Mérida Travel Guide

Mexico › Mérida
Updated: March 1, 2022

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folkloric dancers

Folk dancers performing the maypole dance during a festival.

Frequently Asked Questions about Mérida

Where is Mérida?

Mérida is the capital of the state of Yucatan and it’s located in the South East of Mexico. It’s 8 meters above sea level and, together with the municipalities of Conkal, Kanasín, Ucú, and Umán, it forms the so-called metropolitan area.

How big is Mérida?

The municipality of Mérida covers an area of almost 535 miles (860 square kilometers). As is the case for practically the entire state of Yucatan, the territory is virtually flat, with only a slight slope towards the Gulf of Mexico. There are almost a million people living in Mérida’s metropolitan area.

What is the history of Mérida?

The city was founded in 1542 on the remains of T’Hó, a Mayan city that was practically uninhabited by that time. Some of the Spanish conquerors came from the region of Extremadura and decided to name it Mérida in honor of a city back home. The main reason for this was that the Mayan ruins reminded them of the Roman ruins found in the European Mérida.

How do I get to Mérida?

The Manuel Crescencio Rejón International Airport is located about 4 miles (7 kilometers) from the city, and it connects Mérida with 14 domestic and four international destinations. In addition, it’s possible to arrive by bus from Cancun. The journey lasts around four hours.

parade in front of municipal palace

A nighttime parade in front of the municipal palace during a festival.

When is the best time to go to Mérida?

The best months to travel to Mérida, and in general to the entire Yucatan Peninsula, are December, January, and February. The temperature is slightly lower than the rest of the year, averaging 79ºF (26ºC). During this time, rain is scarce so you can walk around the city with ease.

What neighborhoods should I visit in Mérida?

Known as “the white city” (“La Blanca Mérida”) given the predominantly white buildings erect at its founding, Mérida’s architecture reflects several different periods of its history. The historic center is a perfect example of beautiful colonial architecture, while the iconic Paseo de Montejo is lined with mansions —some of them derelict, others turned into banks, restaurants, and boutique hotels— from its wealthy henequen industry days. Mérida’s most traditional neighborhoods are definitely worth a visit. El barrio de Santiago has a park that comes alive every afternoon, el barrio de Santa Ana is known for its markets and culinary exhibitions, and el barrio de Mejorada houses several museums.

Where should I stay in Mérida?

Deciding where to stay in Mérida is quite simple since there are accommodation options for all budgets. Undoubtedly, the two best areas for visitors are the historic center, with its colonial design and old town, and the area surrounding Paseo de Montejo, an avenue inspired by French boulevards where beautiful buildings, cafes, restaurants, boutiques, and bars abound.

horse carriage

Horsedrawn carriage and street vendors on the main plaza downtown.

How do I get around in Mérida?

Mérida is a very well organized city. The streets are numbered with pairs going from north to south and odd numbers from east to west. To visit the center, a good option is to walk or rent a bicycle. Public transport is safe and connects practically the entire city. Digital apps such as DiDi and Cabify also operate in the city.

What are the best things to do in Mérida?

In the city, walking along Paseo de Montejo and admiring its beautiful buildings is practically mandatory, as is a visit to the Cathedral of San Ildefonso, the oldest in the country. Hopping on a Turibus to tour the city is a great way to see the main attractions. Mérida’s food scene is definitely something to write home about and visitors can’t leave without trying the marquesitas, a kind of ice cream cone filled with cheese. In the surrounding areas, it’s worth visiting Celestún and its flamingos, Izamal and its Mayan ruins, and the imposing Chichen Itzá.

How many days should I spend in Mérida?

Mérida is not a very big city, so it takes two or three days to visit its main attractions. However, it’s in a part of the country where visitors can admire gems like Chichen Itzá, one of the seven wonders of the modern world, and a myriad of sinkholes (cenotes). For this reason, those wanting to use it as a base to visit the surrounding areas would do well to stay up to a week.

homeland monument

The Homeland Monument.

What currency is used in Mérida?

In Merida, as in the rest of Mexico, the currency is the Mexican peso. In 2020 the average exchange rate has been $20.20 pesos per US dollar. There are foreign currency exchange agencies in the airport but the best rate is always offered by the bank, so it’s advisable to pay with a credit card whenever possible and withdraw cash from an ATM.

Should I tip in Mérida?

Tipping is part of the hospitality culture throughout Mexico. In bars and restaurants, it’s common to leave between 10% and 15% of the total bill. It’s also normal to tip tour guides and customer service personnel in hotels.

museum interior courtyard

An interior courtyard of The Museo Fernando García Ponce-Macay, which features contemporary art work of Mexican and regional Yucatan artists.

Is Mérida expensive?

For an American or European tourist, visiting Mexico is not expensive since the exchange rate is favorable. Of course, visitors can make their trip as expensive or as cheap as they wish. The truth is that it is a much cheaper city than others in the country, such as Mexico City or Monterrey.

Is Mérida safe?

In 2019, CEOWORLD magazine rated Mérida as the second safest city in the Americas, only surpassed by Quebec. It’s undoubtedly pretty safe and visitors and locals alike can walk around everywhere in the city with confidence. However, as in any medium-sized city, it’s advisable not to go out with expensive jewelry or large amounts of cash.

Cochinita Pibil is pit-roasted pork with citrus flavors, a traditional dish of the Yucatan Peninsula.

What should I eat in Mérida?

Yucatecan cuisine is famous throughout the country and it has flavors that make it distinct from those of other Mexican regions. Typical dishes such as cochinita pibil, panuchos, papadzules, relleno negro (black stuffing) or lime soup are among the delicacies that any visitor to the city must try. There are restaurants for all budgets. Some of the most iconic ones are La Tradición and La Chaya Maya. Foodies who love fine dining should visit K’u’uk and the restaurant at Rosas & Xocolate, one of the city’s prettiest boutique hotels.

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