26 Things to Do in Mérida, Mexico—the Vibrant Yucatan Capital

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Looking for the best things to do in Mérida, Mexico? I had an amazing month-long trip there and am excited to share my experiences with you!

If you want to see incredible Mayan ruins, cenotes, and a world-class UNESCO city with less of a touristy vibe, you’ve come to the right place! Mérida may be just what you’re looking for!

I planned this trip to see Chichen Itza, which is a childhood dream of mine. I wasn’t interested in the high tourism of nearby Cancun and wanted to find a place where I could settle in a bit and feel like a local while exploring the sites.

Mérida didn’t disappoint. Its colorful and vibrant town center has many incredible museums, fantastic restaurants, and great bars. And there are frequent free public events, such as music in the squares and festivals.

So, what are you waiting for? Here are all the best things to do in Mérida, Mexico, that you won’t want to miss!

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1. Stroll Around Plaza Grande (Plaza Principal de Merida)

Visiting Plaza Grande is your first step to orienting yourself to Mérida. It’s the heartbeat of the city, and there are many fun things to do in and around it.

You’ll see life unfolding here at any time and any day of the week. Tourists and expats, as well as locals, are here. Families come to burn off their children’s energy and spend some quality time together. You can easily see the mix of people living here.

If you can, go on a Sunday for the weekly Sunday Market. You’ll see locals and tourists meandering through the booths, searching for the perfect items. There are local sweets, hand-embroidered Mayan shawls and tops, and so much more!

When you’re here, try a marquesita! You’ll see a stand or two at the periphery of the square. This local treat is made from rolled thin dough that looks like a long, crispy crepe. It’s traditionally eaten with Edam cheese, though Nutella with cheese is a local favorite.

If it tastes familiar when you bite into it, that’s because it is! It’s the same dough used to make ice cream cones! As the story goes, an ice cream vendor invented it during a cold winter, and the idea stuck!

Plaza Grande is located here on a map.

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2. Visit Museo Casa Montejo

This historic house on the south side of Plaza Grande was once owned by the conquistador who established the Spanish community here. It has stayed with his family for many generations, and now, a local bank has established it as a museum for all.

It was built in the 1540s by Francisco de Montejo. Though it initially housed Spanish soldiers, it was converted into a family mansion until the 1800s.

The facade of this historic home is quite interesting. Carvings of conquistadors stand above representations of the local people, and you can also see carvings of the original family. Francisco de Montejo stands above them all.

Several rooms on the main floor are designed with furnishings from the family’s time there. Though the family did not own them, they represent how the wealthy lived in the area in the 1800s and 1900s.

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Temporary Exhibits at Museo Casa Montejo

They also have rotating exhibits on the back part of the main floor and upstairs. When I went, there were incredible intricate recreations of ships and what I can only describe as large 3D puzzles. They were magnificent.

Upstairs, there was an interesting exhibit from a local female designer. Several dresses made from henequen fiber and some of her collection were on display.

There is no cost to visit here, and it’s worth seeing. In fact, it’s one of the top free things to do in Merida, Mexico.

Museo Casa Montejo is located at C. 63 506, Centro, 97000 Mérida, Yuc., Mexico. It is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 to 6, and Sunday, 10 to 2.

3. Go on a Walking Tour

You’ll find many different walking tours in Plaza Grande and around the area. Some are free tours (remember to tip generously if you enjoy them!), and some are paid tours.

Going on a walking tour is a great way to orient yourself and learn about a city. I often make this my first stop before exploring on my own, and it was a great benefit for Merida.

Make sure the tour goes to the Governor’s Mansion, as the history and artwork are fascinating!

I took a walking tour through Estacion Mexico via Get Your Guide. It’s my first spot when I look for paid tours, and has never disappointed. Our guide, Gabriela, was lovely and very interesting.

This tour took us to the primary sites in the area of the main square, including Museo Casa Montejo, the cathedral, the Governor’s Palace, the Merida sign, and more. She was very nice and gave a lot of helpful recommendations for things to see.

Getting a local’s perspective is one of the best things about going on a walking tour.

Here is the link to the walking tour I took.

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4. Grab a Shot of the Mérida Sign

Located on the edge of Plaza Grande near the pink Palacio Municipal is the Mérida sign. You’ll see these in many Mexican towns, and this one is both vibrantly covered and made up of squares, making it interesting to look at.

It’s a great meeting point for walking tours or to meet your new friends. And the perfect backdrop to include in a picture of the main square and the cathedral, located on the opposite side.

The Merida sign is located here on a map.

colorful merida sign with mexico flag flying in the background, small town square, things to do in merida yucatan, places to see in merida

5. Admire the Cathedral (Catedral de San Ildefonso)

The Cathedral of Merida, also known as the Catedral de San Ildefonso, is located on the city’s main square. It was established in 1592 and was the first church built in Mexico.

Interestingly, it is the first cathedral in the country to welcome LGBTQA. Yucatan is the first state in Mexico to approve gay marriage legally.

The cathedral is imposing on the outside but quite simple inside. There are few paintings, little artwork, and no stained glass.

However, the cross on the altar, the Cross of the Union, is the largest wooden cross inside any church or cathedral. It was built in the 1960s and includes indigenous and Spanish stylings.

You’ll also see a painting of Guadalupe, the Mexican Virgin, depicted with baby angels, stars, and the moon at her feet. She was featured on Mexico’s first flag and is affectionately known as La Moredita.

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The statue of Jesus in the cathedral was originally white. However, the Spanish replaced it with a brown one so the local Mayan people could relate. Hearing some of the alterations the Spanish implemented to integrate the local people was interesting.

Visiting the Merida Cathedral

If you enter, please be quiet and respectful, as this is an active church. When you leave the cathedral, look around the corner to see the red house of the Nuns.

The Cathedral Merida is located at C. 60, Centro, 97000 Mérida, Yuc., Mexico. It’s open daily from 4 to 6:30, though you can sometimes enter at other times as well.

6. Pasaje de la Revolucion

To the right of the cathedral, nestled next to the Museum of Modern Art, is Pasaje de la Revolucion. It’s an art installation with a rotating art piece to the end by the plaza.

If you go at night, walking through is lit up and fun.

Pasaje de la Revolucion is located here on a map.

7. Governor’s Palace (Palacio de Gobierno)

This bright green and white-trimmed building on the main plaza is absolutely stunning. It’s the center of government and the Office of the Governor of Yucatan. Merida is the capital of the region.

If the paintings in the main stairwell seem familiar, somehow, they may be! The artist, Fernando Castro Pacheco, studied under Diego Rivera. Fernando was considered by some a controversial artist for painting sensual portraits of women. Our guide said he is sometimes known for the “Kama Sutra in hammocks.”

The series of paintings in the stairwell are about the Holy Book of the Mayans. They depict the legends of how the gods created humans and the earth. To one side of the stairwell, the painting depicts life, and on the other, death and illness.

The gallery on the other side of the top floor is incredible. It’s worth visiting with a guide who can explain the history and symbolism depicted in the images.

The Governor’s Palace is located on the main square at Calle 60 s/n X calle 61 y 59, Centro, 97000 Mérida, Yuc., Mexico. It is open from 9 to 4 from Monday through Friday, and it’s closed on weekends. Entry is free.

8. Visit Palacio Municipal de Merida (and the Tourist Information Center)

Though this may seem strange on a “top things to do” list, you won’t want to miss it! Don’t make the mistake I did and wait weeks to go! It’s your way to find out about the fun things to do in Merida, Mexico.

This information center is full of information on how to see Merida at its best. Their Yucatan Today magazine is your gateway to the city! It’s a treasure trove of the best ways to experience Merida and get a pulse of this fun city.

This useful magazine not only provides a deep dive into the city and the area but also lists all of the incredible free activities offered around the city. You’ll find fun things to do every night, from dancing to singing and live music.

Tourist Center Magazine Events & Information

The squares in Merida light up at night, and there is so much activity. Grab a table and a drink, and listen to your heart’s content!

They also have restaurant listings that include the type of food, and they even show some that are dog-friendly!

The building is also quite stunning, in light pink. A clock tower tops the regal arches, and it’s worth a look.

Our favorite free event was the re-enactment of Pok ta Pok. Mayans played this game in the ballcourts, which you’ll see at Mayan ruins throughout the empire.

They show all the pomp and circumstance leading up to the game, played by two groups of warriors. Only using their hips, they work to hit a five-pound rubber ball through a stone hoop. The winning team captain was sacrificed to the gods as the best of the best offerings.

Palacio Municipal de Merida is located at Calle 62 s/n Palacio Municipal Colonia, Centro, 97000 Mérida, Yuc., Mexico. The tourist office is open on weekdays from 9 to 5. It’s on the bottom floor near the center of the building.

9. Enjoy an Aguas Fresca in the Mercados

Would it be a visit to any city in Mexico if you don’t visit the Mercados? This is the most traditional way locals used to shop, and the experience has carried forward through time.

My experience in Merida was interesting, as I stayed in one of the more local neighborhoods on the outskirts of Centro. There are local supermarkets around the city. However, they had little in the way of meat, bread, and produce.

I found meat at the butcher (carniceria), and bread at the bakeries. Produce was in the mercados! (Meat, local sweets, and almost anything you can think of purchasing is also there!)

It’s also a fun experience for visiting to see the mercados! They are part grocery, farm stand, butcher shop, candy store, restaurant, and department store. You can find anything in the mercados!

Don’t miss grabbing an aguas fresca, or fruit juice, in the mercados. Ask a local for a spot they recommend so you can be sure the water is purified. The sandia, or watermelon, is my favorite! They serve them in a large cup with plastic covering it to keep it safe from flies. Nothing better on a steamy day!

Mercado Santiago, Mercado San Benito, and Mercado Lucas de Galves are the three mercados in Centro. Mercado Santiago is near an incredibly beautiful church worth seeing, Parroquia de Santiago Apóstol. The market is open from 8 to 2 daily. Mercado Lucas de Galves has the Artisan Market, which is worth visiting. Mercado San Benito is open daily from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

10. Cool Off With a Drink in La Negrita Cantina

If the crowds outside this bar aren’t impressive enough, consider the establishment’s 100+-year history. Locals recommend it highly, as they have all grown up enjoying it with their families.

This place pours some of the best drinks in Mérida. We tried an assortment of standards, and they were all great. Surprisingly, one of my favorites was a strawberry daiquiri! It was creamy and refreshing.

The food is decent bar food, so feel free to grab a snack with your drink. But, the real reason to come is the live music, the amazing drinks, and sitting at a table that has been enjoyed in an establishment that has stood the test of time.

La Negrita Cantina is located at Calle 62 esquina, C. 49 415, Centro, 97000 Mérida, Yuc., Mexico. It’s open daily from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m.

me and some new friends I made sitting around a table, drinking fresh smoothies and having some food

Enjoying a beverage and snacks with my new buddies Monica, Julie, Sean

11. Take in Life in the Squares & Parks

Mérida has plenty of small squares around the city center to enjoy. Some are green spaces, some have gorgeous small churches, and others are great spots to sit and watch the world go by.

Don’t miss Plaza Grande, the main square. It’s lively any day of the week, especially on Sundays with the Sunday Market. Parque de Santa Lucia is a great spot with restaurants, and it offers live music and dancing throughout the week.

Plaza Santiago has the stunning Parroquia Santiago Apostel and the mercado. Many benches are under large, mature trees to enjoy the shade on hot days. Parque Santa Anna has some events and festivals, and we saw an Oaxaca festival there, which featured foods, items, and dancing from the region.

Parque la Plancha is one of the city’s newest and largest parks. It’s flocked by a university and pays homage to the past (and redeveloping!) train system.

This city has many other parks to explore and lots of green space.

Parque Santiago and Parroquia Santiago Apostel

12. Palace of Music (Palacio de la Musica)

Though I’m spoiled by what I believe to be the most incredible music museum in the world (from what I’ve seen so far!), I love music enough to venture to the Palacio de Musica in Merida.

Part historical museum and part modern music and culture museum, this hot spot not far from the main square has a variety of interesting exhibits. You can see some ancient Mayan musical treasures and hear their sounds.

You can also learn about the history of music in the Yucatan and its instrumental role in culture and society. As you navigate the museum, you’ll see music from all ages and be able to listen.

There are headphones, so you can listen to music from the last century and then the modern stylings of music in the area. It’s quite a museum and well-curated.

What to Know About Visiting the Palace of Music

If you’re squeamish about shared headphones, you’ll want to bring a bit of hand sanitizer. You don’t get your own pair as you do at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix.

Check out the adorable pup in the lobby if you’re a dog lover. When I visited, she was wearing a bright pink sweater and ran right over to me to say hello!

The Palace of Music is located at C. 58, Parque Santa Lucia, Centro, 97000 Mérida, Yuc., Mexico. It’s open from 10 to 4, Wednesday through Sunday, and costs 200 Mexican Pesos to visit (around $x USD).

outside of the palace of music, modern building with small rectangular windows, fun things to do in merida mexico, museums in merida mexico

13. Learn About the City’s History

The Museum of the City of Merida (Museo de la Ciudad de Mérida) is located in the former post office. It’s around the corner from the San Benito Market, so you can easily combine these two activities.

It’s a small, free museum that has some really interesting artwork and artifacts from the area. These include sculptures, statues, paintings, and other artwork dating back to Mayan times and throughout history.

They also have displays that dive into local culture, like a henequen exhibit, that shows the threads created from the sisal agave, which made the area wealthy. It also shows how that wealth was concentrated in a few families.

The Museum of the City of Merida is located at C. 56 529A, Centro, 97000 Mérida, Yuc., Mexico. It’s open from 9 to 6, Tuesday through Friday, and from 9 to 2, Saturday and Sunday. It’s free to visit.

14. Try the Local Fare

There are many places in Mérida where you can try local Mayan fare. I started this journey with a food tour and expanded once I learned more.

You’ll hear of dishes like conchita pibil (best when made overnight in an underground oven), salutes, poc chuc, and more, many of which are from the city’s thriving Mayan heritage.

Don’t miss the empanadas, polcanes, panuchos and more! You’ll find some interesting and different flavors here, like relleno negro, and black chile (which are three types of charred chilies).

As you’d expect with any city, you’ll find a range of restaurants geared to tourists and some local joins as well. I’d encourage you to try a mix of them and step off the typical tourist path.

In the restaurant section below, I’ll include both those I enjoyed and lots of recommendations from locals I hope to visit. It’s such an interesting thing to learn about a city’s culture through its food!

A food tour is a great way to learn, and there are many highly-rated ones to choose from! I went on this tour and was eyeing this one and this other as well! With these high ratings, you really can’t go wrong. Just pick the best times and locations for you!

local food in mexico, fried tortilla topped with meat and cheese

Vaso salbute con relleno negro (turkey salbute with black chile) courtesy of Sean

15. Visit the Museum of Yucateca Gastronomy (Museo de la Gastronomía Yucateca)

I almost didn’t eat at MUGY as it screamed of a tourist trap, but I was delightfully surprised. It’s a lovely lunch spot and beautiful inside. And while the dishes may show a little bit of the “tourist tax,” it had some of the best poc chuc we had!

There’s also a nice little museum that’s free if you dine there, which is only open during the day. Take a quick tour to learn about food in the area, cultivation, the tools they used, etc.

Then, walk to the back, where you can see some traditional huts where the Mayans once lived. They offer a demonstration of a woman grinding the maize to flour to make fresh tortillas.

Dining at MUGY

Get a few things to sample, but don’t skip the dips they share with the table. One is a bean dip, and the other is made of ground pumpkin seeds and tomato, which is to die for! They offer a sampler meat platter for carnivores that brings a little of everything, and it’s worth trying.

This restaurant is open-air primarily, though it’s beautifully shaded and cooler than you’d expect. And the drinks are incredible!

The Museum of Gastronomy is located at C. 62 466 x 55-y 57, Parque Santa Lucia, Centro, 97000 Mérida, Yuc., Mexico. It’s open from 11 to 11 Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. on Friday, 9 a.m. to 12 a.m. on Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Sunday.

16. Be Amazed by Uxmal

I may have come to Mérida to see Chichen Itza, but when the locals consistently recommend a different ruin, you check it out. Several of the people I spoke with mentioned Uxmal.


This, so far, is my favorite Mayan ruin that I’ve seen. While I have only seen half a dozen or so as of this writing, that says a lot. It includes Tikal in Guatemala, Tulum, and others.

This ruin is impressive. The main temple is the tallest in the country (by a few meters). There is a lot to see here, but what’s so magical about this spot is the detail.

The temple has many beautiful carvings of Chaa, the Rain God, and other things. Several buildings are impressive, with carvings of natural creatures, including snakes and tortoises.

There’s a mostly complete ball court, with one of the round hoops they threw the ball through primarily intact. These features make it one of the best things to do near Merida, Mexico.

This place is a gem, and you truly should not visit Mérida without seeing it! I do highly recommend taking a tour to learn more about this incredible city ruin. I highly recommend this tour of Uxmal and Kabah. It was a truly incredible experience with a knowledgeable guide.

Uxmal is located here on a map. Entrance to the ruin costs 461 Pesos (around $27.50 USD). If you take a group tour, most charge this above the tour cost, and note that.

17. Check Out Other Ruins on the Puuc Trail

The Yucatan’s lands are relatively flat. However, there is an area marked by seven hills called the Puuc Trail. Uxmal is on one of them, and several cities are on the others.

I took a tour that visited Uxmal and Kabah and was so glad I did. We arrived early to Uxmal, so while we didn’t have the place to ourselves, we weren’t tripping over tourists either.

In Kabah, we had the place to ourselves. Only the staff was there so that we could explore freely. Though smaller than Uxmal, this ruin has some amazing things to see.

You’ll find some carvings similar to those at Uxmal. One building has a wall covered in carvings of the rain God Chaa.

Another structure has carvings of two warriors, and a few blocks covered in carvings tell a story about the warriors. It’s truly incredible.

You can also walk up the steps to all of the excavated ruins. However, we learned they were closing the steps the last time we visited due to erosion and safety. Oops.

Kabah is located here on a map. Don’t miss this tour, which takes you to both Kabah and Uxmal.

18. Visit the Biosphere of Celestun

I’m not much of a bird person, so I thought about skipping Celestun. If you visit Merida during the flamingo migration (from November to March), this is something not to miss!

It’s a little over an hour’s drive to the small fishing village of Celestun from Merida. Though I read that it’s a quaint spot, I didn’t find it so (nor did our guide, as we got a good laugh about it).

We took a small boat out with a driver into the water, and around 15 minutes away, we found the perfect spot. There must have been a thousand coral-pink flamingoes frolicking in the water.

Even more impressive were the large flocks of flamingoes flying in! What seemed to be dots in the air flew in close and dropped in the water near us with hundreds, and even thousands more!

They got used to us being there and sang and squawked to their heart’s content. This is the area where they feed and mate, turning the bright coral color from eating the plentiful baby shrimp in the area.

Our guide took the boat through narrow inlets in the mangroves to see some freshwater areas with other birds and even a local crocodile! It was right near a section where people swim—no, thank you!

We even rode to a “secret” spot near the “island,” which was quite exciting at high speed! You wouldn’t have known it was a tranquil area were it not for the locals!

Visiting the Beach

You can drive or get a driver and go alone, but I recommend this with a guide. He got us a great private boat with a driver and then took us to the nearby beach for a huge shrimp cocktail, Mexico-style.

Sitting under a palapa, looking out on the ocean, and having a breakfast cocktail and shrimp may just be where heaven is!

When choosing a tour, make sure you read what you are getting. Many of them don’t include transportation to Merida in the price or charge an additional cost. This tour includes transportation from Merida.

I highly recommend a private tour if you have a budget or multiple people in your group. Since you’ll want to leave really early (think 6 a.m.), it’s nice to be picked up where you are staying. And it’s great to get to choose how to spend your time on this tour.

We found Ralf on the Tours by Locals site, which I recommend! It was like hanging out with a friend for the day, and we really enjoyed him! He runs a travel agency called Lawson’s Original Yucatan Excursions, and I highly recommend him.

Celestun is located here on a map.

19. Swim in the Cenotes

One of the top, and certainly one of the most unique things to do in Yucatan, is to swim in the cenotes. There are over 6,000 to visit all over the region. You’ll find private cenotes, and some are more crowded than others.

Over 60 million years ago, a meteor hit the Gulf of Mexico, creating the Yucatan. This is believed to be the same one that killed the dinosaurs.

Cenotes in the Yucatan peninsula were created by erosion of the thin limestone on the crater’s edge left by the asteroid. We followed part of the “Ring of Cenotes” (ruta anillo de los cenotes) to visit Kankinishche (Mayan for yellow tree, or tree with yellow flowers).

There are three types of cenotes: fully closed in a cave, semi-open with a partial roof to the cave that caved in, or open. Open caves generally have a lot of vegetation at the top, shading them.

Cenotes Experience

Kankinishche is a semi-open cenote. It costs 100 p to visit, and there is a changing room and toilets. We climbed down a steep set of stairs and into the water. Some baby catfish were swimming, and the water was cool but incredibly clear. People often take diving gear into the cenotes.

The last cenote we visited was Cenote Yaal Utzil, meaning the good son in Mayan. It’s a more rustic, open cenote and similar to the first we saw.

You can visit them on your own or join a tour. They are often included in other places, like the ruins, or you can do just a cenotes tour to see them alone.

Private Cenote Tour

We took a private tour, making a couple of additional stops. The first was to Cementerio General, where we learned about the burial process in family tombs. In the Mayan tradition, the bones are cleaned to join the ancestors in a single grave.

For those who can’t afford their own burial plot, there is a wall of smaller cubbies used similarly. And this cemetery is unique in the area as it has mausoleums dedicated to labor unions (syndicatos). There is also a cemetery specifically for children, who can’t be buried with adults as they have committed no sins.

Then we stopped in the small town of Uman to visit its market. We also visited the city’s church, built from stones of a destroyed Mayan pyramid. It’s one of the few in the area with a Gothic arch at the entrance.

We also saw one way the Spanish integrated the Mayan people into their Christian faith. Since the Mayans practiced their religious ceremonies outdoors, an extension with no roof was built on the church.

After we visited the cenotes, we visited two Haciendas, where sisal was farmed and the fibers extracted. The first was an abandoned hacienda, and the second was converted to a restaurant where we had lunch called Sotuta Hacienda de Peon.

Visiting the haciendas can be challenging mentally and emotionally, as the people were essentially sharecroppers here. However, it’s an important aspect of history to learn here.

We went on this private tour, and we really enjoyed Raul, our guide. If you can swing it, I highly recommend it.

20. Mayan World Museum (Gran Museo del Mundo Maya)

If you’re interested in learning more about the Mayan history of the Yucatan region, you won’t want to miss this incredible new museum! It’s beautifully curated and a treasure trove of artifacts from the area.

Most exhibits have descriptions in Spanish, English, and Mayan, though videos are in Spanish only. Plan to spend an hour or more here to learn about Mayan culture and people.

Learn about the tracking of time in the Mayan calendar and see the traditional attire they wore, which you can still find around the city. This museum is rapidly becoming one of the top places to see in Merida.

Mayan World Museum is located at C. 60 299 E, Unidad Revolución, 97110 Mérida, Yuc., Mexico. The museum is open from 9 to 5, Wednesday to Monday, and it’s closed on Tuesday. It costs 150 Mexican Pesos to visit (around $9 USD).

Alternatively, if you’re looking for a closer spot to learn about the Mayan civilization, check out the Anthropological Museum! This one was amazing as well.

The Anthropological Museum (Museo Regional de Antropología, Palacio Cantón) is located at C. 43 481, Zona Paseo Montejo, Centro, 97000 Mérida, Yuc., Mexico. The building is absolutely gorgeous! It’s open from 8-5 Tuesday through Sunday, and it’s closed on Monday.

21. Enjoy Live Music

The music scene in Merida is amazing! If you’re a music lover, and frankly, even if you’re not, don’t miss listening to some local tunes!

Not only can you listen to free concerts and bands at the squares in town (listed in the helpful tourist information magazine noted above!), but there are also some fun bars for tunes.

If you love blues, jazz, and swing, check out Dzalbay Cantina. They have live music daily and twice daily on the weekends. Drinks have the names of important musicians in the genre, and they’re quite good!

Another local favorite is El Lagarto de Oro.

live music venue in merida, two musicians at the front getting ready to sing, things to do in merida yucatan

22. Don’t Miss Chichen Itza

I know I just raved about Uxmal, and I absolutely loved visiting that site. It may just be my favorite Mayan site to date!

But what brought me to Merida was the opportunity to visit Chichen Itza. When I started planning a trip to see this wonder of the world, I settled on Merida, as it was the perfect mix of a Spanish Colonial city with enough tourism for convenience but not enough to lose its historic charm.

Chichen Itza is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the castle is one of the 7 Wonders of the World.

The castle, or temple, is special as it’s not just a temple but the largest solar calendar in the world. It was designed to track the sun’s movement in a 365-day year and 19 months in the Mayan calendar.

At the height of Chichen Itza, close to 100,000 people lived there. They comprised five social classes, with priests, warriors, kings, and intellectuals in the high class, accounting for around 20% of the population. The remainder were farmers, workers, and slaves.

Interestingly, a person’s birth date marks their social level. Bloodline was used for royalty, where a child born to royals remained royal. At the age of 12, they were considered an adult and went to do the work determined by their birth. (The average age people lived to in this time was 33).

Visiting Chichen Itza

I highly recommend seeing this site with a guide so you can learn about the area’s history and about the Mayan culture. The Mayan people kept their traditions and religion, along with integrating Christianity, so they are still around the area. Over 65% of the locals are of Mayan descent (generally mixed with Spanish).

Chichen Itza is located here on a map. It costs 643 p to visit, including tax. If you drive, it costs 116 p to park and 129 p for the toll road. It opens daily at 8 a.m., and it’s a good idea to get there before the opening time, as this is a popular spot that gets very crowded. There are cenotes nearby worth visiting, and many tours, including this one, include them.

chichen itza temple, mayan ruins in merida mexico

23. Get a Massage

If you’re looking for a way to ease your muscles from all of the walking you’ll do in Merida, don’t miss getting a massage! I was lucky to find an incredible masseuse not far from where I was staying, and she was wonderful!

Sensi is located east of the square and offers myofascial massage. It’s ideal for easing sore muscles, relaxation, and promoting energy.

As of this writing, she offers an hour massage for 800p (just under $50 USD). She was worth every penny, and I even went back for a second during my stay in Merida!

Sensi is located at C. 63 447B, Parque de la Mejorada, Centro, 97000 Mérida, Yuc., Mexico. She is fluent in English, so you can reach out to her via her website or WhatsApp at +52 984 152 7266. Let her know Sam from My Flying Leap sent you!

inside of massage room, massage table with fresh linen and towels, best things to do in merida mexico

24. Bike or Stroll Passejo de Montejo

Passeo de Montejo is a wide avenue that represents the wealth of the city at the height of the henequen trade—or at least the wealth of the families that profited most from the boom.

It was named for Francisco de Montejo, the Spanish conquistador who founded Merida in 1542. This avenue has some of the most gorgeous and iconic buildings and monuments in the city.

It’s a lovely tree-lined spot to stroll down, with many restaurants and shops. You’ll also see many artists lining the streets. Along the way, stop in a museum or two, like Quinta Montes Molina (noted in #25 below!).

On Sundays, you can rent bicycles and ride the length of this bici ruta (bike route). You’ll see many people enjoying this prime spot in the city.

one of the streets of passejo de montejo, man with bike connected to carriage to take people for tours

25. Visit La Quinta Montes Molina (Casa Museo La Quinta Montes Molina)

While you’re strolling on Passejo de Montejo, don’t miss this gem! It’s one of the incredible Spanish-influenced homes built on the street, and you can tour the first floor and basement of this gorgeous building!

It was built in 1906 by a Cuban businessman, who sold it ten years later to Avelino Montes from Spain. He made his wealth selling sisal fiber and ropes and also owned a local bank. He married a woman from a wealthy family of politicians, and they had seven children.

One of their children never married and stayed in the home to care for them. When her parents died in 1956, she took over the house, which is now owned by the woman who cared for her.

The house is gorgeous and is filled with European furniture from the family. The basement was the service area. There are a lot of incredible photos from the time of the family and others.

La Quinta Montes Molina is located at P.º de Montejo 469, Zona Paseo Montejo, Centro, 97000 Mérida, Yuc., Mexico. It’s open daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. It costs 85 Mexican Pesos (around $5 USD).

outside of the la quinta montes molina, fun things to do in merida mexico, places to see in merida

26. Check out the Yellow City of Izamal

Izamal is a popular day trip from Merida. It’s not far from Chichen Itza, so it’s often included in tours to that area. Whether you take a tour or not, it’s a town you shouldn’t miss!

The central part of the city is a golden yellow. Our guide told us two stories about this color.

The first was that people were asked to paint their homes yellow if they supported the Mexican Revolution that was from 1910 to 1920. In this time, the rebellion changed the hacienda society where land was concentrated to wealthy families and provided it to the people.

The second story, was that the people of Izamel wanted to make a splash for the visit of Pope John Paul. So, they decided to paint the center of the town the current gold color.

Whether it’s true or enhanced, it’s an interesting story! The center of this town is a striking Spanish Colonial structure worth seeing. It’s known as a “Pueblo Magico,” or Magic City.

What to See in Izamal

On one end of the main square is the Convento de San Antonio de Padua. The Pope’s visit was a pilgrimage to this site, and there’s a statue commemorating his visit. He apologized to the local people for what the Spanish did in the name of the church.

There is a small but stunning church inside worth seeing.

This small town also has another treasure—the Zona Arqueológica de Izamal. There’s not much to it, as only the temple has been excavated. But walk up the series of steps and across the grassy field to visit. You can even climb to the top, though the higher you go, the more sketchy the rock steps are!

Hungry? Go to Restaurante Kinich Izamal, just a block from the ruins. It’s gorgeous, award-winning, and probably the best meal we had in the region. It also had the best poc chuc!

Convento de San Antonio de Padua is located at C. 31-A, Centro, 97540 Izamal, Yuc., Mexico. It’s open daily from 9:30 to 7. The ruins are located at C. 28 301, Centro, 97540 Izamal, Yuc., Mexico.

Best Hotels in Merida, Mexico

Budget—El Gran Hotel: This hotel has consistent 5-star ratings and is one of the most popular hotels in Merida. It’s set in a stunning colonial-style building. It’s within walking distance to many different attractions, including the Merida Main Square.

Mid-rangeCasona Las Tres Marías: This hotel is adults-only, so it’s a great place to come if you’re looking for a quieter stay. All rooms have Wi-Fi, and you can eat breakfast for a small fee. You can walk to the main square in just a few minutes.

Luxury—El Palacito Secreto Luxury Boutique Hotel & Spa: Just a 10-minute walk from the Merida Cathedral and Paseo de Montejo, this luxury hotel has private balconies with every room and a stunning outdoor pool.

If you’d rather stay in an apartment like I did, I recommend the place where I stayed. It is very basic, but the owner made all the difference. She is amazing and very responsive! It is a 25-minute walk from the square, so it’s perfect if you want to stay in a local area and work on your Spanish.

She does have fans, which help with the street noise, and there is a smaller spot next door she rents that’s even nicer. They are private but joined by the courtyard, so they are great for two groups.

outside of the gorgeous grand hotel, best places to stay in merida mexico, where to stay in merida mexico, hotels in merida mexico

Gran Hotel

Top Restaurants in Merida, Mexico

Merida has an incredible restaurant scene. You’ll find many local dives, exclusive and upscale spots, and everything. In this section, I’ll list some of my favorites. Then, I’ll share some local recommendations I got that I hope to return to try!


  • Pancho Maiz—I enjoyed this spot so much that I returned twice. They have twists on local favorites, and it’s not only incredible but very affordable. Try the jamaica tostadas (hibiscus, not to be confused with the country!), passionfruit french toast, pan, and huevos rancheros with guanabana juice, and don’t skip their goodies to go!
  • Sallon Gallos—Part wine bar, restaurant, cinema, and gallery, truly—how could you go wrong? This is a great spot for a big salad if you’re craving some uncooked veggies. Ask about the daily special—you won’t be sorry. Check out the black magic woman cocktail if you like drinks that are interesting and a bit tart.
  • El Remate—This hot spot has an incredible rooftop patio with city views, and their drinks are top notch!
  • Marago Coffee—Not only does this place have great coffee, but they also have incredible salads (using purified water). They have multiple locations, including Passejo de Montejo and the city center, which is not far from the main square.
  • Los Almendros—This recommendation from my host is a traditional Yucatan restaurant that has been around for decades. She said it’s the best spot in the city for conchinita pibil, and it’s made in the traditional way of cooking underground overnight.

Bars & Drinking Spots

  • Lagarto del Oro—If you’re looking for a spot with live music and great drinks, check out this place!
  • Flamel—This speakeasy is a lot of fun. Make a reservation on WhatsApp and find the location by searching for “I Yucatan You” in Google Maps. Incredible drinks and great bites!
  • Bird—This dog-friendly hangout has incredible Neapolitan pizzas if you’re looking for something a little different.
  • Lucero—This place may be a local bar, but the food here is unmatched. My host recommended we try a gordita, which was crunchy and amazing. Their avocado with chicken is quite tasty, and their drinks are top-notch as well.

Vegetarian and Vegan

Some vegetarian and vegan recommendations from locals include El Apapacho, Changomango, La Kombucheria, Distrito Vegano, and Pitagoras.

Manjar Blanco is a great taco spot.

Pancho Maiz

Traveling With a Dog to Mexico

This was my first international trip with my little dog, Jagger! I’m so thrilled to say he did great! We had been flying to New Mexico to visit my dad, so this was two trips that were slightly longer than what he was used to.

We chose Mexico to visit as the requirements for going to Mexico and back to the US are easy with a dog. The only requirement on both ends was his rabies certificate. Done and done!

Since he’s a HUGE 10.5 pounds, he could fly in the plane with me. He had a carrier that fit under the seat in front of me and was considered my personal bag.

Airlines may have different requirements, so you need to check with your airline. For American, he had to fit in the carrier under the seat in front of me, be under 25 lbs, and be able to turn around in the carrier.

I did pay a fee each way ($125). Once we got to Mexico, I again showed them his rabies certificate, and they gave him a brief look-over to evaluate his health. This did not appear to be a medical professional.

I was surprised that only the airline asked to look at his rabies certificate on our way back to the US. I’m not sure if this is typical, but that was our experience.

Check out this post on flying with your dog. It includes some great tips, things to know, and how to prepare. This post also includes links to more information about airline and country requirements.

Our Experience in Merida

It was such a fun experience traveling with Jagger. Coming home to him after being out for the day made it feel like we were home. Traveling solo (as I did for part of the trip) can sometimes get lonely. It’s hard to be lonely with your dog!

Merida is very dog-friendly. You won’t see many stray dogs in the center, or at least we didn’t, but you will find many in the outskirts of the historic center. We didn’t have any issues with the dogs and cats, and some of the loose dogs took a shine to Jagger (much to his chagrin!).

The Best Time to Visit Merida

The dry season in Merida is between December and March. It’s the most popular time to visit, so be prepared for more tourists and higher hotel prices.

In January, you can enjoy Merida Fest, a celebration of the founding of the city. You’ll find incredible festivals throughout the year, though!

I visited in February, and it can get quite hot and humid, though you won’t likely have much rain. April and May are the hottest months of the year, and it’s humid and rainy from June to November.

Locals tell me from May to July, it’s incredibly hot, so be prepared! You can get some better deals on hotels, though!

picture in the centro merida with the colorful merida letters in the background, kissing chair statues

“Kissing chairs”

How to Get to Merida

A small airport serves Merida and the area. Though it is an international airport, there are limited flights in and out. It’s the closest and easiest airport to get to Merida and only 30 minutes or less from the city center.

The Cancun airport is the next closest international airport. It’s larger and offers more flights in and out, and it may often be a better cost to fly to the region. However, it is around four hours away.

An alternative to renting a car or hiring a driver is the new Maya Train (Tren Maya).

There is also an ADO bus that makes the trip many times a day. It costs between $30 and $60 USD each way, and you’ll find buses every 20 minutes or so during peak times.

rectory of Jesus building

Rectory of Jesus, around the corner from the cathedral

How to Get Around Merida

Merida is an easy city to get around by foot. Many of the tourist attractions are in a small area around the main square of the city. Sidewalks aren’t the best, so be careful when walking.

Merida is known to be one of the safest cities in Mexico, so it’s okay to walk around at night with reasonable precautions. However, many areas lack good street lighting, so it may be dark in some areas.

I did walk back to my place at night alone several times and felt perfectly comfortable. I’m often asked if Merida, Mexico, is safe, and yes, it is! In fact, it’s considered one of the safest cities in the country.

If you’d prefer not to walk, Uber is easy to get. You can also find the Didi app, which is similar to Uber. They have lower prices, but you are likely to wait a bit longer than with Uber, from my experience. So, use it when you have time to wait, just in case.

I also found they send a lot of push notifications, and they charged my credit card a small amount after I returned home. So, use it for lower prices, but keep an eye out and delete the app when you’re done using it.

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The Best Things to Do in Merida, Mexico, are Waiting for You!

Merida may not be on your radar as it’s definitely not as well-known as some other Yucatan cities, but that makes it even more special to visit! There is a thriving expat community here, so you’ll find comforts and conveniences but fewer tourists!

Whether you choose to stay in a more local or more touristy area, you’ll have an incredible experience here. There are so many great festivals, live music, dancing, and more—you’re going to have a great time!

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