Since the Spanish conquest, Mérida has been the cultural capital of the entire peninsula. At times provincial, at others ‘muy cosmopolitano,’ it is a town steeped in colonial history, with narrow streets, broad central plazas and the region’s best museums. It’s also a perfect place from which to kick off your adventure into the rest of Yucatán state. There are cheap eats, good hostels and hotels, thriving markets and other goings-on just about every night somewhere in the downtown area.
Long popular with European travelers looking to go beyond the hubbub of Quintana Roo’s resort towns, Mérida is not an ‘undiscovered Mexican gem’ like some of the tourist brochures claim. Simply put, it’s a tourist town, but a tourist town too big to feel like a tourist trap. And as the capital of Yucatán state, Mérida is also the cultural crossroads of the region, and there’s something just a smidge elitist about Mérida: the people who live here have a beautiful town, and they know it.