Looking for things to do in Merida? You’re in luck!
Merida is a beautiful city full of culture and history, and you’ll be happy to know that it’s widely considered to be the safest city in Mexico. Merida is the capital city of the Mexican state of Yucatan on the peninsula of the same name. The city boasts historic Mayan and colonial-era architecture and is surrounded by Mayan ruins, cenote sites, nature reserves, and coastal villages.
If you’re new to the city or new to Mexico, don’t worry, we’ve collected the ideal list of must-see sights and activities.
There are LOTS of things to do in and around Merida, but don’t focus solely on the destinations, for the journey through Merida is just as sweet.
Scroll on to read: 12 Best Things to Do in Merida, Mexico
Table of Contents
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Yucatan tourist information
How to get there
The main airport serving the Yucatan is Cancun International Airport (CUN). Click here for airport transfers from Cancun.
Buses in Mexico are very comfortable and cheap, the main company is ADO. They all come with AC and play movies for entertainment (in Spanish). If you wish – many places provide bicycles for rent which are also cheap and an easy way to get around town. Alternatively you can drive around Yucatan and it’s very safe. Book your rental car here.
Best time to visit Yucatan
There’s a tropical climate in Yucatan, with a rainy and muggy season from June to October, a relatively cool season from November to February, and a hot season from March to May. The highest temperatures are around 35C at peak season, whilst in January it can fall as low as 15C.
Make sure you get a SIM card
Yucatan Essentials Checklist:
- An excellent pair of walking shoes (for all that walking and trekking)
- A good quality compact camera (for taking great pics)
For a complete guide on what to pack for the Yucatan, head over to my Mexico Packing List (+ Free Cheatsheet)
12 Best Things to Do in Merida, Mexico
#1: Walk Along Paseo Montejo
Paseo Montejo is the main street of Merida, just outside the historic district. On both sides of the road lie some of the most notable buildings of Merida’s history.
You’ll also find plenty of shops, restaurants, and bars. You can easily spend half a day strolling and stopping in to see the buildings and try the cafes.
It is the most touristy and built-up part of Merida, so you might find some franchises you recognize. Try not to stop in these.
Follow my rule: Don’t go anywhere you can go when you’re at home. Try some famous local helados (ice creams). They’re a welcome break to the heat and beating sun.
Paseo Montejo (Google Maps location)Admission: Free
#2: Dodge Traffic to the Monument to the Fatherland
The Monument of the Fatherland along Paseo Montejo is the most recognizable landmark in Merida. Be careful getting to it though, as it’s located at the center of the busiest roundabout in the city.
“If you can dodge traffic, you can dodge a ball!”
You guys, I almost got run over twice getting to this monument and back to the side of the street. Be careful!
It’s worth seeing though, as the monument is a beautiful tribute to Mexico’s history going all the way back to Mayan times. The artwork is very intricate given the size of the monument. Take your time walking around it and noticing the impressive detail.
#3: Bonus: Find the Mini Merida Sign
Located near one of the crossings to the Monument to the Fatherland lies a miniature version of the colorful Merida sign. Hidden gems for the win!
#4: Soak Up the City in Central Park
Merida’s central park is one of the most beautiful I’ve seen in all of Latin America. The greenery isn’t so overpowering to block views of the city around it.
Also known as the Plaza Grande, Central Park is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Merida and it’s common to find cultural displays and gatherings in the center of the park and events where local artisans display and sell their goods.
On the edge of the park, you’ll find the trademark Merida sign, in all its beauty and color. Don’t forget to take the obligatory photo here!
Central Park (Google Maps location)Admission: Free
#5: Bonus: Sit in the Tu y Yo
Along the streets and in the parks of Merida, you’ll find the concrete chair that is unique to the region, where the two sides face each other but with a divider between them. This unique design has been called the lovers’ chair, which the locals affectionately call the Tu y Yo (you and me).
But if it’s the lovers’ chair, why is there a divider between the two sides? Good question!
The legend goes that the father of a young lady designed the chair so she could sit with her boyfriend while maintaining a father-friendly distance and divide between the two of them.
Pro Tip: There’s a huge Tu y Yo sculpture you can sit in and take a picture with located in Saint Lucia Park, about three blocks north of the main square.
Related Post: The Ultimate Yucatan Travel Guide (+ Free Cheatsheet)
Archaeological ruins are an important part of any Mexican vacation, for me anyway. The big one to see near Merida is Uxmal.
The main structure, the Pyramid of the Magician is unique among other pyramids because of its rounded edges and elliptical base. Ancient legend says that a magician constructed the entire pyramid in a single night. This is of course not true, but legends are fun!
The grounds of Uxmal make for a nice afternoon in the jungle. The sun is strong, but there are plenty of places to rest in the shade.
Uxmal (Google Maps location)Admission: MXN466 (USD22.50)Opening times: 8am-5pm dailyBook a visit to Uxmal ruins using the widget below:
The ruins of Mayapan were constructed to be a smaller replica of the well-known Chichen Itza, which is also worth visiting.
If you want the history and scenery of Chichen Itza with far fewer people and for a fraction of the price, spend a half day at Mayapan. It’s much greener due to the remoteness and the lower volume of tourists.
And the pyramids and structures are still scalable, meaning you can climb them. This has gone away at many ruin sites but is still possible at Mayapan.
Mayapan (Google Maps location)Admission: MXN45 (USD2)Opening times: 8am-5pm dailyBook a guided tour of Mayapan archaeological site using the below widget:
The yellow city of Izamal is about a 90-minute drive from Merida and makes for an excellent day trip. There are tours that go to Izamal but taking a collective will get you there for far less money and give you the freedom to explore on your own time.
As soon as you get off the bus, you’ll be confronted with the yellow color that every building in Izamal displays.
Walk through the convent that sits next to the main square, visit the ruin site right in the city, and finish it off with a meal at Kinich. Their Cochinita Pibil (a Yucatan staple) is the king of the mountain.
Izamal (Google Maps location)Book Izamal Day trips and excursions using the widget below:
The beach of Progreso is a 45–60-minute bus ride from Merida. There are buses that go from central Merida straight to Progreso and back with no stops. I recommend using one of these.
The small and understated beach town of Progreso is the home of the longest pier in the world, at a staggering approximate length of four miles! Most of that length is not accessible unless you’re boarding or disembarking a cruise ship, but it’s a sight to see, as it stretches out toward the horizon.
The town of Progreso is a great place to escape tourism and enjoy a quiet day at the beach with some great seafood restaurants nearby.
Progreso (Google Maps location)Day trips and excursions from Progreso:
Celestun is a sleepy fishing village about 90 minutes from Merida. It’s available as a day trip but plan ahead, because spots can fill up fast and visitors are limited due to the nature preserve.
The nature preserve is the reason to visit because it’s where you can potentially see thousands of pink flamingos! If you visit in December-February, this is the prime season to see tons of flamingos.
These are the months to visit Merida anyway, as that’s when the heat of Merida isn’t so debilitating.
Celestun (Google Maps location)Admission: MXN1500 (private tour)Opening times: 8am-5pm dailyYou can book a tour of the Biosphere Nature Reserve using the widget below:
#11: Authentic Yucatecan Food
One of the best things to do in Merida Yucatan is try the local Yucatan food, which is unlike food from any other part of Mexico. We’re not talking about empanadas and tostadas here.
I met a couple during my travels that lives in Mexico City, and they’d never heard of many of the dishes we were deciding between.
Cochinita Pibil (slow-roasted pork similar to the Hawaiian Kalua Pork) is far and away my favorite. Pok Chuk (pork or chicken marinated in citrus and grilled) is also great.
Huevos Montelenos is the Yucatecan dish to start your day with. The eggs are served over fried tortillas with veggies and a sauce that’s a bit spicy.
Most restaurants in Merida have a section of the menu with local Yucatecan cuisine. Start here for some unique dishes that you won’t find elsewhere in Mexico.
Day trips & Excursions from Merida
Use the widget below to book a private day tour from Merida to nearby attractions:
Walking through the streets of Merida, it will be impossible not to hear the calls of, “Marquesiiiiiiiitas!”
Marquesitas are a Yucatecan treat sold from street carts and dessert shops throughout the city. The best way to describe them is like a crepe but cooked to be crispier.
There are options for toppings and fillings. You can choose from a variety of berries, fruits, nuts, and cheese.
The traditional Marquesita is lined with Nutella, stuffed with strawberries and cheese, and topped with more strawberries and more cheese.
Easily one of the top things to do in Merida today, I urge you to indulge. You won’t regret it!
General Information about the Yucatan
- Area: 331 square miles
- Weather: 17C (winter), 36C (summer)
- Population: 1.2 million
- Founded: 6 January 1542
- International Airport: Merida International Airport (MID)
- Famous Residents: Aleks Syntek, Irma Dorantes, Andres Quintana Roo
Merida in review
I visited Merida as a solo traveler, but it makes for a great friends or couples trip as well, with the vast opportunities of things to do, places to visit, and nightlife.
If you search out the things to do in Merida that I’ve recommended, you’ll no doubt find a bunch of your own that aren’t listed here. That’s the fun part of exploring a new city, finding your own hidden gems amongst the things you already knew you wanted to do.
There’s no shortage of hidden gems in Merida. The key to enjoying Merida is to soak it all in. It’s the most immersive Mexican experience of the destination cities on the peninsula.
Stop and listen to the singers in the street, visit the markets, and talk to locals in the parks. If you arrive in Merida with an open mind and a desire to absorb and learn about the culture and history, I have no doubt that Merida will be one of your favorite places you’ve ever been!
Where to Stay in Merida:
- Budget: Fiesta Americana (Fiesta Club 1 King) – Superb 9.0
- Mid-range: Camino Real Merida (deluxe double beds) – Superb 9.4
- Luxury: Hotel Hacienda Merida VIP (suite) – Superb 9.1
You can also use the widget below to find some great accommodation options on the Booking site:
Looking for something more authentic? You can find great deals on vacation homes at Vrbo – use the widget below to search and book a rental place:
Merida Interactive Map
Check out the interactive map below to see all the highlights of Merida, in blue markers.
Don’t forget to book travel insurance
It goes without saying really that when you travel in Central America and beyond, travel insurance is super important.
I never always bothered though. For years I travelled without insurance as I thought, “what could happen?”
Well, I once got my bag stolen in Vietnam and I had an electric shock in a hostel bathroom in Mexico. What if you’re hiking up a mountain and your appendix suddenly bursts, leaving you in excruciating pain and requiring emergency treatment? Anything could happen.
I use World Nomads for comprehensive cover and convenience at great prices on all my travels, and I never set out without it.
As the capital of Yucatan, Merida has a wealth of culture, arts and history, a vibrant food scene, and fantastic scenery. Plus, there’s plenty of activities to do for everyone, and the city is surrounded by numerous Mayan ruins sites and cenotes. It’s the perfect destination for travelers looking to explore a more authentic side to the Yucatan peninsula.
Here’s the best things to see and do in Merida, Mexico:
- Walk along the Paseo Montejo
- See the Monument to the Fatherland
- Find the mini Merida sign
- Soak up the city in Central Park
- Sit in the Tu y Yo
- Visit the Uxmal ruins
- Enjoy authentic Yucatecan food
- Explore the ruins of Mayapan
- Spend a day in Izamal
- Relax at the beach in Progreso
- Visit the Celestun Biosphere Reserve
- Eat Marquesitas
Merida is know as the “White City” due to the elegant, white-stone buildings that line the Paseo Montejo. It is the capital city of Yucatan state, and is renowned for its wealth of Mayan and colonial history, as well as its vibrant, contemporary cosmopolitan culture.
Merida is well known for its imposing and elaborate, historic Mayan ruins as well as colonial era architecture. The city is the capital of Yucatan State and was founded by Fransisco de Montejo, a Spanish conqueror, in 1542.
Although the capital of Yucatan and relatively larger than Tulum and Playa del Carmen, Merida is actually on the smaller side, especially if you stick to the main areas like Centro Historico, and Paseo Montejo. It’s also easy to navigate on foot, so if you’re staying in the city, it’s better to use the Uber and taxis instead of renting a car.
The best time to visit Merida is during the off-peak season, from December to March, when the weather is dry and still hot, but is less crowded with tourists. If you visit in January, be sure to experience the Merida Fest, an enormous annual celebration that honors the founding on the city.
Yucatan Day Trips and Activities:
A guided tour and sightseeing events are some of the best ways to experience Yucatan. Here’s some excellent deals for the most popular trips and activities around the Yucatan peninsula. (Remember, you can cancel your bookings at anytime!)
Yucatan Travel Guides
For more in-depth reading on the Yucatan peninsula, you can get your hands on a copy of these bestsellers below:
- Lonely Planet Cancun, Cozumel & The Yucatan (Travel Guide) on Amazon
- Top 10 Cancun and the Yucatan (DK Eyewitness Top 10 Travel Guides) on Amazon
Book Your Trip to Mexico: Budget Tips & Tricks
SIM cards: DrimSim is a universal SIM card that isn’t tied to an operator and works in any country/region.
Travel Insurance: Stay protected from theft, injury, illness, and cancellations. A safety net in case anything goes wrong, I never leave without it. World Nomads is my favourite agent for total peace of mind.
Need to store your luggage in a locker? Use Radical Storage to store your stuff in a locker in any city for just $5 per day.
Head over to my Travel Tools page for all my best travel tips & advice and everything you need for your trip.
Further Reading: Yucatan Travel
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Andrew is an author and a traveler who has spent a lot of time in hostels in Latin America since 2020 and now shares adventures and pro tips on his website, Flights and Footsteps.
You can follow his adventures on Instagram.