Merida might not be on your radar when taking a vacation to Cancun – but perhaps it should be. This stunning city is the capital of Yucatan State and is touted as one of the safest cities in all of North America. At only a 4-hour drive from Cancun, it’s an easily accessible destination that’s the perfect place to learn more about Mayan culture while soaking up the colonial architecture and enjoying the unbeatable food this thriving metropolis has to offer.
Interested? Read on to find out the 5 reasons why you should visit Merida on your next Mexican vacation.
1. Merida Has Stunning Architecture
Merida has a long and checkered past and because of that, it has a variety of architectural styles. Some of the most picturesque buildings reflect the city’s colonial history, with many noteworthy mansions found along the Paseo de Montejo. The majority of buildings on this main thoroughfare originally belonged to wealthy Yucatecan landowners, but many have now been converted to upscale hotels, banks, and museums.
This capital city also boasts an imposing cathedral, plus more than its fair share of pretty churches dotted around the many parks and squares. Merida is a city to get lost in, to explore and find your own favorite buildings – there are plenty here to enjoy.
2. The Foodie Scene Is Strong In Merida
If food is important to you, Merida can offer so much more than the usual staples of tacos and tequila. Home to multiple Michelin-rated restaurants, including top-rated fine dining establishment Ku’uk, some of the restaurants here may not be cheap, but the quality and experience is out of this world.
TV shows often choose to film in Merida, with local traders featuring in Netflix documentaries such as The Taco Chronicles, and Chef Samin Nosrat’s Salt Fat Acid Heat series. This goes some way to show how worthy Merida is of the attention given to its food scene.
3. There Are Loads Of Exciting Day Trips From Merida
Merida has plenty to keep you interested for several days, but is also a great jumping-off point for day trips. Consider trying the following:
Also known as ‘The Yellow City’, Izamal is a ‘magic town’ whose streets are lined with houses and restaurants painted in a stunning ochre yellow. This compact city, an hour and a half from Merida, has Mayan ruins, great restaurants, and is a lovely place to stroll around or enjoy a horse and carriage ride.
This beach town on the northern Yucatan coast is home to huge flocks of flamingos from November to April each year. Organized trips like this run frequently and are a great way to experience some of Mexico’s awe-inspiring nature.
The Mayan ruins at Uxmal are equally impressive, but way less busy, than some of the better-known ruin sites like Chichen Itza. It’s an easy site to get to from Merida, with trips running daily in non-Covid times.
4. You Get Great Value For Money In Merida
The Mexican Caribbean doesn’t always offer the best value for money, but Merida is still infinitely affordable and there are plenty of bargains to be found.
Accommodation rates vary from a handful of dollars for a basic room to thousands per night for the most luxurious hotels, but there are always moderately priced options to be found. And Airbnb is thriving in the city, with hundreds of properties to choose from for any budget.
When it comes to food, you can secure a good feed with the smallest of budgets – we saw tacos for less than a dollar each in many places. And, because Merida is home to more Mexicans than tourists, you won’t find the inflated prices of the more touristy destinations in Quintana Roo.
Transport is also super affordable, with a 10-minute Uber trip only costing around $2.
5. Merida Is A Great Evening Destination
When the sun goes down in Merida, it’s time to head out and explore. Although Merida’s not known for nightclubs, it’s ideal for eating, drinking, and watching the world go by.
There are endless great restaurants here, some of which are found on ‘Restaurant Row’ found on Calle 47, or around some of the city’s squares and parks, such as Parque Santa Lucia, which is an easy walk from the historic center.
There’s also a growing bar scene, which offers anything from traditional cantina-style establishments – such as La Negrita – to craft beer at the Cuerno de Toro Taproom. Plus there are modern multi-trader spaces, such as Mercado 60, where you can mix it up, enjoying sushi with a beer, or a burger with fine wine, bought from one of the many vendors featured in this innovative market.
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