A trip to Merida, Mexico is filled with delicious Yucatan flavors and the nicest people.
Looking for a winter retreat? I found mine in Merida. The sunny weather was perfecto! And the tacos? Oh, so good! I lost track of how many I ate.
Yucatan is the northeastern state of Mexico. About 3 hours west of Cancun, Merida is the capital of Yucatan.
Merida’s claim to fame
Hennequin is Merida’s claim to fame. What is referred to as sisal is a misnomer, but this strong agave plant fiber was woven into rope and used around the road, especially on ships. Today we have sisal rugs, but Sisal was the name of the port from where hennequin was shipped. The boxes containing the hennequin rope was stamped with the port name: Sisal. So that’s what people thought was in the box. Anywho, with the development of nylon, rope production dwindled in the Yucatan and the economy went with it.
Before it did, Merida was a rich, booming, flourishing city, where the Mayans and Europeans met. Architectural influences of Spain, France and the Middle East are evident in historic Centro, Merida.
What to do in Merida?
Merida is not a beach town. So if you’re looking for that, go somewhere else. Otherwise, people from all over the world come to enjoy the food, weather and all the happenings. A few people I spoke with who regularly return to Merida all said they do so because there always something going on. I agree. Mexicans are always looking for a reason to have a party.
The street are filled with enticing aromas. Corn, pumpkin, beans, sour orange juice, chiles (especially habanero), garlic, Mexican oregano, pork, chicken and seafood are the backbone of Yucatan food. A cooking class or food tour is my way of meeting these ingredients. In Merida, Los-Dos was my choice and I highly recommend it.
Top things to do in Merida
Here are some of my favorite experiences in Merida, Yucatan
The people. Meridians are family oriented and proud of their safe city. I found so many friendly faces. They meet your eyes on the street and will return a smile or hola
Take a free guided tour. Monday-Friday at 9:30, in Plaza Grande, the main square in centro Merida, Calle 62, go in the tourist information office. This 1.5 hour tour gives you a good history lesson and helps orient you to the city.
Attend a free dance/concert. Each night of the week Merida provides a free concert.
- Tuesday is Musical Memories with the big band sounds of Jaranera Orchestra. It’s fun to dance or sit and watch families enjoy dancing under the stars. Parque de Santiago, Calle 72 x 59, 8:30 PM, every Tuesday. Check out YucatanToday for the weekly listing of what concert is in what park.
- Thursdays is Yucatecan Serenade in Parque Santa Lucia at 9:00 pm. This long standing weekly event has been going on for more than 40 years.
- Salsa Saturday at Mercado 60. This informal place has multiple food options plus great music. Salsa lessons are free on Sunday.
- Sunday is Merida en Domingo with all day events in Plaza Grande. Food stalls line the plaza with food and trinkets for sale.
Eat in a cocina economica. These inexpensive family-run restaurants feature a few dishes each day. Often run by woman, these are home-cooked, family-style dishes which offer freshly made, seasonal food that you might find in someone’s home. For the newbies, these may look off putting, but they are so worth trying. For many Yucatan’s these restaurants are the inexpensive answer to a delicious lunch. Look for those that are busy. Go to the counter and select what you want. Even without much Spanish, you can make a polite request with a smile!
Visit a food market where you will find local, seasonal food. If you aren’t able to cook, try some fruit or nuts. Santa Ana is a small one to help you get oriented. Mercado Lucas de Galvez (Calle 67 and 54) is the big one. Try a cochinita torta at Taqueria La Tia, Puesto No. 1. Use the condiments on the table. Open the sandwich, sprinkle some ground dried chiles and spoon on the juice of the pickled onion salsa.
Walk Paseo de Montejo. The wide boulevard is lined with trees, shops, restaurants, banks and beautiful buildings. On Sunday mornings half of it is closed for bicycling and walking. Many locals are out with their kids and dogs. Palacio Canton, on the corner of Calle 43 is the regional art museum of anthropology with Maya artifacts. Pop in Esencia Maya to find higher-quality clothes, east side, near the Oxxo 60 x 37.
Sip a drink in a cantina. You’ll likely have to push open the louvered doors (that remind you of an old western movie) that are in place so as not to expose passersby to what’s going on in the bar. What’s going on? People sitting at tables, eating botanas, complimentary snacks that must be served when alcohol is served, and sipping something cold. Try a Michelada, a beer on the rocks with chile, lime and worcestershire. For a non-beer drinker, I kept reaching for my husbands. As a beer drinker, he found it refreshing and worth a repeat. Ask for the check when you are ready to leave. In Mexico, waiters will not bring the bill until you ask for it. El Dzalbay, El Gallito, or El Negrita are some to try.
Eat tacos. In Mexico, tacos are a breakfast or lunch foods. After that the same foods are served on a platter. Try one at Wayan’e Taqueria. Most taqueria’s make 3 daily guises (ready-to-eat dishes of the day) but Wayan’e offers 36, so there is something for everyone. This home-owned favorite has multiple locations.
Eat sorbet or ice cream. Meridians love frozen treats and sorbete is a favorite. Sorbete is generally made from fruit and is dairy-free. Sorbeteria Colon is where I made a few stops to try gauyaba ❤️this!(guave), coconut (coco), watermelon-like mamey, peanut (cacahuate) and corn (elote). Helado is ice cream.
P. S. Travel feeds my soul. It is a big component of my life and I love to share my travel highlights. Check out other travel favorites. including Jackson, Wyoming, Italy, Quebec City, Portland, Maine and more.
Guiso is essentially the dish of the day. You can order it as a taco, a torta, sandwich made from a French-style baguette, or a plato, served with rice and beans on a plate. Students and business people line up for breakfast, desayuno, and mid morning snacks, almuerzo. By 1:00 pm most of the food for the day has sold out.
Buy shoes. There seems to be ash store on every block. At B&G Atelier, a small boutique, choose the leather and style and they can make a pair of shoes in 3-4 days (Calle 43 #464 between 52 and 54).
Take a cooking class or food tour. Los Dos was the highlight of my time in Merida. Mario Canul knows food, Merida, Mayan culture, and Yucatan. Street Eats is a food-filled morning of Centro market stalls. Tastes of Yucatan is a one-day cooking class that includes a market visit. Both experiences opened the city in ways I never would have discovered on my own. Plus you get to see a beautifully restored home. Here’s my version of Mexican street corn.
If you can get in a hammock, do it. Many homes have indoor hooks for hammocks. Sleeping is better with summer heat and humidity but it’s a relaxing way to enjoy the view, read or nap. Better yet, take one home. Cielo Hammocks has a good selection and you can try yours out to make sure it’s a good fit. Even better, the hammocks are handmade by local artisans (Calle 65, No. 510-A x 62×64).
Visit YucatanToday.com to see what’s going on.
Merida packing tips
High season is December though April because the temperatures and humidity are more moderate. Don’t forget your sunglasses, hat, sunscreen and bug spray, it’s a jungle climate. In looking for hotels, shop for ones on side streets that may not be on bus routes so could be quieter.
Warm and warmer. Some humidity and some more humidity. Early December through April is considered the best months weather wise. Temperatures are in the 80’s with lower humidity and some light breezes. Summer months can be unbearably hot and humid.
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