More than likely planning your trip to Mérida Mexico will include an itinerary. One of the most fun things to do is create a list of things to do and see. By sharing my insider’s perspective, you’ll get some great ideas for exploring the city. Like me, you’ve probably scoured the internet for everything Mérida just like I did before my very first visit. To save you some time, I’ve created this list of 21 Surprising Things to Have on Your Mérida Mexico Itinerary.
This article was updated in March of 2023.
Welcome to Mérida! I know you will love exploring this city as much as I do.
And just so you know . . .
Mérida is also called “The White City” due to the number of buildings constructed from white limestone. You’ll also see many locals wearing white clothes. You will probably see that nickname as you are searching the web and my site.
According to CEOWORLD, Mérida is the second safest city in the whole American continent. Moreover, it ranked #21 as the safest city, worldwide. That ranking means it even ranked above Helsinki and Copenhagen. In 2000 and 2017, it even received the prestigious “Cultural Capital of the Americas” award. Mérida is rich in culture, history, and folklore.
21 Surprising Things to Have on Your Mérida Mexico Itinerary
This Mérida Mexico itinerary was personally created for your convenience. It helps you to have basic knowledge of the city and the locals.
Let’s be honest –
No one wants to look like a tourist.
Following the recommendations, you will know how to explore Merida’s beautiful places.
Ready for the adventure of a lifetime? Memorable experiences? Bucket list additions?
Let’s explore The White City!
#1 Splurge on a private tour of Mérida
Think about this, a private tour guide to give you a personal tour. They provide recommendations, answer questions, and give you valuable information. This is especially helpful IF you are considering a move to Mérida. Check out the tours we offer HERE.
If you prefer a free guide, visit the Mérida Tourism office. Given in English and Spanish, tours start at 9:30 am every weekday. Remember to tip your tour guide for this valuable service and their expertise.
Merida Tourism Office
Calle 56A #242 X 56B y 60
Hours: Daily 8:00 am to 8:00 pm
Tours: Weekdays 9:30 am
#2 Rub shoulders with locals in Hidalgo Park
One block from Plaza Grande and a few steps from the Peon Contreras Theater is Hidalgo Park. This charming park hosts Fiesta Saturdays. Many vendors sell handmade crafts and local food during that day and open around 7:30 pm.
Alternatively, visit one of the first hotels in the city, El Gran Hotel, distinguished by its wholly French-style facade. While you are there, enjoy a coffee at Starbucks, a gelato or a meal from one of the numerous in the area.
Calle 59 x 60
Hours: Open all the time
#3 Hunt For the ghost Of Don Chulo At Cemetario Panteón Florido
Jacinto Urías worked for more than 30 years in the cemetery. He exhibited sympathy for the families who buried their loved ones as well as dedication to his life’s work. Unfortunately, he was forced to retire after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He died just six months later; some say from sadness.
Be aware of the apparition of this watchman who has visited other watchmen and visitors alike. The belief is that out of continued loyalty, his soul remains working at the cemetery. Stop by to see if he will appear to you. You’ll know him by his long, unkempt hair.
Cemetario Panteón Florido
Calle 66 Diagonal at Calle 95
Hours: Daily 8:00 am to 5:00 pm
#4 Explore the architectural styles of Cemetario General
If you’re not into ghosts, but you also want a different and fascinating glimpse into Mérida’s cultural heritage and wealth, visit the largest cemetery in Mérida.
With artistic heritage and foreign influence, the tour will also show you multiple architectural styles, including neo-gothic, greek, neo-Maya, and art deco.
Calle 81A x 90, Centro, 97000 Mérida,
Hours: Daily 8:00 am to 5:00 pm
Tour: Every Wednesday 8:00 pm
#5 Wander into Lucas de Galvez, Mérida’s Main Market
If you want to experience being a native in Merida, you may also want to visit Lucas de Galvez market. Here you will learn about the culture of Yucatan.
Believe it or not, this local market is full of excitement and surprises! Mayan people come to this market to sell their goods, locally grown flowers, fruits, and vegetables.
Other vendors sell clothing, handcrafted leather, household goods, and pets. Anything and everything is found here, from jewelry to incense, from prayer candles to games.
Interestingly enough, I’m told this is the only place where you can buy all the ingredients for Yucatecan food. Numerous restaurants are randomly located between hundreds of stalls.
Need your shoes repaired? Head to Lucas de Galvez.
Lucas de Galvez Market
Calle 56A x 67 y 69
Hours: Daily 8:00 am to 4:00 pm (approx)
#6 Awaken your soul with breakfast at Hacienda Santa Cruz
Check this out –
Haciendas are the Mexican equivalent to southern plantations and mid-western ranches in America. In the 19th century, Yucatecan haciendas produced rope called sisal from henequén.
The sisal industry created so much wealth that, at one time, Mérida was said to house more millionaires than any other city in the world.
Visiting this authentic hacienda, you’ll immerse yourself in colonial opulence at its finest while making you feel like you’ve traveled back in time.
Located on the terrace of the old machine house, Valentina Restaurant overlooks the exotic garden featuring palms, orange trees, flamboyant, and other ancient tropical plants.
Imagine enjoying delicious natural juices, Lavazza Italian coffee, freshly baked bread, and traditional Yucatan food with a gourmet flair. Just 20 minutes from the center of Mérida.
Hacienda Santa Cruz
Calle 86 S/N, Santa Cruz Palomeque, Mérida
Phone: +52 999 254 0541
Hours: Daily 7:00 am to 10:00 pm
#7 Visit the magic yellow city of Izamal
Surprisingly, almost all the buildings are painted an egg-yolk yellow. Izamal is one of Yucatán’s two magical towns (the other is Valladolid).
According to the requirements of the Mexican government, the town or city must be small with a rich historical tradition to be considered magical.
Cobblestone streets and colonial lamp posts complete the scenery on the clean and peaceful streets. The tranquil ambiance, history, and pride are felt throughout this quaint town with art, music, and gastronomy all around!
Thursdays through Saturday evenings at 8:00 pm feature a magical light and sound show and tour called “Izamal, Ciudad Luz” or Izamal City of Light. This show begins at Parque de Los Cañones and ends at the convent.
45 minutes from Mérida
Take the Cuota road toward Cancún then exit at Km. 48 towards Izamal
#8 Descend into the sacred water of Mayan cenotes
Cenotes are underwater caverns filled with natural water. Deep limestone caverns and sinkholes are filled with fresh, clean, and cool water.
Want to know something cool?
Prevalent in the Yucatan Peninsula, these sinkholes played an important role in Mayan cosmogony.
What’s more, Valladolid is the other magical town in Yucatan. Often overlooked by travelers, it is quaint and quiet. Just three blocks east of the central square in Valladolid is Cenote Zaci, meaning “White Hawk”.
What makes Cenote Zaci unique is the location, accessibility, and ingress to the water. Eat in the restaurant and your entrance to the cenote is free.
2 hours from Mérida
Calle 36 x Calle 39 y 37
#9 Venture inside colonial homes with MEL
Surprisingly enough, Mérida as the third-largest collection of colonial homes in Latin America. Through the Mérida English Library or MEL, you can tour some of these magnificent homes and their exquisite gardens.
All located within a 10-15-minute walk of the library, the tour includes houses of various styles, sizes, and ages.
MEL states, “From modest to the mansion, colonial ruins to modern masterpieces, under construction and fully renovated, MEL shows you the ongoing restoration of Mérida’s historic downtown. Wear sensible shoes for Centro’s uneven sidewalks!”
#10 Behold the sunset over Plaza Grande from the terrace at Picheta
Picheta features Yucatecan contemporary cuisine in a unique atmosphere. This is also the most breathtaking location to watch the sunset.
Surrounded by history, breathtaking views of the sunset over Plaza Grande will stir your emotions. One of my favorite places to enjoy a glass of wine and people watch.
Be aware of this important detail –
The entrance to Picheta can also be a little hard to find. Look for the glass door where you will walk upstairs to the restaurant and the terrace.
Calle 61 #239 in the Zocalo of Plaza Grande
Hours: Daily 5:00 pm to 2:00 am
#11 Savor the best Cuban sandwich outside of Cuba at La Cubanita
Make no mistake about it. This amazing cocina economica (small local kitchen) features daily specials. One of which is their Cuban sandwich.
The owner is from Cuba and has created a cozy environment in the front part of his home. Inviting, delicious, and authentic, a meal from La Cubanita is a must-have!
The best thing?
It will only cost you around $60 pesos (approx $3 USD). After your meal, head north on Calle 60 for art galleries and the famous silver shop Uxmal de Taxco, all across from Santa Ana.
Calle 51 #503 x 60 y 62
Hours: Monday – Saturday 8:00 am to 4:00 pm
#12 Tantalize your palate at Mercado 60, the Food Court of Mérida
Fair warning… Mercado 60 is geared towards tourists.
HOWEVER, this is an “all-in-one” spot: two bars, a dozen or so restaurants offer a wide range of cuisines such as Yucatecan, Japanese, German, and Italian.
A pretty courtyard area, beautifully lit with fairy lights, lends a cool vibe for dancing and live music that starts around 9:00 pm.
Not finished dancing?
Head over to Mezcaleria La Fundacion at Calle 56 x 53 (on the corner) just three blocks away.
The best thing about Mercado 60 is it gives you a chance to experience multiple cuisines in one location. Most of the restaurants have larger establishments in the area. Arrive early for a table around 7:00 to 7:30 at the latest.
Calle 60 #461 x 51 y 53
Hours: Daily 6:00 pm to 2:30 am
#13 Peruse regional culinary delights at the Slow Food Market
Founded in 1989, the Slow Food movement is a global, grassroots organization. Intent on educating people about local food cultures and traditions.
The Slow Food Market is the farmers’ market of Mérida. Bring your bags to support this movement. There are also several delicious restaurants in the same area.
You will find me most Saturday mornings having an Americano coffee and a fresh coconut roll at Midtown Cafe before I shop the vendors at Slow Food Market. It has become a weekly routine that I love.
From their Facebook Page, Slow Food says, “Organic produce, organic eggs, organic coffee, miscellaneous organic goods, cut flowers, potted plants, artisanal cheeses, ethnic foods homemade baked goods, homemade pasta, sauces, dips, preserves, organic honey, organic meats and much more!”
Slow Food Market
Centro Commercial Colon
Avenida Colon at Avenida Reforma (Calle 72)
Hours: Every Saturday 9:00 am to 1:00 pm
#14 Feast on fresh ceviche at Tetiz in the Santiago Market
Remarkably inside the famous, and my favorite, Santiago market is Taquería y Marisquería Tetiz.
Woah . . .
Ceviche, tortas, salbutes, panuchos, tostadas and sauces, tacos, empanadas. Octopus, shrimp, squid, oysters, chaya, cheese. Hungry yet?
Obviously, the ceviche is a must-try along with the queso empanadas. You’ll also find fresh flowers, juices, vegetables and fruits, eggs, and other culinary delights.
Both a local and tourist favorite, eat until your heart’s desire. Cash only accepted for payment.
Taquería y Marisquería Tetiz
Inside Mercado de Santiago
Calle 70 x 57
Hours: 8:00 am to 1:00 pm (approx)
#15 Don your dancing shoes at Santiago Park
Return to Santiago Park on Tuesday evenings for a popular event called Musical Remembrances.
Can you imagine listening, dancing, and remembering the melodies and rhythms of the past? You’ll never experience anything else like this: enjoying big band music of the ’40s like danzón, mambo, and chachachá.
What’s more, the live band creates an atmosphere of festivity along with various vendors selling food, sweets, desserts, and handcrafts.
Notably, this is an enchanting and unique experience while dancing under the stars!
Calle 72 x 59
Hours: Every Tuesday 8:30 pm (approx)
#16 Marvel at the hand-painted dome inside Teatro Peón Contreras*
Built between 1900 and 1908 during Mérida’s henequén heyday, this theater and its façade are similar to the grand European theaters of that era.
Did you know it is also the home of the Yucatan Symphony Orchestra?
This ornate theatre boasts a staircase of Carrara marble and various paintings and murals throughout the building.
But that’s not all –
The magnificent dome painted by Nicolás Allegretti is adorned with delicate paintings of Greek muses, inspired by the French neoclassical style.
Apart from this, the center of the dome has a magnificent iridescent cut crystal chandelier. Inquire at the box office or in the adjacent restaurant for permission to go inside.
Teatro José Peón Contreras
Calle 60 x 59 y 57
Hours: Daily 9:00 am to 9:00 pm (approx)
Check their website for symphony schedules
*Due to a fire in November of 2022, the theatre is currently closed for renovations.
#17 Develop a taste for Mezcal at Murciégalo
Mexico, tequila, and mezcal go hand in hand.
But did you know, all tequilas are mezcals, but not all mezcals are tequilas?
It’s simple when you know the difference.
Here’s a quick lesson to distinguish between the two:
- Mezcal is produced with different varieties of agave in nine locations.
- Tequila is produced only with blue agave in five locations.
- Mezcal is also cooked inside earthen pits lined with lava rocks and filled with wood
Intimate, inviting, and sexy, Murciégalo offers a wide range of mezcals, including mezcal influenced craft cocktails. The vibe, the location, and the mezcal will mesmerize and captivate you!
Calle 57 x 58 y 60
Hours: Monday Closed
Sunday, Tuesday – Thursday 3:00 pm to Midnight
Friday – Saturday 7:00 pm to 3:00 am
#18 Locate the Esquinas de Mérida or Los Cuadros
Perhaps walking through Cento, you’ve seen some of the distinctive white and red plaques. The plaques are called Esquinas de Mérida or Los Cuadros meaning the corners of Mérida.
Your Merida Mexico itinerary would not be complete until you know about the fascinating history to help people get to where they were going.
Let’s see exactly how this works –
Navigating the city was both confusing with many illiterate residents. Subsequently, business owners came up with the idea to create a plaque using memorable pictures of people, places, events, or animals.
Picture plaques were placed on corners throughout the city center with a unique story or meaning to help everyone reach their destination.
- “La Tucha” on Calles 66 and 57 depicts a young girl who was turned into a monkey by a witch.
- “La Calandria” on Calles 65 and 76 and 65 is about a gifted, young singer who was not allowed to perform and was forced to marry a cold and distant man.
- “El Dzalbay” on Calles 53 and 64 is the Mayan name of a plant.
El Dzalbay Cantina is located on the same corner. If you need to take a break from your Esquinas de Mérida tour, drop inside for an ice-cold beer or glass of wine, great fish tacos, and live music daily.
#19 Search for the speakeasies in Centro
SHHHHHHH…The location of these two speakeasies is supposed to be secret and is!
But one thing’s for sure, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time when you enter either one of these alluring and inconspicuous venues. With craft cocktails, live music on occasion, soft lighting, and comfortable seating, each one has its unique flavor and essence.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, you’ll have to ask around for the location and hours. Trust me, someone will share the information with you!
- Hint #1: Inquire at the restaurants in St Lucia Park for one of them. If you’re in the mood for amazing Italian food, try La Tratto ask for Angel. If you’re hankering a good ol’ American burger, Bryan’s Burger Bar is your spot!
- Hint #2: The other one is just a few blocks away…Buena Suerte!
#20 Immerse yourself in the local district south of Plaza Grande
By and large, south of Plaza Grande, the streets are a little more congested. This is where all the buses stop as well as the main shopping area for most locals.
A word of caution –
Pay close attention when walking on the sidewalks and crossing the street here. You’ll likely be sandwiched between buses, numerous pedestrians, and vendors selling snacks, candies, and other small items.
If I may say so, prepare to be overwhelmed by the sights, smells, and sounds of this interesting and necessary addition to your Mérida Mexico itinerary.
Oddly enough, it’s fascinating to hear Pitbull rapping in Spanish, Elvis singing in English, buses backfiring, and children laughing while trying to avoid bumping into the crowd.
Advantages of this area? Find just about anything you need at a lower price while shop with locals. Here you will also experience the heartbeat of Mérida.
Final thoughts for this Mérida Mexico itinerary
In a nutshell, you’ve probably noticed a few of these Mérida Mexico itinerary suggestions center around food.
All in all, one of the BEST things about Mérida is the variety and quality of food and restaurants. Eating is an experience in Mexico. You can savor and enjoy your meal, take in your surroundings, and enjoy time with friends, family, and acquaintances.
And, honestly, don’t you have to eat every single day? I thought so.
Visiting Mérida is not just about the food, it’s also about the experience you will have learning about the culture, the community, and the connection people have to each other.