Best Neighborhoods in Merida Mexico: Local’s Guide for 2024

The Yucatan capital of Merida is known for its picturesque historic center, colorful colonial buildings, and small-town charm. However, the city is actually much larger than initially meets the eye.

Merida is made up of dozens of different neighborhoods, each with its own distinct personality and charm. 

As a tourist, there are only really a handful of central neighborhoods that you are likely to experience. However, there are several more on the outskirts of town that are well worth your attention too, that the locals have been keeping to themselves. 

You are in good hands here because I live in Merida. In this post, I will run through the best colonias and barrios to know in the city both as a tourist and as a place to live if you are considering moving here more permanently. 

Best Merida Neighborhoods 

If you are visiting Merida as a tourist, choose to base yourself in one of the central districts. For example:

  • Plaza Grande area/downtown Merida

  • The Paseo de Montejo

  • La Ermita

  • Santiago

  • Santa Lucia

  • Santa Ana

  • San Cristobal 

As much as I love Merida, all neighborhoods here are definitely not created equal. The city is not like Guadalajara or Mexico City where every single barrio has something to offer. 

Many neighborhoods in Merida are purely residential and not all of them contain points of interest or any reason to pass through them. ( Other than if you live here and you are stopping by to pick up groceries etc). Itzimna, Pacabtún, Parque Aleman, and the village of Cholul are perhaps the only places to add to your radar outside of the central districts. Since they are ungentrified and off-the-beaten-path, you might find that they are among your highlights of visiting the city.

Plaza Grande & the Historic Center 

All Mexican towns and cities have a main central plaza that is typically known as a “Zocalo”. In Merida, this is the Plaza Grande. 

This impressive square is surrounded by several historic buildings. Most notably the Merida Cathedral San Ildefonso dates back over 400 years and is one of the oldest churches in the Americas. 

The plaza is always a hub of activity with locals coming here to chat with friends, street performers, and buskers entertaining the crowds, and events hosted throughout the week. On Saturday nights, you can catch a Pok-ta-Pok game here – a reenactment of the Ancient Mayan ball game, complete with fireeaters and live music. 

Players were required to whack a sturdy rubber ball through a hoop mounted high on the walls using just their hips. This was not only difficult enough in itself, but sometimes the losing teams were sacrificed! (Fortunately today they are not!)

Plaza Grande Highlights 

  • Take photos in front of the giant Merida letters

  • Check out the controversial paintings and murals inside the Merida cathedral

  • Sample Yucatecan street food delicacies like salbutes, panuchos, and cochinta tortas

  • Join in with the music and dancing that happens here virtually every night

  • See what exhibits are on display at the Pasaje de La Revolución art space

  • Tour the Museo Casa Motejo – a restored 16th-century stately home 

  • On Sundays, shop for handicrafts and artwork at the Domingo market.

Paseo de Montejo 

The Paseo de Montejo is the main promenade in Merida which runs through the city from the north to the south. The most interesting stretch is situated between the Monument a la Patria at the intersection of Av. Romulo Rozo and Av Del Deportista, and Calle 47 where you will find the historic Cafeteria Impala and the popular “El Remate” fine dining restaurant. 

It is pleasant to walk the entirety of this stretch. (Do it early in the mornings or in the evenings to avoid the heat during the spring/summer). On Sundays, this section is closed off to vehicles for the “BiciRuta” so that people can enjoy cycling, running, or rollerblading down it, while artists set up their easels at the side of the street to paint and sell their creations. 

Locals affectionately refer to the Paseo de Montejo as the “Champs Elysees of Merida”. Its creation was inspired by the infamous Champs Elysee in Paris.

The street takes its name from Francisco de Montejo, the Spanish Conquistador who founded the city in the 16th century. There are tons of hotels, bars, and restaurants here and you can while away many evenings meandering up and down its length.

Paseo de Montejo Highlights 

  • Shop for one-of-a-kind clothing pieces at the independent boutique stores

  • Enjoy live jazz music and an aperitif in Casa T’ho Concept House on Saturdays

  • Learn about how chocolate was invented in Mexico at the Cacaomex museum

  • Photograph the towering Monumento a la Patria

  • Take a tour of El Minaret Merida and learn the history of this arabesque building

  • Take an electric carriage ride along the Paseo de Montejo and through Central Merida 

La Ermita 

La Ermita, along with San Sebastián and Xcalachén was one of the first Merida neighborhoods to be recognized as a “barrio magico” in 2023. The Mexican “barrio magicos” or “magic neighborhoods” program is part of an initiative by the Mexican tourism board to recognize parts of cities that offer a particularly special history, culture, gastronomy or natural beauty. 

It is based off of the “pueblo magicos” (magic towns) program, and there are currently 17 such neighborhoods identified across the country. (Three of which are in Merida!) 

La Ermita is best known for its pastel yellow Nuestra Señora del Buen Viaje church which dates back to the 18th century and whose patron saint is said to provide a safe journey for travelers who pray to her for assistance. Various markets and events are often hosted in the square, and live musicians and mariachi put on shows here during the Hanal Pixan (Yucatan answer to the Day of the Dead) celebrations in October. 

Parque Santa Lucia, Central Merida

Santa Lucia 

Parque Santa Lucia is one of the most central neighborhoods in Merida and is just a 10-minute walk away from the Plaza Grande. An 1878 obelisk dedicated to General Sebastián Molas, a hero of the Yucatan caste war, sits in the center of the plaza. 

The square is encircled by some of the very best restaurants in Merida. The atmosphere here is particularly special on Thursday nights when the “Serenata Yucateca” celebrations see dozens of tourists and locals take to the square to participate in and watch traditional local jarana dancing, as well as salsa and cumbia dances.  

Santa Lucia highlights 

  • Take photos in the giant “tu y yo” (you and me) chairs. These types of chairs are all over Merida but the only larger-than-life ones are here in Santa Lucia

  • Try delicious Yucatecan and Oaxacan fusion cuisine at Apoala restaurant

  • Shop for chocolate treats and souvenirs at Ki’Xocolatl Chocolatier

  • Pay one of the street musicians for a personal serenade 
Parroquia de Nuestra Señora del Perpetuo Socorro, Itzimna

Itzimna & Circuito Colonias 

Itzimna is a charming, lesser-known Merida neighborhood that was once its own independent settlement known as “Itzamna”, named after the Mayan god of creation. The little square here is flanked by the gorgeous burgundy “Lady of Our Perpetual Help” church and encircled by many wonderful independent stores selling artisanal goods and fresh, locally sourced produce. 

Parque Itzimna is a popular rendezvous point among locals, and in the evenings and weekends, street vendors set up their stalls here to sell everything from cochinita pibil tortas to hot dogs and fresh fruit. Check out Caffe Latte Itzimna for some of the best organic coffee in town. 

I recommend the iced (“frio”) choco menta coffee. You can also purchase bags of fresh coffee beans from Chiapas, Veracruz, and Oaxaca here. Meanwhile, the nearby Mercado de Pan is a fantastic little bakery where you can watch the sous chefs hard at work making fresh croissants and chocolatins through the observation window. 

Santa Ana during the Oaxacan Guelaguetza festival in March 2024

Santa Ana 

Barrio Santa Ana and its central Parque Santa Ana can be reached by turning onto calles 45 and 47 directly from the Paseo de Montejo. The streets here are a photographer’s dream with their colorful colonial homes, cobblestone roads, and passageways. 

The neighborhood dates back to 1729 when it was built at the site of a Mayan village. Segregation was a large motivator for its construction at the time – the governors of the city wanted to keep the lines between the rich and the poor, indigenous classes clear, and Santa Ana and its church were created as a rendezvous point for the indigenous. 

Today, it is pleasant to sit in the little park with a book or a takeout coffee and watch the world go by. On certain days, a market is hosted here with vendors selling everything from food and drinks to handicrafts and souvenirs. 

Chen Ho archeological site in Fraccionamiento del Parque, Pacabtún

Pacabtún

Pacabtún is an ungentrified, low-income neighborhood in the Eastern part of Merida. While it isn’t quite so “polished” as the historic center, it certainly has its charm.

Parque Lineal is a leafy green recreational area and walking trail that has been built as a hiking/running route through the area. It takes you past some of the best street art in Merida, and large, vibrant murals created by locally beloved Yucatecan artists such as Datoer and Ackon. 

The highlight of the area though is the Fraccionamiento del Parque rec space which is home to the Chen Ho archeological site and what remains of the Mayan city that once stood where Merida stands today. A stepped pyramid and a few buildings that are believed to have once been home to Mayan nobles are among the only structures that remain here today as the site was massively destroyed by the Spanish.

Still, it is pretty cool that these sunbleached ruins are just in the middle of a random park. 

No tourists ever really come here so if you stop by, you will just see people jogging and walking their dogs amongst the ruins. (I come here for my morning run!) 

On Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday nights, there is a cute mercado set up on calle 10 where people come to sell kitchen/household items, clothing, homemade jams, marmalades and cakes, and street food treats. 

Exploring Parque a la Plancha at night

Parque a La Plancha 

Parque a La Plancha is a gorgeous contemporary park that has been built on the grounds of an old abandoned train station in the center of Merida. (Calles 43 and 48). For decades, the government has been trying to obtain funding and permission to transform the space into a park, and the renovations were finally unveiled to the public in late 2023. 

My partner and I love to come and walk through the park in the evenings. There are tons of walking and cycling routes, an artificial lake, kid’s play areas, dog parks, and free outdoor gym equipment, and in the evenings, there is a sound and light show at the fountains (“fuentes”) where the water dances in the colors of the Mexican flag to the backdrop of mariachi and Mexican folk music. 

Renovations are still underway to convert the main station building into a stylish space filled with stores and restaurants. The gourmet food court at the center of the park serves everything from tacos to ice creams, and many of the old train carriages that were rusting away and falling into disrepair here have been given a new lease of life and transformed into quirky snack bars and souvenir stores.  

A couple of blocks away, you will find Calle 47 – Merida’s new “gastronomic corridor” lined with some of the very best bars and restaurants in town. 

Aleman 

Aleman falls between calles 21 and 26 and is a very local, distinctly Mexican part of Merida. The neighborhood takes its name from Miguel Aleman, the former Mexican President who was in power during the area’s creation.

The barrio is centered around Parque Aleman – a little park that is nothing to write home about during the day, although there are a couple of cute coffee and brunch spots that encircle it where you can grab a delicious plate of chilaquiles or perhaps some huevos motuleños.

The area really comes to life at night when groups of friends and families come to have picnics on the grass, tons of street vendors set up their tianguis and illuminated fairground rides offer fun for all the family. 

A Las Brasas ( C. 24 277, Miguel Alemán) serves some of the best burritos in Merida and the sweet lady that owns it takes care of lots of local street cats. The nearby Mercado de la Miguel Alemán is interesting for people watching. 

If you live here or are staying a while in self-catered accommodation, it can be a fun experience to shop at this market for cuts of meat at the carniceria, and haggle over fruits and veg at the fruteria. 

Parque Cholul

Cholul 

Cholul is an elegant pueblo just northeast of Merida, that makes a very worthy place to spend an afternoon as part of your Merida trip itinerary. During the henequen boom, many servants and farmhands that worked in haciendas around the Yucatan chose to live in Cholul. 

Since the closure of the haciendas, many well-heeled, affluent Yucatecans started to move to the area and today, it is one of the best places to head out for breakfast or brunch. Casa Mango and Al Modar are particularly stylish spots that attract an elegant crowd.

Meanwhile, Gelina 22 is a charming “greasy spoon” style breakfast cafe operated by a sweet mother and daughter duo who sell delicious homemade huevos al gusto (eggs made to taste), and chilaquiles. 

The bright yellow 17th-century San Pedro Apostol church in the central park opens for services, mass, and Sunday school throughout the week and on Sunday mornings, a little flea market is hosted in its grounds. 

If you are driving in Merida, you can also head out to the eerie Hacienda de Canabchen de Cansares and learn the eerie ghost story behind it. While Cholul Center itself is delightful, there are also many new, high-end gated communities and residential complexes in the area around it, which make wonderful places to live if you have the budget for it.  

Santiago 

Santiago is one of the oldest barrios in Central Merida and dates back to the 17th century. 

The Spanish conquistadors built it on the site of a Mayan village and named it after Santiago, the Patron of Spain. 

The Parroquia de Santiago Apóstol church boasts an impressive facade and is the final resting place of Fray Luis de Piña y Mazo, one of the first Catholic bishops in the Yucatan. 

There are a lot of grand old colonial homes here, and for a period, this was considered the very best place to live in Merida. Every Tuesday at 8.30 pm, you can catch the “Remembranzas Musicales”  event in the main square which sees locals and tourists come together to listen to “musica en vive” (live music) and dance cumbia, salsa, and cha cha cha. 

San Juan

San Juan Parque is one of the largest in the historic center of Merida, flanked by the gorgeous ornate yellow “Saint John the Baptist” church. There is an old yellow stone archway here that once marked the entrance of the city and sat along the “Royal road” to Campeche City. 

Vendors usually set up their tianguis beside the church during the day, selling fresh mangoes and other prepared fruits with chamoy. During the 20th century, events were hosted in the plaza of San Juan every Thursday, and the area was something of the city’s entertainment hub, with people heading to musical performances and other cultural events at the area’s bullring and ball park each week. (Although these buildings no longer remain today). 

San Cristobal 

San Cristobal is one of the larger central Merida neighborhoods and also one of the oldest. It runs between calle 67 and 75, just east of the historic center. 

The Parroquia Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe church was one of the final churches to be built by the Spanish colonizers in the Yucatan, and it was created using materials quarried from existing Mayan structures. The Spanish designated this barrio as a place where the indigenous persons from Central Mexico, who helped them conquer the Maya, could live. 

With time, many Lebanese immigrants moved to San Cristobal and set up their businesses here. They made some interesting contributions to the local food culture and are credited with creating tacos arabe and kibi. 

Best Merida Neighborhoods for Living 

Most foreign expats that relocate to Merida tend to stick to the historic center or the areas in the north of the city. As a result, prices in these areas have skyrocketed over the last couple of years. 

While these areas offer an excellent quality of living and a safe environment with all of the stores and amenities that you need right on your doorstep, they are not the only places to consider. 

Altabrisa 

Altabrisa is an upscale residential colonia in the northeastern part of Merida, close to the mall of the same name. You will find some of the largest and most elegant properties in town here, though expect prices of at least $200,000 and up for a two-bedroom house. 

Plaza Altabrisa is one of the best malls in the city, with a Sears department store and a plethora of Mexican and international contemporary stores. Across the road, the “Uptown” Plaza boasts a Starbucks, a Walmart, and a VIPs and Casa de los Abuelos restaurant which are both great spots to grab lunch. 

Dzitya 

Dzitya is a small village that sits in the northwestern part of Merida just north of the periferico. You will find a lot of new residential developments and gated communities (privadas) here and many have been built in a chic contemporary style. 

A lot of new residential developments follow a similar style of construction – think white two or three-story properties with a dipping pool at the back, an open-plan kitchen/dining/living room area with a half bathroom on the ground floor, and multiple bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms spread over the second and third floors. 

The village itself is known for its handicrafts and the expert craftsmen here will use a selection of different types of high-quality wood sourced across the Yucatan to make everything from tortilla warmers and jewelry boxes to coffee and sugar canisters, etc. 

Street art mural on calle 20, East Merida
Street art mural on calle 20, East Merida

Poligono, Las Brisas & East Merida 

Most foreigners that relocate to Merida tend to stick to North Merida or the historic center. East Merida, though far less gentrified and far more “Mexican” is also very safe. 

I live in the eastern barrio of Colonia Los Reyes, and I am the only “gringa” in my area. Poligono, Las Brisas, Los Reyes, and other areas in the East of Merida are conveniently close to the new IE tram route for connections with Central Merida and the Teya station of Tren Maya, there’s a huge Walmart at Poligono and in Altabrisa Uptown, and you are still close enough to the center that you can get in and out of historic Merida in 10-15 minutes. 

Chuminópolis 

Chuminópolis sits just east of Central Merida and borders the barrio of Pacabtún, making it very easy to access the Chen Ho archeological site and park from here too. There is a lot of affordable accommodation to be found in Chuminópolis, including many “fixer-upper” properties for sale. 

Historically, this was the “Chinese” neighborhood and many migrant workers from Asia came to live here. Chuminópolis is also home to the grandiose “Quinta El Olvido” (“forgotten house”) – an ornate mansion built by Rafael Quintero, the 19th-century engineer who paved the city of Merida. You can take a tour of the mansion, but you need to reach out to its caretakers in advance. 

North Merida 

A lot of affluent Mexicans and expats choose to live in North Merida. Property prices tend to be a little higher here but there are many newly renovated properties and gated communities (privadas) constantly popping up. 

Montes de Ame, Montecristo, Montebello, San Ramón Norte, Benito Juarez Norte and Francisco de Montejo are popular areas in Northern Merida, but people also use “North Merida” to refer to Conkal and Cholul too. 

From here, you are just 20 minutes away from the beach town of Progreso and the Ruta Esmerelda. You generally need to buy a car if you want to live in these areas and get around comfortably. 

As Merida continues to grow and develop, the north of the city is starting to look more and more like a US suburb, with strip malls and places like Texas Roadhouse and Dairy Queen constantly popping up. These areas are not pedestrian friendly so you cannot easily walk around historic areas from here as you could in central Merida. 

FAQs & Things to Know About Merida Neighborhoods 

Merida is home to a population of 1.2 million people, though it definitely has a very small-town feel about it. Most of its neighborhoods are very safe, although Kanasin and some of the more industrial areas in the far south of the city are a little more rough-around-the-edges and are generally best avoided. 

The city is laid out in a grid system. While main roads and boulevards have names, most streets are numbered (calle 1, calle 2, calle 3, etc). 

While that might make it sound like it’s easier to get around, the numbers repeat themselves over different barrios. So, there are dozens of “calle 1s” all over town and to get anywhere, you should generally also give the neighborhood name and the postcode to give directions. 

What is the nicest neighborhood in Merida? 

Santiago, Santa Lucia, Santa Ana, San Juan, and the Plaza Grande are the nicest Merida neighborhoods from a cultural perspective. For luxurious living, you can consider Altabrisa or Montes de Ame.  

Where do most expats live in Merida, Mexico?

Most expats in Merida tend to live in the north or the historic center of the city, with a handful of foreign residents living in Itzimna and Circuito Colonias, which both have large Canadian populations. 

What is the nicest street in Merida? 

There are a couple of streets in Merida that could be considered among the nicest. 

The Paseo de Montejo is the main promenade in Merida, modeled after the Champs Elysees in Paris. Calle 47 is the “gastronomic street” and it oozes colonial charm with its colorful buildings painted in every color of the rainbow, while Avenida Del Deportista is filled with stately mansions. 

What are the safest neighborhoods in Merida? 

Merida is the safest city in Mexico and pretty much every neighborhood here is safe. There really is nowhere that you shouldn’t go to or where you will need to be looking over your shoulder, etc. 

That said, the Northern neighborhoods (Montes de Ame, Montecristo, Montebello, San Ramón Norte) and Cholul/Dzitya are among the very safest. 

The historic center is safe but you should watch your personal belongings in crowded places like the Mercado Lucas de Galvez. The East and West parts of the city are safe but see more petty crime, so you need to take methods to secure your home if you decide to purchase property here. 

Crime rates are higher in Kanasin, but you do not really have any reason to go to Kanasin anyway.

Final thoughts on the best Merida neighborhoods 

There are dozens of great neighborhoods in Merida, each offering a slightly different vibe and culture. As Merida continues to develop and attract more and more tourists, new places are constantly opening and Merida becomes an increasingly great place to live/spend time. 

If you are looking to move here permanently or base yourself in the city for an extended period of time, finding the best neighborhoods can be somewhat subjective depending on what you are looking for. 

If you want home comforts, you might prefer North Merida, if you want old-fashioned charm, the center might be best for you and if you are looking for an “authentic” experience where you can mingle with Yucatec locals, consider the east or west parts of the city. 

As I mentioned, I have been living here for a couple of years now. If you still have further questions, please do not hesitate to drop me a comment below or connect on social media. 

Safe travels and enjoy Mexico! Buen Viaje! Melissa xo 


Melissa Douglas

Melissa Douglas is a British Travel Writer based in Merida, Mexico and the Editor-in-Chief of Mexico Travel Secrets. She has over seven years worth of experience in working in travel media and has travelled to 57 countries, mostly solo. Throughout her career, Melissa has produced written content for several high-profile publications across the globe - including Forbes Travel Guide, the Huffington Post, Rough Guides, and Matador Network.

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