As a vibrant city in Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, there's plenty to see and do in Merida. It's a great base for exploring nearby towns, cenotes or the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza.
A guided walking tour is probably the best free thing to do in Merida. Here you get a fast-track lesson about the city's rich history and culture.
1. Paseo de Montejo
The Paseo de Montejo is a beautiful French-style boulevard that’s the heart of Merida. It’s also home to a variety of museums, shops and restaurants.
The avenue is a wonderful place to visit, and is especially popular with locals on weekends when it’s closed to traffic. Recent visitors say it’s worth setting aside a few hours to stroll down the street and take in the beauty of the imposing mansions along the way.
In addition to the mansions, you’ll find some of the city’s most historic sites like the Monumento a la Patria (Monument to the Homeland) and the statue of Montejo. The neo-Mayan Monumento a la Patria was created by Colombian sculptor Romulo Rozo and depicts a series of Mayan symbols.
You’ll also find the Merida Cathedral and Casa Montejo Museum, which was once a house of the elite Montejo family. You can also take in the Pasaje a la Revolucion, which has rotating public art installations from Mexican and international artists.
2. The Zocalo
The Zocalo (Central Square) is the heart of Merida's colonial city center. Here you'll find municipal buildings, large cathedrals and museums. It's also the site where you'll see the huge, colorful letter signs that spell out Merida's name.
There are a few museums you can visit here, including the Casa Museo Montejo and Fernando Garcia Ponce-Macay Museum. These are both free and open to the public.
Another great spot for art lovers is the Pasaje a la Revolucion (Revolution Passageway). This pedestrian walkway is lined with a changing lineup of large-scale art installations from Mexican and international artists.
If you're looking for something to do at night, there are plenty of restaurants and bars in Merida to enjoy. Many are located along the popular Paseo de Montejo, so make sure to explore the area during your stay!
3. The Museum of the Mayan World
When you visit the world-class Museum of the Mayan World, you'll be treated to an array of ancient artifacts from the Maya culture. This modern building is home to 4 permanent rooms and a number of temporary exhibitions that highlight the history of the ancient Mayan civilization.
The first room focuses on the history of the Maya, and the way they have preserved their traditions for centuries, even though they were exposed to diverse environments. Their resilience and ability to connect with nature is a lesson we should learn from.
The second room explains how the Maya people lived and what their daily habits were like. It was a time when diseases spread quickly and they didn't have a strong immune system to resist them. But this is when they learned how to improve their life and their quality of life without destroying the natural resources that were available to them.
4. The Hacienda Sotuta de Peon
The Hacienda Sotuta de Peon is one of the few henequen haciendas still in production today. It’s an incredibly unique experience and a fascinating glimpse into the region’s past.
Back in the day, henequen – which comes from an agave plant – was considered the ‘Green Gold’ and was grown in large quantities on the western side of the Yucatan Peninsula. The demand for it meant that haciendas (racinos) were mini cities in their own right with everything from schools and churches to housing, hospitals and other amenities.
The hacienda is currently the only working henequen hacienda in the world and you can visit it on a tour from Merida. It takes about 3 hours to explore and includes a ride on a horse-pulled cart through the henequen fields, a visit to a traditional Maya house and a stop at a cenote for swim time.