Visit Merida (Yucatan): Top 20 Things To Do and Must-See Attractions


Things to do in Merida: The 20 Best Places to Visit

Mérida, the capital of Yucatán, is a lovely colonial city with colorful houses, historic buildings and narrow streets.

It’s not packed with tourists – they mostly stay in Quintana Roo – and it’s the safest city in Mexico.

I planned to stay 3 days in Mérida but I fell in love with it and extended my stay to 2 weeks!

In this ultimate guide, I will share with you all the best things to do in Mérida, as well as the best restaurants and hotels for every budget. I’ll also give you my suggested itineraries for 1, 2 or 3 days in Mérida, so you can make the most of your time in this charming city.

You will discover why this city deserves more attention!

Mérida: the places you can not miss

1. Plaza Grande, the heart of the city

The main square is a must-visit place in any Latin American city, because it is surrounded by many important buildings:

  • The Casa de Montejo
  • The Cathedral of San Ildefonso
  • The Macay Museum
  • The Pasaje de la Revolución: a pedestrian walkway with a glass roof that connects the main square with the street behind the cathedral. There are several artworks displayed there.
  • Palacio de Gobierno: admire the 27 murals of the painter Fernando Castro and enjoy a beautiful view of the square from the 2nd floor. You can visit it during the day or at night when everything is lit up (8am to 9pm, free). If you want to eat with a nice view, you can also go to La Casa de mi Tia, a restaurant on the 2nd floor next door. It is simple, but it has balconies with tables.
  • Centro Cultural El Olimpo: you can go there to see the cultural program of Mérida outside with upcoming events, shows, etc.
Pasaje de la Revolución Mérida
Pasaje de la Revolución Mérida
plaza grande merida
plaza grande merida

And don’t miss the Plaza on Sundays. The streets are closed and there are small food and craft stalls for families to enjoy the day. In the evening, you can watch the “Jarana”, a typical Yucatán dance.

If you like dancing, you should also check out the “Noche de Vaquería” on Mondays at 9pm. There are regional dances that everyone can join, and it’s very fun to see. I was there by chance, and I loved the atmosphere!

jarana dance merida
The “Jarana Yucateca”, Mérida

2. Casa Montejo

This is the oldest house in Mérida (1549), built for the family of Francisco de Montejo, the founder of the city.

Actually, only the entrance of the original building remains, but the house is beautiful and there is a museum with 4 rooms showing the interior of a late 19th – early 20th century house, and a temporary exhibition.

  • Open from Tuesday to Saturday, from 10 am to 5 pm, and on Sundays from 10 am to 2 pm
  • On Wednesdays at 8 pm there is a projection on the facade.
  • Admission is free
casa de montejo merida
casa de montejo merida
montejo house merida
Inside Casa Montejo, Mérida

3. San Ildefonso Cathedral

This is the oldest cathedral in Mexico (1561), built on the ruins of a Mayan temple.

It has been partly destroyed and plundered over time. The interior is simple, but the building is impressive with its large pillars. It also has the biggest indoor statue of Christ in the world.

  • Open every day from 6 am to 12 pm and 4.30 pm to 8 pm
  • Admission is free
catedral mérida méxico
catedral mérida mexico

4. Macay Museum

Next to the cathedral, you can find the only museum of modern and contemporary art in the Yucatan Peninsula. It is in a large and beautifully restored house.

You can see the temporary and permanent exhibitions, and also enjoy its lovely inner courtyard, full of plants. It is one of the nicest places in Mérida to relax in the shade 😉

  • Open every day, except Tuesday, from 10 am to 6 pm
  • Admission is free.
museo macay merida
museo macay merida

5. The Juan Gamboa Art Gallery

A short walk from the Plaza Grande, you can find this must-visit museum in Mérida. It is in a 17th century Jesuit building.

It shows works from the colonial era, as well as temporary exhibits. It also has a room dedicated to Juan Gamboa Guzmán, the most important Yucatecan painter of the 19th century.

  • Open Tuesday to Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm and Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm
  • Admission 70 pesos

6. The charming Santa Lucia Park

I stayed at the Centenario hotel for two weeks. It is near Parque Santa Lucia, and I think it is the best area of Mérida to stay in!

Santa Lucia is a lively little plaza with good restaurants with terraces and live music. It has a great neighborhood vibe.

On Thursdays at 9 p.m, you can enjoy the traditional Yucatecan serenade. It is a chance to listen to Yucatecan folk music while eating or just sitting in a chair.

Also, on weekends, artisans come to show their products.

santa lucia park merida
Santa Lucia Park, Mérida. Photo: Visit Mérida

7. Palacio Canton

As I walked along the streets of Mérida, I was amazed by Palacio Canton, a beautiful building on a corner of Paseo de Montejo.

It is the home of the Regional Museum of Anthropology of Yucatán, and when I visited, there was a fascinating exhibit on the Aztecs, their significance and their connection to Maya civilization.

  • Open Tuesday to Saturday 8am-5pm
  • Admission 90 pesos
  • Instagram
The Palacio Canton on the Paseo de Montejo, Merida
palacio canton merida
palacio canton merida

8. The Museum of Popular Art

Mexico is a dreamy country, with its colors and characters that have captivated our collective imagination, especially with the famous Day of the Dead.

This museum lets you explore Mexican folk art, through stunning examples of the works of the great artists and artisans of the country. You can see clothing, textiles, clay, wood, glass and miniatures, all very colorful and with great attention to small details!

It is definitely one of my favorite places in Mérida.

  • Calle 50 (corner with Calle 57, in front of La Mejorada park), Wednesday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm, Sundays from 10am to 3pm
  • Free admission
  • Facebook page

If you are interested in Mexican culture in general, you should also visit the Museo de la Canción Yucateca, just around the corner. Entrance fee 50 pesos.

museo de arte popular merida
museo de arte popular merida

9. The Visual Arts Center

The Centro de Artes Visuales is not a popular tourist spot in Merida, but it’s worth a visit if you enjoy culture or are curious to see a beautiful building that reflects the city’s style.

When you enter through its large doors, you find yourself in an amazing house with high ceilings, tiled floors and an inner courtyard, which has been turned into a cultural center.

This place hosts various events (theater, music, etc.) and also has a free exhibition that changes regularly.

When I was there, I saw an exhibition that displayed each region of Mexico through chests decorated with typical elements.

  • Calle 60 (between 47th and 45th streets, across from Parque Santa Ana)
  • Free admission
centro artes visuales merida
centro artes visuales merida

10. Strolling through its colorful streets

Besides the tourist attractions in Mérida that I mentioned before, I highly recommend you visit these four places:

  • Paseo de Montejo: a grand avenue inspired by the Champs Elysees in Paris. It used to be where the most important families in Mérida lived in their mansions. Now it is one of the main streets in the city and you can still see some beautiful buildings like the Casas Gemelas, two large identical houses that are the only ones on the avenue that are still privately owned.
  • Parque de Santa Ana: a square with a small church that is a few blocks away from Parque de Santa Lucia.
  • Calle 64: if you love colorful facades like me, you should check out Calle 64 in Mérida. It is the most “colonial” street with some very nice examples.
  • Parque de Santiago: you should go on Tuesday at 8 pm when the square comes alive with music from the 40’s and you see many couples dancing (mostly oldies ❤️).

But anyway, you will find little treasures all over the city. Keep your eyes open and don’t hesitate to look through the windows and open doors. Sometimes there are nice surprises.

One of the “twin” houses on Paseo de Montejo
The façades of Mérida
colorful street merida
A colorful street in Merida

11. Take a free walking tour

I have done several Free Walking Tours in Spain and New York, and I have always enjoyed these free tours.

Not only because they are free (but don’t forget to tip), but also because the guides are usually lively and offer a different perspective from traditional tours.

So I decided to start my city tour with the Free Walking Tour by Estación México, and I really liked it. They showed us the main attractions in Mérida in 1h30-2h.

tour gratuito mérida
The Free Walking Tour of Merida with Estacion Mexico. Photo from Facebook page

12. The City Museum

The city museum showcases the history of Mérida through four permanent galleries:

  • The pre-Hispanic era with artifacts from the Maya civilization
  • The colonial era, with displays related to the Spanish conquest and the founding of the city
  • Mérida in the 19th and early 20th centuries, showing the economic and political growth of the city
  • Mérida in the 20th century, with items related to the city’s present, its identity, its culture, and its heritage

It also has six temporary exhibition spaces featuring works by local artists.

I was amazed that the museum is not more popular because it gives a comprehensive overview of the city, blending art and history, and it’s free!

  • Tuesday to Friday, 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. Saturdays and Sundays, 9:00 am to 2:00 pm.
  • Facebook / Instagram page
  • Free admission

13. Take a bus tour

If you want to explore Mérida but don’t feel like walking, I suggest taking a bus tour of the city.

You have two options:

Turibus: This is a red double-decker bus like the ones you see around the world. It has two routes, the North Route and the Neighborhood Route. It leaves from Plaza Grande.

El Carnavalito: This is the option I picked and I loved the experience! It is a colorful traditional bus with wooden seats that takes you around the city for 1.5 hours with a guide. It leaves from Santa Lucia Park.

bus turístico Mérida
bus turístico Mérida

14. The Mayan World Museum

This is definitely one of the best things to do in Mérida, especially if you are curious about the history of the Maya culture.

It is a large modern building that displays about 1000 archaeological pieces (textiles, documents, engravings, bas-reliefs, sculptures, ceramics, etc.) in four sections:

  • The Maya, nature and culture
  • The Maya of today
  • The Maya of yesterday
  • The ancient Maya

The exhibition is diverse, interactive, and even has projections. Feel free to ask questions to the staff, they are eager to share their knowledge!

  • Admission 150 pesos, 100 pesos for nationals, 50 pesos for Yucatecans
  • Open Thursday to Sunday 10am to 5pm
  • Sound and light show at 9pm

Address: Calle 60 Norte No. 299 E, Unidad Revolución, Mérida

gran museo del mundo maya merida
Maya Museum Mérida

15. Buying souvenirs

There are some beautiful examples of typical Yucatan shirts in Merida, but if you are looking for something more modern, here are my four suggestions of shops to visit in Merida:

  • La Casa de Donia Way:I love this shop that showcases the Yucatecan culture with humor and a touch of sweetness through the character of “Donia Way”. Here you can find notebooks, coloring books, typical cookbooks, a “Yucatecan dictionary”, postcards, and many other small products. Don’t hesitate to go in at least to take a look, and if you’re lucky they will have an illustrated map of Mérida (free).
  • Hola Cometa: you’ll love it if you like local independent art. Here you can find all kinds of small items, pins, stickers, t-shirts, jewelry, etc.
  • Amerindio is a small shop for men, with young Mexican brands (ties, shirts, beard care and accessories, caps, etc.). If you want to take home a useful gift made in Mexico, I recommend you check it out.
donia way merida
donia way merida

16. Discover a local market

Merida has many culinary specialties: salbutes, polcanes, cochinita pibil, tamalitos con carne mechada, papadzules, relleno negro.

I suggest you go to one of Mérida’s markets for a more typical experience: Santa Ana, Santiago, San Benito and Lucas de Gálvez.

And if you want the full gastronomic experience, you should try this guided market tour with a Yucatecan cooking class. Book it here:

salbutes méxico
salbutes mexico

17. The archaeological site of Uxmal

Merida is not only a colonial gem, but also a great base to explore some of the Mayan archaeological sites nearby, such as Uxmal, which is a Unesco World Heritage Site.

It takes about 1h15 (50 miles) to get to this amazing Mayan city from the capital of Yucatan. It was the most impressive site I saw in terms of architecture. It showcases the Puuc style architecture, with facades adorned with masks of the god Chaac, lattice work and hieroglyphs.

The city had a relatively short history (from the 7th to the 10th century), but it was influential in the region because it had a strategic alliance with Chichén Itzá.

There are several buildings to admire, but the 4 main ones are the majestic Pyramid of the Magician (which welcomes us at the entrance), the Nuns’ Quadrangle, the Governor’s Palace and the House of the Turtles.

My Advice
Check out My Definitive Guide About Uxmal with all the practical information you need to plan your visit on your own or with a a tour!

How to get to Uxmal:

  • By car: 1h15 from Mérida on Federal Highway 261. Parking costs 80 pesos
  • With a tour from Mérida: if you don’t have a car this is the best option! It includes pick up from your hotel, visit to Uxmal and visit to Kabah. Book it here:

The Pyramid of the Magician, Uxmal

18. The site of Kabah

Kabah is a small but stunning Maya archaeological site with Puuc style architecture. It is the second most important Puuc site after Uxmal.

Kabah covers an area of about 4 km² and flourished between 700 and 1000 AD. Later, it was invaded and briefly occupied by the Itzaes from Chichén Itzá, who eventually abandoned it.

Many of the buildings are still hidden by vegetation, but some of them have remarkable facades that depict the city’s rulers and war scenes. For example, the Temple of the Sun and the “Codz Poop” or Palace of the Masks are worth seeing.

The site is not very big, but it has a unique and fascinating atmosphere because it is not fully restored and has a wild feel. Plus, it is usually not crowded, which makes it even more special.

How to visit Kabah:

  • It is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m
  • Entrance fee is 75 pesos
  • It is only 13 miles (20-30 min) away from Uxmal, so you can easily combine the two visits.
  • I took a tour from Mérida that included hotel pick-up and guided tours of Uxmal and Kabah. You can book it here

el sitio arqueológico de kabah
the archaeological site of kabah

19. Dzibilchaltún

Dzibilchaltún is an ancient city that was once one of the largest and most populous in Mesoamerica, with 40,000 inhabitants. It is not very popular among tourists, but it has a lot of history and culture to offer.

The city dates back to 500 B.C. and lasted until the 16th century. Archaeologists have discovered 8400 structures!

Today you can visit:

  • The Temple of the Seven Dolls, which is the main attraction of the site. It was named after an offering of seven clay figurines that were found inside.
  • A 16th century Franciscan chapel, which stands in the middle of the city and shows the influence of the Spanish colonization.
  • The Xlacah cenote, which is a natural sinkhole filled with water. It was used as a source of water and a sacred place for rituals.
  • The site museum, which displays various artifacts from the excavations, such as stelae (2-9) that depict Maya rulers and events.

Admission: foreigners 282 pesos, nationals 165 pesos

How to get to Dzibilchaltún from Mérida :

  • By car: 20-30 minutes in the direction of Puerto Progreso. Take the Carretera Carr. Merida – Progreso/Mexico 261 and exit at Dzibilchaltun
  • By public transport: take a colectivo at the corner of 61st and 58th street to the village of Chablekal (30min), then take a mototaxi to Dzibilchaltun which should cost you 20-25 pesos
  • Book a tour: this is the best option to not worry about transportation! The day trip includes hotel pickup, a visit to Dzibilchaltún, swimming in the X’laka cenote and free time on the beach of Puerto Progreso:

Dzibilchaltun Museum
Artifacts in the Dzibilchaltun Museum

20. See the flamingos in Celestún

Celestún is a biosphere reserve and a fishing village that is home to about 300 species of birds, including the North American flamingos. It is a great place for nature lovers and birdwatchers to enjoy the wildlife and scenery.

You can take a boat tour (up to 6 people) that lasts about an hour to see the pink flamingos up close. The tour also includes a visit to the mangroves and a swim in a freshwater spring.

After exploring Celestún, you can treat yourself to some delicious seafood at one of the local restaurants and relax on the beach.

  • When to see flamingos: They are around all year, but the best time to see them is from November to March, especially in January, when the water level is the lowest.

How to visit Celestun:

Celestún is 57 miles from Mérida (1h45).

  • You can get there by bus from the Northeast Terminal (departure every hour from 5:45 am, last return from Celestún at 8 pm)
  • If you don’t have a car, the easiest way is to go with a tour from Mérida that includes transportation from your hotel, guided tour, boat ride and lunch on the beach. Book it here:

My Advice
A colony of pink flamingos in the Celestún reserve

How many days to visit Mérida?

Mérida has a lot to offer, with its colonial architecture, museums and easy access to different archaeological sites.

Here are my suggested itineraries so you don’t miss anything in Mérida in 1, 2 or 3 days.

What to do in Mérida in 1 day

If you only have one day in Mérida, you will have to go to the basics, luckily the first attractions in the agenda are located around the square.

  • In the morning, head to the Plaza Grande
  • Visit the Casa de Montejo, the cathedral and the Macay Museum
  • Visit the 2nd floor of the Palacio de Gobierno to enjoy a nice view of the plaza
  • Visit the Lucas de Galvez market to discover the produce, the local atmosphere and try a dish
  • In the afternoon, go to the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya.
  • In the evening, return downtown to enjoy the atmosphere of Parque Santa Lucia with a meal on a terrace or a drink.

2 days in Mérida

If you are looking for What to Do in Mérida in Two Days, follow the same itinerary as the first day, and the next day take the Tour to the ruins of Uxmal and Kabah.

3 days in Merida

If you are going to be in Merida for 3 days, follow the same itinerary for the first two days and for the third day:

  • Walk along Paseo de Montejo to see the beautiful examples of architecture
  • Visit the Regional Museum of Anthropology of Yucatán in the Canton Palace
  • You can also go to the Museum of Popular Art

Where to stay in Merida?

  • Nomadas: the best hostel in Merida with a very nice atmosphere, located in the center of Merida. It has a swimming pool surrounded by hammocks and plants, possibility of classes (yoga, cooking classes, etc.). Starting at only 18$usd per night!
  • El Gran Hotel: ideally located in the very center of Merida, right next to the cathedral. It is a very charming hotel, where time seems to have stopped with its colonial look and beautiful woodwork. There’s a restaurant, the rooms are spacious and the wifi works well. Good value for money, starting at only 59$usd per night!
  • Hotel Hacienda Merida VIP: this small, luxurious hotel is the ideal place to spend a few romantic days in Merida. Located in the historic center, it is an elegant hacienda-style building, illuminated by candlelight at nightfall. Here you will find a charming swimming pool, comfortable rooms, a restaurant, and a bar. Starting at 165 $usd per night
  • Hotel Boutique Mérida Santiago: this is a small, comfortable hotel with a colorful hacienda look, modern and with a traditional Mexican touch. There’s a swimming pool with sun loungers and umbrellas. With excellent homemade breakfasts and spacious rooms, it is the ideal hotel if you are looking for comfort without falling into luxury. Starting at 197 $usd per night

Where to eat in Merida?

In Merida there are good restaurants for all budgets, for example:

  • Gorditas Doña Gorda $: , Mérida.
  • El Apapacho $-$$$: This bohemian place has a lovely colorful terrace where you can enjoy a delicious breakfast. Try the chicken tecolota (75 pesos) if you’re hungry. Definitely one of Mérida’s hidden gems. Address: Calle 62, 354 (between 41st and 43rd streets), Mérida. Facebook page
  • Apoala $$$: This is the ideal place to savor refined Mexican cuisine without breaking the bank. The ingredients are fresh, the presentation is creative, and the atmosphere is cozy. Make a reservation to get a table with a view of Parque Santa Lucía. Address: Calle 60, 471 (Parque Santa Lucia), Mérida.

Tourist map of Mérida

Here is a map to help you easily locate all the best things to see and do in Mérida, restaurants and cafés mentioned in the article to help you plan your visit to Mérida.

How to get to Mérida

By bus: several departures from Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum and Campeche.

My ticket from Playa del Carmen cost 650 pesos, but prices change depending on the departure time.

My Advice
For bus fares and timetables to Mérida, visit the ADO website 
ado bus cancun airport
The ADO bus company, a safe bet!

By plane: There are several national and international flights to the Manuel Crescencio Rejon Airport. The airport is only 15 minutes from downtown.

To find a cheap flight to Merida or Cancun I recommend you to use our flight comparator in collaboration with Skyscanner, it’s the guarantee to pay the best price!

My Advice
 The easiest and most comfortable way to get from Mérida airport to your hotel (or vice versa) is to book this private transfer (click here!) in an air-conditioned van

The cheapest option is to take the blue “Va y Ven” bus, which makes several stops in Mérida, including Parque Santa Lucia and the ADO bus station in the historic center, for 45 pesos each way.

On the other hand, even though they officially tell you it runs every 30 minutes, it’s actually every hour, so you’ll have to be patient. 

merida airport bus va y ven
The “Va y Ven” bus in Merida

Rent a car in Yucatan

The easiest way to visit Mérida is to rent a car, as buses are limited and there is a lot to see in the area.

Renting a car is for sure the best way to explore Yucatan and make the most of your stay!

To rent a car, personally, I always use, for a few reasons:

  • You can easily compare the rental cars prices between all the agencies: for sure the easiest way to find the best rate!
  • Cancellation is often offered free of charge: no need to worry if you change your mind
  • Rentalcars offers full insurance coverage at a lower price than the rental companies, so it’s an instant saving with no effort

Simply click on the green button to find your rental car at the best price:

Book your trip now and save money!

You’re traveling in Mexico? These articles will help you!

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visit Merida Mexico


I have created this blog to give you all my best tips to plan your next trip to Mexico, regardless of your budget. I share detailed itineraries, advice about places to visit as well as recommendations for transportation, hotels and restaurants. I hope I will also help you to discover amazing off the beaten path destinations in Mexico!

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