10 Things to Know Before Visiting Merida

Mérida architecture | © Luiz Eduardo/Flickr
Mérida architecture | © Luiz Eduardo/Flickr
Photo of Jack Guy
28 February 2018

Visitors to the Yucatan peninsula would be silly to miss out on seeing Merida, sometimes known as Mexico’s most underrated city. Read on to find out more.

Mayan ballgame demonstration in Merida, Mexico | © Charlie Marchant / flickr

Watch the Mayan ballgame

The Yucatan was an important area for the ancient Maya, and the civilization has left its mark. As a result you can watch a demonstration of the Mayan ballgame every Friday in Merida’s main square.

Merida got rich from a plant

The wealth of Merida was made thanks to the trade in henequen, an agave plant that can be turned into a fibre. To this day the lavish mansions built by wealthy families in the 19th-century can be seen on the avenues leading away from the main square.

Visit the haciendas outside town

Many of these old estates were once used to grow henequen, but these days they serve as tourist attractions. The whole area surrounding Merida is dotted with them, but there are some within half an hour drive of town. Hacienda Xcanatun is just on the outskirts of the city.

Chichen Itza David Stanley / flickr

Chichen Itza is a short drive away

The huge Mayan pyramids of Chichen Itza make for a great daytrip from Merida. Sign up to a tour or take the bus there under your own steam.

Take a ride on Sundays

As part of a drive to encourage cycling, several of the main avenues in Merida are shut to cars from late Saturday night to late Sunday. Take out a rental bike and join in as residents enjoy their city, including the impressive Paseo Montejo with its old mansions.

Visit a cantina

These traditional little bars are ten-a-penny in Merida, and provide a great window into local life. In many places you’ll be given a small plate of snacks with each beer you order.

Fresh fruit juices at Mercado Lucas de Galvez, Merida, Mexico | https://www.flickr.com/photos/barbbarbbarb/32826548665/in/photolist-S1LDfZ-RMd19d-JQrRyj-KM3YNg-JSrmHG-S1LDE6-QJhEmW-KE66Z4-KnRDTN-KLckwm-Rr82FQ-RMcZEs-KkS8X5-KJ97KN-KHYyWW-Km8Dz1-S1LF1c-Km25B9-RMdeoj-KnYdAu-Kifn6d-KJcDjs-KNSgQx-RXgbcN-Rr7Bim-KFTexT-KNGozz-JQsiTx-QJi6oj-KDZxHF-JQpVui-KBKv6s-JQeaRY-KP12aK-KM29Xt-JMQZeS-Km7czh-KHTXY7-JQrbeX-Rr7Mey-QJhECN-KLP4wx-QJhT2A-KkDDyW-KHWMHw-JQesi5-JRVnaU-RMdqX1-RPS23i-RMdduf

The market is insane

Spend an afternoon wandering the labyrinthine alleyways of the Lucas de Galvez market to get a flavour of local life. Sample some of the food and drink or stock up on souvenirs to take home.

Spot the flamingos outside town

A short drive away from Merida is Celestun, known for its population of flamingos. Book a tour and get out to watch them.

La Chaya Maya restaurant, Merida, Mexico | https://www.flickr.com/photos/brookpeterson/8415813252/in/photolist-RXgAmQ-dPFfkf-dPzD3n-dPFf5u-QJi8b7-fpYTLy-dPFfZw

Sample traditional Mayan food

Another part of the Mayan legacy in the city is the food. Go for a meal at traditional eateries such as La Chaya Maya to sample the best of the local cuisine.

Don’t miss out on the museums and galleries

Merida has an impressive array of cultural institutions, including a number of art galleries and the Museum of the Mayan World. The latter is particularly impressive and makes for a must-see if you’ve got the slightest interest in Mayan history.

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