Something for Everyone
Mérida lies at the center of the Mayan world in the Yucatán. Surrounding it are archaeological sites dating back thousands of years. But its colonial history is just as interesting.
Things to Do
Start your tour of the city at the Plaza Mayor, or, as it was once called, the Plaza de la Independencia, Mérida's
Take a free guided walking tour of Mérida's Centro Histórico (Historic District), Monday to Saturday at 9:30 A.M. (999-942-0000, ext. 133).
To one side of the cathedral stands the former archbishop's house, now the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo (Museum of Contemporary Art), also known as the Museo MACAY (MACAY Museum), which displays modern Yucatecan art. Admission is $3. (Open Tuesday to Sunday, 8 A.M. to 5 P.M., 999-928-3258.)
Opposite the cathedral on the plaza's north side stands the Palacio Municipal, Mérida's City Hall, built in 1735, with its clock tower and colonnades. Nearby is the Palacio de Gobierno (Government Palace), built in 1892, which displays twenty-seven abstract murals. Painted in 1978 by Fernando Castro Pacheco, the murals shows his interpretation of the Yucatán's bloody history. A block beyond stands the Convento de las Monjas, a former sixteenth-century convent.
On the south side is the Casa de Montejo, built in 1549, the former home of Francisco de Montejo, a Spanish Conquistador who founded Mérida in 1542, now a bank. You can stroll, shop, and people-watch while doing the Calle 60 Stroll — one of the “must-dos” while in Mérida. Beginning at the
Take an hour ride from Parque Hidalgo through the historic district in a calesa (horse-drawn carriage) for $25.
Just beyond stands the beautiful Iglesia de Jesús, also known as Iglesia de Tercer Orden (Church of the Third Order), with its magnificent frescoed interior. Built in 1618, it's a good place to see a Yucatecan wedding. Parque de la Madre (Motherhood Park) offers some shade as you gaze over at the Teatro José Peón Contreras (José Peón Contreras Theater). The University of the Yucatán's main building, across the street, offers summer courses in archaeology and Spanish and a folkloric dance performance on Friday evenings.
Parque de Santa Lucia (Saint Lucy Park), up next, offers a free Yucatecan serenade every Thursday evening at 9 P.M. Across the street stands the Iglesia de Santa Lucia (Church of Saint Lucy), which the Spaniards originally built for the exclusive use of their African slaves.
Continue your stroll to Calle 47 to Parque Santa Ana surrounded by antique shops and art galleries. Purchase a snack and cold drink from the vendors in the park. Walk over one block to Paseo de Montejo, Mérida's main avenue, considered to be Mérida's tree-lined version of Paris's Champs-Elysées, flanked by French-style old chateaux and monuments that tell of the grandeur of the Yucatán's turn-of-the-century
For about $10, take the Turibus open-air double-decker bus tour of Mérida. The whole tour, with English narration by earphones, lasts one hour, but you can get off and on at six designated stops along the way from 8:30 A.M. to 10:00 P.M., beginning near the Hotel Fiesta Americana Mérida.
You'll find Mérida's downtown is closed to traffic on Sundays, allowing you to stroll its streets, browse its shops, and attend one of many folkloric shows held in its parks.
For the Kids
Parque Centenario is
If you're a bird lover, this part of the Yucatán is like Nirvana. Natural undeveloped beaches are full of seagulls in flight and pelicans fishing in the shallow waters. Of all the places you can visit, Río Lagartos, 165 miles from Mérida, offers the most amazing sight — thousands of bright pink flamingos gathering in the estuary and flying overhead. The Mexican government declared this site a National Wildlife Refuge in 1979. You may also see spider monkeys, whitetail deer, crocodiles, as well as nineteen of the twenty-seven types of birds found in the world in this 90,000-acre refuge. Although you can drive to Rio Lagartos, 165 miles east of Mérida, you'll enjoy taking an all-day tour with lunch with Ecoturismo Yucatán (999-920-2772,
You can see a bullfight at the Plaza de Toros in Mérida between November and April. Tickets, available at the arena, on the