Mérida: The “White” City

Mérida, the capital of Yucatán is admired by its wide variety of tourism offerings. Its origins date from January 1542 by Spanish immigrants who settled in the old town of T'Hó, Mayan for “Five Hills” referring to five pyramids that are located there. It was named Latin American Culture Capital in 2000, for the broad range of musical, culinary, and cultural events that are being constantly held there. Mérida was also recognized as "International City" as it houses various foreign consulates and hosts world leader’s summits. The “White City” nickname is used to describe Mérida because in its origins there was a strong racial segregation between native population and people coming from Europe.

For those visiting for the first time, one of the best options is to take a bus tour, in order to get acquainted with the city and identify areas you would like to get to know better. These tours are approximately one hour and 45 minutes long, and translation services are usually available. Some of the highlights you will see are: La Casa de Montejo, the City Hall, San Ildefonso’s Cathedral and the City’s Museum.

Mérida’s downtown activity does not cease at night: there is a wide range of theaters, bars and meeting places to enjoy food and music. Monday is a great day to see a local dance: “Jarana Yucateca”, in front of the City Hall. If you visit that venue on Sundays you can listen to orchestral ensembles that play lively music (from Salsa to Folk). Also, El Teatro Mérida (Mérida Theater) hosts interesting shows.

If sacred art appeals to you, Mérida has many interesting places. There’s a big number of temples, churches and even monasteries that are worth a visit. To name a few: Santa Ana’s Parish (Parroquia de Santa Ana), San Cristóbal, and Santiago’s, Our Lady of Consolation’s Convent (Convento de Nuestra Señora de la Consolación), The Temple of San Juan de Dios and St. Elizabeth’s Shrine (Ermita de Santa Isabel).

There are many cultural centers in Mérida. Visit the Olimpo Cultural Center (Centro Cultural Olimpo) which has a planetarium and several exhibition halls, or the Cultural Center Andrés Quintana Roo (that has an excellent art selection on display). A beautiful place is Yucatan’s Botanical Garden Center for Scientific Research (CICY), which preserves the flora of the peninsula in amazing condition, offers plants for sale and has guided tours; just make sure you book them in advance. It’s open from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm Monday through Friday and from 8:00 am to 12:00 pm on Saturdays.

The city is ideal to settle in for a while, while you visit the archeological sites as Dzoyilá, Chen Ho, Xcatzmil, Dzilbilchaltún, Flor de Mayo, Xoclán, and Caucel. I also recommend exploring the various parks such as Parque Hidalgo, San Juan, Peace, Mother and Parque de las Americas. A special mention goes to Centennial Zoo Park, the largest in the city, with huge playgrounds, skating venues and beautiful gardens.

Some museums that are worth the visit are the Contemporary Art Museum, Museum of the University of Yucatan, Museum of the Yucatecan Songs, the Museum of Natural History, the City Museum, the Numismatic Museum of Mexico and Mérida’s Historical Archive.

The so-called Paseo de Montejo (named in honor of Francisco de Montejo, Yucatan’s conqueror and Mérida’s founder) is the city's main avenue starting from the output port of Progreso to Santa Ana’s district. The ridges and paths of the place are very nice, and date from the nineteenth century. Its French neoclassic homes are very beautiful, such as “El Minarete”, “La Casa Peón del Regil”, “Casa Cámara” and “Quinta Montes Molina”.

I really encourage you to get to know and visit the city during its January Festival. Visit http://www.Mérida.gob.mx/festival/ for more information.

Also, Yucatan’s Bird Festival is held in November, you can get more information on the web in:


These web sites are updated when the event date is getting near; visit them often and… enjoy your stay!

Article produced by the Editorial Team of "Explorando Mexico".
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Photo: Grahamc99