Mérida, the capital of Yucatán, retains much of its old colonial charm. For centuries a prosperous center for textiles with strong trade links with Europe – especially with France – the city became known as “ciudad blanca” or the “white city”, for the white clothing worn by the townspeople, a tradition that continues today. Founded in 1542 by the conquistadors, Mérida is laid out with streets that run at right angles to each other, making it much easier to navigate compared to most other Mexican cities. Thanks to its warm, humid climate and many attractive parks and flower gardens, it is a relaxing alternative to the country’s much busier cities and is a perfect place to explore the many Mayan sites in the Yucatán, particularly those of Uxmal and Chichén Itzá , to explore. each an easy drive.
1 Historische Plaza Mayor
Plaza Mayor – also known as the Plaza de la Independencia – is both the commercial and cultural center of Mérida and is a good place to take a walking tour of the old city center. Besides being surrounded by some of Mérida’s most important buildings, it is also a very pleasant space to just hang out thanks to its shady palm trees, beautiful flower gardens and fountains. Covering an entire city block, the city is as popular among locals as it is for its regular markets with vendors selling everything from food to crafts and souvenirs. It is also lined with a number of good restaurants serving traditional Mexican cuisine. Also interesting is the Municipal Market, just a short walk south of Plaza Mayor and well worth a visit for its many products made from locally sourced sisal, including hammocks and panama hats, huipiles (Mayan dresses with brightly colored embroidery around the neck) and guayabera shirts for men.
Address: Calle 62 SN, Centro, 97000 Mérida, YUC
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2 Great Museum of the Mayan World
One of Mexico’s most important museums, the ultra-modern Gran Museo del Mundo Maya is dedicated to the Mayan culture evident throughout the Yucatán. The highlights of this impressive collection, consisting of four major permanent exhibitions with more than 500 remains, include ancient carvings and sculptures, historical documents and textiles from pre-Hispanic times, as well as fascinating exhibitions on the Maya during the colonial period. Of particular interest is the section on Mayan culture as it exists today, as well as a beautiful hi-tech audiovisual show that explores the long history of the local people, which can also be seen at night as it appears on the building’s premises is projected. outside.
Address: Calle 60 299-E, Revolucion, 97180 Mérida, YUC
3 Cathedral of Mérida
On the east side of the Plaza Mayor , on the site of an earlier Mayan temple, stands the Cathedral of Mérida, built between 1561 and 1598 and the largest church in the Yucatán. Despite its rather plain facade, the building’s interior features a rich decor notable for its many references to the city’s Mayan and colonial history. One of the first you’ll see is a painting above a doorway of the Mayan ruler, Titul-Kiú, visiting conquistador Francisco Montejo in Tihó. Other notable features include the Chapel of the Christ of the Blisters(Capilla del Cristo de las Ampollas), with its 16th-century Indian carvings famous for blistering after the wood was charred in a fire. Part of the cathedral since 1645, the relics here are the subject of special celebrations held in October.
Address: Calle de la Revolución No. 62, Centro, 97000 Mérida, YUC
4 Cepeda Peraza Park in Kerk van Jesús
In the picturesque Parque Cepeda Peraza (or Parque Hidalgo) is the picturesque Church of Jesús, or Church of the Third Order (Iglesia de la Tercera Orden), a favorite church for weddings. After enjoying the park and the beautiful 17th-century exterior of the church – it was built as part of a monastery that later served as a Jesuit seminary – be sure to come inside for a look at the lovely high altar with its beautiful carved altarpiece and gilded wood made in the Plateresque style, a tradition common to communities with talented silversmiths. Then take a ride in one of the fun ‘calesas’, horse-drawn carriages in Parque Cepeda Peraza, which will take you past some of the city’s most interesting colonial architecture.
Address: By 59 and 57, Calle 60, Centro, 97000 Mérida, YUC
5 MACAY: Het Museum of Contemporary Art of Yucatan
The Museum of Contemporary Art (Museo Fernando García Ponce-Macay), known locally as MACAY, is one of the state’s most important museums. This beautiful gallery is a pleasure to explore for its many excellent permanent and temporary exhibitions of both modern and contemporary art. Highlights of the permanent collection include works by leading Mexican artists including Gabriel Ramirez Aznar, Fernando Castro Pacheco and Fernando García. The facility also serves as a major cultural institution with numerous workshops and programs, and features a library, café and shop. English-language tours are available, as are audio guides. Also interesting is the Museum of Popular Art(Museo Regional de Arte Popular) with its fine collections of textiles and costumes, pottery, jewelry, toys and musical instruments.
Adres: Pasaje de la Revolución 58-60, Centro, 97000 Mérida, YUC
6 The natural history museum
Mérida’s beautiful Natural History Museum (Museo de Arqueología e Historía) is located in the beautifully restored former government building known as the Palacio del General Cantón. The collection in this imposing 19th-century building consists mainly of material related to the heyday of the Mayan civilization, although other advanced cultures from pre-Columbian Mexico are also well represented. Highlights of the collection include the sacrificial offerings collected from the cenotes at Chichén Itzá, as well as reproductions of the sketches of the Mayan sites drawn by archaeologist Frederick Catherwood and photographs taken by Teobert Maler at the turn of the century.
7 Casa Montejo
The south side of Plaza Mayor is dominated by Casa Montejo, one of the finest examples of Spanish colonial architecture in Mexico. Built in 1549 as the residence of the wealthy Montejo family who owned the building until 1978, the palace’s beautiful plateresco facade once stretched along the entire south side of the square (although slightly smaller today, it remains impressive). Inside, the large and handsome rooms are arranged like a museum around two courtyards and are furnished with antique furniture imported from Europe. Of particular interest is the coat of arms of the Montejo family, as well as the stone sculptures of a conquistador standing with one foot on the hunched head of a conquered Maya.
8 The Governor’s Palace
A must-visit in Mérida is the luxurious Government Palace (Palacio de Gobierno). Built in 1892 and decorated with 31 interesting murals painted by Campeche artist Fernando Castro Pacheco between 1971 and 1974, the building and its beautiful central courtyard is considered something of a masterpiece. In addition to the beautiful murals, the building also houses a rich collection of paintings by other leading Mexican artists, the best of which can be seen in the History Room. They cover topics from the Spanish invasion to their often harsh treatment of the Mayans. After enjoying these historically important murals, spend a little time exploring this beautiful old building, especially the balcony with beautiful city views. cathedralin Plaza Mayor .
Addresses: Calle 61, Mérida
9 The Museum of the City of Mérida and the Railway Museum
In the city’s historic old post office, the Museum of the City of Mérida specifically covers the development of the community over the centuries. Of particular interest are exhibits related to locally produced textiles, particularly henequen, once referred to as “green gold” for the prosperity it brought to Mérida. Also interesting are exhibitions about the prehistoric period and the years leading up to colonization by the Spanish. Another interesting attraction is the fun Yucatán Railway Museum, founded by train enthusiasts to preserve and collect items related to the state’s once busy railway lines. Highlights include a number of old engines and rail cars, as well as related displays and artifacts.
10 Galleries, museums and studio tours
Thanks in part to the influx of tourists – as well as residents who have moved here from abroad – Mérida, which was named the Cultural Capital of the Americas in 2000, has become an important role in the promotion of Mexican art. The city boasts many fine private galleries featuring works by local artists in contemporary and traditional styles, along with traditional pottery and other art forms. Many of the better known artists open their studios for tours, with a number of areas designated as art districts, such as those along Calle 60. Both state and municipal governments also have their own dedicated art galleries, some of the most notable being the Museum of Popular Art (Museo de Arte Popular),Foro Cultural Amaro , and Museum Peon Contreras with its displays of contemporary art from around the country.
Where to stay in Mérida for sightseeing
We recommend these centrally located hotels in Mérida with easy access to the top sites:
- The Diplomat Boutique Hotel: boutique luxury, wonderful hosts, private yoga classes, large rooms, delicious hot breakfast, courtyard pool.
- Hotel Hacienda Merida: affordable boutique hotel, colonial architecture, colorful rooms, outdoor pool.
- Hampton Inn by Hilton Merida: mid-range pricing, modern rooms, free shuttle, free breakfast.
- Mision Merida Panamericana: great rates, central location, modern rooms, beautiful outdoor pool.
Day trips from Mérida
Of oude ruins van Uxmal
The famous Mayan site of Uxmal, 80 kilometers south of Mérida in the northwest corner of the Yucatán Peninsula, is one of the most uniform and beautiful pre-Columbian sites in Mexico. Uxmal, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996, dates from the sixth century and, unlike Chichén Itzá, shows little Toltec influence. Among the many fine examples of the dominant Puuc styles – seen in the thin limestone cladding in square or latticework patterns atop smooth walls – are the many panels of Chac (the rain god) masks with long curved noses and serpents with stiff bodies.Special buildings of of interest are the Pyramid of the Soothsayer , at 35 meters the tallest building in Uxmal and notable for its oval base; and Temple I, the oldest building and notable for having a date chiseled into a door lintel revealing the age of the building (it was built in 569 AD), as well as the famous sculpture known as the Queen of Uxmal on its facade. Also interesting is the on-site museum with its four stone heads of the rain god Chac and hieroglyphic panels.
From Maya-stad Chichen Itza
One of the most popular day trips from Mérida is to Chichén Itzá, one of the Yucatan’s most important pre-Columbian sites. Chichén Itzá, just an hour and a half away by road, is Mexico’s largest and best-restored archaeological site and for centuries served as the political and religious capital of the Mayan Empire. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is one of the most visited attractions in the region and, given its size, can take the best part of a day exploring. Highlights include a visit to the 30-meter-high El Castillo – also known as the Pyramid of Kukulkán – the site’s largest and most important building, as well as the majestic Temple of the Warriors with its colonnaded columns. It is also interestingWall of Skulls (Tzompantli), a large square platform thought to have been used to hold the stakes on which the heads of those executed for human sacrifice were impaled.