Merida, one of the oldest cities in Mexico, heart of the old Mayan empire, is today a city of 1 million people and home to a diverse range of nationalities from around the world. With it’s obvious Spanish influence, it’s architecture includes the colonial style of earler years to modern high rises and malls in the northern part of the city. You can experience both.
The Yucatan, of which Merida is the capital, is one of three states in Mexico’s Caribbean peninsula. It is a tropical paradise known for its beautiful beaches and ancient Mayan ruins. You get the flavor of the Yucatan in this short video which is then followed by another video of that marvelous city of Merida, Mexico
These two You Tube videos, each about 20 minutes long, shows you the heart or Centro area of Merida. Your hotel is here and is about a 5 minute walk from all that you see. This is the real Merida, not a tourist promotion film.
Next is the Paseo Montejo, the Grand boulevard of Merida, modeled after the Champs Elysees in Paris. The Paseo starts about 8 blocks north of the hotel and runs north through the city stretching to Progreso on the beach (25 minute drive)
Altabrisa is the modern part of the city with luxury malls and high rise office and apartment buildings. Something for everyone
There are many areas of interest to tourists in Merida. Here are the 35 Top Tourist Attractions
Mérida is a major destination for serious foodies, with a distinct cuisine heavily influenced by Mayan cooking traditions (check our event on Mayan cooking classes). Any visit should include tasting some of Yucatán’s famous dishes, including Cochinita Pibil – pork roasted in an underground oven, or Papadzule – a taco filed with hard-boiled egg and drenched in pumpkin seed sauce. Locals gather in the afternoon for “botanas” at Eladio’s, Lucero del Alba and Colonos for the free, hearty snacks that arrive nonstop at your table as long as you keep drinking.
Budget: Marlin Azul Delicious, inexpensive seafood makes up the bill of fare at Marlin Azul – the Blue Marlin. It’s a tiny restaurant – only 4 tables and 8 counter stools – on the first block off the Main Square. Marlin Azul is crowded with savvy locals and visitors who stumble upon it. Make sure you start your meal with either a seafood cocktail or tangy ceviche: choose from shrimp, octopus and oyster or a combination. Filleted fish is a main course specialty.
Budget: El Trapiche If you need a break from visiting the sites of the Main Square walk just one-half block up Calle 62, almost to Teatro Mérida, and enjoy a meal at El Trapiche. It serves typical Yucatecan cuisine as well as salads, pizza and omelettes. This restaurant is a good place to try some regional specialties: the salbute, a soft, cooked tortilla filled with veggies and meat, or a panucho, a crispy, fried corn empanada filled with black beans covered with pickled red onions.
Budget: Co’oten Hana Co’oten Hana means “Let’s go eat” in Maya. This small, family-run restaurant is a “comida corrida” – a fast food joint that serves a set lunch menu of simple, wholesome food. You get a first course of soup, plus tortillas, rice, beans and a choice of main course. It’s usually some kind of guisado – meat in a sauce, maybe chicken in enchilada sauce or turkey in mole. The menu changes daily and there are usually three or four main course options.
Budget: La Habana Since 1952, La Habana has been downtown Mérida’s 24-hour coffee shop, as crowded with colorful characters in the middle of the night as it is at lunch. You never know what entertaining thing will happen while you are at La Habana – you may find yourself eating off of placemats advertising Pepto Bismol, an odd but endearing choice. At breakfast try the chaya omelette, filled with Yucatán’s dark green super spinach, whose medicinal properties are touted all over the peninsula.
Budget: Cafeteria Pop What’s not to like at Cafeteria Pop? It’s a straightforward café – you don’t come here for a gourmet meal, but you won’t be disappointed with what you order. The entire menu is written on the placemats! Breakfast combinations include juice and coffee, or that rarity at Mexican restaurant breakfasts: oatmeal. Sandwiches and desserts (including ice cream sodas) are served all day. Evenings offer a choice of fajitas. Cafeteria Pop is associated with the Restaurante Portico del Peregrino next door.
Mid: Café Chocolate It’s hard to characterize Café Chocolate: it is equal parts coffee house, full-service restaurant, art gallery and antique store. Even the vintage chandeliers are for sale! Extensive, all-you-can-eat buffets are the only option for breakfast and lunch, and they are a smart choice, offering great value for MX$49/US$4.90. In the evenings couples linger at the cast iron café tables in the pretty garden courtyard and groups of friends chat over dinner or elaborate coffee drinks. Pastas and bread are made in-house.
Mid: Pane e Vino Italian food is as popular in Mérida as it is in the rest of the world and Pane e Vino is one of the city’s best choices for fresh, house-made pastas and sauces. Italian natives operate this unpretentious trattoria and while some diners have complained heartily about slow service, you probably won’t mind if you are not in a hurry. Past visitors to Pane e Vino should note that the restaurant has moved to the corner of Calles 59 and 64.
Mid: Restaurante & Artesania La Choperia In 2007 Mexican brewer Modelo launched a line of fresh, unpasteurized beer by the barrel, which is available only in company-affiliated bar/restaurants like La Choperia. Large, airy and open, this sophisticated restaurant is highlighted by a sleek and contemporary wooden bar. La Choperia has both Mexican and Brazilian owners, which is reflected in the food served: it leans heavily toward Brazilian-style meats and seafood. Appetizers include Pastelzinho Mixto, savory filled pastries served with a sauce made from Brazil’s fiery cachaca liquor.
Mid: Amaro Restaurante-Bar All roads lead to Amaro, or at least all tourist guidebooks do, which makes the restaurant popular with travelers, who make up the majority of the clientele. This is Mérida’s best-known vegetarian restaurant, although it also serves meat-based “international” dishes. Main course vegetarian options include curries and fajitas, with stuffed peppers or squash among the most popular choices. Amaro occupies a fine 18th century mansion in which the hero Andrés Quintana Roo was born in 1787, the namesake of the nearby Mexican state.
Mid: Pancho’s Don’t be scared away from this good restaurant, although you might be after seeing the waiters’ costumes, the t-shirts for sale and entrance wall of Andy Warhol-style images of Pancho Villa. Well-prepared steaks, chicken, salads and Yucatecan specialties like Poc Chuc are served in generous portions. It’s best to avoid the early crowd of tourists and head upstairs at sunset to the rooftop terrace. It is a hideaway unusual in downtown Mérida, candlelit with soft, live music and views of the Church of Jesus.
High: La Casa de Frida Gabriela Praget, a well-known chef, is the brilliant mind behind La Casa de Frida. This restaurant is a pillar of Mexican gastronomy, with the freshest ingredients served in new and interesting combinations. Chef Gabriela’s signature preparation is Chiles en Nogada, poblano peppers stuffed with ground beef, apple, pear and plantain, covered with pecan sauce, and garnished with pomegranate seeds (MX$170/US$17). The original version of this red, white and green dish was invented in the 19th century for Mexican Emperor Agustín de Iturbide.
High: Trotter’s After revitalizing his family’s first Mérida restaurant, Pancho’s, chef Paul Trotter conceived his own fine dining establishment, Trotter’s, which opened in 2005. It counts among its clientele the wealthiest families of Mérida’s north side. A graduate of The Restaurant School of Philadelphia, Chef Paul and his well-trained staff offer impeccable service to guests seated in a lush, tropical patio. Fresh fish from Gulf and Caribbean waters and choice beef from the northern Yucatán plains are presented in classic and modern recipes.
The Ultimate Guide to Merida’s Cantinas
Cantinas have a special place in the history and culture of Mexico and Merida. Read more about these special places in our Ultimate Guide to Merida’s Cantinas
Amarantus With 2,050 members on its Facebook page, it’s easy to understand why Amarantus is always crowded. Live music from local bands and a laid-back vibe attract Mérida’s young partying crowd to the “Up and Down” fiesta on Fridays and “Pop Bottle All Night” on Saturdays. These are all-inclusive nights, with admission and all you can drink for about 120 pesos if you’re a guy (and arrive before 11:00 pm). Ladies pay only 50 pesos, which tells you something about the male to female ration.
Slavia Bistro, Bar and Lounge There’s no other nightspot in Mérida like Slavia, and its neighboring sister establishments Tobago and Cúbaro. Slavia’s décor fuses Arabian Nights, French Boudoir, and Asian Temple into an over-the-top, candle-lit fantasy and feast for the eyes. Sophisticated young Méridanos sip martinis in the “Buddha Bar” then move into intimate dining rooms for elegant, international cuisine. Later at night, the crowd moves next door to Tobago for after dinner espresso and even later to Cúbaro, which serves snacks if you are still hungry.
Angeluz Mérida has three major gay clubs, all located on the outskirts of the city in industrial areas. Angeluz (Angel Light) is packed with the local LGBT community every weekend, dancing, drinking and watching a rotating cast of characters on stage. Dancing alternates with drag shows and male strippers. Groups of friends crowd around small tables sharing a bottle of tequila or a pail of icy beers. Angeluz brings in top national and international DJs. Take a taxi – it’s not the safest area.