Mérida, Mexico: Food, markets, history and more in the Yucatán capital

Now’s about the time New Yorkers start considering a warm-weather escape.

If you’re looking to cover new ground in Mexico, beyond popular spots like Mexico City and Cancún, consider Mérida.

The capital city (and cultural capital) of Yucatán is ripe for on-foot exploring; it’s also a good base for seeing the ruins of Chichén Itzá or hitting the beach on the Gulf of Mexico.


For Yucatecán fare, La Chaya Maya (Calle 62 and 57, lachayamaya.com) serves plenty of pork dishes, like poc-chuc and cochinita pibil, plus specialties like sopa de lima (turkey and lime soup).

Casa Dominga Barrio Gourmet (Calle 47 and 52, casadominga.com.mx) offers dishes from all over Mexico in its dining area, as well as an eclectic mix ranging from burgers to sushi at its food hall.

Sample Mexican craft beer at brew pub Hermana República (Calle 64 and 55).


Mérida’s main market, Mercado Lucas de Gálvez (Calle 56 and 65), is sprawling, with vendors touting everything from fruits, veggies and ingredients like achiote to shoes and ceramics. At Mercado 60 (Calle 60 between 51 and 53, mercado60.com), enjoy global eats along with music and dance.


Explore Mérida’s past by walking around the Plaza Grande. Spot stones from Mayan structures on the exterior of the Cathedral of San Ildefonso (Calle 60); see murals depicting Mayan history at the Palacio de Gobierno (Calle 61), and tour the Museo Casa Montejo (Calle 63), a 16th-century mansion-turned-museum.


Architectural wonders

Hop in a car or on a tour bus to see some of the world’s famous architectural sites, including the step pyramid Chichén Itzá (chichenitza.com), about 90 minutes east of Mérida. Other notable archaeological wonders in the area include the Pyramid of the Magician, about an hour south of Mérida, and Ek Balam, about two hours east of Mérida.

Ways to unwind

At the resort Sotuta de Peón (sotutadepeon.com), about 45 minutes south of Mérida, swim in a cenote, a natural underground swimming pool. Relax by the beach in the port city of Progreso, about 45 minutes north of Mérida; while there, don’t miss fried seafood at Crabster Seafood & Grill (facebook.com/CrabsterMX).

Good to know

Getting there: Fly in to the Yucatán via a four-hour nonstop flight to Manuel Crescencio Rejón International Airport (MID), which is about a 30-minute drive from downtown Mérida.

Getting around: Rent a car to easily connect to major coastal cities like Cancún and Progreso. Tour buses and taxis are also available in Mérida.

Where to stay: In Mérida, consider Hotel Casa Azul (casaazulhotel.com), a boutique property dating from the 19th century, with eight period suites and a swimming pool.