Downtown Merida, Mexico: All you need to know about the Centro Historico

Octubre 10 de 2023



Downtown Merida is known locally as The Centro Histórico (Historic Center) of Mérida, Mexico, and boasts a rich history that spans centuries and reflects the blending of indigenous, Spanish colonial, and contemporary influences. 

Today,  visitors can explore the city's past while enjoying the modern amenities and welcoming atmosphere that make Mérida a unique and captivating destination in Mexico.

In this article we present you the most important aspects of this wonderful part of the city:

7 key moments in the history of Centro Historico

If you want to know more about the history of Centro Historico, here are some points you need to learn about:

  • Pre-Colonial Era: 

The area where Mérida now stands was originally inhabited by the Maya civilization. The city was founded on the site of the Maya city of T'ho, known for its pyramids and ceremonial centers. When the Spanish arrived in the early 16th century, they established Mérida on top of T'ho's ruins.

  • Colonial Period: 

Mérida was officially founded on January 6, 1542, by Spanish conquistador Francisco de Montejo y León, also known as "Montejo the Younger." The city was named after Mérida, Extremadura, Spain, Montejo's hometown. 

During the colonial era, Mérida became a prosperous center for henequen (sisal) production and trade, leading to the construction of grand mansions and public buildings.

  • Henequen Boom: 

The late 19th and early 20th centuries saw a significant henequen boom in Yucatán, bringing enormous wealth to Mérida. 

Many of the city's opulent mansions and architectural landmarks date from this period, including the iconic Paseo de Montejo, inspired by the Champs-Élysées in Paris.

  • Revolutionary Period: 

Mérida played a role in the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920), with social and political upheaval affecting the city. Labor strikes and agrarian conflicts occurred in the Yucatán during this time, shaping the region's history.

  • Contemporary Mérida: 

In the mid-20th century, Mérida underwent modernization, with the city expanding beyond its historic core. However, the Centro Histórico has been carefully preserved, and its colonial architecture and cultural heritage remain intact.

  • Cultural Revival: 

In recent decades, Mérida's Centro Histórico has experienced a cultural revival. The city hosts numerous festivals, art exhibitions, and cultural events, attracting both locals and tourists. The restoration of historic buildings and the emergence of galleries and museums have contributed to the area's vibrancy.

7 must visits spots in Downtown Merida

Visiting the Centro Historico of Merida is one of the best things to do in Merida. Here are some of the reasons:

1. Plaza Grande (Main Square): 

This picturesque central plaza is the heart of Mérida's historic district. It's surrounded by colonial buildings, including the stunning Mérida Cathedral and the Palacio de Gobierno. The plaza often hosts cultural events, live music, and outdoor markets.

2. Paseo de Montejo: 

A grand boulevard inspired by the Champs-Élysées in Paris, Paseo de Montejo is lined with impressive mansions, upscale shops, restaurants, and art galleries. It's a beautiful place for leisurely strolls and a glimpse into Mérida's opulent past.

3. Mercado Lucas de Gálvez: 

This bustling local market offers a sensory feast of sights, sounds, and flavors. Expats can explore rows of stalls selling fresh produce, handicrafts, clothing, and traditional Yucatecan foods. It's an excellent place to immerse oneself in local culture.

4. Mérida Cathedral (Catedral de San Ildefonso): 

This 16th-century cathedral is a prominent landmark in the city's historic center. Its architecture is a captivating blend of Spanish colonial and Mayan influences. Visitors can explore its interior and admire its stunning altars.

5. Palacio de Gobierno (Government Palace): 

The Palacio de Gobierno features remarkable murals by the Yucatecan painter Fernando Castro Pacheco, depicting the region's history and culture. The building itself is an architectural gem and offers free guided tours.

6. Casa de Montejo: 

This historic mansion showcases the opulence of the Montejo family, one of Mérida's wealthiest during the colonial era. It's now a museum where expats can learn about the city's history and colonial past.

7. Cultural Events and Festivals: 

The Centro Histórico is a hub of cultural activity, hosting numerous events and festivals throughout the year. Expats can enjoy traditional music and dance performances, art exhibitions, and local celebrations like the Guelaguetza.

7 ways to try local cuisine in the Centro Historico

The Centro Historico is one of the best neighborhoods in Merida, Mexico. Learn what you can do if you are visiting and you want to eat some delicious food:

  • Visit Local Markets: Head to markets like Mercado Lucas de Gálvez or Mercado Santiago, where you'll find stalls and food vendors serving authentic Yucatecan dishes. Look for specialties like cochinita pibil, panuchos, salbutes, and more.

  • Dine at Local Restaurants: Mérida centro historico boasts numerous restaurants that specialize in Yucatecan cuisine. Visit establishments like La Chaya Maya, El Principe Tutul Xiu, or Apoala for a diverse menu of traditional dishes.

  • Explore Food Stands: Wander the streets of Mérida, especially around the Centro Histórico, and you'll come across food stands offering regional snacks and meals. Try empanadas, marquesitas, or elotes (corn on the cob) from these vendors.

  • Attend Food Festivals: Keep an eye out for food festivals and events that showcase Yucatecan cuisine. Mérida often hosts culinary festivals where you can taste a wide variety of dishes in one place.

  • Cooking Classes: Consider taking a cooking class in Mérida to learn how to prepare Yucatecan dishes yourself. Many local schools and chefs offer hands-on classes, allowing you to master recipes like cochinita pibil or sopa de lima.

  • Street Food Tours: Join a guided street food tour to explore the city's culinary scene with an expert guide. These tours often take you to hidden gems and street vendors that serve the most authentic Yucatecan flavors.

  • Local Fiestas and Events: If you happen to be in Mérida during a local fiesta or event, you're likely to find food stalls offering regional specialties. Events like Hanal Pixán (Day of the Dead) or Mérida en Domingo feature traditional food and cultural performances.

5 less known attractions of Merida Downtown 

Here are some attractions of Merida Downtown that you must visit:

  1. Museo de Arte Popular: This small, charming museum focuses on Yucatecan folk art and popular culture. It's a tranquil place to explore colorful exhibits, including traditional clothing, crafts, and regional artistry.

  2. Paseo de las Ánimas: If you're in Mérida during the Hanal Pixán (Day of the Dead) celebration, join the Paseo de las Ánimas. It's a lesser-known but incredibly atmospheric event where locals dress in traditional Maya attire and walk through the city in a colorful procession.

  3. Barrio de Santa Ana: While the entire Centro Histórico is captivating, the Santa Ana neighborhood offers a more residential and laid-back atmosphere. Explore its picturesque streets and park, home to the beautiful Iglesia de Santa Ana.

  4. Pasaje de la Revolución: This covered passage, or "pasaje," is adorned with colorful murals and artwork. It's a tranquil place to escape the sun's heat and appreciate local art, often featuring themes related to Yucatecan culture.

  5. Museo de la Ciudad: While overshadowed by the more famous museums, the City Museum of Mérida is a hidden treasure. It offers insights into the city's history and development, including exhibits on the henequen industry and the Maya civilization.

  6. Casa de las Artesanías: Located in a beautifully restored colonial building, this craft center promotes the work of local artisans. You can find unique Yucatecan crafts, textiles, and traditional products that make for meaningful souvenirs.


These were some of the key aspects you should know about Mérida's Centro Histórico in order to enjoy it during your next stay in our city.

If you are looking for a property for sale or for rent in this part of the city, don't hesitate to contact us via Whatsapp, email or phone, we will be happy to help you find the best option for you!

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