Every year, Mérida has become an increasingly popular spot for visitors to the Yucatán Peninsula. At the turn of the 20th century, the booming production of henequén (an agave fiber once dubbed “white gold”) made it the richest city in Mexico. While Mérida’s gilded glory may have faded, it still boasts the third largest centro histórico in the Western Hemisphere. Besides its bevy of historic attractions and proximity to archeological sites, a piping hot culinary landscape and live music scene prove that a cultural revitalization is underway.
Centrally located in the historic Santiago district, The Diplomat is as dignified as its name suggests. The heart of the adults-only boutique hotel is a grand colonnaded courtyard, with the year-round swimming pool and veranda as gorgeous extensions of the property’s private outdoor areas. Each of the four suites is uniquely styled according to themes like “Frontier” and “Colonial,” complete with wrought-iron four-poster beds, high-tech amenities, and local art.
A former colonial-era mansion, seven-key Casa Lecanda was meticulously restored into one of Mérida’s plushest, most character-filled stays. Every corner of the property is blessed with high ceilings, ushering in beams of natural light to highlight the pile’s neoclassical architectural details and elaborate stone-tile floors. In between day trips, the palm-shaded pool area serves as an intimate oasis for respite.
A prime spot for all-day feasting, with upscale Mexican and European-style dishes, from omelets to pizzas and steaks, served in a fashionable indoor-outdoor dining area. The cocktails are also a slam dunk.
Romance is cranked into high gear at this elegant tavern, a sister to the signature restaurant at boutique hotel Rosas & Xocolate on Paseo de Montejo. Breakfast specialities like huaraches and sopes come straight from the comal. For dinner, expect hearty meat dishes such as short rib with chili mole and duck breast with sweet potato and apple. Oh, and lots of live music!
Olivia had long been a contender for the best Italian restaurant in the Yucatán, celebrated for chef and owner Stefano Marceletti’s made-from-scratch pastas. The ambience and eclectic decor wouldn’t be out of place in hip culinary enclaves like Williamsburg or Venice Beach.
This vibey hangout in a former warehouse has all the trappings of a fun night out: a cinema program, exceptional bar bites, heady cocktails, and a top-notch wine program. The significant influence of the Lebanese diaspora in the Yucatán is reflected on the menu, which swaps traditional Mexican ingredients with Levantine staples like grape leaves and pita bread.
This LGBTQ-friendly mezcalería recently moved to a new location on Calle 59, and its loyal devotees have followed. Skip the food and opt for self-guided tastings of La Fundación’s extensive collection of mezcal and tequila. There’s live music on most evenings.
Stellar cocktails made with distilled and fermented liquors collide with rock and jazz performances at the city’s most beloved speakeasy. Arrive early—this might be a clandestine mixology bar, but it’s certainly no secret.
Don’t miss this perennially popular cantina, a hotspot for local artisanal brews, agave spirits, and live music. Its nondescript exterior belies the rowdy nights you can partake in—especially on a Friday night.
Merida’s iconic tree-framed boulevard draws a lot of comparisons to Paris’ Champs Elysees—and for good reason. Paseo Montejo is lined with iconic relics from Merida’s henequen-fueled heyday—namely extravagant monuments and opulent mansions—many of which have been converted into museums like Palacio Cantón (see below). Pop into Heladeria El Colón for a scoop of local ice cream, family-run Esencia Maya for crafty souvenirs, and Cafeteria Impala for coffee.
MUGY for short, this museum-restaurant hybrid serves up a multi sensory sampling of the Yucatán’s culinary history. Book a table for brunch or dinner, and arrive early to tour the immersive exhibitions that surround the alfresco dining room. Then gorge on all the Yucatecan classics like cochinita pibil, papadzules, and lime soup.
Housed inside one of Paseo Montejo’s regal 19th-century mansions, this upscale shopping emporium features a brilliant curation of about a half-dozen boutiques showcasing regional designers, artisans, and makers. Circumnavigating the interior courtyard, you’ll find everything from bohemian apparel to fine jewelry, natural perfumes to soaps, and more.
Head to this museum for a primer on Meridian heritage. Originally built in 1911 for General Francisco Cantón, the Italianate palace was converted into one of the region’s finest anthropological museums featuring hundreds of artifacts documenting the history of indigenous peoples from the Yucatán.