If you’ve always wanted to see the east coast of Mexico, don’t even think about not visiting the Yucatán. Discovering Mérida, its capital city in 2 days is possible, but no way near long enough. This post is all about what to see in Merida, Mexico, and with only a short time to spare.

 

Discovering Merida - streets

What to see in Mérida Mexico in 2 days

How to get to Mérida from Playa Del Carmen

If traveling from Playa Del Carmen, you can take the ADO bus, or camion, as the Mexicans call it. Thankfully, the buses have air conditioning on board to give some comfort from the scorching temperatures. I’d spoken to many locals who told me that the temperature would be higher in the Yucatán capital — something I wasn’t exactly looking forward to.

‘If you don’t speak Spanish, you may experience a little difficulty in Yucatán.’

While I wasn’t looking forward to sweating even more, I was excited about experiencing first-hand the region’s rich cultural heritage.

 

Discovering Merida - everyday life

 

After a 4-and-a-half-hour bus ride, most of which I spent reading interesting facts about Mexico, I arrived in Mérida. It’s a far cry from the clinically clean and polished tourist towns of Playa Del Carmen and Cancun, and I fell in love immediately. The streets are dusty and noticeably smaller, but filled with crowds of people and market stalls. The architecture’s colorful and quintessentially Mexican.

Visiting Merida as a solo female traveler

As a solo female traveler, I couldn’t wait to discover more. Mérida felt like a ‘real’ part of Mexico and I didn’t once feel worried. If you’re a fellow female traveler, you may want to consider joining a tour. It’s not just a way to see some of the best sights, but you also get the safety net of being in a group.

 

Where to stay in Mérida Mexico

I chose to stay at an Airbnb over a hotel simply because I wanted a local experience. My host in Mérida was a charming and free-spirited lady called Isabella.

Her house in the Centro district of Mérida is exactly what you’d picture a Mexican home to be. Wide open spaces bursting with color, locally-made crafts everywhere, and ceiling fans in every room. With her gorgeous dog Ruby wandering comfortably through the house, I felt immediately at home.

 

Discovering Merida - Isabella's house

 

There’s a free magazine, Yucatán Today, that you can collect from the local tourist office in town. Dress in loose clothing, always carry a bottle of water and your abanico in hand, and discover historic Mérida for yourself.

Boutique hotels in Mérida

The next time I return to Mérida, I’m checking in for a few nights at Coqui Coqui Merida. This fabulous colonial townhouse is steps away from Mérida Cathedral, providing a super elegant, and comfortable, stay in the city.

Coqui Coqui Spa

What’s more, they have a superb spa, with  treatments like massages and facials using oils sourced from local ingredients. Therapists draw on ancient and traditional methods and use a holistic approach when treating guests. The spa menu does change, so be sure to check what’s available before booking.



Booking.com

Free things to do in Mérida, Mexico

Budget conscious travelers will be happy to know that there are many free things to do in Merida Mexico. The most notable architectural feature of the town is the old Spanish stone gates that once separated the Spanish colonialists from the Mayan people.

Spanish stone gates

The landmarks provide a clue to the city’s rich historical background, as well as a reference point if you ever get lost. ‘Always follow the gates and you’ll get back to Calle 44’, Isabella advised.

 

Free things to do in Mérida Mexico

 

The old cobbled streets lead to Plaza Grande, and along the way, you’ll notice a colorful array of Spanish-style buildings. Among the farmacias and mini supermercados are grand music schools, hotels and empty yet eye-catching structural buildings.

 

Free things to do in Mérida Mexico

 

The Blue House in Merida Mexico

The remarkable ‘Blue House’ draws you in like a magnet with its pop of blue color. The many well-maintained mini plazas – some of them resembling mini parks, are perfect for taking shade from the sweltering heat. Look around, and you’ll see old men having their shoes shined, and Mayan women selling homemade artesanias.

The heart of the city

Another block ahead and I arrived at the central part of the city, Plaza Grande. It’s a larger version of the mini plazas, with many locals there spending the day in the park. You can really feel the love in this plaza, particularly with the charming white stone conjoined ‘Lovers Seats’. 

What kind of souvenirs to buy in Mérida Mexico

If you want to buy locally produced handcrafts or souvenirs in Mérida, I recommend going to a Mayan cooperative. It’s far more ethical than the many tourist shops lining the streets.

 

Discovering Merida - Palacio

 

Moreover, all the products they sell are made by the Mayan people in the villages, and all profits go directly to them. It’s also worth noting that there’s no bartering in the cooperatives. The prices are fixed and very reasonable, so don’t even attempt to try!

What to eat in Mérida – Yucatán cuisine

While Mexican food is renowned for its picante food, Yucatán cuisine raises the chili scale on a whole different level. Not a usual fan of the spicy stuff, I tried some salsa verde with my tortilla in a traditional restaurant.

This salsa was so hot that my mouth was burning, my tongue tingling and my nose started running at the same time. The manager had a few giggles at my expense, and the experience was a wise lesson to always keep my food mild! 

 

Discovering Merida - the streets

 

Later for lunch, I went to a local restaurant and ate Yucatán style pork ribs followed by a bitingly cool frozen margarita. Portions are large and cheap in Mérida – something that also extends to alcohol. At the time of travel, it cost approximately £1.60 ($35 (MXN); $2.70 (USD) for a glass of wine. It’s a great difference to the price you pay in tourist towns, so drink up and enjoy!

What to see in Mérida Mexico – free attractions

The splendid Palacio De Gobierno and the grand Mérida Cathedral sit across from Plaza Grande. The Palacio’s unmissable, and with no entrance fee, there’s no excuse not to go. It’s home to government as well as tourist offices, and the palace has murals produced by local artists depicting the history of the Spanish and Mayan people.

 

Free things to do in Merida Mexico

 

Standing proudly in the heart of the city, Mérida Cathedral beckons you inside its majestic four walls. The fine interior is one you can appreciate, regardless of any religion. Paseo Montejo is a few blocks walk or a short taxi ride from Plaza Grande is also worth checking out. 

Honestly, I wasn’t impressed by Paseo Montejo. The polished streets and string of modern restaurants and bars reminded me of the ambience — and price tags — I’d left behind in Playa Del Carmen. Nonetheless, the colonial style buildings lining the paseo are certainly worth seeing.

Things to do in Mérida at night

Nightlife in Mérida is dominated by one thing and one thing only: salsa music. Whether it’s catching live salsa music in one of the plazas or going into a bar/club, music is king.

 

Things to do in Mérida at night

 

I went to one bar where a duo act performed popular salsa tunes on a small stage. Even me, with my two left feet, got up to partake in the local festivities. I left the bar sweaty, slightly merry, but unbelievably happy whistling salsa tunes all the way home. 

Is Merida safe?

One question I get asked a lot is, is Mérida safe? And as a solo female traveler, I can assure you that yes it is. I went back home around 1am from the bar, alone through the quiet cobbled streets, and didn’t feel any sense of danger.

Is Mérida Mexico worth visiting?

My visit to Mérida was undeniably the highlight of my Mexican experience, and yes, it’s definitely worth visiting. The people, atmosphere and the culture left me with a yearning to discover more about the region and its surrounding estados.

The next time I return, I plan to do more day trips from Mérida. There are 2 must-see archeological sites, Uxmal and Kabah, plus the historic town of Campeche.

 

What to see in Merida Mexico - streets of Merida

 

Quintana Roo is a coastal paradise and feels more comfortable simply because it’s more western. However, the Yucatán gave me something far more valuable. It gave me the chance to get out of my comfort zone and return home with an experience that no words or photographs could justify.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something that I’ve recommended. Thank you for your support.

 

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Discovering Mérida

2 days in Merida Mexico

2 days in Merida Mexico

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