I love my city! I’ve been living in Merida Mexico for about a year now, and since I’m a blogger I have put in even more effort to get to know this city inside and out. I love to share on my blog about places I know well and Merida Mexico is one of them! Here are the best things to do in Merida Mexico during your trip here. It has so much to offer from culture and festivals to food and drinks, architecture and history; Merida Mexico has it all – and many activities are free!
This list is meant to simplify what you can find online and put the best of the best of Mexico with experiences and tour but also make sure to cover the top tourist attractions so you don’t leave with FOMO. I hope you love Merida Mexico as much as I do.
Read more: 40 things to do in Mexico, my wishlist!
50 Things to do in Merida Mexico
Merida, Yucatan Mexico | Let’s get started on this epic list of Merida things to do!
I’m breaking this things to do list into sections starting with where to stay and basics, what to do culturally, museums, markets and shopping, what to do in Merida when it rains, festivals, food, cantinas, day trips, and more!
1. Experience the Haciendas
Choose your home here wisely! I love the cute boutique hotels and even hostels. I loved Luz en Yucatan and Hotel Hacienda Merida both a lot. You can also go higher end at Rosas X Chocolate or Casa Lecanda. For a hostel, look no further than Nomadas Hostel. You can also visit Haciendas during the day for a spa or pool day with yummy food.
2. Rent a Renovated Colonial Airbnb in Centro
There are SO many epic Airbnb options in town that are renovated colonial home. They are affordable and will honestly blow you away. We stayed in a bunch and I wrote up some favorites here. If you are a larger group or family you can get a mansion here for $200 or so a night and you’ll love it!
3. Park Hop to catch the Merida Vibe
Walk from park to park to shop, eat, and sightsee. Santa Ana, Santa Lucia, and Santiago are all lovely to explore. Don’t forget to enjoy the free WiFi.
4. Free City Walking Tour
Take a free walking tour of the “white city”. I’ll admit, I haven’t done this haha! I have always loved a free walking tour in my backpacking days and all my fellow expat friends here say this one is actually really worth the time. You can meet at Plaza Grande (the main square) at the Merida tourism office. They do these every morning at 9:30. While it’s free, you should give your guide a tip.
5. Carnivalito Bus City Tour
You can also tour Merida by bus for 75 pesos! This meets at Santa Lucia at 10 am, 1 pm, 4 pm, and 7 pm. This tour is in Spanish but it’s still enjoyable if you don’t speak the language just to get your bearings.
6. Learn to Salsa
Take a salsa class! You’ll see cantinas offering classes, like Dzalbay one of my favorites. I haven’t taken classes because I have two left feet, but they are very popular.
7. Visit the Gran Museo Del Mundo Maya
Did you know that 30% of the people here speak Mayan – and many Mayans live in town not just out in the country working on farms like you might imagine? It is a culture that is very much part of Merida from the food to the clothing. You can learn more about the Maya at the museum. Keep in mind that the video at the beginning is in Spanish without subtitles as are many of the plaques – but not all. There is still a lot of English information. It will cost you 150 pesos and is closed on Tuesdays. The hours are 8-5. You can take an Uber or use their parking garage
8. Visit Palacio Canton
Palacio Canton is another Mayan museum, much smaller, on Paseo de Montejo. No need to check it out truthfully if you have been to the grand museum, but if not then definitely go in here for a little information on the Mayans. The price is 60 pesos.
9. Casa Museo Montes Molina
Ever wonder what the inside of the mansions on Paseo Montejo look like? Pop into Casa Museo Montes Molina which is where the “Montejos” used to live for generations – the founders of Merida! Tours are on the hour 9-11 AM most days. In general, just cruising along Paseo Montejo is a nice way to spend a morning!
10. Visit the Cemetario Paneton Florido
See what a Mexican cemetery is like. They celebrate their dead loved ones here and these places are the “gate to the other life”. Full of color and beauty, it’s not unusual to do cemetery tours in Merida or elsewhere in Mexico.
11. Watch Pok Ta Pok Mayan Ballgame
Watch the Mayan ballgame on Fridays next to Grande Plaza at 830 PM. Pok Ta Pok is the game which was played by the Mayans in ancient times. You’ll see a real ballcourt when you visit Chichen Itza. The hoops are way up on the walls and they had to get the ball through them – with their hip and it was made of rubber! Ouch. I was told that the losers were sacrificed at the top of the pyramid. But these days, they just play for fun to re-enact this game in costume. This is free to come to watch, like most things in Merida.
12. Enjoy the Teatro Jose Peon Symphony
Have a fancy grown-up night at the symphony! You can go listen to music at the Teatro Jose Peon which is usually on Friday nights and Sunday afternoons. I have seen tickets being sold outside – sometimes there have been big lines, I imagine when someone famous is playing. This is right there in Centro, so just pop by and see what is playing and grab some tickets (or just look online). Tickets are usually under 200 pesos and if you want to go in when there is no show, you can wander around for free.
13. Photograph the Colorful Streets
In general, you need to make time to explore the colorful streets and practice your photography! There’s nothing like these colorful walls with the many, many VW bugs lining the streets (the factory was based here!). It’s really beautiful. I recommend going to the street that has Casa Lecanda (use Google Maps) and walk from there.
14. Visit the Merida Sign and Giant Kissing Chairs
Other tourist photography tips: you can go to Santa Lucia to get a photo of the giant “kissing chairs” and the Plaza Grande to see the giant colorful “Merida” sign. Kissing chairs are supposedly for couples who are meeting up but have conservative family chaperoning. They sit in these chairs so they are separated and cannot kiss! You’ll see normal sized kissing chairs all over Merida.
15. Friday Night In Plaza Grande
Feeling like you have nothing to do? Have guests to show around but not sure what’s left to see? There’s almost always something going on in Plaza Grande, even on weekdays. Just head down there to see what’s up! It’s the main square. On Fridays, the whole street of Calle 60 which leads to here is shut down and pedestrian. This is where and when the ball game is – every single week!
16. Ride a bike on Paseo Montejo for Bici Ruta
Take a free ride for “Bici Ruta”. On Sunday mornings until around noon, you can take a bike (for free) and ride along the shutdown Paseo Montejo. They even have tandem bikes. It’s so family-friendly and you can hop along from cafe to shop or just ride for fun. From here, you could then head down to Plaza Grande for the market I mentioned earlier.
17. Vaqueria Night Ballet
Every night has an activity. Enjoy Vaqueria Night which is when there is a ballet and Orchestra. This is at Plaza Grande and Calle 62 and starts pretty late, around 9 PM but get there a bit early.
18. Dance at Santiago on Tuesdays
On Tuesdays, at Santiago Park, you can go dance your little heart out! They have a band and lots of couples go bust a move. Get there around 9 PM.
19. Yucatan Serenade at Santa Lucia on Thursdays
Thursdays is live music at Santa Lucia. You need to arrive early to get at seat for the “Serenade” and see local dancing and music.
20. Noche Mexicana
Every Saturday is Noche Mexicana. Christmas at Noche Mexicana in Merida is so dreamy but it’s great all year. This is at the end of Paseo Montejo – where the road ends, near Cafeteria Impala. At Christmas, they put up a huge Christmas tree, lights, and giant polar bears and nativity scenes. Grab at marquesita and have a stroll any other time of the year and get all the tacos!
21. Lucas Galvez Market
Get into the REAL local vibes at the Lucas Galvez Market. When I’m here, it reminds me of being in Goa. Ben and I thrive in chaos! It’s really not that chaotic actually, but compared to the perfectly manicured squares like Santa Lucia, it’s refreshing to see such a lively market. Try local fruit juices, taco stalls, shop around, taste things you see that you haven’t seen before. This isn’t a tourist market and you aren’t getting souvenirs here – this is a true local market.
22. Plaza Grande Sunday Market
Want souvenirs? Then head to Plaza Grande on Sunday mornings for a lovely market with lots of handicrafts like hammocks and bags, but also some of the best food! You’ll get tacos, panuchos, salbutes, kibis, empanadas, tortas, and more for such local fair prices that you can literally try it all. I love spending a Sunday morning here.
23. Shop Bohemian Decor
If you are looking for more bohemian “Tulum” style stuff, check out Casa Tho, Jiwa, Coqui Coqui, Kukul, and the small shop inside of Catrin. Merida doesn’t have a lot of this, to be honest. There are also some great homewares stores in the North but honestly so unaffordable. Much of that type of things here is too novelty and prices are sky-high.
24. Fair-trade art at Casa De Las Artesanias
Go to Casa De Las Artesanias for fair priced artisan souvenirs that are fixed price, not negotiable, which is owned by the government if you aren’t into haggling.
25. Avoid the rain at one of these malls
Check out a mall if it rains – you have TOO many options. Merida actually has too many malls – some are better than others but overall they are pretty similar. The newest ones are Harbor (has a Sephora) and La Isla (has a lake outside). The ones I usually go to are Galerias or Altabrisa.
26. Enjoy a VIP movie
Check out a VIP movie if it rains. The American ones are in English with Spanish subtitles for the most part. In Merida, at the Cinemex Platino theatres, you will get big comfy recliner seats, blankets, and you just push a button for someone to bring you a glass or wine or buffalo wings haha. It’s awesome and $5. PLUS, many offer BOGO tickets throughout the week.
27. For the kids: go-karting, laser tag, bowling, and arcades
Other ideas if it rains are go-karting, laser tag, bowling, and arcades. You’ll find a lot throughout the North of town. Centro is great and historical but can feel touristy; in the North (Norte) you have real-life everyday things going on like wives popping into Costco for their groceries – which by the way, has a cenote in the parking lot!
28. Saturday Slow Food Market
If you’re staying for a longer time and cooking at home, you might enjoy the Saturday Slow Food Market. Many local people come here like a farmers market and sell hummus, delicious bread, herb olive oils, plants, fruit/veg, and even farms with meat like ribs or lamb – it’s all here.
29. El Dia de Los Muertos
At the start of November, it’s time for Day of the Dead festivities “El Dia de Los Muertos” but in Merida, you have a combination of that with Hanal Pixán which is the Mayan version. The parades are AWESOME and I actually cried some happy tears. Like most festivals here, there are so many things that are involved in the culture like unique face paint and food. Get in on all the fun!
30. Noche Blanca
If you’re here in December, check when Noche Blanca “White Night” is. We have experienced it twice – once on accident – and it was around the 6th of the month. For six hours straight, it will be live music all over the place! Like all the festivals, it just means stages set up, roads closed, more shopping and street food, performances, live music, and more. They do walking tours down to the cemetery which is a site to see.
31. Merida Fest
If you’re here in January, enjoy Merida Fest. Mexicans love a reason to party and it seems like there is always a festival and fireworks. This goes on for a couple of weeks and there is always something going on down in Plaza Grande.
32. Merida’s Carnaval
Play around at Merida’s Carnaval located at X’matkuil Fairgrounds and watch the floats go by. The date changes so you can check here to see when it will be – sometime in Feb/March. There are free shuttles for all from downtown but you can also just grab an Uber there.
33. Eat local
You have to try everything! Cochinita Pibil – slow roasted pork you can have on tacos or panuchos. Chilaquiles – basically breakfast nachos. Huevos Motuleños – breakfast dish, Mayan style. Tacos, panuchos, salbutes – all kind of similar tacos, fried or unfried, with or without beans is the difference. Queso Relleno – pork stuffed in Edam cheese. Sopa de Lima – lime soup with turkey. The list can go on and on. I love Pastor Suizo for tacos, La Chaya Maya is okay but touristy, El Barrio, and the famous ones Manjar Blanco and Wayan’e.
34. Have Netflix-Famous La Lupita’s
For the best lunch, go to La Lupita at Parque de Santiago. It’s been featured in the new Netflix show “Salt Acid Fat Heat” for the “acid” episode. Order everything. Most stalls in this market close by 2 PM, so go early enough.
35. Dinner at the trendy night markets
Go to a trendy less local market for a different scene. There is Mercado 60 which has pizza, BBQ, wings, and is great for big groups of people. Our families loved it. It’s affordable and has local food, too. There is usually live music. Casa Domingo is a similarly good option, a little more upscale than Mercado 60.
36. Enjoy the booming cafe scene
You can’t go wrong with trendy Manifesto Cafe, local cafe Sukra, hipster Bengala Kaffeehaus, or fancy Latte Quattro Sette.
37. Take a cooking class
You’ll see many haciendas and small boutique hotels offering them as well as tours you can book online like Viator. What an awesome way to spend the afternoon!
38. Botanas at the Cantinas
Around 5 PM, get to them to get a seat. They close by 10. Inside these little assuming swinging “Western” doors are crowded lively bars with live music. Favorites are Dzalbay, Cantina Negrita, El Cardinal, and Eladios has good snacks and allows children in. There is one on the beach and in town. For craft beers, head to Hermana Republica.
39. Bar Hopping
After the cantinas close around 10 PM, head to the bars: Casa Chica, Mayan Pub, Fundación Mezcaleria and many more.
40. Enjoy Culinary Creations from Around the World
If you’re dying for a non-Yucatan meal, don’t fret. There is everything from ramen to authentic Italian here. I have a FULL list of my favorite restaurants, bars, markets, desserts, and more in this blog post.
41. Head out to the beach
You can pop over to Progreso (again I suggest renting a car, but Uber is also available) in just 30 minutes. I suggest Eladios for the best free botanas, cheap tacos and beachy drinks. If you want something nicer, check out Crabster. I love it there. Milk is also a great option. If you want a pool, go down to El Pez Gordo near the “Progreso sign” on the far side of the beach.
42. Snorkel in a cenote
There are plenty of cenotes all around Merida and thousands in the Yucatan state. The best thing to do is just google map cenote and see which ones you might pass on your way out to a day trip. Many people stop at Ik Kil and Santa Barbara is also a good one.
42. Lay in the Coconut Groves of San Crisanto
For a more secluded beach, there are so many, but we love San Cristanto aka “the coconut grove”. Such a beautiful stretch of beach. Rent a cabana or bring an umbrella. We pack a cooler and bring lunch. If you want to eat on the way, stop in at “Angeles Azul” on the way. The best coconut shrimp!
43. The Ecological Reserve Corchito
On your way into Progreso, stop into The Ecological Reserve Corchito. I can’t remember the price, but I think just 20 pesos to enter, and you can access four cenotes (three of which you can swim in) and kids love it here. To get to it, you have to take little three-minute boat ride across. It’s not something I’d do again unless I had friends with kids visit me.
44. Take Advantage of ADO and Local Buses for Day Trips
If you’re wondering what to do in Merida Mexico when you have done all the things in town, it’s time for a day trip! Take advantage of local buses, ADO buses, and affordable taxi rides to get around. Don’t feel trapped in Centro. Norte and day trips are essential to understand this city. You can also fly in and out of Cancun for better prices/routes and book a comfortable A/C reclining seat bus ride into Merida.
45. Take a trip to Celestun to see the flamingos
There are a few that are definitely worth doing. Celestun is about three hours away. I highly recommend renting a car even just for the day for this – tours can be boring. You’ll drive out, buy a ticket, take a boat ride out into the area where the flamingos are and if you’re lucky November to March you can see thousands. Keep in mind, you also just see them randomly when you drive to the beach up past Progreso to the NE.
46. Visit Chichen Itza Mayan Ruins
Of course, you have to take a day trip to Chichen Itza! These are huge Mayan Ruins and are a “Man-made Wonder of the World”. You can leave early and be back in Merida by two. There are tons of tours but you can easily drive yourself as well. Even I’ve done this drive! The roads are big and safe. It takes about an hour and a half. For more information, I have a whole article with tips here.
47. Visit the yellow city of Izamal
Just an hour from Merida is a cute all yellow city with great haciendas you can enjoy a traditional lunch at, churches to walk around, and old fashioned vibes (like horse and carriages where the horses are wearing ladies’ hats).
48. Do a tour to Uxmal Mayan ruins
I loved Uxmal even more than Chichen Itza. It’s a more spread out ruin and fewer people go. On the way there and back you can stop at a very hidden cenote, Muna Point, shop handicrafts straight from locals, and an amazing hacienda for lunch. All the details for this day trip are in this blog post.
49. Las Coloradas Pink Lake
Go see the giant pink lake that Pinterest loves, Las Coloradas. It’s about three hours away. This lake is bright pink from the salt and makes for an interesting site and great photos. You can no longer swim in it. Pictured above is NOT Las Coloradas; I haven’t been. If you also don’t know if you’re up for the mission, you can see these (pictured above) just on the way past Progreso when you go the beach!
50. Valladolid Cenote
If you’re up for it, head to Valladolid about 2 hours away. This cool city is famous in the Yucatan for it’s stunning cenote. It looks like the light just shines down from heaven onto a stone walkway out into the cenote! So epic.
I hope you enjoyed these 50 things to do in Merida Mexico as much I did writing it! I have so much more information to share and will be doing so in the future like shopping guides and such. For now, make sure you’ve also read:
- Best restaurants in Merida
- A little guide to Merida
- Day trip to Uxmal
- Chichen Itza tips
- Great Airbnb options in Merida
If you want to move to Merida, check out these articles:
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