This year Merida celebrates its 470 anniversary, and it does it with all the glory of half a millennium of existence.
Conquered by Fernando de Montejo in 1542 just over twenty years after the discovery of the new world, the ancient name for this city was T´ho and it was after a very long period of war and occupation that finally fell under the invaders domain. There are no monuments in town due to the Spaniards used the ancient city stones to build many important buildings that are still standing to this day.You can feel the history trapped in their walls.
Merida is one city of a kind, its people talks with a strong accent inherited from the ancient Maya language spoken in the region for centuries mixed with Spanish and in some amount other languages like Libanese, and Caribbean tongues. Food, art, and music are a wonderful collage from different influences due to the many different nationalities that migrated in the beginning of the past century, it was one of the richest cities in the world and almost an independent country of its own.
Hanging out in Merida can be really fun, many restaurants, bars and coffee shops offer a variety of remedies for heat and hunger. Also in many of these options life music and some kind of dancing is always present as in all Latin America
If you are stayng in Merida for a few days then you may want to plan an extense tour in and around Merida, Mayan ruins, cenotes, haciendas, museums, galleries and much more are awaiting.
Renting a car is probably the best way to move around as some of this places are outside of the city and you may want to go visit Chichen Itza, Progreso, Rio Lagartos and some other sites nearby. See some car rental options here
If you don’t want to rent a car that´s ok, must of the museums and important buildings are near each other for not more than a mile, you can find urban buses and taxis all over the downtown area or jump on one of the “calesas” a traditional horse-drawn carriage, but I recommend walking around, Merida is a very walker friendly city. There are several tour operators in town that can take you to the sites outside of the city.
Another good way to see Merida is taking the “Turibus” a very informative tour around town stopping in many of the important sites and parks, you can take the bus from several points in the city.
Paseo Montejo is by far the most important street in Merida, although the city was founded in 1542 it wasn’t till 1888 that Paseo Montejo was built to commemorate the founding of the City by Francisco de Montejo and it figures in travel books as the “Champs Elysees” of Merida and it is an excellent way to start your exploration of the city.
You can also try the free walking tours around Merida’s historic district at 9:30 am. Meeting point: information office at City Hall, Calle 62 between 61 and 63 on the Main Plaza.
In the evening, enjoy an outdoor concert with traditional “Vaquería” with Yucatecan dancing and dress at the Palacio Municipal on the main Plaza at 9 pm.
Every Tuesday night, weather permitting, there is live music and dancing at the Parque Santiago. In the little park in front of the church of the same name, the music and festivities begin about 8:30 pm. Parque Santiago is between Calle 57 and 59 and between Calle 70 and 72. Also at evening time you can listen to the traditional Yucatacan music with a “Trova Night” at the Olimpo at 9:00 pm.
You can also take the House and garden tour, tours meet at 9:45 am and feature 3 historic restored homes in the centro histórico of Mérida. Tours last about 2 1/2 hours. 200 pesos. Calle 53 No. 524 x 66 y 68, Tel. 924 8401. www.meridaenglishlibrary.com
Free activity in Mérida: Show at the Olimpo Cultural Center at 9 p.m. You can also take a horse and buggy ride from Calle 60 downtown up to Monument to the Flag on Paseo de Montejo
I also recommend the free serenade at Sta. Lucia Park, which is an open-air concert in downtown Mérida featuring Yucatecan dress, dance, music and folklore on Calle 60 and 55 at 9:00 pm. Continue on Calle 60 between 61 and 53 for Corazón de Mérida
if you can, visit the native markets, Pasaje Picheta or the best in the city La Casa de Artesanias with handcrafts from Yucatán made by Yucatecan artesans. Check out Mérida’s malls.
Evening: University serenade, main University building on the corner of Calle 60 and 57, 9 p.m. Continue on Calle 60 between 61 and 53 for Corazón de Mérida
On a Saturday, evening time has 2 events, one at the end of Paseo de Montejo at Calle 47 called Fiesta Mexicana from 8:00 pm to midnight. The second event is downtown where you find the streets closed to traffic and restaurants with tables on the street and different music on every corner. This event is called Corazón de Mérida and it happens from 9:00 pm to 2:00 am.
Don’t forget to visit the handcraft market Lucas de Gálvez, it has everything. Visit Mérida on Sunday – an outdoor handcraft market and food festival on the Main Plaza, and up Calle 60 to Hidalgo Park and Santa Lucia Park -streets are closed, live music 9 am – 9 pm. Continue on Calle 60 between 61 and 53 for Corazón de Mérida.
And if you like bike riding, every Sunday from 8 am to 12:30 pm more than 5 kilometers of roads in the city are closed off to traffic to allow bicycles free access.