Despite its size, Mérida is overflowing with activities to fill your agenda. Here are six that you may not know about.
In recent years, the Yucatecan capital has grown vertiginously not only in size, but also in the number of experiences and activities it offers to tourists and locals alike. The Yucatán peninsula is a paradise for lovers of history, archeology and ecotourism, as you don’t travel many miles without encountering Mayan vestiges or sublime beaches and lagoons. However, Mérida itself is a city worthy of a leisurely stroll, as you will soon realize that it is full of incredible plans that you surely never imagined. Here are just a few.
Attend the ‘lunes de vaquerías’ in La Plaza Grande
Did you know that Mérida’s zócalo is the second largest in the country -after the one in Mexico City-? The layout corresponds to the traditional layout of the main squares of colonial cities, with the Cathedral of San Ildefonso, the Municipal Palace and the Government Palace around it. In addition to these iconic buildings, the Plaza Grande is also home to the Ateneo Peninsular -currently the site of the Museum of Contemporary Art- and the Casa Montejo Museum. Every Monday night, in front of the Palacio Municipal, the ‘lunes de vaquerías’, a dance show reminiscent of the old town festivals of the 17th century, is organized, where different groups perform traditional dances with live music by the Orquesta Jaranera del Ayuntamiento de Mérida (Mérida City Hall Jaranera Orchestra).
To the north of the city is the archaeological zone of Dzibilchaltún, a space that preserves the remains of various pre-Hispanic settlements from different periods. The Central Plaza as it is today was probably occupied between 850 and 1100 A.D., but much older structures have been discovered -from 600 B.C.E.- hidden under more recent constructions. The Temple of the Seven Dolls attracts thousands of tourists for the spring and autumn equinoxes, when the sun passes through the building and shines from its door. Other wonders worth seeing are the carved stelae and the open cenote of transparent waters.
Dining at Santa Lucía while enjoying a serenade
Thursdays are serenades in Santa Lucía Park, a bohemian space of homage and remembrance to Yucatecan composers. You can visit this plaza any afternoon of the week to eat delicious food in the surrounding restaurants and cafes, such as Amapola -Mexican food with Oaxacan touches-, Bloom Martini Garden -international cuisine and mixology- and ki’XOCOLATL -delicious creations based on the best chocolate-. But if you have the opportunity to go on Thursday night at 9:00, that ‘extra’ will give a very Yucatecan and special touch to your experience.
Buying a book in an independent bookstore
The cultural scene in Mérida has seen a lot of movement in recent years. It is not only the archaeological sites which, of course, play an important role in heritage conservation, but also the music, dance and theater events, and the literary offerings that are becoming more and more present on the national scene. Two independent bookstores stand out in the city that have done a great job in bringing books to this corner of the peninsula: Sempere -a bookstore committed to contemporary literature and emerging authors- and Between the Lines, which specializes in books in English on everything from novels and poetry to history and gastronomy.
Taking a gastronomic tour of Paseo Montejo
We know that Mérida’s main avenue stands out for the beautiful architecture of the Porfirian mansions that flank it, but it turns out that this street is also home to some of the city’s most gastronomic tradition and culinary innovation. For a more casual and relaxed plan -in addition to some marquesitas de puestito-, there is nothing like ending the afternoon with a snow from Helados Colón and a ‘flying saucer’ from Cafetería Impala. For those who prefer to stop a little more glamorous, the best is to let the night fall at Piensa Rosa -carajillo in hand- or at Casa Tho -with a chocolate and red fruit crepe cake-, both located in beautiful mansions that preserve the charm of yesteryear, but remodeled to give a modern and chic tone to the atmosphere.
Tour the Museum of Popular Art
The museum is located in Casa Molina, a Porfirian mansion from the beginning of the 20th century. This beautiful construction is the work of Italian architect Enrico Deserti and engineer Manuel G. Canton. The space opened its doors as a museum in 2007, and since then has exhibited a representative sample of the work of artisans from all over the country, with a special focus on Yucatecan folk art. The collection is rich and varied, but above all, it is kept alive by the constant evolution of the artisan communities.