Things to Know Before Visiting Mérida, Mexico

Take a horse and cart through the historic center of Mérida
Take a horse and cart through the historic center of Mérida | © agefotostock / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Jack Guy
3 September 2021

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

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Watch the Mayan ball game

The Yucatán 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 ball game every Friday in Mérida’s main square.

You can see this traditional Mayan ball game at the Plaza Grande | © Loes Kieboom / Alamy Stock Photo

Mérida got rich from a plant

The wealth of Mérida was made thanks to the henequen industry; it’s an agave plant that can be turned into a fiber. 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.

The Hacienda Yaxcopoil was built on the profits of the henequen trade | © Benedicte Desrus / Alamy Stock Photo

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 Mérida is dotted with them, but there are some within a half-hour drive of town. Hacienda Xcanatun is just on the outskirts of the city.

Hacienda Xcanatun is on the outskirts of Mérida | © Stuart Pearce / Alamy Stock Photo

Chichén Itzá is a short drive away

The huge Mayan pyramids of Chichén Itzá make for a great day trip from Mérida. Sign up for a tour or take the bus here under your own steam.

You can catch a bus to visit the Mayan ruins at Chichén Itzá | © Konstantin Kalishko / Alamy Stock Photo

Take a ride on Sundays

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

Roads are closed to cars over the weekend, so hire a bike and do as the locals do | © James Quine / Alamy Stock Photo

Visit a cantina

These traditional little bars are ten-a-penny in Mérida 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.

Cantinas are a great place to live like a local | © Adriana Rosas / Alamy Stock Photo

The market is insane

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

You’ll find food of all sorts, including fish, at the Lucas de Galvez Market | © agefotostock / Alamy Stock Photo

Spot the flamingos outside the town

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

You can book a tour to go and see the flamingos outside the city | © robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Dig into some tacos | © Marcos Castillo / Alamy Stock Photo

Don’t miss the museums and galleries

Mérida has an impressive array of cultural institutions, including a number of art galleries and the Grand Museum of the Mayan World. The latter is particularly impressive and a must-see if you have the slightest interest in Mayan history.

The Gran Museo del Mundo Maya houses Mayan artefacts | © John Mitchell / Alamy Stock Photo

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