Things to do and see in/around Merida, Mexico:
- Art Galleries (both fine art as well as local crafts)
- Live Theater/Symphony Performances
- Noche Mexicana – every Friday at the start of the Pasaeo de Montejo. Excellent place to go listen to some live music and watch some traditional dancing. There are craft stalls and amazing food as well.
- The church on the main square is the oldest cathedral in Mesoamerica. It is built from the stones of demolished Mayan ruins.
- Weekend Fiesta in the Zocalo – Every weekend they close down the main square and have dancing and music and other performances. There are tons of craft and food stalls as well.
- Celestun – go see the flamingos, wander the beach and have lunch at one of the shacks (avoid Boyo restaurant)
- Progresso – Great if you need a day at the beach
- Cenotes – there are several cenotes in the area and you can do one set of three by taking a collectivo, then a trici taxi, then a horse-drawn cart from a little town about 40 minutes from Merida.
- Uxmal – Uxmal is beautiful and only about 1.5-2 hours from Merida via bus. Or, if you have several people it may make sense to rent a car and visit several of the other sites in the area while you have the chance.
- Chichen Itza – After hearing from several people that Chichen Itza is over-rated and there are much better ruins to visit I decided to give it a pass. However, if it’s on your list, it’s an easy day trip from Merida.
Places to eat in Merida:
- El Trapiche – on Calle 62 between 57 and 61, on the right side of the street as you head towards the Zocalo. It doesn’t look like much but the food is great and very cheap. Try the Salbutes or Panuchos.
- Café Hoya – On Calle 62 between 57 and 59, on the right side of the street as you head towards the Zocalo. Mostly a local hang out, this is a great place to exchange a book, get a coffee or have a sandwich. They also have great cheesecake. Prices are reasonable and at night it’s a great place to people watch in their open courtyard. Very gay friendly environment.
- Amaros – this is the old standard in Merida and seems to be the place for tourists to go. On most nights they account for 90+% of the customers. The food is passable and if you’re a vegetarian this is one of the few places in town that really does veg food. You’ll be able to find it in any guide book.
- Pane y Vino – great homemade Italian pasta with various sauces. The sauces aren’t consistent but the food was always decent and they have a pretty good Pinot Grigio by the glass as well. It is on Calle 62 between 59 and 61 on the left as you’re heading towards the Zocalo. It’s only open for dinner.
- Pizza Rafaelo – the best pizza I’ve had in Mexico (others agree) by far. Fresh, wood fired with a thin, crispy crust. Will definitely satisfy your craving. It’s on Calle 60 between 51 and 47 on the right side of the road as you head away from the Zocalo.
- Bar Latino (I think this is the name, I just call it botana bar) – if you’re on a budget but still want the occasional beer, this is a great alternative. With your (24 MXN) beer you get an amazing array of botanas (free appetizers) ranging from Ceviche to Pumpkin spread (yummy!). They close early though so get there before 7:30 if you want to be able to eat anything. It’s on Calle 59 between 54 and 50 on the left side of the road if you’re heading away from the Centro. It’s small but look for a sign that says Botanas on the door and you should be able to find it.
- Eladios – another place to go if you want some free nibbles but the beer is more expensive and you’re more likely to hear English or German from the visitors than Spanish. It’s on the corner of Calle 59 and 44.
- Maya Pub – if you’re looking for somewhere to go later at night (bars close early in Merida) this is a great option. They have live music on the weekends and you can get a pitcher of beer for 77 MXN. The music can be hit or miss but it’s still a fun atmosphere in the evenings, full of locals catching up with old friends and tourists watching the locals.
- La Choperia – A mixture of Brazillian and Mexican foods, this new restaurant is very nice. They’re known for their Chope beer which is fresh and has a great flavor. The food was also very nice and great quality for the price. Get the mashed potato and beef stew starter if you have someone to split it with. You can ask around for directions or look in the Yucatan Today magazine for their advert.
Places to stay in Merida:
I stayed in three places in Merida, not including my couch surfing experience:
- Presidente Intercontinental – This is pretty much like any other 4* hotel in the world. Nice comfey beds, big bathrooms and thick comforters. Though I’m a budget traveler, I occasionally like to splash out and treat myself to somewhere nice and private for a couple nights. My main motivation this time was a big comfey bed and aircon. I was able to get this hotel for $50/night through priceline.com so try that first if you don’t want to pay the $190/night rack rate.
- Nomadas Hostel – the most well known hostel in Merida it seems to be where most people go first. I was not impressed and it’s not where I would recommend going.
- Hostal Santa Lucia – Smaller and MUCH friendlier than Nomadas it’s also cheaper and has a better breakfast so it gets my very enthusiastic thumbs up recommendation.