Mérida, the Vibrant Capital City of Yucatan

Blogger at Mexico Cassie and writer for Yucatan Today, Cassie Pearse fell in love with Mexico on her honeymoon, much like myself. But she wasn’t content on traveling back and forth. Instead, she moved with her family from the UK, including her young children, to Mérida, and she says they have never been happier. I enjoy reading her blog since we share a love for the Yucatan and its Maya culture. Being local now, she offers a lot of tips for my visits. I thought she could share some with my readers, too. When I asked, she graciously agreed to write a post for me about the city she calls home. 

Cassie with Merida seats on Santa Lucia

A Well-kept Secret of Holiday D

I think of Mérida as being a terribly kept secret in the world of holiday destinations. As a resident of this city, I’m well aware that we are well and truly on the tourist trail. Then I move around Mexico and chat to people and realize that there are still so many visitors who just have no idea what or where Mérida is. I’ve been asked if I live in the jungle, if Mérida is a small village, and been told we’re brave to live somewhere like Mérida.


Where in the World Is Mérida?

Mérida is the vibrant capital city of the state of Yucatán. It has a population of over 800,000 and it wouldn’t surprise me if we hit the million mark soon since people from all over the world are flocking here in search of a better quality of life. Mérida, you see, is not only one of the safest cities in Mexico, but it’s also a beautiful colonial city incredibly well situated for exploring the region.  

Merida street view

A visitor to the city could easily spend a week here without even needing to consider a day trip elsewhere. Mérida has twice been named the American capital of culture, and with good reason. There is always something going on here. Besides the regular line-up of cultural activities, something more seems to happen every weekend.  Quite honestly, the city’s government is always looking for an excuse to put on an event or six. 

What to Do In Mérida?

You’ll find thrice weekly demonstrations of Mérida’s music and dance traditions. On Monday, a traditional vaquería is showcased on the Plaza Grande at 9 pm. On Tuesday, is dancing for all on Plaza Santiago from 8.30 pm and Thursday is the weekly Serenta on Santa Lucia at 9 pm.  

Weekends offer no let up either. On Friday they light up the cathedral by a colorful and historical video-mapping that will amaze.

Cathedral in Merida

Enjoy a Car-Free Area on Saturdays

On Saturday evenings the roads around the Grand Plaza become car-free to allow people to wander, dance and graze to their hearts’ content. This car-free area widens to take in much of Centro for Sunday morning as Bicicruta and Mérida en Domingo coincide. 

On Saturday you can also watch a free reconstruction of the traditional Maya game of pok-ta-pok.

If you want to join locals in cycling around the car-free city, head to Paseo de Montejo to rent a bike. Mérida en Domingo sees the Plaza Grande turn into a market paradise. Don’t forget also that on the first Saturday of every month they have a striking video-mapping on the Monumento a la Patria.

More Culture

In addition, Mérida has plenty of museums, art galleries, and its own symphony. It holds an annual restaurant week, an annual light show, the Paseo de Los Flores, a castacan festival (that’s basically a pork eating party), our very own Hanal Pixan celebrations (Día de Muertos). Noche Blanca sees the streets of the historic center come alive as businesses, galleries, theatres, and museums open their doors to showcase the best of Mérida once or twice a year.

Of course, we also allow people to explore during the day! You could begin with a free walking tour from the Plaza Grande during the week and even take a nighttime tour of the main cemetery (this is only in Spanish) every Wednesday.

Whew! I’m exhausted just thinking about all the free events the city government puts on and we haven’t even discussed museums, art galleries, markets, great restaurants, or outdoor spaces let alone considered the day trips you may wish to take while you’re in town. 

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