25 Things To Do In Merida, Mexico For First Timers

This post is all about the top things to do in Merida Mexico.

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There’s no shortage of incredible things to do in Merida, Mexico. As the largest city of the Yucatan state, Merida is buzzing with activity. There are tons of events, trendy restaurants, and a booming international expat scene here.

Merida is also known as the Cultural Capital of the Yucatan Peninsula, so history buffs will have plenty to discover among the beautiful historic buildings, fascinating cultural monuments, and many museums.

On my recent trip to Mexico, I spent 3 days exploring all of the best things to do in Merida. We swam in cenotes, ate incredible food, and marveled at the gorgeous colonial-era buildings lining Merida’s streets.

After exploring Merida for three days, I can confidently say that you NEED to add Merida to your Yucatan travel itinerary. In case you’re not convinced yet, I put together this list of the best things to do in Merida.

Here are 25 incredible things to do in Merida, Mexico for first timers.

Things To Do In Merida Mexico:

1. Check Out The Main Square (Plaza Grande)

plaza grande Merida Mexico
Plaza grande Merida Mexico

Merida’s main square is one of my favorite plazas that I’ve visited in Mexico. There are gorgeous buildings on every side, well-manicured trees and bushes, and plenty of benches. It’s a great place to get a feel for the city when you first arrive.

Plus, the main square even has free WiFi! My internet plan doesn’t cover international data, so it’s always a bonus when I can log into a free WiFi network.

Surrounding the plaza, you’ll see Merida’s Cathedral (Catedral San Ildefonso), the Governor’s Palace, and tons of restaurants and shops. There’s also a ton of things to do within walking distance.

2. Take A Picture At The Colorful Merida Sign

Merida giant letters
Merida colorful letters sign

Located within the main square, the colorful Merida sign is a great spot to grab a cheesy tourist picture. These colorful signs can be found in all of Mexico’s “Pueblos Magicos” and are really popular to take pictures with.

You may find that you have to wait in line for a few minutes to get a picture. Don’t worry, people are usually really respectful and get done with their pictures quickly.

3. Do An Airbnb Experience

One of my favorite things to do in a new place is try to get to know some locals. A really fun way to do this is to sign up for an Airbnb experience.

I recently did a photoshoot in Paris that I booked on Airbnb experiences and it was so much fun! I got to know a local Parisian and she took me around to her favorite spots. At the end of it, I had some really incredible photos that I could use on Instagram!

Merida has some really fun looking Airbnb experiences that I would love to try out when I go back there. You could do a market tour and cooking class, relax in some Mayan thermal baths, or go on an exciting cenote tour with a local.

4. Photograph The Colorful Streets

colorful houses in Merida Mexico

Merida is one of the most photogenic cities in Mexico. The streets are filled with colorful houses, gorgeous buildings, and plenty of historical and cultural sites.

Spend some time wandering the streets and snapping pictures. If the heat gets unbearable (spoiler – it probably will), you can pop into one of the many cute cafes and cool down with an iced coffee.

5. Sit In The Giant Kissing chairs

One of Merida’s claims to fame is it’s giant set of kissing chairs (sillas confidentes) in Santa Lucia park. These impressive chairs are 2.4 meters (about 8 feet) tall and sit in the middle of the park.

They’re actually an oversized version of the kissing chairs that you’ll find scattered throughout Merida’s parks.

The local legend is that a father designed the chair for his daughter and a local boy who had a budding romance. They allow for intimate conversation, but still keep the two parties at a respectable distance.

No matter what the true history is, they’re a unique feature of Merida’s many parks and plazas. The giant versions are a super fun photo opportunity.

6. Stay At A Cute Airbnb

airbnb pool Merida
Airbnb pool in Merida Mexico

Airbnb is filled with incredible Airbnbs and boutique hotels that are super affordable. Many of the Airbnbs and boutique hotels in Merida have beautiful architecture, stunning courtyards, and some even have private pools.

We stayed at this Airbnb for the duration of our stay and it was perfect! There was a huge living space with a large bed, couch, bathroom, and dining table. We also had our own private courtyard with a plunge pool. The free breakfast was served in the shared courtyard surrounded by lush greenery. It was honestly perfect, and we only paid $50 per night each.

If you’re looking for a cute boutique hotel in Merida, you can check out the listings on Booking.com below.


7. Grab Food At Mercado 60

If you’re looking for a ton of different food options under one roof, Mercado 60 is definitely the place to go. We went there on our first night in Merida and we absolutely loved in.

There are 18 different restaurants inside the night market. You’ll find Italian, Thai, Mexican, Japanese, and other cuisines. Mercado 60 is open Tuesday to Sunday, from 6pm to 11pm.

8. Check Out The Coffee Scene

coffee shop counter
Latte Quattro Sette
coffee shop
Manifesto Cafe

Merida has a super trendy coffee scene that definitely should not be missed! Grab a fun drink at Latte Quattro Sette, Manifesto Cafe, Bengala Kaffeehaus, or Green Bag Coffee.

9. Swim In Cenotes

cenote in Merida
horse drawn cart

There are a few incredible cenotes that you can swim in located near Merida.

If you’re not familiar with cenotes, they’re sinkholes that are the result of the collapse of bedrock that exposes groundwater. The Yucatan peninsula in Mexico is home to over 6000 cenotes. Each of them are totally unique and interesting, so I definitely recommend visiting a few during your stay in the Yucatan.

My favorite cenotes near Merida are the Santa Barbara cenotes in Homún. The Santa Barbara cenotes are a set of three swimming holes within walking distance of one another.

The entrance fee is 200MXN ($10) for access to all three cenotes, life jacket rental, and transportation to the cenotes. You can pay 90MXN ($4) more for lunch, which I definitely recommend.

To get to the cenotes from the entrance, you can either take a “truck” or ride a bicycle. The “truck” is actually a horse-drawn cart on some tracks, which was so much fun!

Some other cenotes near Merida are the Cuzama Cenotes, Hacienda Mucuyche, and San Ignacio Cenote.

10. Visit Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza main pyramid

One of the best things to do in Merida Mexico is to take a day trip to Chichen Itza. As one of the Wonders of the World, Chichen Itza is one of the most popular day trips from Merida.

The entrance fee for Chichen Itza (as of January 2022) is 533 pesos ($26). If you want to hire a guide, you can do so at the entrance for about 1000 pesos ($50) per group. The price is pretty steep compared to other activities in Mexico, but trust me it’s well worth it to cross a world wonder off your bucket list!

You can reach Chichen Itza in under 2 hours from Merida. You can leave Merida early in the morning and be back home by 2:00pm.

Getting to Chichen Itza from Merida is very easy. If you’re on a budget, the easiest way to get there is to take the ADO bus. There are several departures throughout the day, and you can book your tickets in advance on GuateGo.

If you rented a car, you can also drive to Chichen Itza very easily. The road is big and well-maintained and you can do the drive in about an hour and a half.

11. Take A Day Trip To Valladolid

colorful streets Valladolid Mexico
pink arches in Valladolid convent

Valladolid is one of my favorite cities in the Yucatan, and it makes a perfect day trip from Merida.

You’ll find streets of colorful buildings, amazing cenotes, and a gorgeous historical convent in Valladolid. If you’re not sure what there is to do in Valladolid, you can read my post on The Best Things To Do In Valladolid, Mexico.

You can get to Valladolid from Merida by bus, shuttle, or taxi.

The cheapest way to get to Valladolid is to take the ADO bus. The journey takes a little over 2 hours, and you can book your tickets on GuateGo.

You could also take a shared shuttle to Valladolid from Merida. The shuttle will pick you up and drop you off directly at your hotel, so this is a great options if you want something a little more convenient. GuateGo is the best booking service for tourist shuttles in Central America.

Another super convenient option for getting to Valladolid is to take a taxi or Uber. We took Ubers all over Valladolid and Merida and they were always super cheap and clean.

[RELATED: 9 Magical Things To Do In Valladolid, Mexico]

12. Head To The Progreso Beaches

While there are no beaches in Merida, you can actually reach the coast in just 30 minutes from the city. The beaches at Progreso are much less crowded than spots like Tulum or Cancun, but they’re still very beautiful.

The easiest way to get to Progreso is to rent a car or Uber. We found Ubers in and around Merida to be super affordable, clean, and efficient. Just be sure that you have service for calling an Uber on the way back to Merida!

There are some restaurants around that serve up cheap tacos, beach cocktails, and other food options. The most popular restaurants are Crabster, Milk Bar, and Eladio’s.

13. Stroll Down Paseo de Montejo

casas gemelas merida
yellow building on paseo de montejo in Merida

Taking a walk down Paseo de Montejo is definitely one of the top things to do in Merida Mexico. This street was named after the founder of Merida, Francisco de Montejo.

The street was inspired by the tree-lined boulevards of France, and has been compared to Champs Elysees Avenue in Paris. It really does feel like you’re walking along the streets of Paris when you stroll down Paseo de Montejo.

The street is lined with gorgeous 19th century mansions that belonged to the richest families in the city. Now, they house the headquarters of many national and international companies. However, some of the mansions have been converted into museums.

The most famous buildings along Paseo de Montejo are the Casas Gemelas (twin houses) and the Palacio Cantón (Canton Palace). The Casas Gemelas were built as replicas of 20th century french buildings and are still privately owned. Palacio Cantón was a 20th century mansion that has been converted into the regional museum of anthropology and history.

There are also tons of little shops, cafes, and restaurants to pop into along Paseo de Montejo. It’s a great way to spend your morning in Merida.

14. Visit The Monumento A La Patria

monumento a la patria merida
monumento a la patria merida

The Monumento A La Patria is a very unique monument in Merida Mexico. It was built in 1965 and features over 300 hand-carved figures that represent Mayan history.

You’ll find Monumento A La Patria in the middle of a large roundabout along the Paseo de Montejo. Be aware that you’ll have to cross through the roundabout if you want to get up close to the monument. When we visited, traffic was a bit heavy which made crossing difficult.

15. Cool Off With Some Gelato

gelato shop

You HAVE to try Pola gelato before you leave Merida. It was some of the best gelato I had in Mexico, and they have a ton of unique flavors to choose from.

They have quirky flavors like blue cheese with apple compote, avocado sorbeto, and olive oil with dry figs and salted almonds.

If you’re not feeling super adventurous, they also have the classics like chocolate, strawberry, and stracciatella. I had the stracciatella and peanut with caramel and chocolate chips and they were both amazing!

16. Shop At Casa T’HŌ

lanterns in casa tho merida
girl drinking juice in courtyard filled with plants

Casa T’HŌ is a small shopping center that features local textiles, handicrafts, soaps and fragrances, and more. It’s located inside of a restored 19th century mansion on Paseo de Montejo. It’s so stunning and the courtyard is a great place to snap a few pictures.

There’s also a small restaurant inside that serves fresh juices and light bites. We stopped in for a quick juice break and the juices were delicious. We absolutely loved our visit to Casa T’HŌ.

17. Check Out One Of The Many Museums

Merida is famous for its cultural museums. The city is actually the only one to receive the Cultural Capital of the Americas designation twice.

The most famous museums in Merida are the Mayan World Museum of Mérida, Museo Casa Montejo, and the Palacio Cantón.

Since we had limited time in Merida, we weren’t able to check out the inside of any of the museums. This post from Life In Merida is a great resource if you’re interested in checking out some of Merida’s famous museums.

18. Take A Free Walking Tour

A great way to get to know a new city is by taking a free walking tour. The free tour in Merida Mexico departs from Parque de Santa Lucia next to the giant kissing chairs.

You’ll visit some of the most important sites in the city and learn about the history and culture surrounding the area. Your guide will also be able to answer any questions you have about Merida.

The free walking tour runs every day at 10:00am and 6:00pm for English speakers. For Spanish speakers, there are tours every day at 10:00am.

19. See The Merida Cathedral (Catedral de San Ildefonso)

Merida cathedral

Did you know that Merida is home to one of the oldest cathedrals in the Americas? Catedral de San Ildefonso was completed at the end of the 16th century and is the oldest cathedral in Mexico.

It’s located in Merida’s main square and houses a small chapel and some important artifacts. It’s not extravagantly decorated, but the architecture is beautiful and it’s definitely worth a visit.

The cathedral is free to enter and it’s open daily from 6:00am-12:00pm and 4:30pm-8:00pm.

20. Eat At The Local Market

If you want a local experience, head to the market stalls at Parque de Santiago. The Mercado de Santiago offers groceries, flowers, meats, and prepared foods.

The most famous food stall is La Lupita. They serve up traditional Mexican street food and were even featured in the show “Salt Acid Fat Heat” on Netflix.

21. Visit The Ruins Of Uxmal

Uxmal ruins
Photo by Neven Myst on Unsplash

If you’ve already visited Chichen Itza and can’t get enough of the Mayan ruins, take a day trip to Uxmal. Uxmal is one of the most important ancient Mayan cities in the Yucatan, but it still feels far less touristy than Chichen Itza.

Uxmal can be reached by car in about an hour from Merida, or an hour and a half by bus. We didn’t have time to visit Uxmal during our visit to Tulum, but this blog post gives very detailed instructions on how to get there by bus.

22. Take A Cooking Class

A great way to immerse yourself in the local culture of Merida Mexico is to take a cooking class. Most cooking classes take you to the local market to shop for produce, teach you about local Yucatecan cuisine, and give you a chance to learn traditional cooking techniques from a local.

This tour takes you on a walk through downtown Merida, a local market, and then to a local hostess’ home for the cooking class. You’ll cook a three course meal, including appetizers, a main course, and dessert. They even offer options for vegans and vegetarians.

23. Watch A Game Of Pok-Ta-Pok

pok ta pok court
The Pok-Ta-Pok court at Chichen Itza

If you’re looking for a super unique thing to do in Merida, check out a game of Pok-Ta-Pok. This is an ancient Mayan ballgame that was played as part of a sacrificial ceremony. These days, nobody is sacrificed at the end of the game thankfully.

The goal of the game is to maneuver a rubber ball through a hoop that extends from a wall. The catch is that the ball could only be hit with your forearms or thighs.

Every Friday night, the game is reenacted in front of the Merida cathedral near the Plaza Grande. The games start around 8:30pm and are free to watch.

24. Shop At Casa De Las Artesanias

One of the best things to do in Merida Mexico is to go shopping for traditional Mexican handicrafts at Casa De Las Artesanias. This artisan market features fair-trade handicrafts made by local women and indigenous groups.

Because the market is government-owned, the prices are fixed and fairly priced. This is great for tourists who aren’t comfortable with haggling at the local markets. You know you’re getting a reasonable price for fair-trade goods at Casa De Las Artesanias.

25. Try One Of Merida’s Trendy Restaurants

outdoor restaurant space with plants
Green Bag Coffee Courtyard

One thing we noticed in Merida was that the food scene is incredible! There are so many trendy restaurants in the main area of town and we wish we could have tried them all!

Whether you’re looking for regional food or international cuisine, you’ll definitely find what you’re looking for in Merida.

Here are some of the most popular (and highly rated) restaurants in Merida, Mexico.

  • La Lupita – the Netflix-famous food stall in Parque de Santiago with delicious local specialties
  • Mercado 60 – a food hall with tons of different international food options. We got the pizza and it was delicious!
  • Chillakillers – the most delicious Chilaquiles (basically breakfast nachos)
  • La Tratto – yummy Italian food in Parque de Santa Lucia
  • Lo Que Hay Cafe – trendy vegan food
  • Green Bag Coffee – healthy and organic food with a gorgeous outdoor space

This post was all about the best things to do in Merida Mexico.

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