Visiting Mérida, The White City

Mérida embodies the best of Yucatán: architecture, history, gastronomy, and the warmth of its people. This charming and peaceful city offers a captivating blend of cultures and a cuisine that showcases fresh, local ingredients mixed with the talent of Mexican and international chefs. With a surge in new restaurants, boutiques, and chic hotels, the emblematic city of Mérida is emerging as a noteworthy international destination and we did not want to miss the opportunity to give you a highlight of this beautiful town.

Perfectly sized for a long weekend, Mérida serves as an ideal base to explore the region's gems: beautifully restored haciendas, mysterious underground cenotes, ancient Mayan ruins, and more. You can easily immerse yourself in the city's lively street scenes, stunning architecture, and its wonderfully relaxed vibe.

Mérida is a dream destinations and, to be completely honest, we have been sorta gatekeeping it (by not writing this blog mostly because, if you ask us, we will immediately recommend it). It truly has it all, including the warmth and care of its beautiful people. However, it is now time to talk about it and mention why we love it so much. Join us in today’s blog and discover this fascinating city in the southeast of Mexico.

Merida's History

The city of Mérida, the capital of the state of Yucatán, is one of Mexico's oldest European-settled cities, with the Spanish arriving in the 16th century. It also has a strong Middle Eastern influence due to an influx of Lebanese immigrants during the Ottoman occupation, which adds to its rich cultural diversity.

Mérida, is often called "La Ciudad Blanca" or "The White City" a nickname that stems from the prevalent use of white limestone in its buildings and the tradition of painting them white, giving the city a distinctive and cohesive look. Mérida is also known for its cleanliness and orderliness, reinforcing its "white" or pure image and reflecting the city's peaceful nature. 

Founded on the ruins of the ancient Maya city of Ichcanzihó or Tihó, one of the most important indigenous cities of the late 15th and early 16th centuries. After the devastation left by the European conquest, the city of Tihó, like many other indigenous settlements of its time, was completely destroyed to make way for a new and proud colonial city. 

The now city of Mérida was named by the Spanish who compared the grandeur of the ancient Maya capital to that of the Roman city of the same name in the old continent. Its historic center quickly became adorned with numerous religious buildings and beautiful palaces that housed the Spanish conquerors and their families, some of them built using remains of Maya buildings. This led the way for a breathtaking colonial town that is filled with rich history and legends that depict the history of its people and great part of Mexican culture.

Visiting Mérida

Today, Mérida's city center has become an important gathering point for tourists who visit annually and locals alike. Its beautiful and well-preserved Historic Center is full of life and is the second largest in the country, after Mexico City. A simple walk through it will surely take you back in time and across cultures through expansive plazas, down tree-lined boulevards, and into historic mansions and internationally influenced restaurants. The various eras and architectural styles of the city are clearly visible. And if that's not enough, there are sumptuous haciendas within and around the city where you can stay!

As a city-museum, visitors can explore fascinating examples of civil and religious architecture such as the Cathedral, whose construction began in the mid-16th century; the Mejorada Temple and the San Juan Bautista and San Cristóbal churches, which date back to the 18th century; as well as the so-called "Casa de los Montejo," built around 1549 by orders of Don Francisco de Montejo, one of the region's first colonizers.

If all this talk about archaeological sites, museums, and peaceful streets has made you think that Mérida goes to sleep after 6 pm, please don’t get us wrong, when it comes to fun, Mérida also boasts an immense variety of nightlife venues and restaurants.

Mérida represents the vibrant gastronomy of the Yucatán Peninsula, and that is a culinary adventure you won't want to miss. The region is known for its unique and delicious cuisine that blends Mayan, Spanish, Lebanese, and Caribbean influences. So let’s begin with a classic: cochinita pibil, a succulent pork dish marinated in achiote paste and sour orange juice, slow-cooked in banana leaves for an explosion of flavor. Enjoy local favorites like panuchos and salbutes—crispy tortillas topped with shredded turkey, avocado, pickled onions, and lettuce. For something unique, try relleno negro, a smoky turkey or chicken dish cooked in a dark chili sauce, and papadzules, egg-filled tortillas topped with pumpkin seed and tomato sauces. And, whatever you do, do not leave Mérida without treating yourself to marquesitas, crispy rolled-up crepes filled with cream cheese and sweet fillings like Nutella or caramel.

Mérida’s Surroundings

However, as with all the destinations we recommend, we highly suggest exploring the surrounding areas of this city. Mérida is at the heart of the Maya world, surrounded by fantastic archaeological sites, with traces of this great culture everywhere you look.

Make sure to visit the archaeological site of Chichén Itzá, located 120 km east of the Yucatán capital, along the highway to Cancún. In this incredible Maya capital, you can't miss El Castillo, the Sacred Cenote, and the intriguing structure known as El Caracol or the Observatory. Besides Chichén Itzá, we also recommend Uxmal, considered by many to be the best-preserved Maya archaeological site on the peninsula.

After your visit, you might want to take a refreshing swim, and there’s no better place than a cenote, natural water pools connected by underground rivers. Due to its unique geography (limestone soils rich in cenotes), Yucatán is an open invitation to explore these natural wonders. 

If cenotes don't pique your interest—which is hard to imagine any reason why—Mérida also boasts beautiful beaches and natural reserves nearby. The lovely beaches of Progreso, Chelem, and Chicxulub, for example, are just 20 minutes from the city center. And Sisal is less than an hour away!

Mérida has a reputation for being extremely hot and humid. The best time to visit the city is from November to March, when daytime temperatures can still reach the 90s, but evenings are much cooler. This is probably one of the reasons why guayaberas and light linen shirts, as well as lightweight hipiles are so famously made in Mérida.

For us at Lolo, Mérida truly holds its place as a special destinations in México. It is one of the cities with the most tourism offerings in the country: from vibrant streets and stunning architecture, traditional and contemporary cuisine, and cultural events, to stunning archaeological sites, blue cenotes, and unique sightseeing, Mérida is a destination that truly has it all. The variety extends even to the places where the activities take place: under a tree, in a brewery, at restaurants, or even at the central plaza. So, even though this highglight does not begin to cover all that Mérida has to offer, don't skip the opportunity to visit this beautiful city!


Tell us, have you ever been to Mérida? If you have, what was you favorite thing there? and, if you haven't, what interests you about this town? Would you like to see a detailed travel guide? Oh, also, is there another town in Mexico you'd like for us to highlight? Remember that we love reading your comments below!

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Places to visit in mexico

1 comment

Julie Nyren

Julie Nyren

Can’t wait to visit! Voy tal pronto que puedo!

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