What to do in Merida
Visiting Mérida in Mexico means strolling quietly through its streets of colonial houses painted in pastel colors, stopping for a while in its parks and entering some of the many museums that are scattered around the city. You can do it for free, but if you are very interested in knowing its history from the hand of a local guide, we advise you to hire this guided tour or this panoramic tour. It is a perfect way to start your route through Merida, since they last just 2 hours.
Paseo de Montejo
A good way to start your visit to Mérida is through the Paseo de Montejo. This is the most beautiful avenue of the Yucatecan capital and in it you can find spectacular examples of mansions resulting from the economic boom due to the henequera or agave industry, also called “green gold”. The project was the result of the union of landowners, businessmen and merchants of the nineteenth century, who wanted to modernize the city.
The promenade, with a clear French inspiration, was named in honor of Francisco de Montejo, the Sevillian considered the founder of the city. We advise you to visit it from El Remate, a square located between 47th and 49th streets, and look at the following points of interest:
- Museum of Anthropology and History / Canton Palace – this was the official residence of the state governors and now you can find an exhibition about the founding of Yucatan and some temporary exhibitions. Admission costs 85 pesos, but it is free for students.
- Historical Archive of Mérida: it can be seen from the outside.
- Quinta Montes Molina: one of the most spectacular mansions to see in Merida. It dates from 1902 and was made in an eclectic style, although with clearly neoclassical tendencies. It is possible to visit it and enjoy both its architecture and furniture. The entrance costs 75 pesos. Other examples of this type of houses are El Minarete and Casas Cámara, which we have marked on the map of things to do in Mérida at the end of the post.
- Monument to the Fatherland: this imposing stone monument was built in the mid-twentieth century by the Colombian sculptor Romulo Rozo. The work lasted 11 years and represents the history of Mexico with more than 300 hand-carved figures.
Great Museum of the Mayan World
One of the most important museums to visit in Mérida is the Great Museum of the Mayan World, a modern center of culture, which has a permanent exhibition in which we find a collection of more than 1,100 pieces of great archaeological value divided into 4 rooms:
- The Mayab Nature and Culture: where you will learn about the extension that the Mayans occupied and the transformation of the terrain that they carried out.
- Mayas de Hoy: in which the current wealth of the Maya is studied through territory, social organization, language and cosmovision.
- Mayas de Ayer: where you will learn about the history of the Mayan culture and its different stages.
- Ancestral Maya: in which the knowledge of the Maya is deepened in 4 pillars, society, cosmovision, art and science.
In addition, temporary exhibitions and a cinema can be found. As a curiosity, the architecture of the building is based on the ceiba tree, a fundamental piece to understand the Mayan mysticism.
If you want to explore the more cultural side of the city, do not hesitate to sign up for this tour of the museums of Mérida. You will be accompanied by a guide and you will visit, among others, the Great Museum of the Mayan World.
Main Square of Mérida or “Plaza Grande”
The nerve center of the capital of Yucatan is the Main Square, Plaza Grande or Zocalo. Almost always full of life, it is a good place to rest for a while with a marquise in hand and admire the number of monumental buildings that surround it.
Among the most important and essential to see in Mérida are the Cathedral of San Ildefonso, the Government Palace and the Casa Montejo, which we will talk about below. But we advise you to also visit the Municipal Palace, since you can go up to the second floor to get the best views of the Plaza Grande. In addition, it is the tourist information office, where you can get a map and where they will also solve all the doubts you have.
Here you will also find the typical colored letters in which to take the typical photo and, if you like art exhibitions, in the Olimpo Cultural Center there is always some, being free admission.
If you are going to visit Mérida on Sunday, do not hesitate to go in the afternoon, since it is common for there to be a jarana show, a typical dance of Yucatan, and that the square is filled with food and craft stalls. On Mondays, at 9pm, there is also a vaquería show, another traditional dance, in the basement of the Municipal Palace.
Cathedral of San Ildefonso
The Cathedral of San Ildefonso or Cathedral of Mérida is the most important in the city and, in addition, it is the oldest cathedral in Mexico and the first in continental America. It was ordered to be built by King Philip II after the foundation of Mérida on an ancient Mayan city called T’Hó, in 1542.
Its façade is of Renaissance style, although the towers on the sides are Moorish style. Unfortunately, the baroque and churrigueresque altarpieces of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries disappeared when it was looted in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Inside, what stands out most is the so-called “Christ of Unity”, considered the largest wooden image of Christ crucified indoors. You will also see the image of Santa Eulalia, a gift from the Merida of Spain to the Yucatecan in the mid-60s.
Government Palace of the State of Yucatan, an interesting building to visit in Merida
Also in the Plaza Grande, the Government Palace of the State of Yucatan is one of the most interesting buildings to visit in Merida. It is an elegant construction of eclectic classicist style dating from 1892 with a beautiful arcaded courtyard and, most interestingly, 27 murals by the artist Fernando Castro Pacheco. They show passages of the life of the state of Yucatan. In addition, you can also enter the spectacular Hall of History and contemplate the square from the balconies on the second floor.
Casa Montejo Museum
We continue touring the square calling at what, possibly, is its place of greatest interest in historical terms. The Casa Montejo Museum is located in what is believed to be the oldest house in the city, dating back to 1549. This was the residence of the Montejo family, which began to be built after the founding of Mérida and is the only example of a Renaissance-style civil house in Mexico.
Although only the façade remains of the original house, it is completely restored and in it you can learn about the lifestyle of a wealthy family of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The building itself is worth the visit, but we advise you to try to make it coincide with the guided tours. These are held at 12h and 16h from Tuesday to Saturday and at 12h on Sundays.