Best things to do in Mérida in Mexico: a detailed city guide

Our favorite city in Yucatán is definitely Mérida. We fell in love with the brightly colored streets with Volkswagen beetles, the equally colorful street life, the local culture and all those amazing places to eat. We felt so at home here that we saw ourselves living here. We stayed there for four days, and had an amazing time here. In this blog we tell you exactly why we love Mérida so much.

The cultural capital of Yucatán: free art and museums in Mérida, Mexico

Mérida is not only the official capital of the state of Yucatán, but also the cultural center of the peninsula. The streets are filled with galleries where the work of local artists are sold. We were also completely happy with all the museums that you can visit for free and therefore accessible.

These museums, for example, are all free:

  • Casa Montejo: in the former governor’s villa, a number of rooms have been furnished and restored as how it once was. Like walking around in a European palace.
  • Museo Macay: for modern art you have to be in this building next to the cathedral. There are usually different exhibitions. Also don’t forget to walk through the passage between the cathedral and the museum. There too, there’s a changing exhibition of contemporary art.
  • The Palacio de Gobierno: the building itself is beautiful, certainly the large room on the first floor, but also take a look at the walls. Modern art depicts the history of Yucatán.
  • Gallery in Teatro Jose Peon Contreras: a small gallery on the ground floor of the theater (entrance is the door on the left in the central hall). For modern and contemporary art.

Mérida is a great place on weekends. Part of the center is closed in the evening for traffic. There is live music in many squares and the restaurants put their tables on the street. On Saturday evening, a demonstration of a Mayan ball game is being held on the square in front of the church. If you visit Mayan ruins in Central America, you will undoubtedly often encounter a ‘ball court’. In Mérida you can see how they played their ceremonial ball game in such a place. A fantastic experience!

Tip: the demonstration starts at 8.30 am, but for a good place you have to be there earlier.

The center of the city forms around the central square – Plaza Grande – where you will find the most important buildings of the state. Another central point in the city is the Paseo de Montejo, a long and wide street from the ring road to the center. Above all, take a walk to view the impressive and monumental buildings.

Tip: do you have time to spare in Mérida for a (half) day trip? The most beautiful cenotes are about an hour’s drive from the center. Check our free cenote map to find all the cenotes in Mérida and the rest of Yucatán!

Best thing to do in Mérida, Mexico: join a free walking tour

The best way to get to know the city better is during a free walking tour of Estacion Mexico. You can take a tour twice a day (10 am and 5.30 pm) from Casa Montejo to take a walk through the historic center and learn more about the city, Yucatán and their history along the way.

Did you know, for example, that it is worth studying the walls of the cathedral and other churches? The settlers demolished the Mayan buildings and used the stones for their Catholic churches. If you pay attention, you can still see this in the walls. And the white, stone two-seater that you see everywhere in the city? That would be a design of a concerned father for his daughter and her flame.

Eating and drinking in Mérida: our favorite hotspots

If we go to another city, we love to look for the best hotspots. Sebastiaan is always on the lookout for the perfect espresso and I am especially delighted with a good breakfast. Merida is the ideal place for foodies like us. The center is full of great hotspots for breakfast, coffee, lunch, dinner and drinks.

A selection of our favorites?

  • Mercado 60 for an attractive food court with live music.
  • Manifesto for perfect espresso and delicious chai latte.
  • Marmalade, Mariland or Latte Quatro Sette for breakfast.
  • Mercado Norte outside the center for a food court with ao divine Indian curries.

Where to stay in Mérda: Koox Casona

If you want to spend a few days in colorful Mérida, you are probably looking for a comfy place to sleep in the center of town. Let Koox exactly meet that need with not one, but several small-scale boutique hotels! We were allowed to sleep in the stylish Koox Casona 3 Marias and actually did not want to leave. The king-size bed is wonderfully comfortable, the swimming pool beckons for a swim and the decor with high ceilings and colorful art is attractive.

You can read more about the Koox Casona 3 Marias in this extensive blog. Here you can check the current prices. Fully booked? Through this link you will find our selection of other beautiful hotels and hostels in Mérida.

Practical: how to get to Mérida in Yucatán?

Mérida is located in the northwest of the Yucatán peninsula. Famous places in the neighborhood are colorful Campeche, beach resort Celestun and the equally colorful Valladolid. With a rental car you are in less than an hour and a half in Celestun, via the toll road in just under two hours in Valladolid and in five quarters of an hour in Campeche. From those places – and also cities further afield – you can easily get to Mérida with an ADO bus.