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12 Very Best Things To Do In Merida, Mexico – Hand Luggage Only


Merida is an incredible city in Mexico to visit. Nestled on the Yucatan Peninsular, around 3-4 hours west of Cancun, Merida is gorgeous, with heaps of restaurants, historic buildings and stunning neighbourhoods to visit. Honestly, there are heaps of the best things to do in Merida that will fill any trip to the city.

However, with so much choice, comes some tough decisions! After all, you want to make the most out of your visit to Merida and not waste any time once you’ve arrived.

We absolutely loved our time in Merida and we’d go back in a heartbeat. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that it’s my favourite city in all of Mexico.

So, to help you get the most out of your trip, I’m sharing the top things to do in Merida when you visit.

1.) Cathedral of Mérida

Situated right within the heart of the historic centre, the Cathedral of Mérida is one spot you don’t want to miss whilst strolling the city. Not only is it totally gorgeous, but it also has a history that dates back to the 1500s. This, alone, makes the Cathedral of Mérida one of the oldest cathedrals on the continent.

Now, the cathedral is incredible to visit, and you can head inside for free to explore the cathedral. Now, like lots of sites in modern-day Mexico, cathedrals are often trampled over and attempted to suppress local Mayan culture by the Spanish.

Their building was often an attempt to ‘convert’ locals to Catholicism; regularly at the expense of local culture and religious beliefs. In fact, the cathedral was even built using the stones from the Maya Temple that once stood in its place.

That all being said, the site is one spot you can’t miss in Merida, especially as it’s stood for almost 500 years.

Best Things To Do In Merida Mexico Maya Ballgame Cathedral Show

Oh, and don’t forget to head outside the cathedral every Saturday at 8 pm every week.

The roads around the plaza are closed and you’ll get to witness a reenactment of the Maya Ballgame that was once integral to Maya culture. It’s all for free, so expect crowds and arrive about 25 minutes early if you want to be at the front.

Read more: Best things to do in Mexico City

2.) Plaza Grande

If you’re already at Merida Cathedral, you will easily stop by Plaza Grande (that’s right outside). Now, the plaza itself is one of the busiest areas of Merida city centre, which makes it a great place to explore on foot.

In fact, the wider historic centre of Merida is perfect to explore on foot. Not only are there heaps of restaurants, cafes and bars, but the city of Merida is also pretty safe.

Best Things To Do In Merida Mexico Streets

It’s one of the safest cities in Mexico to visit. This means you don’t need a guide when strolling the city and you can easily pinpoint places on Google Maps to walk between.

Once here, make sure to stroll down Pasaje de La Revolución and head into the Palacio de Gobierno del Estado de Yucatán. The latter has been in the plaza since the 1800s and there are some incredible murals to see inside.

Read more: Best things to do in Mexico City

3.) Merida Hotels

For us, a good hotel can make a trip to a new city; and we stayed in some gems in Merida that we totally loved.

Casa Olivia is a small ‘casa’ of about 4 rooms. It’s totally quaint and the whole property is totally beautiful and the team are so welcoming. Not only that, they have the most gorgeous pool in the centre of the Casa. It’s like an oasis in the heart of Merida and we loved it.

Now, Casa Olivia is a little on the pricier side when it comes to hotels in Merida; but it was well worth it for the experience.

Another gem in the city is Decu Merida. It’s another smaller style hotel (with less than 10 rooms) which is totally beautiful. Just like Casa Olivia, it has its own courtyard and outdoor pool that really feels like a secret garden in the city.

Now, within Decu Merida, you’ll get to choose rooms in the historic ‘casa’ part of the hotel, or the newer part of the hotel. Both are gorgeous, and your choice really does come down to the kind of style you like.

Best Things To Do In Merida Mexico Decu Downtown Hotel Rooms

Oh, and don’t forget, they have their own little speakeasy that’s hidden behind the bookshelves.

4.) Museo Casa Montejo

Just on the fringes of Plaza Grande, Museo Casa Montejo is a museum that still houses some of the furniture and pieces dating back from the 1500s.

It’s easily one of the best things to do in Merida to get a feel of the Spanish influence in the city. Plus, it’s free to wander around and the rooms are just gorgeous.

Visits take around 25 minutes and they even have art exhibits that change seasonally. Heads up, there’s not much information in English, so make sure to brush up on your Spanish if you want to learn more about each of the exhibits whilst you’re there.

Read more: Best things to do in Mexico City

5.) Restaurants in Merida

Merida is such a foodie city. In fact, I’d go as far as saying it’s one of my favourite cities in all of Mexico for its restaurants. It’s got that perfect mix of regional cuisine, but also really cool places that are all within walking distance around the city centre.

Now, for live music and hearty Mexican food, head over to La Nagrita Cantina. It’s a lively spot that’s well-known in Merida. We absolutely loved it here and the cocktails are really good.

Just be sure to arrive early in the evening if you want to be sat near the stage for live music. La Nagrita Cantina fills up really quick.

Alternatively, head on over to Holoch which has inside and outside dining options that are so good. We loved this spot for dinner and their frijol con puerco (Yucatan Style Black Beans with Pork) is so tasty.

Though, you should reserve a table if you’re going for dinner. We struggled to get a seat on our first visit.

If you want a cool vibe for dinner and drinks, then head over to Vana. This was one of our favourite places in Merida and was filled with locals and visitors alike.

Best Things To Do In Merida Mexico VANA Bar Restaurant

Staying longer in Merida? Then, don’t forget to visit Dzalbay (for its live music), Café Riqueza (for its coffee) and Bird for drinks (that’s near Decu Merida).

6.) Chichen Itza

Around a two-hour drive from Merida, Chichen Itza is a day trip you have to take when visiting Merida. You see, it’s one of the world’s most important Maya sites.

Once here, you’ll get to walk around the Temple of Kukulcán (El Castillo) which is iconic. Like lots of Maya sites, you won’t be able to climb the pyramids – which I love. After all, we want to preserve them for as long as possible.

Oh, and don’t forget that you’ll get to walk through the ball courts that were played thousands of years ago.

Now, to make things easier, book this guided tour of Chichen Itza. Not only will you get a qualified guide to take you around Chichen Itza, but you’ll also get picked up from the centre of Merida. This makes it all so easy.

Just be sure to book your tickets before arriving in Merida. Spaces can sell out fast at peak times.

Read more: Best things to do in Tulum

7.) Uxmal

Best Things To Do In Merida Mexico Uxmal Maya Site

Another one of Mexico’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Uxmal is around 60 miles from the centre of Merida.

Long ago, Uxmal was a vibrant trading city for the Maya people and houses so many buildings that you can still see to this day. Just like Chichen Itza, you can book this day trip from Merida which will take you all around Uxmal.

Best Things To Do In Merida Mexico Uxmal Maya Site Tour From Merida Pyramid

Once here, be sure to stroll around the Pyramid of the Magician, stroll through the Governor’s Palace and visit the Quadrangle. It’s so impressive to see and one of the best things to do in Merida if you want to explore the region’s Mayan history.

Now, a visit to Uxmal (once you’ve arrived) will take around 2-4 hours, so plan ahead, especially on very hot days.

You see, there is very little in terms of shade and it can get very hot. Take cold water around on your walk and make sure to slap on that sunscreen.

Read more: Best things to do in Tulum

8.) Hacienda Mucuyché Cenote

Best Things To Do In Cancun Mexico Cenote Mucuyche Mexico

Now, for a totally unique cenote in Mexico, head to Hacienda Mucuyché. It’s not too far from Uxmal (about 40 minutes away) and well worth combining with a trip there.

Now, what makes this cenote so special is that it’s also at the site of a historic hacienda that you can tour before hopping into the water. Though, just a heads up, you will need to book this Hacienda Mucuyché guided tour before arriving.

This does need to be arranged before turning up as some tours are all in Spanish or all in English.

After touring the grounds of Hacienda Mucuyché, you’ll get to jump into the cenotes itself. The team supply mandatory life jackets and lifeguards that follow your progress whilst there. We loved that, as we’ve been to some cenotes where there is very little in terms of safety precautions.

Read more: Best things to do in Tulum

9.) Mayan World Museum of Mérida

Best Things To Do In Merida Mexico Yucatán's Maya Museum at Merida

On the outskirts of Merida is the Mayan World Museum, a hub that shines a light on Maya culture and history that is well worth a visit.

In fact, I’d go as far as saying that it’s one of the best things to do in Merida to learn more about Maya history and the effects of Spanish colonialism.

Now, you do pay a small fee to enter (around $10 USD) and you’ll likely spend around 90 minutes looking around and learning the history of the Maya people.

Read more: Best things to do in Tulum

10.) Palacio de la Música

Best Things To Do In Merida Mexico Palacio de la Música

Around a 5-minute walk from Plaza Grande, Palacio de la Música is well worth visiting if you want to learn more about Mexican music and the history of music from the wider Yucatan Peninsular.

Now, the museum itself is really good but I would say that it can feel a little less exciting if you’re not really interested in musical history. If that’s you, maybe give this spot a miss when visiting Merida.

Read more: Best things to do in and around Cancun

11.) Paseo de Montejo

Best Things To Do In Merida Mexico Quinta Montes Molina Av. Paseo Montejo

Probably one of Merida’s most famous streets, Paseo de Montejo is as grand as it is long. In fact, it’s got some of the grandest buildings in all of Merida and is well worth taking a stroll down the avenue whilst visiting Merida.

Best Things To Do In Merida Mexico Homeland monument Paseo de Montejo

Once here, start off at the Monument to the Fatherland and head south down Paseo de Montejo. As you stroll, you’ll get to stop by Casas Gemelas, the museums like Quinta Montes Molina and Palacio Cantón.

In some cases, you can head inside the houses which are now museums. Plus, others are still accessible with guided tours. Just make sure to give yourselves around 3 hours to stroll the avenue and stop by some of the impressive mansions.

Best Things To Do In Merida Mexico Parroquia Santa Ana

Afterwards, stroll on over to Parroquia Santa Ana, which is a stunning Catholic Church that’s about a 10-minute walk from Paseo de Montejo itself. Along the way, you’ll be able to stop off at El Barrio, an unfussy lunch spot, that serves up some tasty Chilaquiles and horchata.

Read more: Best things to do in and around Cancun

12.) Celestun

Best Things To Do In Merida Mexico Celestun Beach

Fancy a trip to the coastline? Then book this tour to Celestun to explore the beautiful shores of the Yucatan Peninsular.

Once here, you’ll get to explore the wider Ria Celestún Biosphere Reserve and even spot some of the resident pink flamingos.

Not only that, you’ll get to board a boat and tour the reserve to get up close and personal with the flamingos. It’s one of the best things to do in Merida for a day trip, especially as it’s one of the most important areas for flamingoes north of the equator.

Read more: Best things to do in and around Cancun

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