As the state and regional capital of the Yucatan Peninsula, Merida is a cultural center, featuring multiple museums, art galleries, restaurants, movie theatres, and shops. But the city is known – above all else – for its dizzying array of live music, art and dance shows, and a booming culinary scene.
Merida is a big-time foodie destination. Street stalls, markets and family-run eateries whip up what is arguably some of Mexico’s best regional cuisine, such as cochinita pibil (pit-cooked pork) and relleno negro (black turkey stew). An international culinary scene is flourishing too, as more and more foreign chefs take to Merida’s low-key lifestyle.
If you are in town, but don’t have time for a day of meandering through the countryside, then visiting a Mexican hacienda might be a great option for insight into the city’s local customs. Haciendas were once self-sufficient communities, and contained a variety of churches, general stores, hospitals and schools. As many as 1,000 people might have lived on a single estate, and were basically subject to the landowner’s control.
Hacienda Teya is a great example and is only a few minutes outside of town. You can have a wonderful lunch at the restaurant there, enjoying some of the best regional cuisine available, and see a real hacienda with a stunning ballroom that is still used for parties and events. Hacienda Xcanatun is only fifteen minutes to the north of town and is home to probably one of the best restaurants in all of Merida, as well as luxurious hotel rooms and a full service spa.
The surviving remnants of Maya culture can be seen everywhere, in speech, dress, and in both written and oral histories. It is especially apparent in holidays like Hanal Pixan, more commonly known as the Day of the Dead. This traditional Maya history celebration falls on November 1st and 2nd and is commemorated by elaborate altars dedicated to dead relatives. Interestingly, “mukbil pollo” is the Mayan tamale pie offered to the dead, and is traditionally accompanied by a cup of hot chocolate.