Visit the MACAY Museum of Contemporary Art of the Yucatan and the Fernando Castro Pacheco Murals in the Governor's Palace. Check out the crafts at the state run Casa de las Artesanias on Calle 63 x 64 y 66. You can find most every craft made in Yucatan here and the prices are fair. Buy your hammocks here or at Aguacate 58 y 73 or beware. The best places for lunch downtown are the cheapest places too. The best seafood is at Marlin Azul 62 x 59 y 61 or fish tacos at El Cangrejito 57 x 64 y 66. Bella Epoca 60 x 59 y 61 has a great balcony overlooking the church 'Iglesia de la Tercera Orden de Jesus' c. 1618. Don't venture beyond eating the panuchos and salbutes here and downstairs is a tourist trap to be avoided! The Anthropology Musuem on Paseo Montejo and calle 43 is a good place to get out of sun and it is essential that you visit here before going on the nearby ruins. The exotic fruit sorbets at the nearby Sorbeteria del Colon are very good. Around 7 pm you can wander over to Noche Mexicana at the beginning of Montejo and calle 47. It will be fun or it will be kitsch or it will be very, very good. It changes every week but there is always traditional folkloric dancing and music. Anna Sabrina from Mexico City makes the most heavenly tacos in town she only makes them on Saturday night here and on Sunday mornings in Santa Lucia. Drop in the Hotel Casa San Angel at the very beginning of Paseo Montejo x 45. There is an good café & bakery and a Fonart store with crafts from all of Mexico. Then you can wander back down to the main square for the Heart of Merida Festival from 8pm till 1am. Casa de Frida 61 x 66 y 66a for fun decor and central Mexican cuisine. Or stay on Paseo Montejo and have dinner or drinks at Merida’s finest boutique hotel Rosas y Xocolate at calle 41.
SANTA LUCIA TO PLAZA GRANDE
If you’re up early rent a bike in the main square and ride from the Ermita Park in the South to the Monument to the Flag on Paseo Montejo. The streets are closed til 1pm. From 9 am- 2 pm there is a tiny antique flea market and handcraft market in Santa Lucia Park 55 y 60 with dancing and salsa music. Here are the best dancers in town! Craftsmen from the villages bring their wares to town and set up booths along calle 60 to the main square. In Hidalgo Park there is marimba music, artists and artisans. In the Callejon de Congresso there are usually interesting jewelers and weavers from Chiapas. The Italian cafe is only good for café. The Peon Contreras café is only good for water. There might be an afternoon concert in Teatro Peon Contreras 62 y 57 It is one of the best restaurants in Merida. The Hotel Colon 62 x 59 has 2 art deco steam baths from the 1920's unfortunately 'restored' a couple of years ago. It's the best day to drive around town as everyone stays home or goes to the beach. The best Pizzaria downtown is Rafaellos on calle 60 and 49. It's a nice day to dine out at Hacienda Xcanatun which is located at Km. 12 on the Merida-Progresso highway. Sunday is the day that Yucatecans have lunch with their extended families and you’ll want to plan to observe and enjoy them or avoid them altogether. La Pigua is another restaurant that serves seafood and large families on Sunday afternoon. Avenida Colon at calle 62.
RUTA PUUC RUINS VIA CONVENT ROUTE
Take a day trip out to the Ruta Puuc.
The Mayan ruins of Uxmal are just 80
km away and there's a lot to see and
do on the way. First stop at Hacienda
Yaxcopoil an old cattle ranch in colonial
times that became a hennequen farm in
the 19th century. This rare hacienda
remains in the authentic state it was
in 100 years ago. Next stop at Hacienda
Ochil for a look at the craft studio's
and shops. There is also a history of
hennequen exhibit and a restaurant that
is not bad. There is a large five star
hotel, Hacienda Temozon Sur, just off
the highway. If you reserve you can have
lunch or dinner here. Otherwise they
might not let you on the grounds. Next
is Muna one of the towns on the Convent
Route. Go on to Uxmal and then decide
whether you want to see the other ruins
in the area, Kabah, Sayil & Xlapak.
Santa Elena is rumored to have a good
restaurant and has a museum with 200
years old mummified children. Lolun caves
are a cool option on a sunny day. Oxkutzcab
is where most of the local fruit and
vegetables are grown. The roads around
there are magical in the harvest season.
Mani has the most important convent in
the area and El Principe Tutul-Xiu the
best place for Puc chuc in the Yucatan.
If you are going back to Merida pass
through Ticul, famous for its mediocre
pottery of inferior quality. Or return
via Mayapan a once powerful Mayan city.
Stop at Tecoh and Acanceh and you will
have done most of the convent route and
the Ruta Puuc ruins in one day. At 9
pm in the Grande Plaza there is a traditional
Yucatecan dance concert well worth seeing.
The dancers will most likely be from
some of the villages you have seen today.
CHICHEN ITZA TO IZAMAL
Go early in the morning to Chichen Itza to avoid the crowds and the mid day sun. Then take a detour on your return and visit the perfect Colonial town of Izamal. Take the buggies to the craft workshops. Our favorites are the herbalist who makes piñatas, the jewelry maker who sings Mayan songs and makes nice things from Cocoyol beans. Also there is the ninety years old carriage maker who likes to chat and the man who makes nice tin lanterns but is seldom open. Hecho a Mano is one of the best shops in the Yucatan for antique crafts and crafts from all over Mexico. Drop into Kinich restaurant that has very good Yucatecan cuisine and say hola to Paco the parrot! Climb the pyramid Kinich Kakmo for a great view of the Convent. The 16th century Convento de San Antonio de Padua built on and from the remains of a Mayan pyramid has a colonnaded cloister that is just slightly smaller that of the Vatican. Take the old road back to Merida and stop at the hotel Hacienda San Jose Cholul for a drink or a meal. In Merida on Tuesday night at 9 pm there is another salsa concert in the Park of Santiago. The 17c church of Santiago was heavily restored in the 19th century. Have a very good Yucatecan fast food meal at La Reina de Itzalana 57 x 70 y 72.
COLONIAL CHURCHES FROM ERMITA TO
Take a bus or taxi to Ermita de Santa Isabel 66 y 77 a charming 18c church and botanical garden. Then walk up the brick road that is the old Camino Real to Campeche back into the center. Some of the oldest houses from the Colonial period are still standing in this area that was the first suburb of colonial Merida for mestizos. Take 73 over to San Sebastian 73 y 74 or stay on 64 and pass through the old city arch into the park San Juan 64 y 69. The church is mid 18c with a baroque facade and the round beams 'rollizos' are unique and has one of the few alter pieces that survived the revolution. Candeleria 64 y 67 founded in the early 17c as an hermitage looks much as it did when it was built. Iglesia de Monjas 64 y 63 built circa1564 as a convent for the order of the Immaculate Conception. Casa de las Artesanias is next door. The favorite church for local weddings, Iglesia de la Tercera Orden de Jesus 58 y 60 was built in 1618 and was the church of the Jesuits. There is a fine painting collection in the back convent rooms. Santa Lucia 60 y 55 circa 1877 sits in a square that was once a stagecoach station. Santa Ana 60 y 43 This charming church was started in the 16th century was rebuilt in the 18 century in a barrio that was originally populated by Indians and Mulattoes. There are very good fast food stalls, a new covered market and craft stalls beside the park here. Just up the street on the Paseo Montejo and calle 43 you can take the turibus to Itzimna that is just north east of the historic center. When the conquistadors arrived they discovered a small community dedicated to the god Itzimna (creator of all things, that receives and possesses the graces of the morning dew from the sky). Today beautiful Porfirio era mansions surround the square and colonial church. Just south of the square on Avenida Perez Ponce is Cafe Latte with the best coffee in town. Colomer the best furnishing store in town is on the west side of the square. Our favorite taco stand in town is Wayne's no 92 calle 20 y 15 It is in a curious mobile home inspired building a few blocks from the northwest corner of the square. They generally runs out of food by 1pm. Wednesday night at 9pm is Trova night at the Olimpo Theatre on the main square. If you can tolerate being treated like a tourist you might try Portico el Peregrino 57 x 60 y 62. Our trick is to order a drink and appetizer and if that is good order another or a main course. The courtyard has charm. But I’d get in a taxi and go to Ca’ D’Oro calle 34 no. 396 x 39 y 41 Prolongación Paseo Montejo.
MARKET TO MEJORADA
Start your morning in the Mercado Municipal 65 x 56, where all the villagers come to trade beginning at 5 am. There are excellent fast food stands all around here. The craft stalls are less interesting. Find a juice stand and try all the exotic fruit shakes (licuados) you can hold. The new Merida City Museum is in the old 19c post office on calle 65 y 56. Walk over to Merida's last colonial church, San Cristobal 50 y 69 . Construction began in 1757 and the following year it was dedicated to the newly recognized patron saint of Mexico, the Virgin of Guadalupe. The Franciscan convent La Mejorada 50 y 59 has a stark and simple facade dotted with carved Mayan stone artifacts. Across the park is El Meson del Segoviano a Spanish restaurant. We think it's the best restaurant in centro. Also the much recommended (though not by us) Los Almendros restaurant is next door. The Popular Art Museum is on the park at calle 50 y 59. The Yucatan Music Museum of behind the church on calle 57 no. 464-a. Near Santa Lucia there are a couple of our favorite places to have a light lunch, they are both very casual. We order the vegetarian soup at Cafe Club calle 55 x 60 y 58 with a pitcher of watermelon or mango juice. Café Alameda 58 x 55 y 57 has some of the best Lebanese food in town but it's not a cafe. Merida has a large Lebanese population of long standing. There is Folkloric music and dancing in Santa Lucia Park at 9pm. The Italian owned Casa Santa Lucia is a more formal place for lunch or dinner in front of the square on calle 60 x 55 y 53.
SEA AND BE SEEN
You could go to the beach at Celestun. The ria tour of the lagoons is supposed to be both fun and mosquito infested. The seafood on the beach is rumored to be great. Flamingos are amazingly pink. Or you could go to the beach at Progresso and eat good seafood at San Bonnet or get drunk at Eladios. Just know this... it ain't the Caribbean which is only 4 hours away. Progresso has not been romantic or pretty since hurricane Gilberto hit over 15 years ago. On your way back you can stop at the Gran Plaza mall and buy something from Zara's (yes, the Spanish boutique) to wear to Nectar's tonight. You may have been eating at Nectar's every night this week but tonight there will be a lot of people there. You might even have to wait in the bar. This is as close to a scene as you are going to find west of Playa del Carmen. And the wonderful thing is...it's not Playa del Carmen! Take a taxi to Nectar, Ave. 1 no. 412 Col. Diaz Ordaz. Or skip the beach and have a good seafood lunch in town. Muelle 8, calle 21 no. 141 Colonia Buenavista, Is where fish is good but the decor is priceless. Very Key West Hemingway meets Thurston Howell III. A word of advice: don't order anything called a cocktail at any local seafood restaurant unless you worship ketchup. Stick to the excellent and fresh ceviche. Blow your eardrums out and dance the night away at Cumbanchero's on Paseo Montejo a Cuban club par excellence. And of course there is a free 9 pm concert tonight too at Teatro Peon Contreras, the Ballet Folklorico de la Universidad. If you are staying another week in Merida we assume your shopping for real estate. Bienvenidos! For more restaurant recommendations read our blog: yucatanrestaurants.blogspot.com.