Mérida, the capital of the Mexican state of the Yucatán, is a great year-round destination no matter what you’re looking for on a vacation. If you want history, beaches, nature, adventure, and top quality food, Mérida has it all. There are so many things to do in Mérida, Mexico but I’ve chosen my absolute favorites for one perfect day in this colonial town. In fact, Merida has some of the best examples of colonial architecture in the Yucatán. If it is your first time visiting Merida, below are some things you have to look forward to!
Save Big on Your Dream Trip to Merida
Check out the Best Tours & Day Trips from Merida
Read Reviews of the Best Hotels in Merida, Mexico on TripAdvisor
How To Spend A Perfect Day In Mérida, Mexico
Best Breakfast In Mérida
My two favorite options for breakfast in Mérida are Monique’s Bakery and Soco. Interestingly, both are famous with locals for their sourdough bread but both also offer fabulous breakfasts.
Soco is particularly known for its molletes (a typical local breakfast) and Monique’s is a great spot for chilling out over pancakes or omelets and, on Sundays, eggs benedict. Monique’s also offers great vegan options.
Sightseeing in Mérida
Anyone who wants to get a feel for Mérida should ensure they see these three areas of the city:
1. Centro, around the main plaza and Parque Santa Lucía
2. Paseo Montejo
3. Lucas de Galvez market
If you have just one day to explore Mérida, Mexico I recommend beginning on the main plaza with a free walking tour (weekdays at 9.30 from outside the Palacio Municipal). This will give you a good idea of the history of the center of Mérida before you set out on your own. Make sure you head into the Palacio Municipal to check out the harrowing murals depicting the region’s difficult history.
Top Tip: Did you know that Mexico has a long and proud tradition of using murals and street-art to share important information? Almost every town’s Palacio Municipal will have murals explaining the area’s history.
Best Self Guided Walks in Mérida
Once you’re finished with the walking tour you have three great options for exploring the city.
Take a leisurely walk towards Paseo Montejo. Enjoy the laid back attitude of Parque Santa Lucía, the souvenir shops and the stunning colonial buildings. Paseo Montejo is Mérida’s main boulevard and it is flanked by imposing colonial buildings, many of which are now restaurants and museums. Strolling along Montejo is a favorite local past-time around dusk when the heat of the day cools off.
You Must Try: Make a point to stop at Meridá’s oldest ice cream shop, Sorbetería Colón, for the best sorbet in town. My top tip is to try the coconut as it’s their specialty and truly knocks all other ice creams out of the water.
Mercado Lucas de Galvez
Get out your map and walk through the bustling centro district towards Mercado Lucas de Galvez and the small Mérida Museum. Here visitors will get a great taste of traditional in Mérida as they stroll around the market and surrounding streets taking in the crowds, the atmosphere, and the fabulous architecture.
If you can manage a decent walk then I highly recommend walking down Calle 62 in the direction of Parque San Juan. At San Juan, walk across the plaza and join Calle 64 and then 64A, which are my favorite streets in the whole of Mérida. The air is always calmer here, the people fewer and the colors just so perfect. Once you reach La Ermita you can either walk back via Parque Santiago or just grab an uber to your next destination.
Don’t miss: If you’re at all interested in learning about the history of Mexican music why not check out the Palacio de Musica in the center of Mérida. It’s the newest museum in the city and it’s incredibly informative.
Best Lunch In Mérida
I highly recommend Catrín on Calle 47, where you will find fabulous modern Mexican food (with good vegetarian options), at reasonable prices. I absolutely adore their beetroot salad. The bar staff are extremely knowledgable, should you be interested in talking tequila with them (I absolutely would!).
If you feel like taking it easy (I don’t approve of taking it easy!) then continue on with the walking options above but if you’re trying to see as much as possible in one short day you could now head to Progreso on Yucatán’s Gulf Coast. It’s just a half-hour drive from Mérida to Progreso.
While the town itself isn’t anything too exciting, the beach is certainly a pleasant place for a stroll and a sit down in a beachside bar. The new malecon (esplanade) is very pretty and well worth walking along. If you still have any energy then head to El Corchito, Progreso’s small cenote site where you’ll take a boat across the estuary to find three open-air cenotes that are incredibly beautiful and popular with the locals.
Best Evening Meal In Mérida
Mérida is truly a foodie heaven but for great food and atmosphere, visitors should absolutely head to Parque Santa Lucía for an evening meal. This plaza has become the de facto evening heart of the city with locals and visitors alike choosing to eat here. I adore Apoala, which serves modern Mexican food and has a seriously good bar.
Top Tip: Book a table in Apoala’s secret bar for after you’ve eaten.
If you’d prefer European style food, then next door to Apoala is Rosa Sur 32, another of my favorite restaurants in Mérida. And two doors down, hidden away in the corner is Ki’Xocolatl, a world-famous chocolate store that is the perfect place to pick up gifts for friends and family back home.
Interesting Facts About Mérida
- The cathedral is built partially from the stones taken from the original Maya city of Th’o. If you look you carefully can see them.
- The municipal government of Mérida loves to put on cultural shows. The city is the only city in the Americas to have been named the American Capital of Culture twice.
- In the late 19th century, Mérida was one of the richest cities in the world since it was the city in which the henequen hacienda owners lived.
- The meteor that is thought to have wiped out most dinosaurs on the planet made contact with planet Earth not far from Mérida.
- Mérida is a perfect base for exploring the cenotes and archaeological sites that just a short drive from the city.
Where To Stay In Mérida
Budget: Most backpackers seem to head to Nomadas Hostel in town, which has decent sized dorms and private rooms, a pool and includes breakfast in the room price (which can be found as low as $11 per night).
Mid-Range: My two favorite mid-range hotels in Mérida are Casa San Angel, a delightful hotel right at the heard of all the action at the bottom of Ramat de Paseo Montejo and Kuka Y Naranjo, a sustainable hotel by Parque San Juan.
Luxury: The most famous luxury hotel in town is definitely Rosas Y Xocolate on Paseo Montejo although new boutique hotels pop up all the time in Mérida, so if you can afford to splurge, it’s well worth taking the time to look around.
Day Trips from Merida & Top Tours
Merida makes for a nice base location to explore the nearby Mayan ruins. If you don’t want to rent a car and do it on your own, I recommend Get Your Guide. They have a number of great tours in cities throughout Mexico. Another huge plus is you can cancel most bookings for free up to 24 hours before they start and their customer service is available 24/7 in multiple languages.
A few Top Tours in Merida, Mexico
Recommended Travel Resources
- Travel Insurance: World Nomads.
- Transport: AirfareWatchDog and Skyscanner (Best Sites to Research Flight Prices)
- Accommodation: Hotels.com and Orbitz
- Airbnb, Sign up here for a $40 credit.
- Top Merida Hotel Reviews on TripAdvisor
- Ultimate Mexico Packing List
- Cheap Flights to Mexico with Volaris Airlines
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Mexico Cassie Bio Cassie is a British travel writer who is completely obsessed with Mexico. She moved to Mérida in 2016 and has made it her mission to learn and experience as much as is possible about her adopted home. She is passionate about sharing her travels around Mexico in order to encourage others to look beyond stereotypes and fearmongering.