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Mérida is the capital of the state of Yucatán in Mexico. It has a population of about 750,000, and is the largest city in the Yucatán Peninsula.
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Points of Interest in Merida
- Plaza Grande is for the city's central square, sometimes also called "el Zocalo". It is the heart of the historic center of town. The central park is pleasant to sit in and people watch, and it is surrounded by impressive historic buildings. On the east side is the grand Cathedral and the Museo Macay Museum of Contemporary Art. To the south is Casa de Montejo, the 1549 palace of Montejo the Conquistador. Now converted to commercial use (a Banamex bank with handy ATMs), don't miss the elaborate sculpture around the main doorway, including figures of Spanish Conquistadors standing on the heads of conquered native Maya -- a graphic illustration of the new order the Conquest imposed. On the west side is the Ayuntamiento , the old City Hall, with a distinctive clock tower. On the North side is the Governor's Palace, where it is free to go inside and upstairs to see the beautiful murals depicting local history.
- El Paseo Montejo is a beautiful, tree-lined street, lined with houses developed by the henequen-industry barons. It's a great place to walk in the evening. Have a dish of ice cream, look at the renovated mansions. If you are walking during the day, make sure to go to the bakery at the Plaza de La Bandera circle (across from the McDonald's). The baked goods are delicious. Right outside, a family sells tamales every evening (and has been for decades). The tamales are cheap, fresh and absolutely delicious. Less cheap, but a romantic treat, is renting one of the horse drawn carriages, called calesas, that will drive you up and down the grand boulevard. You can catch a calesa at the Plaza Grande and take a trip down Paseo de Montejo and back.
- Palacio Canton When you get to the giant pink mansion on Paseo Montejo at the corner of Calle 43, be sure to walk right in! It houses the Museo Regional de Arquaeología de Yucatán, the regional archaeology museum. There's a modest admission fee, but between the ancient Maya artworks and the setting in one of the grandest mansions of Merida's boom times, it's more than worth it. If you are hungry or thirsty afterwards, Hennessy's Irish Pub is just on the other side of Paseo de Montejo, a favorite hangout for both locals and visitors. The food and drink are reasonable, in a variety of settings (indoor, outdoor, non-smoking, smoking, etc.).
- Quinta Montes Molina. Another of the Paseo's grandest old mansions is also a museum, just north of Calle 35. It's still owned by the original family. Guided tours of the lavish interior Mon-Fri for a fee; tours in English at 9am, 11 am and 3pm.
- Teatro Peón Contreras at the intersection of Calles 60 & 57 (2 blocks north of the Zócalo) is the city's grand opera house. The current structure was designed by a visiting Italian architect and opened in 1908 during the height of the boom times, replacing a less opulent earlier theater of the same name. The theater is the center of Mérida's high culture and in 2011 was recently renovated with a new stage and updated air conditioning. If opera, symphonies, and ballets aren't to your taste, the building is still worth a look for the impressive architecture. There is also a sizeable art gallery downstairs with changing exhibits.
- Museo de la Ciudad de Mérida at Calle 56 at 65 (the old post office building, 3 blocks east and 1 south of the Zocalo). The Museum of the City of Mérida provides more evidence of the city's long history and rich culture. Admission is free, with guides who speak Spanish, English, and French. The museum has a very interesting permanent exhibit, as well as changing art exhibits upstairs. An added bonus is that the museum is just across the street from Merida's central market, Mercado Lucas de Galvéz.
- Museo de las Ferrocarilles en Yucatan, Railroad Museum, 43 at 48. Rail buffs will love this mostly outdoor museum near the train station north east of Centro. Old locomotives and lots of quirky old rolling stock.
- There is much to see in Merida, a city of a million inhabitants that is over 400 years old. Besides the centro historico, where most tourist attractions are located, there are many charming neighborhoods, shopping malls and parks. Progreso and the Yucatan Gulf Coast is only thirty minutes away to the north.
Merida is a city of contrasts. You will find elegant hotels, restaurants and malls in the northern part of the city. Downtown, there are hotels and restaurants to suit every budget. A large central market and numerous small shops are found all around the main plaza. Merida has a rich cultural life which also reflects its diversity. Many free concerts, performances and other events are held daily.
The city was founded by the Spanish Conquistadors in the 1540s on top of a centuries old Maya city called T'ho. The palatial home of the family of Conquistador leader Montejo can still be seen on the south side of the Zócalo or main square. Here and there bits of ancient Maya stonework can be seen reused in Spanish Colonial era buildings in the old part of town.
From the later 1800s to the 1920s, Mérida enjoyed prosperous boom times fueled by the henequen or sisal plant harvest, which made Yucatan the rope maker to the world. Progressive Mérida had electric trams and street lights before Mexico City. The wealthy constructed the grand Pasejo Montejo avenue north of the old town, inspired by the Champs-Élysées in Paris. With the development of artificial twines the sisal boom ended, and Mérida slowed to a more sleepy provincial capital until development picked back up in the late 20th century.
The city's ambiance is colonial and the climate is tropical. The daytime temperature varies; in January, it is about 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 Celsius) and in June, about 95 F (35 C). To beat the heat, most people are busiest in the mornings. They have lunch and siesta, then go back to work for a few hours in the late afternoon. The cool breezes from the Gulf of Mexico drift into Mérida in the evenings and this is when many of the residents spend their time outdoors. You can see them visiting and talking as they stroll along the streets, sit in the plazas or dine in the many sidewalk restaurants.
From Mérida, it is easy to take day trips to a vast array of destinations: archaeological sites, ecological parks, typical villages, caves, beaches, colonial missions and more. Take your time and really explore the Maya sites… walk for miles along the Gulf of Mexico… attend a village festival… photograph the wildlife… crawl through a cave or swim in a cenote...
- The 'Ayuntamiento de Merida' (City Hall) sponsors many cultural events during the week, free of charge. Almost every night visitors and residents alike can enjoy outdoor concerts or dances in one of the many downtown parks and squares.
- Sunday evenings at the Zócalo (at and around the main square) are a particular treat, and perhaps the most charming time in Mérida. The streets around the square are closed to vehicles, and the locals dress up to go for strolls to see and be seen. Brass bands and dance orchestras hold free concerts, and couples dance -- if you're not shy, consider joining in, or ask a local to teach you the steps to a local dance like the jarana. Street vendors sell a variety of refreshments.
- Merida has a growing number of art museums and art galleries. Be sure to see the MACAY gallery just off the Zocalo next to the Cathedral. Galleries include Artists in Mexico  and Galeria Merida .
- Carnaval de Merida. Is an annual event; a week of celebrations leading to up to Fat Tuesday (date varies, ending at the eve of Ash Wednesday; mid February through early March). Merida has one of the five most important Carnivals in Mexico.
- Those who have time to spend several months in Merida, will also encounter many opportunities to become a volunteer — helping women, children, the disabled, the elderly, the sick and the illiterate. Places to volunteer include PPPN  for helping disabled children and AFAD  for helping unwanted dogs and cats find health and new homes.
- If you are interested in learning Spanish, learning about Latin America and learning more about yourself in the process, Merida is an excellent place to do so.
- Cafe Pop. 57 x 60 y 62. Small and clean but with personality, a favorite of the students of the University of Yucatan just around the corner as well as knowing visitors for generations. The menu offers a curious combination of Yucatecan specialties along with old style diner & soda-fountain treats. Breakfast, lunch, snack, or dinner, inexpensive. 7a - Midnight. In the same building as the larger and more upscale Portal del Peregrino listed below.
- D'Al a wonderful local hangout for lunch, menu includes very inexpensive tasty fare, specialties are seafood & local cuisine. Try the shrimp cocktail, delicious. Great specials & soups. Located on the corner of Calle 54 & 53, downtown, historical section.
Image:2002.12.19_36_House_Mérida_Mexico.jpg|Architecture on 57th Street in the old part of town
- La Parrilla on Paseo Montejo is a great outdoor restaurant. Be sure to have the Sopa de Lima, which is a chicken soup flavored with lime, a Yucatecan specialty.
- Portal del Peregrino. 57 x 60 y 62. European & Yucatecan fare in the historic centro; mid-range prices.
- Taqueria Herrera, Calle 65 between 54 and 56. Excellent tortas, priced mostly at 13 pesos.
- Hennessys Irish Pub. On Paseo de Montejo at Calle 41 is a favorite with locals, expats AND tourists. The restaurant has good food at reasonable prices, a full bar and, of course, Guinness beer. The two impossibly handsome owners are almost always on site and greeting customers. There are various distinct rooms, smoking and non-smoking, outdoors and air-conditioned. something for everyone. No need to dress up or make reservations.
- Other favorite places to eat include The Blue Marlin, Cangrejitos, Wayan'e, Trotter's and Pancho's (owned by the same father-son partners), Rosas and Xocolate, Slavia and more.
- El Trapiche, Calle 62 no. 491 (between Calle 59 & 61), ☎ 4169163377. Good en cheap mexican food, nice atmosphere, friendly staff.
Look for a drink called chaya. It's a cool, green, mildly sweet and very refreshing juice made by pressing a spinach-like vegetable.
There are hundreds of stores in downtown Merida. In and around Plaza Grande, the huge park in Centro directly across from the cathedral, it is common for street salesmen to engage passersby in friendly small talk, by telling them some historical facts about the surroundings. The conversation will quickly turn to recommendations of shops selling hammocks, guayaberas, handcrafts, jewelry, etc. The items sold in stores that use street salesmen to find customers tend to be highly overpriced. While there are honest and hardworking street salesmen, as a general rule, the best shopping strategy is to browse stores without the assistance of any street salesmen and to never allow a street salesman to bring you to a store. Since street salesmen work on commission, tourists are usually charged higher prices if they are brought into a store by a street salesman or other street guide.
Merida is a great place to pick up a good quality hammock. However, be aware that many people selling hammocks in and around Merida will try to get the highest price they can from a tourist. A good hammock costs between 300 and 800 pesos, not dollars. The tighter the weave, the better the hammock. You should always insist on unfolding and viewing a hammock before buying it.
There are plenty of hand-crafted things to buy in Artesanias Bazar García Rejón at corner of Calles 60 and 65, as well as in the shops Calle 56A.
- Alma Mexicana, Calle 54 No. 476 (x 55 & 57 corner of Calle 55), ☎ 52-999-923.4711. Mexican folk art & crafts. Lighting & furniture, home decor items, Day of the Dead art, retablos & ex-votos, saints & angels, beautiful jewelry, hand-woven bedspreads, designer leather handbags, cards & stationary, curios & unusual gifts. Telephone +52-999-923-4711 Cel +52-999-155-6049. Open Mon to Sat, Hours 9:30 am - 6:30 pm. Sun open half day 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. reasonable.
The Yucatan is also famous for its guayaberas, to the point that the shirts are also known as the "camisa de Yucatan" (the shirt of the Yucatan). As with hammocks, quality varies widely. The street salesmen who offer to bring tourists to stores that sell guayaberas almost always accompany or direct people to stores that offer the double whammy of low-quality guayaberas at high prices. (Most such salesmen work on commission, which explains their aggressiveness.)
If you are looking to buy a high-quality guayabera or huipil (the traditional garment worn by Mexican women), one of the oldest and most respected outlets on the Yucatan — and one that does not employ street salesmen — is the family-owned Guayaberas Presuel, which has been manufacturing and selling its own brand of guayabera in Merida for over 30 years. Guayaberas Presuel has three locations and counts members of the Mexican Supreme Court, telenovela actors, and other prominent people among its clientele. For tourists, the most convenient store location is directly across the street from the Plaza Grande, only a few steps from the cathedral, in the building to the left of the governor's palace. The owner of this store, Cristina, is the daughter of the company's founders and speaks fluent English:
- Guayaberas Presuel, Pasaje Picheta, Calle 61 (60 y 62), Mérida, Yucatan 97000 (In Centro, across the street from the Plaza Grande and next door to the governor's palace; store is located on the right side of Pasaje Picheta right inside the main doors), ☎ +52-999-928-2622. Open 7 days, 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM. Known in Merida for its high-quality guayaberas and huipils; also sells Mexican handcrafts, jewelry, T-shirts, and other items. Prices are reasonable and clearly marked, from 30 pesos for small handcrafts to over 1,000 pesos for high-quality guayaberas (for men) and huipils (for women).
"Cuban" cigars are also a common item being sold by street vendors, but beware: Many if not most "Cuban" cigars sold on the streets of Merida are excellent fakes that are manufactured elsewhere in Mexico. True Cuban cigars can be found in Merida, but they are sold mostly in non-tourist areas.
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Mérida (Mexico) on Wikivoyage.