The Yucatan’s Best Kept Secret: Guide to Merida

In Magical Towns, Play, Stay, Yucatán by Suzanne Koch

Merida is not only the Yucatan’s capital and largest city, its ancient history means it boasts a fascinating mix of old and new.

Founded in 1542, Merida claims to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the Americas. Built on the ancient Mayan city of Th’o, Merida thrived for more than 400 years, first as the Spanish colonial capital and now as one of the fastest growing areas in Mexico. The wall that first encircled the city had its foundation made from dismantled Mayan temples. Today, all that remains is a fraction of the original fortifications and three restored gates. Of recent, the city has benefited from an uptick in tourism and commerce, breathing new life into it. The magical destination has combined the best of its historical elements with the chic and modern taste that most world-class cities have come to know. Visiting this colonial city will relax and rejuvenate you all at the same time. 


A downtown bed and breakfast in a restored colonial is your best bet for a relaxing and comfortable stay, offering a sense of security, discretion and luxury. There are many to choose from but only a fraction have it all. Ochenta y Dos [an urban bed & breakfast] has been voted again by travelers as a top pick, offering a gourmet three-course breakfast daily, spa services, a rooftop terrace, heated swimming pool and even a steam room. Book early as there are only four poolside guest suites available.



Merida has an abundance of restaurants offering everything imaginable, from pop-up street vendors serving 50-cent tacos to five-star eateries with pricy tasting menus. The most popular type of cuisine is Mayan and some of the best places to dine are also the smallest. With so many outlets offering authentic local cuisine, MUGY (Museo de la Gastronomía Yucateca) comes out on top. Bursting onto the restaurant scene in 2018, diners can expect some of the finest Mayan food served in an upscale hacienda-style home right in the center of the city. The one-of-kind eatery also has a small museum attached featuring a reproduction of a real Mayan village.

Italian cuisine is also a favorite here. Casa de Piedra is a small but feisty eatery for the lover of true authentic Italian cuisine. It’s located in the posh Garcia Gineres neighborhood, just off Parc de Las Americas a few blocks west of the famed Paseo Montejo boulevard. Family owned and operated, the décor is unassuming and the staff is able and ready to take you back to the old country. Try the house specialty pasta carbonara or dig into one of their delicious pizzas.



For your shopping fix, visit La Isla, a recently opened shopping center in the north reminiscent of Dubai. An ideal retreat on a hot day, shoppers will enjoy a climate-controlled space, first-class shopping, award-worthy restaurants, a manmade lake complete with a zip line and more. While regional centers are on the wean in other parts of the world, here in Merida this is just one of many.  


With a million residents and counting, Merida is rated one of the safest and most desirable places to live and retire to. The cost of living here is a fraction of that in the United States and Europe. Property ownership is easy and the return on investment increases daily. Many expats from all over are moving to Merida, seeking a new, less complicated life. Here it is possible to buy and restore a historical building to create a dream home at a fraction of the cost elsewhere. Yucatan Custom Home Builders, a fairly new company, specializes in transforming old buildings into sustainable, livable homes.

Whatever draws you to Merida it will keep you coming back for more. One visit will change your life and at the same time create a new one.

Tip: The best time to visit Merida is October to February when the days are warm, if not hot, and the nights are cool and refreshing. 

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