centro), Phone (999) 123-4178, dorms from 150 Pesos. Private rooms from 270 pesos (fan) and 360 pesos (A/C). A nice place to stay in Merida on a low budget. E-mail: el_jardin_merida(at)yahoo.com
Nomadas Hostel, , Calle 62 #433, at the corner of Calle 51, Phone: 999-924-5223, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Dorm accommodation. Internet and simple breakfast included. Kitchen use. Nice large pool. Dorms for 119 pesos.
Hostel Zocalo, is located on Calle 63 #508 (between 60 and 62) in front of the Zocalo on the main plaza. Breakfast is included. Phone: 999-930-9562, E-mail: email@example.com. Dorms from 120 Pesos.
Hostal del Peregrino at Calle 51 # 488 (between 54 and 56) is a colonial house that has been renovated into a comfortable and clean hostel.
Faby Hostel, Calle 44 No. 501-D entre 61 y 63 centro, Tel. (999) 928 8593 Mobile (999) 142 2010, E-mail: info(at)hostelfaby.com.mx, dorms from USD 13 (fan) USD 20 (a/c)
The Nameless Place, Calle 57 #495, between Calles 58 and 60, Phone: (Spanish) 999-924-0859 (English/French) 044(999)969-5282, E-mail: r_espejo(at)yahoo.com
Aventura Hotel, A clean, American-owned budget hotel. Each room has a private bathroom. Located a few blocks from Santiago Park. Calle 61 #580 between Calle 74 and 76, Phone: 999-923-4801, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hotel Aragon, No. 474 entre 52 y 54, Col. Centro, ☎ (999) 924-0242, . Placed in a neighbourhood House at the suburb of "Mejorada", just 200 mts. Away from the Carmen Church and Park of Mejorada or "Ninos Heroes". Hotel Aragon offers 18 rooms with bath, air conditioning, telephone, Cable TV and detailed decoration.
Hotel El Espanol, Calle 69 Num 543c por 70 C.P 97000, Centro, ☎ 01999-923-28-54, 01999-924-10-36, . Accommodations at Hotel El Español come in Double, Triple, Standard King, and Standard Twin types. All guestrooms are air-conditioned and fitted with a deck/ balcony. Rooms also come with a refrigerator, IDD telephone, and cable television. Room service is available.
Hotel Montejo Palace, Av. Paseo de Montejo #483-C x 39 y 41 Col Centro, ☎ (999) 924.76.44 / 924 72 90, .
Hotel Las Arecas is a small 5-room hotelito in the historical center. Modest, clean and run by a local Yucatecan.
Hotel Piedra de Agua, calle 60 no. 498 x 59 y 61 centro, ☎ 01 800 999 924 2300, . Rooms fitted with a private toilet & bath with shower, Internet access, and DVD player.Rates start at MXN 950.
B&B Cascadas de Merida is a unique bed and breakfast, consisting of four casitas built for maximum privacy around waterfalls and a filtered swimming pool.
Hotel Casa del Balam an elegant Colonial boutique hotel, 60 x 57, located across the Peon Contreras Opera House. 1 800 624 8451
Hotel Luz en Yucatan urban retreat, Calle 55 #499 x 60 y 58 (three blocks from the Zocalo), +11-52-999-924-0035, . Has fully furnished apartments, complete with kitchen and private bath, in a former nunnery. The rates vary from 350–800 pesos, depending on facilities and also how "successful" you rate yourself to be.
Hotel Marionetas, Calle 49 (between Calle 62 and 64 in Centro Historico), . is a small charming hotel with colonial style. Every room is different, with unique furnishings, mosaico floor tiles and views of the inner courtyard with pool. Wireless internet, phones and A/C in the rooms.
Hotel Los Aluxes is a great, clean, and friendly place to stay that is only a few blocks to the main plaza. Off-street, secured parking is a big help if you have a rental car. Make sure to have the cafe con leche in the cafe.
Hotel Boutique Mérida Santiago is a small hotel in the center of Mérida. Four spacious suites with big bathrooms. The filtered swimming pool with LED lights is open 24 hours. Parking space is available.
Rosas and Xocolate, Paseo de Montejo at Calle 41 (centro), ☎ +52 999 924-4304 (email@example.com), . 17 rooms and suites. The hotel is five minutes from the Hotel Zone (Hyatt and Fiesta Americana).
Hyatt Regency Merida, Av Colon esq Calle 60 (100m from Paseo Montejo), ☎ +52 999 942 1234 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . 289 rooms and suites. The hotel is five minutes from the city's convention centre.
United States, Calle 60 No. 338-K x 29 y 31 , Col Alcala Martin, ☎ Local 942-5700, domestic 01 999 942-5700 int'l +52 999 942-5700 (email@example.com), .
Several important archaeological sites are close to Mérida. Many moderate sized sites, such as Dzibilchaltun and Mayapan, are an easy day trip. The largest, Chichen Itza, is somewhat further and much more extensive -- while a day trip visit from Merida can be (and often is) done, if you want to see the whole site without being rushed, Chichen is better visited in 2 days with an overnight stay. Fans of of Ancient Maya architecture can also find staying overnight at Uxmal worthwhile, since it has a night-time light & sound show, and the following day one can visit the nearby smaller ruined cities of Kabah, Sayil and Labna.
Chichen Itza is a large pre-Columbian archaeological site built by the Maya civilization, located in the northern center of the Yucatán Peninsula, present-day Mexico. The main edifice, the Castillo or Pyramid of Kukulcan, was voted one of the new Seven Wonders of the World in 2007.
Dzibilchaltún ruins and national park are less than an hour's drive north from Mérida. An admission fee is charged. The site has been continuously occupied for thousands of years. Its most famous structure is the Temple Of The Seven Dolls, so named because of seven small effigies found at the site when the temple was discovered under the ruins of a later temple pyramid by archaeologists in the 1950s. On the Spring Equinox, the sun rises so that it shines directly through one window of the temple and out the other. The temple is connected to the rest of the site by a long sacbé. The other major feature of Dzibilchaltún is its cenote, which is used as a swimming hole by local residents year round. Dzibilchaltún is the first stop on Mexico's Ruta de los Cenotes, a network of natural and cultural sites that stretches from Mérida to Puerto Morelos on the Caribbean coast south of Cancun. Dzibilchaltún also contains the ruin of a 16th century Spanish church built at the site after the conquest. The archaeological site offers a museum which houses Maya artifacts from the site and the adjacent region.
Mayapan Mayapan is a Pre-Columbian Maya site in the state of Yucatán, Mexico, about 40 km south-east of Mérida and 100 km west of Chichen Itza. Mayapan was the political capital of the Maya in the Yucatan Peninsula from about the late 1220s until 1440s.
Uxmal is a large pre-Columbian ruined city of the Maya civilization in the state of Yucatán, Mexico. It is 78 km south of Mérida, Yucatán, or 110 km from that city on Highway 261 towards Campeche, Campeche)
Other attractions near Mérida
Progreso is the port city directly north of Mérida. The beaches aren't quite as nice as the famous ones on the peninsula's east coast in Quintana Roo, but have the advantage of being only 40km (30 miles) north of Merida. Progresso also has restaurants specializing in fresh local seafood. If you don't want to spend your whole day at the beach, you can combine a visit to the ruins of Dzibilchaltun in your day trip, since it's just off the highway between Mérida and Progreso.
Celestun Wildlife Refuge. The coastal town of Celestun is 90km west of Mérida. Almost 90% of the world's wild pink flamingos spend the winter in Yucatan, and the largest group of these are in the mangrove marshes around Celestun. Take a boat tour in the park for to see great flocks of pink in the trees and flying in the air! The town of Celestun has a couple of restaurants serving fresh seafood.
Hacienda Sotuta de Peon Thirty minutes south of Mérida is the Hacienda Sotuta de Peon, a former sisal plantation which has been restored and opened up to the public. Sisal, the rope made from henequen, put Merida on the map in the 1900's and made millionaires out of many landowners of that time. The rope came to be known by the name of the port town, Sisal, where it was shipped from to places around the world. Sisal was made from the fibers of the henequen plant, which was (and still is) planted throughout the Yucatan Peninsula. The industry crumbled after about 30 years for various reasons, leaving many haciendas in ruin. Today many of those haciendas have been restored, and Sotuta de Peon is an example of one which can be visited without spending the night. Another good example of a hacienda kept in a state of arrested decay as a museum is Hacienda Yaxcopoil.
Izamal is a small city about 70km east of Mérida. In ancient Maya times and the Spanish colonial era it was was one of the largest cities in Yucatan, leaving impressive historic architecture.
Oxkintok and the Calcehtok Caves only 43 miles away. The oldest and most well known building of Oxkintok is the Tzat Tun Tzat, Mayan for labyrinth or place in which one may be lost. Built in three levels on top of each other, its interior forms a maze of long, narrow rooms, connected by small gates and narrow stairs. The Calcehtokserved as shelter for the Mayan people during the Caste War. You must have a guide to enter the cave. Rates generally run about $200 pesos an hour. This large complex of over 30 connected caves offers 4 different tours of varying lengths. Walking and climbing through the cave can be rough, so be sure you are wearing good shoes and are willing to work a bit to see the stalactites, stalagmites, natural formations, and Mayan artifacts.
Casa Montejo, detail
Zócalo or Main Plaza, with the Cathedral in the distance
The Governor's Palace
Corner of 59 & 60 Streets
Architecture on 57th Street in the old part of town
Local women crossing city street
This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!