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Merida

Mérida is the largest city on the Yucatán Peninsula and the capital of Yucatán state – its cultural and business hub, and an international gateway to the archeological and natural beauty of the Mundo Maya. While travelers to the peninsula have been focusing on the glitter of Cancún or the restored brilliance of Chichén Itzá, Mérida has been creatively positioning itself as a premier vacation destination.

At its heart and under it streets, Mérida is first a Mayan city. It is built on the ruins of the ancient town of T'ho, also known as Ichcaanzihó, the "city of the five hills," for the five pyramids that once dominated what is now Mérida’s Main Square. Above this Mayan base, Spanish colonists placed their most important edifices and plotted a street grid aligned with the north, south, east and west directions so important to Mayan astronomers. The founders called their new town Mérida, after the Spanish city, because T’ho’s impressive buildings reminded the newcomers of the Roman architecture for which the first Mérida is still famous.

Mérida is nicknamed “The White City,” which might refer to formerly white-painted buildings or the city’s cleanliness. As you walk the narrow streets, you will pass decaying colonial homes but many are newly restored and brightly painted now, housing hotels, shops and restaurants.

Mérida is located in the northwest corner of Yucatán state, 36 km (22 miles) from Progreso’s Gulf of Mexico beaches, where Méridanos head to on weekends to escape the city’s heat. It’s a flat, straight shot, passing by abandoned henequén fields, the crop that fueled Mérida’s 19th century economic boom. The world’s rope was made from Yucatán’s henequen, also known as sisal, until nylon came along and the “green gold” market collapsed. But, before it did Mérida’s millionaires built lavish mansions along the Paseo de Montejo, the Parisian-style boulevard that heads north from the Historic Center.

Culturally speaking, Mérida is one of Mexico’s most sophisticated cities, presenting Mayan and European performance and visual art, handicrafts, and cuisine. The cultures often fuse and create experiences that are uniquely Mérida. Shopaholics can choose from bartering in public markets or slipping into finely woven linen fashions. Foodies can chow down on tacos from street vendors or sample tapas spiced with the region’s reddish seasoning paste, called recado rojo. Visitors also drive out of town and climb 1,500 year-old pyramids, kayak coastal waters, or lounge poolside at 17th century haciendas.

Today, Mérida is a modern city, boasting professional soccer, baseball and basketball teams and 18 institutes of higher learning. American-style shopping malls abound, and Mérida’s excellent hospitals now attract tourists on a new kind of trip: the medical vacation, with cosmetic surgery and dental care available at a fraction of North American and European prices.

Three Spanish conquistadors named Francisco de Montejo – El Adelante, The Son and The Nephew – thought that they had destroyed the Maya. Fortunately, for all of us who visit Mérida today the Montejos actually only began the fusion of two strong, luminous cultures that has made Mérida one of North America’s most fascinating cities.

Neighborhoods in Merida: Centro,

Other places nearby Merida: Izamal, Kabáh, Playa del Carmen, Chichén Itzá, Tulum, Ticul, Valladolid, Escárcega, Cancún and Ciudad Del Carmen.







By George Nunes
Mayan archeology and culture are my passion and I've visited over 20 sites so far. My career path has encompassed being a professional dancer and...
24 Mar 2010

Adventure Mexico Tours
Today, Yucatan Tours display a land of beaches and surf, fun and adventure for all tastes and budgets.
www.adventure-life.com/tours/mexico-tours/

Dining in Merida

Restaurant D'Al

Surely not many Meridan eateries as modest as Restaurante D’Al can boast an accolade in the New York Times. The favorable write up this popular cocina economica earned (which is proudly ...
Restaurant
Merida, Mexico

La Casa de Frida

Gabriela Praget, a well-known chef, is the brilliant mind behind La Casa de Frida. This restaurant is a pillar of Mexican gastronomy, with the freshest ingredients served in new and interesting ...
Restaurant
Merida, Mexico

Pancho’s

Don’t be scared away from this good restaurant, although you might be after seeing the waiters’ costumes, the t-shirts for sale and entrance wall of Andy Warhol-style images of Pancho Villa. ...
Restaurant
Merida, Mexico

Amaro Restaurante-Bar

All roads lead to Amaro, or at least all tourist guidebooks do, which makes the restaurant popular with travelers, who make up the majority of the clientele. This is Mérida’s best-known vegetarian ...
Restaurant
Merida, Mexico

Restaurante & Artesania La Choperia

In 2007 Mexican brewer Modelo launched a line of fresh, unpasteurized beer by the barrel, which is available only in company-affiliated bar/restaurants like La Choperia. Large, airy and open, this ...
Restaurant
Merida, Mexico

Pane e Vino

Italian food is as popular in Mérida as it is in the rest of the world and Pane e Vino is one of the city’s best choices for fresh, house-made pastas and sauces. Italian natives operate this ...
Restaurant
Merida, Mexico

Pane e Vino

Italian food is as popular in Mérida as it is in the rest of the world and Pane e Vino is one of the city’s best choices for fresh, house-made pastas and sauces. Italian natives operate this ...
Restaurant
Merida, Mexico

Café Chocolate

It’s hard to characterize Café Chocolate: it is equal parts coffee house, full-service restaurant, art gallery and antique store. Even the vintage chandeliers are for sale! Extensive, ...
Restaurant
Merida, Mexico

Café Chocolate

It’s hard to characterize Café Chocolate: it is equal parts coffee house, full-service restaurant, art gallery and antique store. Even the vintage chandeliers are for sale! Extensive, ...
Restaurant
Merida, Mexico

Cafeteria Pop

What’s not to like at Cafeteria Pop? It’s a straightforward café – you don’t come here for a gourmet meal, but you won’t be disappointed with what you order. The entire menu is written on ...
Restaurant
Merida, Mexico

La Habana

Since 1952, La Habana has been downtown Mérida’s 24-hour coffee shop, as crowded with colorful characters in the middle of the night as it is at lunch. You never know what entertaining thing will ...
Restaurant
Merida, Mexico
Mapa
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