Welcome to the second edition of Travel Like A Local! This article is brought to you by Cassie of the blog Mexico Cassie, who has been living Merida, Mexico, for a few years now. Find out all the insider travel tips of Merida from a local; explore the best places to eat, the best place to relax, touristy things you have to do and off the beaten track locations you can’t miss! Make sure to check out also Cassie’s tips on how to enjoy your hometown as a tourist!
Hi Mexico Cassie, tell us about yourself!
I’m Cassie and I live in Mérida, Mexico. I’ve lived here on an off since December 2016 but now am permanently based here. I love this city and feel incredibly lucky that I’m able to make it my home. I’m here with my husband and two small kids who are both in a local school that they’re enjoying immensely.
What are the best places to eat in Merida?
There are so many amazing restaurants here and the city is really pretty international so we’re still able to get our sushi fix as regularly as when we lived in London. Our favourite place to go for sushi is Miyabi on Prolongación Paseo Montejo. Allowing a family of four to gorge on sushi (as we did in London at the incredible sushi take away chain, Wasabi) costs less than $1,000 pesos (£40). The best thing is that the staff totally humour us when our kids request more and more sashimi.
If we’re going Mexican then we have two particular favourites, and actually they are both pretty well known. We love Apaola on Parque Santa Lucia. It is a Mexican fusion restaurant with outdoor seating on the square. The staff are always so friendly and the food really is stunning. It isn’t cheap though so it’s really somewhere to go for a special occasion.
Wayan’e couldn’t be more different, it’s a small taco bar with a few plastic tables and chairs. It’s more of a Mexican breakfast place so it closes at 2.30pm. Get there early to try out all the incredible fillings they have. I can’t recommend one particular filling as I’m still working through them and haven’t yet found anything I don’t like. There are two Wayan’es in town, I’ve only visited one, as it’s closer to my house, 412 calle 59, centro. It’s cheap, indeed.
I also really enjoy a good brunch at Rosas y Xocolate, a big pink hotel on Paseo de Montejo. It’s pretty reasonably priced and their poached eggs in a pumpkin sauce is one of my favourite things ever.
My favourite place to hang out and write is a bit of a trek from my new house, it’s down by where I used to live but I love it: Cafe Montejo on Calle 59, just down from Parque de Santiago. The coffee (hot and cold) is great, lunch is good and the cinnamon rolls are incredible!
Do you have a favourite place to relax?
Relaxing isn’t something I get to do much to be honest as I have small kids but when we do get a moment to just chill out we might wonder down to Paseo de Montejo to have a stroll along the wide pavements and maybe grab a sorbet at Colón, the oldest sorbet / ice cream place in town. The rest of Mérida is kind of lacking in wide spaces for a nice relaxing stroll so we relish that opportunity.
Is there a typical activity locals do in their free time?
Mérida is kind of a city in three sections. Centro, the north and then the bits in between. Centro is a mix of traditional Mexican homes, big, beautifully restored expat homes and the tourists. The north is full of malls and lovely shiny new homes and then the bits in the middle are typical Mexican suburbs. We’re about to move to a more permanent home in the middle bit. But down town in centro is where all the atmosphere is. Locals also love a good walk around, congregating on the Gran Plaza to watch the world go by. In the summer people tend to spend a lot of time in Progreso, the beach town that’s just a short bus ride away.
Do you have a favourite photo spot in Merida?
All of centro is incredibly photogenic, I particularly enjoy taking photos of the colourfully painted houses. My favourite roads for photos are calle 64 and 64a, walking from Parque San Juan down towards La Ermita. The roads are quiet, cobbled and the houses are stunning. They’re just quiet little roads but somehow the light hits in a way I’ve totally fallen in love with!
When is the best time to visit Merida?
The city is best over the ‘winter months’, between November and March. Once April hits it starts getting unbearably hot.
What’s one “touristy” thing everyone should actually do in Merida?
Everyone should really take a free walking tour of the city centre. There are some great ones on offer, I particularly enjoyed one given by Pink Cactus. You learn so much so quickly by doing this sort of tour. If you want a specific recommendation of something to do, I’d say go and see the local market, Lucas De Galvéz in centro. It’s not the best, best, best Mexican market I’ve visited but it’s huge, clean and fascinating to walk around.
What’s one “off the beaten track” place people don’t normally know about?
My top ‘secret’ tip for visiting Mérida is to tell people to go to the main cemetery. Mexican cemeteries are so full of colour and life, oddly! Take an afternoon (and lots of water!) and head there to marvel at the brightly coloured tombs. You’ll be blown away by the history of the place.
I also highly recommend you visit the Tags store (corner of calles 58 and 49) to purchase a pair of super cool locally made espadrilles. We all love them. If you’re in town for a week or so you can even have your own pair made. I’m off to pick my new pair up this afternoon and can’t wait!
Do you have any tips on how to navigate your city?
If you’re planning on staying in centro (and most visitors do) you probably won’t need much transport. You can manage most of the city on foot. If you do want to use transport, the taxis are fine, just always check they have a meter as you get in. Or use uber, which is what we do most of the time. Uber drivers are extremely friendly and happy to help with getting to know the city.
Mérida is not a city where foreigners blend in! But don’t worry about it, people are incredibly friendly and welcoming. Men don’t tend to wear shorts (but I can’t persuade my husband not to!). And people generally greet each other on the street. Lots of eye contact and a ‘buen dia’ or ‘buenos dias’ will go down a treat.