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Imagine a city that once basked in riches, a city of underground pools, a city that's transformed itself into the cultural hotspot of the Yucatan Peninsula and redefined what it means to be authentic. You must be imagining Merida, Mexico.

Merida boasts a culture born out of its fantastical history, but the city wasn't always a Mexico must-see. Built on the Mayan city of T'ho, Merida was once home to conquistadors set on ridding the area of its cultural roots. The city walled itself in (literally) to protect residents from Mayan revolts and was able to mostly halt the demolition of its culture.

What's left today? A metropolis ready to embrace the buzz of the 21st century, thoroughly framed with historical architecture. Also known as the White City — buildings were constructed of limestone — Merida housed numerous millionaires at the launch of the 20th century when residents of the area began selling the henequen plant.

Walking down Merida's lavish memory lane is ideally accessible by simply strolling through Paseo de Montejo or Plaza Grande. A tree- and mansion-lined strip, Paseo de Montejo is a stretch of historical awe, inspiring a stop-and-smell-the-roses mindset. The city's main square, Plaza Grande, is bustling and bright with museums, markets and one of the Americas' oldest cathedrals, Merida Cathedral, just across the road.

Dotted with underground pools and Mayan ruins, Merida offers adventure that's off the beaten path. Notable tourist magnets include Chichen Itza and Uxmal; both are UNESCO World Heritage sites and are driving distance from Merida. These day-trip-worthy Mayan sites host gigantic structures that are said to be the most accurate representations of the ancient culture that are around today.

A refreshing change of scenery can be found by diving or going toe by toe into a cenote. These natural, underground pools are scattered around Yucatan, where turquoise waters are enclosed by cave walls. A popular dip near Merida lies in the X'Batun cenote, complete with snorkelling and a wide array of plant life, both above and below the water.

Merida has good taste — the city has embraced age-old Yucatecan cooking, rarely straying from tradition, with dishes such as cochinita pibil and panuchos to satisfy tourists and locals alike. Merida's spread of markets, dining rooms and cafés in the city's centre will definitely inspire restaurant hopping, but choosing where to go may just be the most difficult part of your trip.

Made for the guest who wants to feel like a local from the second they get off their WestJet flight, while still having the option to embrace their wild side, Merida welcomes all that live a little outside the lines. Embrace your authenticity in Merida — it's what the city is built on.

Airport served by: MID

Destination basics

Merida's hot and humid climate leaves plenty of room for sun and only a small space for anything but. The city's warmest months lie between March and September, sporting an average high of 33 C with temperatures often rising above 38 C. The average low usually hits 21 C.

Although rain season is prominent between June and October, guests of Merida need not fret — the rain will be warm due to the city's low elevation, so vacationers should grab a pina colada and go get caught in it. Please note that tropical storms are more likely to occur during the summer months.

Average monthly temperature and average monthly rainfall diagrams for Merida

Home to the second largest historic center in Mexico, Merida represents the best of both past and present. Architectural styles run from ancient Mayan to Spanish and French colonial. An impressive indigenous population intermingles with a growing expat community. Get swept up in the bustling city center or be charmed by the parks and churches in quieter Merida neighborhoods.

Central Merida revolves around Plaza Grande, a picturesque square filled with shady laurel trees and open space to stroll around. Plaza Grande regularly hosts local events like a weekly Sunday market, and most nights it comes alive with music and dance. The area surrounding the park is always busy in the best way. Cafes, ice cream parlors, bookstores, and other quaint shops line the central streets alongside mesmerizing architecture. Points of interests in central Merida include the Catedral San Ildefonso, MACAY Museum, and Governor’s Palace.

East of Centro is Mejorada, a largely residential neighborhood with a sizable expat community. The area experienced significant growth during the railroad era in the late-18th century and more recently experienced a cultural boom that resulted in lots of restoration and several great neighborhood restaurants. Savor traditional Mexican or something more international after checking out the Yucatan Railway Museum, located on the north side of Mejorada Park. When visiting the park itself, keep an eye out for local youth groups practicing dance in the tranquil setting.

The Santiago Church is one of the best-known religious structures in Merida, characterized by several buttresses and a tiered belfry. Near to the church is Parque de Santiago, a bustling attraction for both visitors and locals. The nearby Santos Degollado market draws crowds with its delicious and authentic food stalls, as well as its charming flower vendors. You’ll find a cultural center, cinema, and various shops in Santiago, making it a must-see among Merida neighborhoods.

San Juan
One of the oldest neighborhoods in Merida, San Juan houses a few centuries-old landmarks. Parque San Juan holds historical significance as the place where Vicente Maria Velasquez formed the Sanjuanistas, a group dedicated to protecting the interests of Yucatan natives from those of the Spanish crown. The yellow arch found at the southern end of the park is a colorful example of unique Merida architecture, and the fountain in the center of the park is the only one of its kind in the city. Also notable is the San Juan church, which dates back to the late-18th century.

Santa Lucia
This neighborhood takes its name from the Santa Lucia Church, which sits across from the third oldest park in Merida. Local events like music and dance performances are often held in Parque Santa Lucia, and artisan booths are set up most Sundays. This neighborhood is also home to some of the most coveted eateries in town, including the delectable Ki Xocolatl chocolate shop. Head to Santa Lucia for a traditional Yucatecan Serenade followed by something sweet.

Santa Ana
Santa Ana was created to house the indigenous population in Merida as the city continued to grow throughout the 18th century. Like many neighborhoods in Merida, Santa Ana has a notable church and square, built where Mayan structures once stood. Today, it is known as a burgeoning art district, home to galleries and museums. Also found in and around the Santa Ana square are shops and cafes that show off Yucatecan tastes, as well as a small market filled with local crafts.

San Cristobal
San Cristobal hosts an annual Virgin of Guadalupe celebration at the iconic San Cristobal church, making both the neighborhood and its star landmark important sites in Merida. One of the oldest in the city, this neighborhood is also one of the largest in the city’s historic center.

Years ago, Itzimna was a place where wealthy hacienda owners built lavish second homes. Many of these estates have been repurposed though others still stand as gorgeous and sprawling homes. An upscale area, the Itzimna neighborhood is home to some delicious dining options, and the Itzimna Church often hosts picturesque weddings. Surrounding the church is a shady square where you can find peace and soak up the lovely surroundings.

Garcia Gineres
Although the Garcia Gineres neighborhood is largely residential, it houses Parque de Las Americas, an important cultural attraction in Merida. Local events are often held in the park, celebrating everything from athletics to the arts. Though it has some nice examples of traditional architecture, the mostly residential neighborhood is filled with more modern homes. Follow along the Avenida Colon for a taste of what Garcia Gineres has to offer.

Merida has been a cultural beacon since its days as an eminent Maya settlement. Beloved for its many parks and museums, the city is brimming with a variety of attractions that exemplify the vibrant Yucatan province.

Museums & Galleries
Two standout art museums in Merida are the MACAY Museum and Museo de Arte Popular, which display modern and regional art respectively. History buffs have several exciting options, including the Anthropology and History Museum, Dzibilchaltun Museum, and Palacio Canton. Just beyond Parque de Santa Ana, the Anthropology and History Museum is housed in a pale yellow Spanish-colonial estate, making it an architectural landmark as well as a great place to learn about Mayan civilization. Merida also hosts several specialty museums. Head to the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya for ancient artifacts or Casa Museo Montes Molina, which showcases features of the historic mansion from which it was converted.

Much like museums, there are quite a few art galleries in Merida. Favorite among visitors is Nahualli Casa de los Artistas, both for the incredible art and the two featured artists who double as friendly hosts. Elsewhere, Galeria La Eskalera represents excellent regional artists and Soho Galleries puts on some of the best exhibits in town.

Nature & Wildlife
Get a close look at exotic wildlife at the Zoological Park of Centenario. The park includes an aviary, herpetarium, and primate and mammal enclosures, as well as recreation areas like an aquarium and playground. Parque Animaya also offers a wildlife adventure farther outside the city. Explore the park on foot or turn your afternoon into a safari with a truck-based tour. Home to a wide range of species, Parque Animaya is an enjoyable attraction for children and adults alike.

Those more interested in flora than fauna will love the Jardin Botanico Regional Roger Orellana, which is small but stunning. You’ll find approximately 700 native and over 100 exotic plant species at the tranquil botanic garden, which is committed to educating visitors on the unique plants found in the Yucatan province and beyond. Havens for local events and peaceful afternoons, neighborhood parks exemplify another significant part of the Merida landscape. Among the most popular are Parque Hidalgo and Parque de Santiago. Head to a city park for peace, quiet, and a taste of local life.

Cultural Events
The Olimpo Cultural Center is the best place in Merida to catch a free event, be it a theater performance, concert, or film showing. Olimpo is located right next to City Hall in central Merida, and it also holds a planetarium that offers an hour-long show about the solar system throughout the week.
Yucatecan cuisine is unlike any other in Mexico. Maya-influenced cooking uniquely features achiote, citrus, habaneros, and smoke, creating a tangy symphony that will keep you coming back for more.

Dining in central Merida is easy. You’ll find plenty of casual dining options around Plaza Grande. Most of the restaurants in the area specialize in traditional cuisine though the city center is also home to international fare. Enjoy live music and tasty margaritas in the courtyard at Amaro for a romantic evening or take your kids to Dulceria y Sorbeteria Colon for a frozen treat. There’s something for everyone in central Merida.

Mejorada has seen cultural growth in recent years, resulting in a significant increase of bars and restaurants in the neighborhood. Several restaurants can be found to the west of Parque de la Mejorada nearby the Museo de Arte Popular. Los Almendros is a favorite among visitors to the area.

Food stalls are a popular feature of the Parque de Santiago area. Turkey tacos and lime soup are two readily available Yucatecan staples, making this neighborhood an equally delicious and affordable lunch spot. You’ll also find several casual eateries here and a handful of places to stop for a cocktail. For a tasty sit-down meal, try Los Trompos about a block from the Parque de Santiago.

San Juan
A quiet neighborhood, San Juan has few bars and restaurants but a handful of cafes. Stop for coffee and a quick bite after exploring the historic Parque San Juan. You’ll appreciate authentic and affordable options when you visit this neighborhood.

Santa Lucia
Santa Lucia is packed with dining and drinking establishments, including a number of the most popular spots in Merida. La Chaya Maya is a must-eat in the neighborhood, offering traditional Yucatecan dishes and some of the freshest tortillas around. Apoala is another great example of Mexican cuisine though it focuses on Oaxaqueno specialities. Outdoor seating and delicious cocktails mean as much ambiance as flavor. If you’re craving something international, try Pita for Mediterranean or Pola for gelato.

Santa Ana
Cute coffee shops and tasty eateries are part of the Santa Ana charm. Eskondida and Manjar Blanco, which serve pizza and regional cuisine respectively, are just two of the many great spots surrounding Parque Santa Ana. A short walk up the iconic Paseo de Montejo is El Barrio, a cafe that impresses with a cozy atmosphere and unbeatable breakfast spread. For the best in drinks around Santa Ana, check out La Negrita Cantina, a quaint local dive with Mexican craft brews and appetizing snacks.

Two of the most beloved spots in Merida are located in Itzimna: Wayan’e Taco Stand and Kuuk. Though a small establishment, Wayan’e offers large portions and larger flavors, making its renowned tacos an easy choice for an unforgettable breakfast or lunch. On the opposite end of the culinary spectrum is Kuuk, a fine dining establishment focused on Mayan cuisine. Those interested in three course meals with wine pairings will be right at home in the beautiful colonial mansion that houses Kuuk.

Garcia Gineres
A charming neighborhood, Garcia Gineres plays host to a few equally charming cafes. Near to Parque de las Americas are several low-key cafes, many of which offer outdoor seating. On the outskirts of the neighborhood, you’ll also find a few sit-down restaurants and lots of fast food options.


State: Yucatan

Country: Mexico

Merida by the Numbers
Population: 970,377
Elevation: 10 meters / 30 feet
Average Annual Precipitation: 98 centimeters / 39 inches
Average January Temperature: 23°C / 74°F
Average July Temperature: 28°C / 83°F

Quick Facts
Electricity: 110 volts, 60 cycles, AC

Time Zone: UTC-6; Central Standard Time (CST)

Country Dialing Code: 52

Area Code: 999

Did You Know?
Catedral San Ildefonso in Plaza Grande, established in the late-15th century, is the oldest cathedral in the continental Americas.

Merida is located in the northern part of the Yucatan Peninsula in the Yucatan province of Mexico. It is 1,007 kilometers (626 miles) east of Mexico City and 303 kilometers (188 miles) west of Cancun.

Merida was built on a Maya city called T’ho, which for many years served as the cultural center of the ancient civilization. Spanish colonist Francisco de Montejo founded Merida in 1542, tearing down the pyramids erected by the Maya and repurposing their stones for the now-famous Catedral de San Ildefonso.

Merida continued to develop over the next few centuries. In the late-19th century, the surrounding region found great success producing henequen, an agave species native to parts of Mexico. Prosperity in Merida was in full swing by the early-20th century, during which time local hacienda owners experienced significant wealth. It is even said that Merida housed the highest concentration of millionaires in the world around the turn of the century. Examples of these palatial estates can still be found in the historic city center, particularly along Paseo de Montejo.

Merida is now a shining example of both Maya culture and European colonialism. It has maintained its significance as a cultural hub, these days acting as the social and financial capital of the Yucatan Peninsula. In recent history, Merida has hosted several international events like the FITA Archery World Cup Finals and Physics Olympiad. It is also popular among tourists, who flock to the “White City” for its fascinating history and picturesque scenery.

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