Beyond the Cathedral

 9 Handpicked favorites in and around Merida’s main square.

Anchored by the Cathedral of San Ildefonso, the oldest and largest in America, Merida’s main square in the heart of centro teems with unique local flavor you can experience every day of the week. The cathedral, built atop Mayan ruins, opened in 1567 and was completed in 1598. It is one of Merida’s most popular attractions.

Beyond the Cathedral

However, once you’ve done it, what next? Good question! Here are our handpicked favorites in and around Merida’s main plaza for your next Mérida visit. Visit the Governor’s palace on the north side of Plaza Grande. Step past the guards, and see history unfold on the walls and ceilings with breath-taking murals painted by Mérida’s own Fernando Casto Pacheco, whose distinctive style sets him apart from other Mexican muralists such as Diego Rivera.

Cool off with a tropical fruit sorbet at Sorbeteria Colon under the shaded arches on the north side of the plaza. The long list of flavors includes exotic fruits like guava and dragon fruit, as well as more familiar favorites like pineapple, coconut and watermelon. Sold in a cup, or even better, as a champola where it comes doused in milk for a sorbet-style shake.

Explore the maze of Lucas de Galvez food market. Get lost within the stalls and culinary sights and smells of the market. Stop at a torta stand for a sandwich of Cuban style pulled pork called lechon. Bring a shopping bag so you can load up on amazing tropical fruits and vegetables to enjoy back at your vacation home. There’s nothing better than a homemade Mexican meal served poolside under the stars. Especially if you remembered to order an extra half pound of lechon to go.

Dancing in the streets from big-band Tuesdays at Parque Santiago to traditional Yucatecan dance performances in Santa Lucia Thursday night, or dancing in Plaza Grande on a Sunday afternoon. You can kick off your shoes and dance the time away, or sit on the sidelines and watch the life of Merida’s streets unfold.

Shop for handcrafts and antiques. A few blocks north of Plaza Grande is Parque Santa Lucía. This park, as well as surrounding streets are loaded with plenty of options for shopping and dining. Peruse handcrafts and souvenirs, go native with a traditional Guayabera shirt or pick up some well-priced art and antiques at the Sunday antique street market.

Eat at Apoala, a new upscale Oaxacan-influenced restaurant in Santa Lucia that is packed most nights. The zucchini blossom tacos and lobster sandwich are outstanding.

Sleep like a local in a hammock. Everyone needs to take home a beautifully hand-woven hammock (or two) from Merida. The shops in and around the centro off great quality. Prices don’t vary much, but your best bets are the stores along Calle 65, just south of Plaza Grande.

Step back in time. Walk along the cobbled street of Calle 64 between the plazas of La Ermita and San Juan to experience the old-world colonial charm. This old road into Merida passes under the original gated entrance to Merida on the southeast corner of San Juan Plaza.

Plaza Grande by night. Return to the main plaza at night for action and street life, every night of the week. Our picks are Saturdays when the streets close and restaurants, street food and bands fi   the space with a festive air. Or Mondays, when Mayan characters take the main plaza with the traditional Pok ta Pok, the Mayan ball game that starts on the dot of 8:00 PM outside the City Hall or Ayuntamiento.

By Brent Marsh, Remixto

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