Mérida is the cultural heart and soul of the Yucatan. With a history starting with the Maya, leading to Spanish conquistadors and continuing with henequin plantations, this historic city offers you insights into a rich culture, incredible cuisine and friendly people. Mérida will give you an understanding about Mexico you will not find anywhere else.
Mérida was founded in 1542 by the Spanish Conquistador Francisco de Montejo, after marching across the peninsula from the Mayan port of Xel-Ha. Mérida has one of the largest centro historico districts in the Americas, with large and small colonial homes lining the city streets in various states of restoration and renovation. The historical center of Mérida is currently undergoing somewhat of a renaissance as more and more people are moving into the colonial buildings and reviving their former glory.
Mérida is a cultural hub of the Yucatan with multiple museums, art galleries, restaurants, theatres and stores. The beautiful colonial buildings encouraged the development of the vibrant cultural and artistic center. Music and dancing play an important role in the day-to-day life of its residents, and live performances can be seen frequently in the square and other venues around town. The Jose Peon Contreras Theatre is the center of musical entertainment including the symphony, classical music evenings and international visiting musicians.
This capital city has more to see and do than we can explain. We would recommend a few things so you are in Mérida during peak cultural and market days. Weekends are the highlight for residents and visitors. The Zocalo is host to a weekend market, cultural activities are abound Saturday and Sunday evenings, and the main road is closed off to traffic on Sundays for ‘Family Bike Day’, a day when families are encouraged to get out and ride their bike along Montejo Avenue. When planning your stay in Mérida, put food markets, clothing markets, churches, the Mayan Museum, art galleries, restaurants and neighborhoods on your list. There is more than one historic district so make sure you pick an area that inspires you or choose an area you have not seen before.
Mérida is the perfect destination to explore the grandeur of colonial Mexico, as well as a jumping off point for day trips to the surrounding sites, such as the Celestun Biosphere, the ‘yellow town’ of Izamal and the impressive Mayan ruins of Dzibilchaltun, Mayapan and Uxmal. Visit one of the numerous cenotes located throughout the area, where you can enjoy a refreshing break from the summer heat. Our favorite adventures have taken us to the colonial Haciendas where henequen (sisal) was once cultivated on plantation-like properties. Haciendas in contemporary Yucatan are foodie havens, cultural museums and incredible displays of Spanish colonial architecture.
One hour north of the colonial metropolis of Merida is the seaside town of Progresso. Meridanos escape to Progresso in droves on weekends and holidays to experience the laid back vibe and cool sea breeze. The beaches of Progresso do not compare to the Riviera Maya beaches on the Caribbean but offer a different beach experience including evening walks along the malécon or a seafood dinner at one of the waterfront restaurants. Kite surfers love the cross winds on the Gulf of Mexico making Progresso a sought-after this sport.