By connecting all the amazing places to visit in Yucatan Peninsula I created the ultimate itinerary. Of course the capital of the Yucatan state was part of this big trip and that is how I ended up staying in this lovely city for 10 days. In this Merida Mexico travel blog I listed all travel tips I could find while eating, drinking, living, sleeping and day tripping around this authentic Mexican city.
After I explored all the cenotes around Valladolid, I took a bus from Valladolid to Merida on a Sunday afternoon. Upon arrival I walked from the ADO bus terminal to the main square. I had booked an Airbnb for two nights around there. As usual I had no plan and at that time I didn’t know how long I would stay in Merida Mexico.
When I reached the main square it was really busy and I thought there was a festival going on. Still with my big ass suitcase in my hand I made my way through the mass. It was a funny sight as this tall Dutchman with a huge suitcase suddenly got a little too much attention.
I felt completely ok though as people were just surprised why I was having my suitcase with me. I explained them I just arrived and they all smiled. Go drop your suitcase and come dance is what they all said. It was this warm welcome that made me fall in love with Merida Mexico straight away…
Merida is not one of those mass tourist destinations in Yucatan peninsula, but one of the more authentic places to visit in Yucatan and exactly that is why I had decided to travel to Merida. On the Yucatan Peninsula I already went off the beaten path when I traveled to Rio Lagartos, Costa Maya Mahahual and visited Isla Holbox.
In total I stayed at 3 different places, 2 times close to the old historical center and one in the modern part of the city. If I had a drone I guess Merida from above would look really cool as the historic center of Merida Mexico is built up by endless blocks and there are hardly any high rise buildings. Most of the days I ate my way around the city, hung out in one of the many squares, visited churches, went on day trips from Merida and best of all I explored the nightlife. Below I listed all my Merida Mexico travel tips and places to eat and sleep. I’m sure with these recommendations you will have a great time visiting Merida Mexico.
No doubt that April was NOT the best time to visit Merida Mexico. When I was there it was almost every day around 38 degrees. I was kind of melting, but it made me explore a lot of coffee shops, restaurants and ice cream shops. Nights were significantly cooler which made me enjoy the Merida nightlife even more!
1. Oldest city in The Americas
Merida Mexico is not only the largest city in the Yucatan Peninsula but also the oldest city in the Americas. It was the center of the Maya civilisation until the Spanish took over in the 1500’s. Needless to say that this city is full of history.
2. Merida Mexico has two city centers
The city has two faces: the old historical center and the new modern center. Lots of residents love the modern center where not everything is catered for tourists. To me the modern center had no soul and I was not a fan, but I can understand it from a local perspective.
The historical city center of Merida Mexico is a lovely chaos full of surprises. There are many old haciendas to be explored and you never know what to expect, there is a surprise behind every door. There are loads of restaurants, bars, museums and many more cool things to do in Merida Mexico that you wouldn’t expect in the first place. I think for this was one of the reasons I really loved my trip to Merida.
3. Merida is the safest city in Mexico
It was remarkable that a couple locals I spoke with all mentioned the same thing. They were originally not from Merida, but moved here because it was the safest city in Mexico. Crime rates in Merida are very low. Yucatecas are from origin Mayas and the Mayans have never really battled. People in Yucatan are generally super friendly and Merida is the city in Mexico with the most indigenous inhabitants, more than 60% of the people living in Merida Mexico are Mayans.
4. Best time to visit Merida Mexico
As I said before, March, April and May are not the best times of the year to visit Merida Mexico. The average temperature is between 35 and 40 degrees (95-105 Fahrenheit). After May temperatures slowly go down towards 30 degrees (85 Fahrenheit) in December. The rainy season in Merida Mexico is from June till October. Therefore the best time of the year to travel to Merida Mexico is November till February.
5. Merida Yucatan is a city with old people
Funny but this is also what I learned while living in Merida for 10 days. Most people consider Merida Mexico as boring as most youngster move away in search of adventure. Old people or not, the people that live in Merida Mexico are extremely friendly. If you are looking for a place to practice your Spanish skills just head to one of the squares and start talking to the old people, they love the Merida Mexico tourism boom and are always curious where you are from and why you are visiting their beloved Merida.
6. Free WiFi in Merida Mexico
At all the popular places to visit in Merida Mexico there is public WiFi. So at all the squares, Paseo de Montejo, museums, etc you will find public WiFi. Lots of people go to parks to connect to the internet, but I didn't use it to be honest. My advice is to buy a local prepaid sim card. Check out my article about the best Mexico sim card in 2023.
7. How to get to Merida Mexico
There are busses to Merida from all directions, whether you are coming from Campeche, Playa del Carmen, Bacalar, Chetumal, Tulum, Valladolid or Cancun. Long distance busses arrive at the ADO bus terminal just 6 blocks southeast from the main square.
From Cancun to Merida there are almost 50 ADO busses a day (no joke)! Prices for ADO busses are about $4 per hour, but vary per departure time. Expect to pay around 300 Pesos ($15). In my Yucatan Peninsula itinerary I already mentioned that ADO busses are the best for traveling in Yucatan Peninsula.
Find your ADO bus tickets for traveling from and to Merida in the link.
Getting away from Merida is just as easy as there are multiple busses from early morning to late in the evening in all directions.
8. Merida Mexico has an airport
You can also visit Merida by flying directly to MID Airport. It is located only a few kilometers away from the city center. There are direct flights to and from from Miami, Houston and Havana, Cuba, but the Merida Mexico Airport is mostly used as a domestic flight hub. There are multiple flights daily to Mexico City and those flights can already be found for $30 one way.
9. There is Uber in Merida Mexico
A big smile on my face when someone told me this valuable Merida Mexico travel tip. On my Yucatan itinerary I didn’t come across a city that had Uber so I was positively surprised and I love using Uber on my travels. You never have to haggle about prices, the app shows the driver exactly where you want to go and it is convenient and reliable. The Uber drivers in Merida Mexico are among the nicest ever. Some had a 4.97 rating with more than 10,000 trips! An Uber ride of 10 minutes costs around $2.
10. Car rental Merida Mexico
When you travel to Merida Mexico you should consider renting a car. Most of the day trips from Merida are a little out of the center. Don’t be fooled by the online prices for car rentals in Merida, because below is what I found online. Once I was going to pick up my car I suddenly had to pay $25 extra for a compulsory liability insurance. Therefore I decided to rent a car for just 1 day instead of a week.
11. Plan a weekend in Merida
Trust me this is going to be one of the best Merida Mexico travel tips. Weekends in Merida Mexico are absolutely amazing and Im happy I got to experience two of them. Some streets are closed for traffic and there are live performances and festivals everywhere around the squares. Markets with endless food stalls, terraces on the streets and everyone is out and about. Weekends in Merida were an absolute highlight on my Yucatan Peninsula itinerary.
Things to do In Merida Mexico
12. Sunday morning bike rides
This should top your list of things to do in Merida, but only available on Sunday mornings until 12:30pm. Most of the city center will be blocked for traffic and the streets of Merida Mexico will become one huge bike lane. From the historic city center all the way to the end of Paseo de Montejo. Biking around Merida Mexico on a Sunday morning is going to be one of the highlights of your trip.
I totally loved the super friendly and laid-back vibe this event created among the people. Renting a bike cost only $2, bring your ID card or drivers license as a deposit. Telcel even hands out free bikes, but be early for those.
13. Free walking tour Merida Mexico
One of the best things to do in Merida Mexico is the free walking tour that daily leaves from the main square at 9:30am. The tour lasts about 1,5 hours and is a tip-based walking tour that mainly concentrates on the history of Merida Mexico. To me it was one of the best ways to learn more about the city's history. We merely stayed around the main square in the historic center and our guide gave very useful Merida Mexico travel tips. Totally recommended when you visit Merida Mexico.
14. Stroll along the Paseo de Montejo
It is mentioned in every Merida Mexico travel guide as one of the things to do, but honestly I don’t think it is anything special. Paseo de Montejo is the most famous street of the city and it connects the old city center with the modern city center. There are many big villas, haciendas and some coffee places and restaurants along Paseo de Montejo, but telling you it is a must see in Merida Mexico I would be lying.
At the end of Paseo de Montejo you will find de Monumento a la Patria.
15. Anthropology and History Museum
There are some museums along the Paseo de Montejo, one of them is the Anthropology and History Museum. I walked by on a Sunday and it was free. Not sure if it is every day like that. I walked around for like 15 minutes. Nice to see some original Maya treasures, the mansion itself was already pretty spectacular.
16. Visit the Mayan World Museum of Merida Mexico
This is where I learned that the meteorite that killed the dinosaurs hit the earth close to Merida Yucatan. Apparently close to the Merida beaches there still is a big crater to found. In the Mayan World Museum of Merida Mexico they take you back to that moment and tell you the history of the Yucatan Peninsula with a focus on the Maya civilisation of course. Learn all about the Mayas, from how they rose to power and to how they eventually declined.
17. Museum of Contemporary Art
Unmissable next to the Merida Cathedral in the heart of the city. When on the main square and looking towards the cathedral it is just on the right side of the cathedrals entrance. You will see a huge arch and you can just walk in. It is open from 10:00am to 6:00pm, Wednesdays till Mondays and there is no entrance fee! One of those great free things to do in Merida Mexico.
18. Marvel at the Cathedral of Merida Yucatan
Another free thing to do in Merida Mexico is to visit the next door cathedral. There are churches on basically every square in Merida, but the cathedral is the most fascinating. The exterior looks already pretty spectacular, but the inside is amazing too. Although Im not religious I joined one of the church services. It was more a coincidence and I stayed around, it was pretty cool to experience. The Merida Mexico cathedral has the tallest Christ sculpture 23 feet (7m) in all of Mexico.
You can just walk in and there are mass services in the Merida cathedral every Thursday, Friday and Saturday around 6pm, as well as on Saturday morning and even an English speaking service at Sunday morning 09:00am.
19. Find the murals in Xcalachen
One of the best Merida Mexico tips I got was to walk down to the Xcalachen neighborhood. It is about 15 blocks south of the main square. You can also take an Uber for $2. There is not much going on in this neighborhood, but the murals make it worth a visit. Stroll around and find about 15 pretty cool paintings. There are a handful Chicharroneria’s around, the local specialty worth trying.
It was a Marida local who sent me in this direction and I haven’t seen any Merida Mexico travel guide writing about it so consider this as a secret travel tip for Merida Mexico.
20. Visit the local markets
There are many local markets and to me these are the places where I always find the real local vibe. There are food markets, like Mercado de Santiago where you want to taste local dishes after 7.00pm. Lucas de Galvez Marcado is a daily market that has everything from fruits and vegetables, to handicrafts and electronics. A perfect place to get fresh fruit juices: 0.5L for 20 Pesos ($1). Fruits are so cheap here as well, so if you have a blender at your place come here to buy ingredients for your homemade smoothies.
21. Attend the Pok Ta Pok Ball Game
Ball game courts are a well-known sight at all the Maya archeological sites, but here in Merida Mexico they perform it live on the streets. Every Saturday evening at 8:30pm right in front of the Merida cathedral is were you can watch this game. It is one of the amazing free things to do in Merida Mexico.
22. Traditional dance at Santa Lucia Park
Every Thursday evening at 9:00pm there is a traditional dance performance at Parque Santa Lucia, another free thing to do in Merida. The park itself is small, but there is a small stand for people to sit and watch the performance. There are many terraces around and this park was actually one of my favorites.
This is also where you will find the typical chairs you can find around the Yucatan Peninsula, but then in the XXXXL version.
23. Visit the theater in Merida Mexico
At first I thought there was only one theater, but later I saw more. The main theater building is just one block North of the Merida cathedral and the main square. Performances are in Spanish, but if you speak ok Spanish it is a cool thing to do in Merida Mexico. You can already get tickets for less than 200 Pesos ($10). Locals love going to the theater and it surely is a place to impress your Tinder date when you travel to Merida Mexico. The theater building is worth a visit by itself, you can just walk in during the day.
24. Enter the Palaces on the main square
On several places around the main square you will see two guards in front of an entrance to something. I was actually drawn by some tourists on a balcony overlooking the square so I asked one of the guards. Apparently you can just walk in freely. I already mentioned many free things to do in Merida Mexico but put this one on the list too.
On the main square you will find the Palacio Municipal where loads of paintings are to be found and some other art expositions. From here you have great views over the cathedral, but the balconies are shut with huge glass walls.
For better views of the main plaza go to the Palacio de Gobierno where you can find some of the best views of Merida central square.
25. See the city from a horse drawn carriage
Some people I met told me it was the best thing to do in Merida Mexico, but Im not sure about it. Personally Im not a fan of these things, but I reckon sitting in the back of a horse carriage and being guided through the city is a pretty chill thing to do when you visit Merida Mexico on a hot afternoon. A horse drawn carriage ride cost 400 Pesos ($20) for 45 minutes.
26. Take photos with the Merida sign
Like every tourist destination in Mexico, Merida also has the big Merida sign for taking photos. One of the Merida signs can be found on the main square, the other one next to the Monumento a la Patria.
27. Go see the Monumento a la Patria
Once you are strolling up and down the Paseo de Montejo keep on going all the way to the end. There is a roundabout with a huge monument: Monumento a la Patria. Here the Mexican flag is flying high on top of the 14 meter high (45 feet), one of the places to see in Merida Mexico.
Day trips from Merida Mexico
28. Visit Progreso
When you are looking for the Merida Mexico beaches this is where you want to go. Not only are they just 50 kilometers (30 miles) away from the city center, they are damn gorgeous. Progresso is also where the Merida Mexico cruise terminal is and therefore this town is very well catered to tourists. Many restaurants, great sea food and loads of bars. Visiting Progresso is one of the popular things to do in Merida Mexico.
29. Visit Uxmal Ruins on a day trip from Merida
One of the more off the beaten path Maya ruins in Yucatan Peninsula, but a great day trip from Merida. It is about an hour drive South and when you go early you will have these Maya ruins almost to yourself. There is a 35m (115 feet) high pyramid, unfortunately forbidden to climb, but there is a second pyramid at Uxmal Ruins that can be climbed and it offers amazing views over the archaeological site.
I did not opt for a guided tour, but there are official guides everywhere at the entrance. The Uxmal ruins entrance fee is raised to 413 Pesos ($21) as of April 2019, parking is another 80 Pesos ($4) and a GoPro is another $2.
30. Visit Dzibilchaltun Maya ruins
Most people skip the Dzibilchaltun Maya ruins, but I found it a great Merida Mexico travel tip. One of my followers on Instagram recommended me to go there and it was totally worth it. You can easily get there by colectivo or taxi/Uber as it is only 15 miles (25 kilometers) outside the Merida center. Inside the archaeologic site there is cenote Xlakah and you are allowed to swim in there. There is also a museum. A great Merida Mexico travel tip is NOT to go on a Sunday as locals get free entrance that day. Foreigners pay $8 entrance fee for the Dzibilchaltun Maya ruins
31. Cenotes around Merida
As Merida Mexico can get extremely hot, taking a refreshing dip in one of the cenotes around Merida is one of the best things to do in Merida Yucatan. Cenotes are places where water from underground rivers are accessible. Cenotes always charge a small entrance fee ranging from $2 to $5, you can stay as long as you want.
As I saw almost 15 different cenotes near Valladolid I didn’t visit any on my trip to Merida Mexico. These are some popular cenotes around Merida to go to: Cuzama, Santa Barbara, Kankirixche, Nayah and Noh Mozon. To visit the Merida cenotes you will need to either get an Uber or use public transport as they are all outside the city center.
32. Visit Izamal
The famous yellow city in Yucatan Peninsula is only about 1 hour east from Merida Mexico and a must visit on a road trip. I rented a car to go to Izamal, but there are many busses and colectivos going in that direction throughout the day. Because Izamal is a Maya pilgrimage for the Sun God, people started to paint their houses yellow. When the Pope visited in 1993 the whole town got painted yellow and it became one of the coolest places to visit in Yucatan Peninsula.
33. Visit Celestun
If you want to see wildlife then take a day trip from Merida to Celestun. It is kind of similar to Rio Lagartos as here you will also do a boat trip to see crocodiles, flamingos, birds, mangroves, etc. Boat trips can be booked in Celestun itself for around 300 Pesos. Tours from Merida Mexico to Celestun charge easily $50 for a whole day. There are busses from Merida Mexico to Celestun for just a couple bucks. So if you want to save money this is a great Merida Mexico travel tip.
34. Bioluminescent beaches San Crisanto
A popular thing to do in Isla Holbox, but much better once you travel to Merida Mexico. Ok, there are no beaches in Merida Mexico, but within an hour drive you will get to the most remote beaches on the Yucatan Peninsula. Bioluminescent plankton is a phenomenon that plankton lights up in the dark by a set of reaction caused by simply walking through it. On the North shores of the peninsula close to San Crisanto you are going to find one of the best places to witness this phenomenon.
35. Corchito Salt Water Mangroves
Although this looks like a cenote it actually isn’t! The salt water mangroves are a shallow lagoon where you can go swimming. This Nature reserve is not far from Progreso and a great places to visit in Merida Mexico. Because of the tick mangroves you are sheltered from the fierce sun and it is a pleasant thing to do on a hot day. There are elevated boardwalks for great hikes through the mangroves.
36. Visit Mayapan Ruins
The Mayapan archeaological site was a walled city of only 4 square kilometers that hold more than 10,000 people. It is considered the last Maya city in the Yucatan Peninsula. There are over 20 cenotes around the Mayapan Ruins. Cenote Noh Mozon is one of the best places to visit in Merida Mexico on a hot day. Mayapan is a little over 20 miles (30 kilometers) south of Merida city center and a $2 collectivo will get you there in 30-40 minutes.
Where to eat in Merida Mexico
Food is for some people one of the reasons to travel to Merida Mexico. Although I really like to try everything, after 2 months traveling in Yucatan Peninsula I was a bit over the Mexican food. Though I still tried a lot of restaurants for you, these are my Merida Mexico tips for restaurants
37. La Cubanita for breakfast
Definitely my favorite, just for its simplicity! You are basically eating at someone’s home. This Cuban family is absolutely adorable and the food is good and prices are around 60-100 Pesos for the meals ($3 - $5).
38. Mercado 60 - modern open sky food court
This is a modern market where you will find about 20 small restaurants around a garden area. Basically a luxury outdoor food court. You can get anything from pizza to sushi to local dishes. Meals are between 80 Pesos ($4) and 200 Pesos ($10).
39. Kadus Cafe for smoothie bowls and good coffee
My favorite place to go for lunch that also has the best coffee in Merida Mexico. I tried a lot of coffee places, but non of them worth mentioning. I wanted to get a little healthier food than the standard dishes and was super happy to find delicious smoothie bowls at Kadus Cafe. It also is one of the few hipster places to visit in the modern city center in Merida at the end of Paseo de Montejo.
40. La Chaya Maya - typical Yucateca restaurant
This is where you want to go when you are looking for traditional food from the Yucatan Peninsula. According to many people one of the best restaurants in Merida Mexico, but to me just a very touristy place. I decided to not eat here as it all was a bit too touristy for me. It is located in a beautiful hacienda though and the staff is wearing local traditional dresses. I bet it is a good Merida Mexico restaurant, but just not my place.
41. Heladeria y sorberteria Colon on Paseo de Montejo
One of the most famous places to visit in Merida Mexico when you are craving ice cream. It was the most recommend place to go to through my Instagram stories. Everyone wanted me to have ice cream there so I tried. It was good and there was a huge variety of ice cream to try. I went for Nutella!
Best Merida Mexico bars and nightlife
I must admit I am not the one who goes out until late at night, but I won’t go to bed at 10:00pm either. There are a couple exceptions, but mostly all bars in the historic center close at 2:00am.
42. La Negrita Cantina
One of the most popular places to go out and dance to live music every day of the week is La Negrita Cantina, but be aware that this place closes at 10:00pm. Apparently they don’t have a liquor license for later and the music stops around 9:30pm already. It still is an amazing place and always busy and full of locals. Beers are around $2, cocktails $4.
43. La Fundacion Mezcaleria
The smaller version of La Negrita Cantina and apparently from the same owner. This cantina is much smaller and there are only 5 tables and a couple places to sit, this place is mostly for dancing and opens from 8:00pm till 2:30am. There is live music every day. Prices are the same as La Negrita Cantina.
A great place to go out in Merida Mexico with a big open garden terrace with many tables. Open until 02:00am and beers are $2 and cocktails $3. Great place to go out and there is also live music every day. To me one of the best bars in Merida Mexico. If you want to dance than this is a great place to go out.
45. Casa Chica
If you want to take it a little slower and like to have a conversation with the one you are going out with then opt for a table at Casa Chica on Paseo de Montejo. There is a very relaxed vibe in this mansion and music is on a background level. There are 7 tables outside, great to take your Tinder date. Not for dancing!
46. Where to stay in Merida Mexico
As I said before I stayed at several places around the city and I found them all through Airbnb. For traveling to Merida, I recommend you as well to use Airbnb and when you sign up for a (new) account through this link I can get you $30 free Airbnb credit. It only takes a couple clicks and one minute of your time.
The place that I recommend the most is Kuka y Naranjo, a small boutique hotel nestled in a 150 year old house. This completely new boutique hotel opened its doors only in April 2019. The owners weer extremely helpful and rooms were very spacious and stylish. I even had a hammock in my room. Rooms come with breakfast included and when I felt sad leaving this oasis in the city center. Check out their rates here or click for a full review of Kuka y Naranjo on this link.
Luxury places to stay in Merida:
- Fiesta Americana Merida: 5 star hotel in the heart of the modern center of Merida. They charge a fair $100 per night for an 8.8 reviews score out of 850 reviews.
- Rosa y Xocolates Boutique Hotel: very popular boutique hotel in Merida Mexico on Paseo de Montejo. Completely painted pink, very stylish 5 star boutique hotel but expensive with $250 per night! More than 100 reviews with a review score of 8.9.
- Casa Lecanda Boutique Hotel: 9.5 review score out of 90 reviews - pretty epic place but very pricey: $250 per night.
Paying more than $100 per night in a city like Merida Mexico is a little overrated I think. There are loads of amazing places to be found that are actually good value. Everything above $100 is overpriced to me!
Budget places to stay in Merida:
- Hotel Maria Jose: standard rooms around a swimming pool. Cosy place for around $35 per night and an 8.8 review score out of more than 500 reviews.
- Hotel Casa Carmita: cosy place with nice rooms, no swimming pool but only $35 per night and an 8.7 review score out of more than 250 reviews.
- Casa Jade: One of the best cheap hotels in Merida Mexico. Clean, simple, amazing location for just $20 and an 8.0 review score out of more than 300 reviews.
Thanks for reading my Merida Mexico travel guide! I hope all the above tips were helpful for planning your trip. May you have any questions please leave me a comment and I see whether I can help you.
In total I traveled around Yucatan Peninsula for more than 2 months. Go to my destination Mexico page to find about 20 blogs with Yucatan Peninsula travel tips including complete travel guides for places like Puerto Morelos, Costa Maya Mahahual, Rio Lagartos, Isla Holbox and many more travel inspiring blogs.
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