(Note: This article about things to do in Merida Mexico was updated and expanded upon in February 2016, after exploring this beautiful city for an entire month.)
Mérida, Mexico is the largest city in the Yucatan but it doesn’t carry a big-city vibe at all. It’s a delightful town and there are so many fun things to do in Merida. The city gives off almost more of a European feel yet is still very much Mexico with unique Mayan and Yucatan characteristics. Here, colorful pastels blend with historic charm along Merida’s grid-like streets. You’ll always be only a few blocks away from a plaza (city square) where there is likely some event going on.
The locals in Mérida are very friendly, the food is delicious, and the nightlife is often jamming. If planning a trip to Mérida, we would recommend trying to stay during the weekend, as the entire city tends to come out to play then.
Check any preconceived notions of safety in Mexico at the door because here, Mérida is very safe. In fact, Mérida is often cited as the safest city in Mexico!
Mérida also offers some fantastic value, as your pesos will go quite far. Eat your weight in delicious 10 peso ($0.60) tacos. Many of the top things to do in Mérida are actually complimentary. There are some great inexpensive places to stay, and even a handful of fantastic $30-per-night, 3-star hotels. And with daily rental car prices usually around $5-$15 USD, you can certainly afford to explore the region on a budget.
Are you looking for ideas of what to do in Merida, Mexico? Here is our roundup of our top thirteen of the best things to do in Merida that we recommend to you!
13) Merida 101: Take the Free Walking Tour of Merida
Every morning at 9:00 am there is a free walking tour in the Plaza Grande in Merida centro, which provides for a great lesson in the city’s history while also providing you bearings to know your way around town. The free walking tour of Merida is a great introduction of the central Merida attractions all around the plaza. You’ll learn a lot about the city itself, as the walking tour is full of many interesting facts that you may not have read up on before you arrived to town.
This free walking tour of Merida begins at
9:00 am (reader update from June 2017 reports it now starts at 9:30 am) and lasts between 90 minutes and two hours. If staying in the city for a few days, we recommend starting off your visit with this tour as your first thing to do in Merida It makes for a fantastic intro and overview to get accented with this awesome city.
Price: Free (consider a tip)
Location: Merida Tourism Office, ground floor of the Palacio Municipal, Calle 62 at Plaza Grande
12) Get Schooled in the Gran Museo de Mundo Maya Merida (Museum of Mayan World)
If you want to learn more about the Mayan people and culture, this is the place to do it. The museum starts with natural history from the beginning of time and walks you through to the life of the modern Maya today. The expansive museum is filled with over 500 artifacts to help give you a deep understanding of the civilization. It’s a good primer before visiting some of the ancient Mayan sites which dot the surrounding area.
This is the only worthwhile museum in Merida that is not located within walking distance of the city center. You’ll need public transportation or a taxi to reach its location on the northern reaches of town, located a 15-20 minute ride from Centro. Just head for the interestingly designed building that looks like a metallic bird nest.
Price: $150 pesos
Location: Calle 60 North, towards road to Progreso
11) Get Lost Amongst Chaos in the Lucas de Galvez Market Merida
Merida’s big market is a site to be experienced. You can find fresh vegetables, homemade crafts, local clothing, a new pet, and everything in between. The vibrant and bustling market can get crowded. It’s packed with locals and that’s all part of the fun. Weave your way through the hectic maze-like atmosphere and score a bargain.
You can even eat lunch there from one of the many street vendors hawking freshly made spreads. We recommend the ceviche! If near Merida’s city center in the daytime, a visit to Lucas de Galvez market Merida is a must.
Price: Free to be a lookie-loo. Products are priced accordingly and generally inexpensive.
Location: Walk towards the intersection of Calle 56 and Calle 65.
10) Attend One Of Merida’s Annual Festivals
Merida has some interesting and popular annual events to consider if your visit happens to coincide with the right time of year. There are so many things to do in Merida all year long! January brings Merida Fest, which spans the course of several weeks of nightly fiestas. Don’t miss the opening night trova stroll to Plaza Grande that precedes an awesome fireworks display to ring in Merida Fest. Merida Fest 2022 should prove to be a particularly large celebration as it celebrates the city’s 500th birthday!
February or March brings Carnaval of Merida, which is now held at the X’matkuil Fairgrounds, rather than its former location along the Paseo de Montejo. Free shuttle busses provide transportation from the center of town. Merida Carnaval brings upon a really fun party for this Latin American tradition.
Just as in the rest of Mexico, here in Merida you can expect to experience the culture of Semana Santa processions surrounding Easter. Meanwhile you can find traditional Day of the Dead displays and festivities throughout the center of town on November 1. Christmas in Merida brings out decorations, a festive atmosphere, and other unique traditions.
And that’s just a smattering of happenings, as there are many other annual events popping up in between. There are annual sporting events, concerts, ballads, operas, races, and so much more. We’re just scratching the surface here.
Take a look at this event Calendar to see if there may be something interesting happening in Merida during you visit.
Price: Most all of Merida’s annual events are free (including the Carnaval Merida and Merida Fest).
Location: All over town, generally in the center, except for Merida Carnaval which is at the X’matkuil Fairgrounds.
9) Experience Pok Ta Pok: Representation of the Mayan Ball Game
The tradition of this ancient sport is kept alive each Friday night at 8:00 pm on Calle 60 in front of the Cathedral and Plaza Grande. Watch the players battle it out as traditional live music accompanies the spectacle. Although this is a recreation, the players seem to be completely into the game.
It’s a miracle each competitor doesn’t leave the ball court a bloody mess as they slide onto the cobblestones in an attempt to score by hitting the ball with their hips into the post. Scoring is actually quite rare, as it is extremely difficult, particularly during this abridged 30-minute game. So if someone does manage to complete a goal, consider yourself lucky (we’ve never seen it) and be sure to cheer loudly!
The Pok Ta Pok event in Merida is free and begins promptly at 8:00 pm. Be sure to arrive 15-20 minutes early to get a good spot in the bleachers. They do fill up, particularly so in high season. Commentary of the Mayan ball game is in Spanish only, but it is still a worthwhile spectacle to attend for non-Spanish speakers.
Location: Calle 60 in front of the Cathedral and Plaza Grande
8) Cruise the Paseo de Montejo, Merida
You can’t come to Merida without cruising up the grand Paseo de Montejo. This wide avenue built in Merida’s heyday conjectures images of Paris’s Champs-Élysées. Historic mansions line the grand avenue, as do quaint cafes. Pop into one and sip on a coffee. Or take in some history while strolling the Paseo. Why not both?
Consider popping into the Museo Regional de Arquaeología de Yucatán, among other Merida attractions. Just look for the big pink mansion on the East side of the Paseo.
How you experience the Paseo de Montejo is entirely up to you. You can easily walk it. The sidewalks along the Paseo de Montejo are probably the widest and most pedestrian-friendly in all of Merida. Frequent trees offer up shade to help protect you from the scorching sun.
The most scenic stretch is from the beginning of the Paseo near Plaza Santa Ana to the Monumento a la Patria. This 1.7 kilometer section can take about 30-minutes, each way, if taking a leisurely stroll. You can easily walk one way and take one of the frequent public busses back to the center to return.
But if Merida is having one of its notoriously hot days, you’ll undoubtedly want to consider experiencing the Paseo de Montejo by car, horse & carriage, or bicycle. More information on the latter two options can be found in the sections to follow. However you tour this famous boulevard, just make sure that it’s on your list of things to do in Merida, Mexico.
Price: Free (museum entrance, cafe stops along the way, or public bus will incure some minimal costs)
Location: Calle de Montejo begins East of Santa Ana Park and runs nearly 8 kms to the North.
7) Explore Merida by Horse and Carriage
Skip the double decker hop-on hop-off tour bus and instead tour the city by horse & carriage. A friendly guide will lead you through the city center and up the historic Paseo de Montejo for a reasonable price.
Clopping through the historical city is a magical experience that may make you feel like you’ve gone back in time to a by-gone era. For a more romantic spin around town, consider an evening tour as the city lights up. Arrange for the carriage to drop you off at dinner to add some classiness to your evening.
A standard ride through the center of town and up the Paseo takes about 45 minutes, although you can arrange for as short or long as you desire. Are you hot to trot?
Price: Ranges between 200 and 300 pesos ($11-$16 USD) making it not only a lovely thing to do in Merida, but also a great value.
Location: You can find the horse & carriages around Plaza Grande, and Calle 60, among other places in Merida’s Centro.
6) Have a Nice Sit in Plaza Grande
If you’re searching for what to do in Merida, don’t overlook just taking a break in the center of town to absorb all the beautiful ambiance. The Plaza Grande is the perfect place for that. It’s a great central spot to simply take a break and unwind. This is where many Meridians and tourists alike congregate during the day, into the evening, and particularly on the weekends. The Catedral de San Ildefonso and other grand architecture surround this town square to provide a beautiful 360-degree backdrop.
Find a bench shaded by a tree to get out of the heat and let the cool breeze drift by. Visit one of the many food vendors who set up along the edge of the plaza to indulge in a mid-afternoon snack.
Enjoy the company you’re with or practice your Spanish and make some new friends. The city’s signature dual chairs facing themselves side-by-side make it easy to chat with one another.
Alternatively, catch up on a few emails or check your Facebook newsfeed. The Plaza Grande is connected! Complimentary Wi-Fi and numerous charging stations are found throughout the plaza.
Location: All roads seemingly lead to Plaza Grande. It is between Calle 60 & 62, and between Calle 61 & 63.
5) Visit the Museums, Churches, and Buildings Around Plaza Grande
Within this one recommendation, you’re actually tossing you an extra 5 things to do in Merida! There is much to see within all the buildings that surround the Plaza Grande.
5.1 Museo Fernando García Ponce-Macay, Merida
View the artwork found throughout the Museo Fernando García Ponce-Macay. You’ll walk through the museum’s open courtyard and along the interior balcony as curators periodically escort you into private rooms through old large doors. In these rooms you’ll find beautiful and eccentric artwork on both permanent and temporary display from the local area and beyond.
5.2 Casa de Montejo, Merida
Want to know what wealthy Victorian Mexican life was like back in the hacienda days? Wander on into Casa de Montejo on the Plaza’s south side to take a peak at the rooms, furniture, and fine china of this former Meridian mansion.
5.3 Catedral de San Ildefonso, Merida
Marvel at the architecture of the Catedral de San Ildefonso, built in the late 1500s. Have a peak inside to see the huge crucifix behind the alter as Meridians pop in to pray periodically. There is an English tour of the Cathedral de San Ildefonso on Saturdays at 10:00 am and English-speaking church services occur on Sundays at 9:00 am.
5.4 Palacio Municipal, Merida
On the west side of the plaza head upstairs onto the balcony of the government building to capture a nice panoramic view of the plaza.
5.5 Palacio de Gobierno, Merida
Yet perhaps our favorite building to roam around is the roomy halls and courtyard of the Palacio de Gobierno. Built in the late 1800’s the lovely “government palace” now houses some large and impressive murals depicting the history between the Mayans and Spaniards, by artist Fernando Castro Pacheco.
It’s one of the few buildings surrounding Plaza Grande that is open fairly late (9:30 pm). This open-air building makes for an enchanting evening stroll through its corridors as the Cathedral lights up at night.
Perhaps best of all, entrance to each of the aforementioned museums and building are all completely complimentary. Thank you Mérida!
Location: Bordering Plaza Grande
4) Dancing in the Streets of Merida During its Weekly Fiestas!
There’s always something going on every night of the week in Merida. You just have to know when and where to look. Here is a sampling of where to find the popular local weekly events in Merida:
- Monday’s in Merida: Vaqueria Night on Calle 62 at Plaza Grande begins at 9:00 pm. Ballet Folkloric Ballet of Merida accompanied by the Jaranera Orchestra.
- Tuesday in Merida: Musical Memories in Parque Santiago begins at 8:30. It attracts an older crowd who come out to dance to Big Band sounds played by the live orchestra.
- Thursdays in Merida: Yucatecan Serenade in Parque Santa Lucia at 9:00pm is one of the longest standing weekly events in the city having been going on for over 40 years. This is a must for things to do in Merida on a Thursday night.
On weekend nights a few of the main streets in the city are closed to traffic and the city becomes abuzz. Sidewalk cafes begin setting up in the streets. Stages are erected in the plazas and free concerts take place, both traditional festive song & dance as well as modern pop music. Street performers also come out to play. Street food vendors don’t hesitate to get into the mix too, providing plenty of opportunities for a midnight snack.
Salsa music begins blaring from a bar or two and people in the streets tend to spontaneously break into dance. Children run around the streets carelessly as there parents are somewhere nearby enjoying the atmosphere. Fiesta!
This is what is known as “En el Corazon de Merida” (In the Heart of Merida) which occurs every Friday and Saturday night.
Definitely stroll through the Plaza Grande. But also be sure to walk up Calle 60 which is closed to vehicular traffic on Friday and Saturday nights beginning at 8:00 pm for “En el Corazon de Merida.” Shops on Calle 60 also stay open late as sidewalk cafes set up tables to expand their presence into the closed street.
On a Saturday night, stroll up Calle 60 and hang a right towards the start of the Paseo. On Calle 46a, between Calles 47 & 49, you can find Noche Mexicana (Mexican Night) starting a 8:00pm, which boasts Mexican culture from throughout the country through traditional song and dance performances.
On Sundays in Merida, there’s the Bici-Ruta, of course (detailed below). But after you’re done peddling, be sure to take in the fun of Merida en Domingo, an all day event taking place in Plaza Grande. Food stalls and pop-up restaurants congregate in the plaza with more marqueseta stands than you can count. As night approaches bands begin to play and people start to dance. It’s a beautiful Sunday tradition in Merida.
Price: All are free
Location: In Merida Centro, exact location is specified for each weekly event.
3) Go for a Bike Ride on Sunday Morning: Bici-Ruta Merida
We sure do love a good bike-friendly city. Unfortunately, Mérida is not one. There are no bike lanes or paths. Instead you’ll find hectic narrow streets, and even skinnier sidewalks which are for pedestrians only.
But this all changes each Sunday morning when some of the Merida’s most beautiful and popular streets are shut down for La Bici Ruta (Bike Route) to allow cyclists a chance to ride around town. Much of the city comes out on Sunday morning to partake in a bike ride.
You don’t have to look far to find a bike rental. Just walk up the Paseo and you’ll see stands that are renting bikes. Check near Parque Santa Ana or by the Flag Monument, where bikes seemed to be in greater supply.
No need to worry about traffic or cars at all. They are all blocked from the several mile route that cuts right through the heart of the city and beyond. Cruise on up the beautiful wide streets of Paseo de Montejo which were modeled to be like the Champs-Élysées in Paris. Pedal on past the lovely town squares. Have a friendly race with a child. If you’re here on a Sunday morning, the Bici-Ruta is THE thing to do in in Mérida. Don’t miss it.
Price: Prices vary from 15-40 pesos per hour. 20 pesos per hour seemed to be the norm. Bring an ID of some sort for the bike rental person to hold as collateral.
Location: Paseo de Montejo and Merida Centro
2) Eating and Drinking Are Things to Do in Merida
Merida is home to some of the best food throughout the Yucatan and Central America. So be sure to try the local cuisine which has some huge regional differences compared to elsewhere in Mexico.
Keep an eye out for notable local dishes in Merida such as these:
- Cochinita pibil: Perhaps the most notable Yucatecan dish (and our favorite), this tender slow-cooked pork is marinated in sour-orange, achiote, and other spices. There’s also a chicken version, pollo pibil.
- Sopa de lima: A hearty soup loaded with shredded turkey in a deliciously tangy broth thanks to the lime juice.
- Poc-chuc: Grill pork strips with a spicy onion relish.
- Queso relleno: a hallowed out ball of Edam cheese is stuffed with ground pork and cooked until it becomes gooey before being smothered with gravy.
Explore the streets and find your own favorite taco cart. For an afternoon snack, don’t hesitate to get some elotes, corn smothered in all sorts of goodness such as mayonnaise, grated white cheese, picante sauce, and lime juice. And be sure to try Heather’s absolute favorite Yucatan snack, marquesitas. (Thank us later when you bite into this sweet and savory treat).
And if you want to learn how to make some of Merida’s famous dishes, what better idea than taking a cooking class. A local will shop with you at the market before taking back to their kitchen where they’ll impart endless Yucatecan culinary knowledge on to you, so that you can recreate these delicious meals when you return home.
So where should you go to eat? Check out our new post with full reviews and recommendations of the Best Restaurants in Merida Mexico You Need To Try!
As for drinking in Merida, there are lots of great cantinas and lively bars enjoy around town. Happy hour runs late here so you can often find great drink deals into the 8:00 hour and beyond. There are even some local craft beers made in Merida and around the Yucatan that you can only find in this area. Move over Corona!
You absolutely must visit some of Merida’s cantinas. Our top pick is La Negrita for its friendly service, live music, local crowd, complimentary botanas (snacks), and its local cerveza artisanal (craft beer) selection. Also try La Fundacion Mezcaleria if you want to dabble into the mezcal, a unique liquor to Mexico.
Not sure where to begin your cantina stroll? Try this fun Merida Cantina Walking Tour in which you’ll be ushered to three of Merida’s best cantinas as a guide explains all about cantina culture and tells entertaining stories along the way. The $39 USD price includes drinks and hearty local snacks at all three of the cantinas. Check availability here.
Price: Of course prices for drinks and restaurants will vary greatly across Merida depending on the type of restaurant.
Budget meals: 20-90 pesos, midrange: 100-250 pesos, higher-end 300 pesos+
Location: All over Merida
The #1 Thing to Do in Merida, Mexico: Get Out!
I don’t mean this in a bad way. Mérida is a great place to stay and explore for a few days. Yet perhaps one of the best things about Merida is its central location in the Yucatan which allow for dozens of fantastic day trips. It’s a perfect hub city with so much to do within a short hour or two jaunt.
Merida is surrounded by a countless number of ruins, cenotes, beaches, and small Mayan villages. That is why “Getting Out” tops our list of things to do in Merida. There’s always a new adventure to embark on.
- Visit nearby cenotes such as our favorite: the three cenotes of Cuzuma, visited by horse cart!
- Go see wild flamingos in Celestun or on the Rio Lagartos,
- Tour an old hacienda outside of town,
- Take this highly reviewed Chichen Itza Day Trip from Merida,
- Try this 5-star rated tour of Uxmal and Kabah, to see the Yucatan’s other famous ruins,
- Explore the lesser visited Mayapan Ruins or Dzibilchaltún,
- Journey to the nearby picturesque Mayan town of Izamal,
- Take a road-trip down the Ruta Puuc, or
- Simply have a nice lazy day at the beach in Progreso, only about 30 minutes away by car.
The possibilities are endless. Take a second-class bus out of the city for the day, rent a car to explore entirely on your own, or join one of the many organized tours in Merida you can find on offer. Mérida is the perfect home base to go out and explore the Yucatan during the day. Stay in Mérida, have some great adventures by day then return in the evening for some excellent food, relaxing, and nightlife. For us, that is truly what Mérida’s appeal is all about!
BIG UPDATE: We have just published a new post with all of our recommendations for the Best Day Trips from Merida. This new travel guide details the best ruins, beaches, cenotes, cultural cities, and museums within a two-hour drive from Merida.
Bonus: Where to Eat in Merida
We’ve detailed all of our recommendations for places to eat in Merida. To discover where to find the best tacos, cochinita pibil, and the best value restaurants in Merida, check out our:
Bonus: Where to Stay in Merida
If you’re looking for a place to stay in Merida, you’re in luck because there seems to be an abundance of great accommodation at bargain prices. Book early though, as some of the best places and prices do tend to get reserved in advance.
There are two main in Merida where most visitors stay:
- the Centro around Plaza Grande, or
- Plaza Fiesta Americana near the intersection of Colon and Paseo Montejo.
Of the two, we recommend staying close to Centro Merida within easy walking distance of Plaza Grande. But if you do opt to stay around Plaza Fiesta instead, you’re really not too far from all the action either. It’s just a 30 minute walk or a very quick cab/bus ride to Centro and Plaza Grande.
We’ve listed some of our Merida accommodation recommendations below. For ease of searching and to obtain pricing for your exact dates we’ve included links to HotelsCombined.com, which searches all the main booking sites (Expedia, Orbitz, Agoda, Travelocity, Booking.com, etc.) to find figure out which one gives you the best rate.
Hostels in Merida Are Best for Solo Travelers
If you’re a solo traveler in Merida, hostels are a great choice. But if you’re traveling as a couple, a group, or just want a private room, you’ll find much better value at the very reasonably priced hotels. Hostel beds in shared dorms start around $10 per night. Private rooms at hostels start closer to $30, making hotels a better option for those who want a private room unless you really want the hostel vibe.
The consistently top rated and recommended hostel in Merida is:
- Nomadas is centrally located, has a big pool, and free breakfast.
Great Midrange Hotels in Merida for Only $30 per Night!
There are some great 3-star+ properties that you find right in the heart of Merida Centro for $30-40, making for excellent value! A few that we’d recommend are:
- Hotel Dolores Alba Merida is difficult to beat in terms of value. The 3-star hotel with a nice outdoor pool has rooms starting at $29 which includes breakfast for two!
- Gran Hotel Merida is a beautiful 3-star hotel, spa, and restaurant on Calle 60 right next to Plaze Grande with rates starting at $32
- Hotel del Gobernador, a gorgeous historic 3.5-star property that is very centrally located and rates starting at $34.
- Kook Art 57 is the perfect option in Merida for a boutique hotel. Rooms here can be pricier but they often have sales with rates as low as $34.
For Those Who Want Luxury
If you’re looking for a little more luxury, consider staying about a kilometer North of the center of Merida. Near the intersection of Colon and Paseo Montejo is where you’ll find upscale hotels that still offer some pretty generous rates considering their elegance. Here you find the chains of Intercontinental Presidente Merida, the Hyatt Regency Merida, and the Fiesta Americana Merida.
For a truly decadent and unique experience, consider staying outside of Merida at one of the famous luxury haciendas. Even if you can’t afford the $200-per-night price tag, just take a look at some of these amazing properties to swoon and dream over:
Are You Packed And Ready To Experience the Best of Merida?
Before you depart on your trip to Merida, Mexico, here’s a few final preparations to consider:
- What to Pack for Your Trip To Merida? We recommend packing for Merida just as you would for any warm weather climate. Light, dry-wicking clothing is an absolute must! Also be sure to pack sunscreen and mosquito repellent. And if you’re taking a trip to the cenotes be sure to pack a mask so you can see those fascinating underwater worlds. To ensure you haven’t forgotten anything important, you can check out all of our specific suggestions in this post: Ultimate Packing Checklist, which is full of packing tips and recommendations.
- Have You Purchased Your Travel Insurance Yet? You never know what could go wrong during a trip to Mexico. Not to scare you but possibilities include getting sick, a flight gets canceled, hurricanes (June-Nov), lost baggage, your phone falls in the water, your camera gets lost or stolen, rental car damage, etc. Travel insurance will have you covered so that you don’t incur the high cost of these unfortunate possibilities. We never roam around Mexico without travel insurance. We use and have been happy with World Nomads, with what we’ve found to have the best price and coverage combination. Enter the dates for your trip to get a quick estimate.
- Have You Checked Out Our Other Travel Guides to Merida Mexico? Use our detailed guide to the Best Day Trips From Merida to plan out your adventures. The Best Restaurants in Merida will provides some great dining recomendations and also shows where to go to find the cheap eats in town!
Enjoy Your Visit and All the Things to Do in Merida Mexico!
We hope you’ve found this Merida Mexico travel guide to be helpful as you’re planning and it has given you a few ideas of things to do in Merida. If you have any questions, please drop us a line in the comments. Or if you have any recommendations for other things to do in Merida, please share your suggestion, as we’d love to explore the city further next time we’re in town! 🙂
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