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Ready to discover the best things to do in Mérida, Mexico? As the capital of Mexico’s Yucatán State, the vibrant cultural city is a major travel hotspot.

I had seen photos of Mérida years ago where the colorful pastel streets caught my attention. Little did I know that this city with Mayan and colonial heritage is one of the top places to visit right now. After exploring the city, I can tell you that it’s with good reason that travelers are flocking here.

You have this wonderful blend of history that meets creativity. You’ll walk through century-old streets that tuck away eye-catching boutiques, intimate cafes and courtyards, and a long list of restaurants you don’t want to miss.

What makes Mérida even more unique is that the location is one of the best in Yucatán. You’re only an hour or so away from the beach, close to cenotes, ancient Mayan ruins, and “Pueblos Magicos.” So for those looking to experience this special region of Mexico, Mérida is really the best place to stay.

I dove deep into Mérida, experiencing its markets by morning and its watering holes by night. I tried many cafes, ate my weight in cochinita pibil, and found myself inspired by the architecture. This guide is all of those things and more — your guidebook to exploring Mérida. Read on to find the best things to do in Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico.

Short on Time? Here Are My Top Picks for the Best Hotels and Things to Do in Mérida:

Hotels

  1. CIGNO Hotel, for the best adults-only hotel
  2. Kuka y Naranja, for the best design-for-dollar hotel
  3. Casa Olivia, for the best romantic hotel
  4. Decu Downtown, for the best design hotel
  5. NH Collection Mérida, for the best budget hotel
  6. Casa Pantera, for the best vacation rental

Mérida has a vibrant selection of boutique hotels, design-worthy vacation rentals, and haciendas. I’ve rounded up a full list of my favorite hotels in Mérida.

Things to Do

  1. Street Food and Market Tour
  2. Tour to Uxmal, Cenote & Kabah
  3. Tour to Chichen Itza, Private Cenote and Izamal

The Ultimate Guide to Mérida, Yucatan, Mexico


What to Know About Visiting Mérida, Mexico

As the capital of the Mexican state of Yucatán, Mérida is a culturally vibrant city. Its central location near the Gulf of Mexico on the Yucatán Peninsula makes it a gateway to the best things to do in the region.

The Yucatán capital blends both colonial and Mayan history in its architecture, food, and atmosphere. You’ll fall in love with the colorful streets that house some of the most incredible museums and local gems.

I would recommend spending at least 4-5 days in Mérida for time to do a day trip or two and see the city.

How to Get to Mérida, Yucatan?

The best way to get to Mérida is by flying into Mérida International Airport (code: MID). Located just a 15-minute drive outside of downtown, you can take easily transfer by car into town.

Mérida Airport services direct flights from airports like Houston International Airport (DFW most common) and Miami International Airport. If not, don’t hesitate to take a connection through airports like Mexico City and Guadalajara.

Getting into the city is most easily done by prepaying for a taxi on arrival (just go stand in the taxi line inside the arrival terminal once you clear customs and pick up baggage) or by pre-booking a transfer. I would recommend having a transfer arranged for arrival for ease.

The Best Mérida Airport Transfer Options:

What is the Best Time of Year to Visit Mérida, Yucatán?

The best time of year to visit Mérida for the coolest temperature is mid-October to March. Mérida runs generally hot year-round as it is inland. You’ll find heavy rains, heat, and humidity during the months of June to November, but in exchange much lower rates on accommodations.

How Do I Get Around Mérida?

If you’re centrally based like in Centro, you can reach most sights and places on foot. Uber is widely available in Mérida. You will pay nearly double to triple if you hop into a local taxi, which I learned the hard way. Be sure to have data access and use Uber to get around Mérida.

Do I Need a Rental Car in Mérida?

If you plan to do any day trips from Mérida (which you should!), you will absolutely need to rent a car. You could consider hopping on a private or group tour (a few are recommended below) which would be your alternative option to renting.

Renting a car in Mexico is very easy and often very affordable. I rented a car while in Mérida to go to Izamal for two nights. My number one tip is to rent a car and pre-purchase full insurance with Discover Cars. Mexico requires local, comprehensive insurance (i.e. your credit card coverage won’t cut it, trust me I’ve tried). Discover Cars makes it easy to find rentals at a cheap rate with reputable companies like Hertz and Avis and be able to select comprehensive insurance.

Is Mérida, Yucatán safe?

Ranked as the safest city in Mexico, one could generally say Mérida is safe for the majority of travelers. Should you practice common sense when traveling? Absolutely. Consider where you go, when, and whether or not it’s best to be solo or with a group when traveling anywhere in the world.

Currency, Language, and Health

The local currency is Mexican pesos, which you could pull out prior to arrival or on arrival at a local ATM. You will need cash for smaller stores, food stalls, and markets. Credit cards are widely accepted at large institutions.

The local language is Spanish, and I always recommend having a handful of useful, everyday phrases to refer to if need be.

Travel Tip: It is not safe to drink tap water in Mérida. Stick only to bottled water and reliable sources.


Where to Stay in Mérida, Mexico

For a first-time trip, any location near Centro (Downtown Mérida) and near Paseo Montejo will be perfect as a central option. There are several barrios like Barrio de Santiago and Parque Santa Ana which are equally amazing depending on what you prefer.

CIGNO Hotel (Adults-Only)

I stayed at CIGNO Hotel for this trip, which had incredible amenities, food, and service. The photos didn’t do it justice, it looked and felt much better in person. The location was just out of Centro but close enough to walk. I did a lot of research, and these are my favorite finds in Mérida. Book the best rates here.

Other Hotels in Mérida to Consider

Mérida has a vibrant selection of boutique hotels, design-worthy vacation rentals, and haciendas. Check out my full list of my favorite hotels in Mérida for more.


Where to Eat in Mérida

You’ll find a vibrant range of dining options in Mérida from food stalls to formal dining. During the off-season, you can almost walk into any restaurant without a reservation, but come the high season, you do need to reserve.

SALÓN GALLOS

The Ultimate Guide to Mérida, Mexico

SALÓN GALLOS was the meal I talked about most. Set inside an old mill, this multi-functional space is insanely beautiful and inspiring. There is a restaurant, wine bar, small club, art room, cinema, and lounge all centered around an inner courtyard. I was there on a Monday so just dinner was open, and the food was amazingly good. Meditteranean-inspired take on Yucatán ingredients. If I was there on a weekend, I’d spend the entire night here.

Address: C. 63 459-B, Parque de la Mejorada, Centro, 97000 Mérida, Yuc., Mexico

San Judas Tadeo Antojitos

San Judas Tadeo Antojitos was an absolute find that came recommended by a local for cochinita pibil tacos. This was one of my favorite “food stall” meals as one could say. Super simple and just amazingly delicious.

Address: Zona Paseo Montejo, Centro, 97000 Mérida, Yucatan, Mexico

Mercado 60

Mercado 60 is one of the most unique Mérida dining experiences. Set up like a market, you have several vendors here with multiple food options to choose from! They often have DJs and music going, so come the weekends it’s quite the place to grab a casual bite and drinks. My favorite food here was the blue corn empanadas!

Address: C. 60 461, Parque Santa Lucia, Centro, 97000 Mérida, Yuc., Mexico

SOCO Mérida

SOCO Mérida totally lived up to the hype for the best pastries in town, and great coffee. I would recommend going by here first for a pastry, or consider trying their breakfast menu.

Address: C. 51 492C, Parque Santa Lucia, Centro, 97000 Mérida, Yuc., Mexico

Ramiro Cocina

Wonderfully elevated yet traditional take on Mexican food. It’s small plates with local and seasonal ingredients, and don’t forget to order something from their cocktail menu!

Address: Calle 41 x 58 y 60, P.º de Montejo 386 D, Centro, 97000 Mérida, Yuc., Mexico

Manjar Blanco

An institution for dining in Mérida, Manjar Blanco came recommended. The breakfast was traditional, I think it is more of a lunch spot. Do ask to eat out on the terrace as it’s very idyllic.

Address: Calle 47 496, entre 58 y 60, Zona Paseo Montejo, Centro, 97000 Mérida, Yuc., Mexico

The Restaurant at CIGNO Hotel

I had brunch one day at CIGNO Hotel and it was my favorite chilaquiles of the trip. The restaurant is open to the public, just call ahead. I’d come in for brunch here or even dinner.

Address: C. 66 593, Barrio de la Ermita, 97000 Mérida, Yuc., Mexico

Coffee Shops in Mérida

Everywhere you turn in Mérida there is a hip and very charming coffee shop. My favorites from the trip were:

Other Restaurants on My List

While I can’t eat everywhere, I always have an ongoing list of places. Those included:


Things to Do in Mérida

Peruse the Endless Museums

The Ultimate Guide to Mérida, Mexico

What stroke me about Mérida was just how many museums there were to experience. If you’re planning a trip, one tip that I can give is to know that Mondays, most museums are closed, so be sure to keep this in mind.

Some of the top museums to consider visiting are Museo Casa de Montejo and Gran Museo del Mundo Maya (Mayan World Museum of Mérida). The Mayan World Museum of Mérida is one of the best options for learning about Mayan history and seeing artifacts. It’s only $150 pesos ($8 USD) to enter.

You’ll likely walk by Museo Casa de Montejo and be in awe of the outside. The details are stunning, but what is inside is a house that displays colonial art and has rotating exhibits. This is one of the only free museums in Mérida.

For a comprehensive list of museums to visit, check out this guide to the best museums in Mérida.

Shop Local Designers

Mérida is home to a vibrant art and design community, many local to Yucatán. Most of the time, you’ll be walking and find these little boutiques hidden off the streets. So many are worth stopping into, my favorite shops that I found on this trip were:

Stroll Centro and Paseo Montejo

If you wake up early one morning, head to the iconic Paseo Montejo for a scenic walk down the lush, grand boulevard. The street cuts through the center of town, where historic, posh mansions line the street.

Centro has charming pockets to explore, so one of the best ways to explore is just simply walking through town. The pastel and bright-colored walls were amazing to soak in before the city got busy.

Experience the Local Markets

One morning in Mérida I made my way to the local produce and goods market of Mercado Lucas De Galvéz and Mercado San Benito. These two markets are side by side, so you can easily meander through both.

There are hundreds of stalls selling everything from vegetables to leather goods — it’s an incredibly local experience. Also, I’ll note, this was one of my favorite authentic markets I have been to in my travels.

In hindsight, I really wish I had booked a tour with a local guide as I could have spent an hour or two getting to understand more about these markets. I found a few highly-rated food and market tours that I would consider. The first is this Street Food and Market Tour, the second is this Walking Food Tour, and this Market Tasting Tour.

Visit Mérida’s Historical and Iconic Sites

You’ll likely walk right by these sites if you go for a walk through Centro. Some to keep an eye out for or go out of your way:

  • Plaza Grande: This is the main town square for Mérida, and has a bustling area to sit down and see the cathedral.
  • Parque Santa Ana: A quieter park during the week with open-air food stalls and often festivals take place here.
  • Catedral de Mérida: Don’t hesitate to go in and see this historic cathedral, well worth a look.
  • Parque Santa Lucia: A wonderful park downtown where restaurants line around.
  • Palacio del Gobierno: Pop in to see this beautiful building to see stunning murals by artist Fernando Castro Pacheco.
  • El Monumento a la Patria: Arguably the most recognizable monument in Mérida, this is at the end of Paseo Montejo. The intricate details are amazing and honor the Mayan history.

Best Day Trips From Mérida

I cannot recommend renting a car more to head out on a day trip from Mérida. You can easily self-drive to any of the below destinations. Now if you’re limited on time, I am also listing out several highly-rated tours that you could consider if you don’t rent a car.

Uxmal Mayan Ruins

The Ultimate Guide to Mérida, Mexico

An often overlooked UNESCO World Heritage Site nearby is the Uxmal Pyramid ruins. The historic Mayan site in the Puuc area has the famous Pyramid of The Magician (El Adivino) and the Great Pyramid. The pyramids have impressive esthetic carvings that the Mayans were known for.

The Uxmal Pyramids are also a part of the Puuc Route which has five archaeological sites along the 36-mile drive, which is worth considering seeing as it’s more of a hidden gem. Both of these experiences can easily be seen if you have a rental car or consider a tour below.

The Best Uxmal Tours from Merida:

Izamal, The Yellow City

Declared a pueblos magicos (magic towns) by Mexico, Izamal is one of the best nearby towns to visit from Mérida. Known as the yellow city, I ended up booking just two nights to get to experience this and nearby things to do. You can easily visit for the day since it’s only about 1.5 hours from Mérida.

The town itself is rather small but the stunning yellow-painted streets are worth the trek. In Izamal, you don’t want to miss a visit to the Convent of San Antonio de Padua right in front of the town’s Zocalo or main square.

One other big draw to Izamal is its very famous restaurant named Kinich. This was the best meal of the entire trip (truly) and I would make the drive for this restaurant alone. It serves traditional Yucatan food but is incredibly elevated.

Afterward, go for a stroll and take a look at Zona Arqueologica de Izamal and Kinich Kakmo Pyramid which are just outside of the center of town. If you don’t have a car, consider these tours to visit:

The Best Tours to Izamal from Mérida:

Dip in One of the Many Cenotes

Cenotes in the Yucatán are a one-of-a-kind experience. If you haven’t taken a dip in the cool, ancient waters of these sinkholes, I’d recommend carving out time to do so. There are hundreds of cenotes in the area, depending on how far you want to drive and where you want to go.

If I were planning an excursion, I’d consider doing an archeological site and combining it with a cenote afterward (there’s always one nearby!). Some of the best cenotes near Mérida are the famous Cenotes Santa Barbara (1 hr away).

Other popular cenotes are Ik Kil Cenotes near Chichen Itza (1.5 hr away) and Xcajum Cenote which I did on this trip as a day trip from Izamal.

Best Cenote Tour Options from Mérida:

Visit the Famous Chichen Itza

While many people think to visit Chichen Itza from the Cancun to Tulum side of the peninsula, it’s actually very easy to get to from Mérida. It takes around 1.5-1.45 to get there by car, and I highly recommend getting there as close to open as possible. You’ll beat both the crowds and the heat.

Chichen Itza is now one of the new Seven Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Largely declared the most important Mayan archeological sites in the world, I’d recommend making the visit if you haven’t been. You’ll enter, walk the grounds, and soak in the historic site.

If you’re making your way to Chichen Itza, consider combining it with a stop at one of the cenotes. Nearby is the famous Ik Kil or consider Xcajum as well. Most tours combine a cenote with Chichen Itza as it’s a great way to refresh from the heat.

Best Chichen Itza Tours with a Cenote from Mérida:

Celestun Biosphere Reserve (With Flamingos)

While I didn’t have time on this trip to make the journey to Celestun, I had bookmarked this incredible nature reserve not far from Mérida. It’s mostly known for its wild flock of flamingos and stunning natural landscape.

The Ria Celetun Biosphere Reserve is in the small town of Celestun, and during the months of November to February, there are thousands of flamingos. To see them you can kayak through the mangroves on a tour.

Best Celestun Biosphere Tours from Mérida:

Looking to explore more of Mexico?

See why Sayulita is a fun-filled adventure
Explore Mexico’s most beautiful city: San Miguel de Allende
Dive deep into Mexico City’s design and food scene


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PS — Are You Booking a Trip Soon? Use My Booking Checklist!

These are the sites I use most to book my own trips. Using the links below is a great way to support Bon Traveler’s travel journalism at no extra cost to you. If you need help organizing your itinerary, get my free travel itinerary template here.

1. Book Your Flights

Use Skyscanner to find the best flights. It searches 100s of airlines and websites across the globe to ensure you’re not missing out on any route options or deals.

2. Book Your Accommodations

Use Booking.com for hotels and guest houses. They have the biggest inventory and consistently offer the best rates.

3. Book Your Tours & Experiences

Use Viator or Get Your Guide to find the best tours and experiences. They are my favorite tour search engines. I always check both as their inventory varies depending on the destination.

4. Book Your Car

Use Discover Cars or Rentalcars.com to find the best car rental deals. I recommend comparing rental agency reviews on Google to ensure you are booking with the best company in that destination, as the reviews are often more accurate than the car rental search engines.

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I never leave the country without travel insurance. It provides comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong (ie. illness, injury, theft, and cancelations, etc.). I use it frequently for my travels to stay protected.

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Xx,
Jessica

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