Things to See in Merida
The Zocalo - The city center is known as the Plaza Mayor. As much of the history of Merida began here, it is an appropriate place to start your orientation.
The Catedral de San Ildefonso is the first Cathedral built on the continent (1561 to 1598). In typical Spanish fashion, the stones were taken from the city (Tiho) which was conquered. Easy to spot on the east side of the Plaza.
The Bishop's Palace (next to the Cathedral) is now the "Museo de Arte Contemporaneo Ateneo de Yucatan" and houses contemporary art from the Yucatan.
On the south side of the Plaza Mayor is the Palacio Montejo (Francisco Montejo Sr. & Jr. conquered the area). Originally built by Francisco Montejo Jr. in 1552, the Palace was home to the Montejo family's descendants until the 1970's. The building was restored by a banker who also converted it into a bank.
On the west side of the Plaza, you will find the Town Hall (Palacio Municipal). The building was originally built with stones from the city of Tiho, then rebuilt in 1735 and rebuilt again in 1928.
The New Olympus (Nuevo Olimpo) is the newest building in the Plaza Mayor, but the builders did a good job of keeping the flavor of the old. The building houses concerts, conferences, theatrical performances, a gallery, a cafe and bookstore.
Things to Do in Merida
Progreso : A nice little beach escape just an hour north of Merida. Busses leave from the station on Calle 62 between Calle 65 and 67. The cost is only abut $3 USD and they leave every 15 minutes during the day.
Campeche : A beautiful colonial town on the Gulf Coast. See link for more details.
Izamal : A quaint little town 50 miles east of Merida was constructed in the midst of four large pyramids (one has been partially restored).
Ruins and Archeological Sites near Merida
Chichen Itza : This is probably the most famous ruin near Merida. However, since it is half way between Merida and Cancun, we have placed the page full of information in the Cancun section . . . just click the Chichen Itza link and hit the back button to return :)
Uxmal : This site rivals Chichen Itza and deserves an entire page . . . so follow the link :)
Kabah : Located just south of Uxmal, take Highway 261 towards Santa Elena for a half mile, then turn towards Kabah (8 more miles). Rather than the highway leading to the ruins, the highway actually goes through the ruins. The most famous building here is the Palace of Masks which is covered with 250 masks of the rain god Chaac.
Sayil : Go just 3 miles south of Kabah and turn left for Sayil (2.5 miles). Most famous for the triple terraced El Palacio.
Labna : Just 5.5 miles past Sayil (with Xlapak in between). The close proximity of these ruins leads one to understand that at its peak, these cities would have been no more than local centers for people whose houses surrounded each center. If you lived then and walked the ancient road from here to Uxmal . . . you would have a hard time determining exactly where one community ended and the next began.
Dzilbilchaltun : Just 10 miles north of Merida (on the road to Progreso). The ruins were founded around 500 B.C. and went into decline before the arrival of the Spaniards. 8000 buildings have presently been mapped but as the site was only rediscovered in 1941, much of the city still lies under the jungle which grew over it.