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  • Writer's pictureKatrina Julia

Top 10 Things to Do in Merida, Mexico

Merida is a vibrant and culturally rich city located in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.

Merida is known for its Mayan influence, colonial heritage, cultural hub, culinary excellence, and proximity top destinations in Mexico including Playa Del Carmen, Tulum, Valladolid, Chichen Itza: Wonder of the World, and Bacalar, Mexico, known as the Maldives of Mexico.

With my travel to 7 continents now 35+ countries, my spirit and soul called me to spend time in Merida with its accessibility of exploring the colorful, colonial, and cultural city in Mexico with walking and biking, closeness to the best Cenotes in Mexico, and to other cities in Mexico like Valladolid, Mexico. I began to desire visiting Merida, Mexico back in 2021.

During my full-time travels in Merida, Mexico my Airbnbs included Casa Artemis in the San Sebastian neighborhood for 1.5 weeks. I absolutely adored my stay in every way.

It is time to put Merida, Mexico on your bucket list.

Top 10 Things to Do Merida, Mexico
Top 10 Things to Do Merida, Mexico

Whether you will spend one day in Merida, Mexico or 1.5 weeks like I did, you will love it.

Merida, Mexico Highlights

Merida, Mexico, is historically and culturally known for several aspects:

Mayan Influence

Located in the heart of the Yucatan Peninsula, Merida is surrounded by ancient Mayan ruins and archaeological sites, including Uxmal and Chichen Itza. The Mayan influence is prevalent in the region's cuisine, traditions, and cultural heritage.

Colonial Heritage

Merida boasts a rich colonial history, characterized by its well-preserved Spanish architecture and charming streets. The city's historic center is a testament to its colonial past, with elegant buildings and a central square, the Plaza Grande, where cultural events and gatherings take place.

Cultural Hub

The city is a cultural hub known for its vibrant arts scene, including music, dance, and visual arts. It hosts numerous festivals and events throughout the year, celebrating its cultural diversity and heritage. Visit the Merida Government or Conexstur website for up to date information.

Culinary Excellence

Merida is famous for its unique culinary offerings, which blend Maya, Spanish, and Lebanese influences. Traditional dishes such as relleno negro and Sikil Pak are popular, and the city is home to various markets and food vendors offering a taste of authentic Yucatecan cuisine. The city and restaurants offer a number of vegan options.

Proximity to Tourist Destinations

Merida serves as a strategic base for exploring nearby tourist destinations.

  • Playa del Carmen: Located about 300 kilometers (186 miles) east of Merida, Playa del Carmen is a popular beach destination on the Caribbean coast. I spent 2+ months in Playa in 2023.

  • Valladolid: About 160 kilometers (99 miles) east of Merida, Valladolid is known for its colonial architecture and proximity to cenotes and archaeological sites. Merida and Valladolid remind me of each other a lot.

  • Tulum: Situated around 290 kilometers (180 miles) east of Merida, Tulum is renowned for its stunning beaches and Mayan ruins overlooking the sea.

  • Bacalar: Located approximately 350 kilometers (217 miles) southeast of Merida, Bacalar is famous for its breathtaking "Lagoon of Seven Colors."

In summary, Merida, Mexico, is historically and culturally known for its colonial heritage, Mayan influence, cultural vibrancy, and culinary excellence.

Merida, Mexico Plaza Grande
Merida, Mexico Plaza Grande

Merida, Mexico Names

Merida, Mexico, is a city that has earned several noteworthy nicknames throughout its history, each reflecting different facets of its character and heritage:

The White City (La Ciudad Blanca)

This is perhaps the most iconic nickname for Merida. It derives from the city's stunning colonial architecture, predominantly constructed using white limestone. The gleaming facades of the buildings in the historic center give the city its distinctive and elegant appearance. The nickname "White City" is a nod to this architectural splendor, which harks back to the colonial era.

Merida, often referred to as the "White City" due to its white limestone buildings, presents a complex perspective when it comes to issues of racism and its nickname.

Historically, Merida has been associated with a socioeconomic divide and racial hierarchy that dates back to the colonial era. During Spanish colonization, European settlers established their dominance over the indigenous Maya population, which left a lasting impact on the region's social structure. The term "White City" can be seen as a reference to the predominantly European heritage of the city's population and its colonial past.

While the city has made significant strides towards greater inclusivity and social equality over the years, it's essential to acknowledge that racism and inequality persist in various forms, as they do in many parts of the world. Indigenous communities in the Yucatan Peninsula, as well as marginalized groups, still face discrimination and economic disparities.

However, Merida also represents a city that is actively working to address these issues. Many local organizations and activists are dedicated to promoting awareness and understanding of racial and ethnic diversity. Cultural festivals and events often highlight the rich heritage of the Maya people and other indigenous groups, fostering a sense of pride and unity.

In recent years, there has been a growing emphasis on celebrating Merida's multicultural identity, recognizing the contributions of all its residents to the city's unique cultural tapestry. The term "White City" is being increasingly viewed as a historical reference rather than an assertion of racial superiority.

In conclusion, Merida, Mexico, like many places with a complex history, grapples with issues related to racism and inequality. While the city's nickname may evoke its colonial past, it also serves as a reminder of the ongoing work needed to promote inclusivity and respect for all its residents, regardless of their racial or ethnic background. The city is moving towards greater awareness and appreciation of its diverse cultural heritage, seeking to build a more equitable and harmonious future.

The Paris of the West

Another evocative moniker for Merida is the "Paris of the West." This nickname captures the city's cultural richness and its historical connection to European influences. Much like Paris, Merida offers a blend of art, music, and culinary delights, making it a cultural hub in the western part of Mexico.

The Sultaness of the East (La Sultana del Oriente)

This poetic nickname alludes to Merida's historical significance as a vibrant and influential city in the eastern part of the Yucatan Peninsula. It speaks to the city's role as a center of commerce, culture, and political power in the region.

The City of Gentleman (La Ciudad de Caballeros)

Merida has earned this title due to its reputation for elegance and refinement. The city's colonial past and its genteel atmosphere have contributed to this charming nickname.

The White Dove (La Paloma Blanca)

This endearing nickname emphasizes Merida's peaceful and safe character. It reflects the city's reputation as a tranquil and welcoming place for both residents and visitors.

These diverse nicknames not only showcase Merida's architectural beauty but also highlight its cultural richness, historical significance, and the warm hospitality of its residents. Each name adds another layer to the city's identity, making it a unique and captivating destination in Mexico.

I adored experiencing Merida, Mexico.

It's not easy to narrow down Merida, Mexico to a Top 10 Things to Do, but here goes!

Merida, Mexico Top 10 Things to Do

  1. Visit Merida City Center aka Centro Historico

  2. Take a City Walk in Merida, Mexico with Airbnb Experiences

  3. Experience World Famous Paseo Montejo Street (Bonus: Learn about Real Estate in Mx)

  4. Learn History and Culture of Merida in the Museums

  5. Experience the Best Cenotes in Mexico in Rivera Maya

  6. Ride on Hop On and Off in Merida, Mexico

  7. Explore Tulum, Mexico to discover if all the Instagram reel hype is real

  8. Witness a Wonder of the World, Chichen Itza, and Travel to Valladolid, Mexico

  9. Travel to the Maldives of Mexico, Bacalar, Mexico

  10. Enjoy food like Museum of Gastronomia and Street Food and Plaza Grande.

Merida Cathedral
Merida Cathedral

Merida, Mexico

Merida, Mexico is a must on any global travelers list for its Mayan history, colonial influence, culinary excellence, walkability and proximity to popular cities in Mexico.




It has a hot and humid climate year round with a rainy season in September - November.




Debit and credit cards are accepted almost everywhere. Mostly souvenir and street food stands take only cash. You may find ATMs virtually everywhere.

Gran Hotel at Parque Hidalgo

All shots are my own on Canon EOSM100, Sony A330, and/or my iPhone 13 or via Airbnb.

Travel to Merida, Mexico

Travel to Merida is easy with all major airlines flying in and through Merida and Cancun Airport. I have flown to Cancun with United and Southwest Airlines typically. From Cancun, you can easily take the Ado Bus to Playa and/or rent a car. I almost flew out of Merida for my flight to Canada, but I found better connections and a cheaper flight from Cancun.

Where I Stayed in Merida, Mexico

Airbnb: Casa Artemis Colonial Two Story Home

My intention before traveling to most destinations I am traveling to for more than a month is to stay at one Airbnb. I am so grateful I found this beautiful Airbnb.

Top 10 Merida, Mexico Things to Do

Undoubtedly, Merida and Mexico offer countless experiences in the city and country.

I experienced a lot during my week and a half in Merida, Mexico.

Mexico is a travel destination I have returned to again and again and will continue to.

I spent two months in Playa Del Carmen Aug 2023-the end of September 2023.

Prior to these travels, I visited Mexico in 2021 in the middle of the pandemic. I spent over 4 months in Mexico, traveling to Tulum, Bacalar, Valladolid, and Mexico City.

No matter how much time you have to visit Merida, make the most of it.

Whether you spend a day, a week, or months in Mexico, always make any travels your own!

In putting together the Top 10 Merida Things to Do, I considered how I would experience travels knowing what I know now to make it easier and more enjoyable for you.

My Merida, Mexico Top 10 Things to Do includes:

  1. Visit Merida City Center aka Centro Historico

  2. Take a City Walk in Merida, Mexico with Airbnb Experiences

  3. Experience World Famous Paseo Montejo Street

  4. Learn History and Culture of Merida in the Museums

  5. Experience the Best Cenotes in Mexico in Rivera Maya

  6. Ride on Hop On and Off in Merida, Mexico

  7. Explore Tulum, Mexico to discover if all the Instagram reel hype is real

  8. Witness a Wonder of the World, Chichen Itza, and Travel to Valladolid, Mexico

  9. Travel to the Maldives of Mexico, Bacalar, Mexico

  10. Enjoy food like Museum of Gastronomia and Street Food and Plaza Grande.

Cathedral of Merida


1 Visit Merida City Center

I love visiting city centers to experience the culture, history, and food. When you visit, you will likely see the Merida City Center aka Zocalo again and again.

Merida, Mexico city center offers a beautiful central park that hosts Friday light show at Cathedral of Merida, Saturday Mayan cultural experience, and Sunday market.

At the city center, you will find:

1 Cathedral of Merida

2 Government Palace

3 Casa de Montejo

4 Pasaja de Revolucion

2 Take a City Walk in Merida with Airbnb Experiences

In almost all my Top 10 Things to Do in Cities and Countries all around the world, I advocate a city walk. Merida is no different. When we walk a city, we see things from a completely different perspective than in a car or hop on and off bus.

I experienced Merida City Center on my third day in the city via Airbnb Experiences with Fernando.

We started our walk in Santa Lucia Park. I walked about 30 min from my Airbnb. I could have easily taken an Uber as well (and I did on the way back to the Airbnb for about $2-$3 USD).

We started off connecting and learning about Fernando's history with Mexico and Merida.

We talked about Mayans, Spaniards, and Merida in the present. From the early 1500s to 1542 when Spaniards arrived, we explored the impacts on Merida.

We talked about the nature immersing the Yucatan with the tropical climate and ripple effects of meteorites millions of years ago. Fernando shared tips of the Meteorite Museum in Progresso and Jurassic Trial (saved for another time!). I did explore five new Cenotes during my travel to Merida adding to my Best Cenotes in Mexico.

We explored Merida sites including:

1 Santa Lucia Park

2 Santa Lucia Church

3 Hidalgo Park

4 Gran Hotel (Oldest Hotel in Merida)

5 Palace of Music

6 City Center

7 Independence Plaza

8 Government Palace

9 Cathedral of Merida

10 Casa Montejo Museum

3 Experience World Famous Paseo Montejo Street

Paseo Montejo Street is world renowned for its beauty, history, mansions, and culture. I experienced Paseo Montejo twice during my week in Merida. The first time I went with my friend, Rebecca and walked by Palacio Canton, Anthropological History Museum, and Monument La Patria.

Our walk was cut short when it started pouring rain prompting a coffee break lol.

Walk with Me on Paseo Montejo


4 Learn About Merida's History and Culture in Museums

Merida impressed me with its access to museums for free to promote cultural and historical education. I visited City of Merida and Casa Montejo Museum and they were both free!

City of Merida Museum (Museo de la Ciudad de Merida)**:

Housed in a magnificent colonial-era building in the heart of Merida, the City of Merida Museum is a captivating journey through the city's history and culture. It presents an impressive array of artifacts, documents, and art that span from the ancient Maya civilization to the colonial era and beyond.

Visitors not only learn about the city's past but also have the opportunity to appreciate the architectural beauty of the historic building itself. The museum's vibrant cultural events and exhibitions further enrich the visitor's experience, making it a cornerstone of Merida's cultural heritage.

I spent an hour ish at the museum.

Casa Montejo Museum (Museo Casa de Montejo)

The Casa Montejo Museum offers a window into the opulent past of the influential Montejo family, who played a pivotal role in the city's history. Set within the beautifully restored Casa de Montejo, renowned for its ornate Spanish Plateresque architecture, the museum allows visitors to step back in time.

It showcases period furniture, art, and personal items that reflect the lifestyle and cultural contributions of the Montejo family. The historical resonance of the mansion and its interactive exhibits add depth to the visitor's understanding of Merida's historical legacy, making it a must-visit destination for history and architecture enthusiasts.

It is located in the City Center on one of the side streets within the square.


5 Experience the Best Cenotes near Merida, Mexico

If you are anything like me, you love travel, adventure, and water sports. Cenotes, or sinkholes, in Mexico provide you with all of these AND awe and wonder.

These are a snapshot of the five Cenotes I visited near Merida, Mexico during my visit in 2023.

There are over 3,000 Cenotes discovered and no two are the same! In the Best Cenotes in Mexico,

I share the 20+ I have visited so far in and near Tulum, Valladolid, Cancun, and Merida.


6 Ride the Hop on and Off Bus Tour in Merida, Mexico

One of my other favorite ways to experience a city is Hop on and Off Tours.

These are great to see a lot in a short amount of time, include transportation for a day or two, and create social media content like a boss.

7 Travel to Tulum, Mexico

A great day trip to your adventures in Mexico is travel to Tulum. I spent over 3 months in Tulum in 2021 and loved it! See for yourself if all the Instagram reel hype is real.


8 Witness a Wonder of the World: Chichen Itza

Witness a Wonder of the World, Chichen Itza, and Travel to Valladolid, Mexico. In 2021,

I spent about 2 weeks in Valladolid and visited Chichen Itza on a day trip.


9 Travel to the Maldives of Mexico: Bacalar, Mexico

It is easy to see why I or anyone returns to Mexico. I say Mexico is like 10 countries in one.

If you haven't added Travel to the Maldives of Mexico, Bacalar, Mexico to your must do bucketlist adventures, it is time to! Within about 4 hours from Playa, or 2 hours of Tulum, it is easy to get to.


10 Enjoy Food in Merida, Mexico

Mexican food is some of the best food in the world. It is easy to taste why! Some of my favorite spots in Merida included Museum of Gastronomia, La Dona Gorditas, and Marquesitas at Plaza Grande.

All images are Museum of Gastronomia where you may experience a beautiful casona, culinary experience, and delicious food.

I recommend Dona Gorditas with the Nepal Gorditas (vegan made from cactus!) and Marquisitas (crepe like roll-up with stuffing you want - I do banana and peanut butter)

You may find all the food spots on Google GPS and Trip Advisor.


Top 10 Things to Do: Merida, Mexico

Mexico will delight you at every twist and turn in Merida.

Whether you want to experience the walkable streets, colonial architecture, Paseo Montejo, or a must do bucket list adventure with the best cenotes in Mexico, or any of my other Top 10 Things to Do in Merida, Mexico you will love it.

What activities interest you to do for Top 10 Merida, Mexico Things to Do?

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