Itzimná Merida is a charming residential neighborhood in the Yucatan capital of Merida. It is overlooked by most visitors to the city but is a wonderful place to explore for anyone who wants to venture off the beaten path and experience a true residential neighborhood in the heart of the Yucatan.
Itzimna takes its name from the Mayan God Itzamná. Itzamná is believed to have been one of the most important Mayan deities who is said to have lived in the sky and was the creator of humankind, and the ruler of heaven, day and night.
Back in the days of the Ancient Mayans, Merida as it stands today did not exist. Instead, a Mayan city called T´ho stood in its place.
While urban expansion has today seen Itzimna become ¨just another¨ neighborhood in Merida, historically, this was its own settlement. Sadly, much of the area was destroyed during the Spanish conquest.
Little information about this area exists online and I wanted to share the beauties of this district with you. I am a British Travel Writer living in Merida and for the last 18 months, I have called Itzimna my home.
In this Itzmina Merida guide, we will look at the history of the lovely little barrio, learn what things you can do in the area, and discover some great local businesses that you can support.
The original Itzimna settlement was destroyed when the Spanish arrived in Mexico and labeled it ¨New Spain¨. The colonizers destroyed indigenous texts and claimed that they wanted to put an end to local idols.
As part of their efforts to force the local people to convert to Catholicism, they destroyed local shrines and in 1710, they constructed the red ¨Parish of Our Lady of Perpetual Help¨ Roman Catholic church in their place.
Today, this quaint church and the park that surrounds it mark the center of town. The church still contains its original baptismal font.
Mass is still hosted here on Sundays, and various events, weddings, and celebrations take place in the church throughout the year. Every hour, on the hour, you can see the bellringers come out to ring the church bells. The sound can be heard across the neighborhood.
Points of interest in and around Parque Itzimna
Parque Itzimna marks the center of the Itzimna district. Creation of the park was commissioned in 1972 and since then, it has formed a popular rendezvous point for local residents.
The park, with its fountains, sculpted hedges, fragrant flowerbeds, and statues of notable figures in Mexican history is a lovely place to stroll and take photos. Many street vendors set up their stalls here in the evenings and early mornings, serving hot dogs and cochinita pibil tortas.
Cochinita pibil sandwiches are something you should try at least once while traveling in the Yucatan. (But I would hedge a bet that you keep on going back for more once you’ve had a taste!)
Cochinita pibil is a slow-cooked pork dish that follows a recipe invented by the Ancient Mayans. To prepare it, pork shoulder is marinated with achiote and orange rind and slow-cooked overnight in an underground oven known as a pib.
Think of it as the Ancient Mayan version of pulled pork! The vendors set up plastic chairs and tables for people to eat at so you can pull up a chair, mingle with the locals and enjoy people-watching as people walk their dogs and meet their friends in the park.
Stores and local businesses in Itzimna
There are some great delicatessens and artisanal stores in Itzimna that are arguably some of the best of their kind in all of Merida. Caffe Latte Izmina is a takeout coffee place that sits on Calle 18, just across from Parque Itzimna.
The walls and cabinets of this higgledly-piggledy little place are piled high with different containers of organic coffee sourced from across Mexico. There are beans from Chiapas, Veracruz, Oaxaca, and other acclaimed coffee-growing regions.
This is also one of the only places in Merida where you can buy syrups and flavorings. If you consider yourself a coffee connoisseur, you won’t be disappointed.
You can tell the store owners what kind of flavors and undertones you like your coffee to have (rich, chocolatey, velvety) and they will recommend a specific bean for you, scoop it up, and grind it especially for you. The daily coffee menu is always filled with dozens of hot and cold options.
The flavored cold blends (like the choco menta frio) are spectacular.
A nice way to shop for produce and support locals in Mexico is to visit independent stores and mercados rather than head to supermarkets like Walmart. There is a great little Quesaria (cheese shop) on the corner of Calle 16 and Calle 21.
The owner sells fresh soft Mexican cheeses like queso rancho and panela, as well as homemade tortillas, horchata, and beverages. Just across the road on the intersection of Calle 18 and Calle 21, Sembra is an artisanal store selling homemade condiments, jams, tortillas, and cosmetics.
Fruteria Itzimna next door is a great place to shop for Mexican fruits and vegetables.
Mercado de Pan
Many international expats that move to Merida will rave about places like Pan & Koffee (Calle 43 x 58 y 60 #485, Santa Ana) and Moniques Bakery (Calle 79 #191A X Calle 36 and Calle 38, Montes de Amé) as being among the best places to pick up pastries and desserts. For a truly local spot, some of the best croissants, pan au chocolates, and other crumbly treats can be found at Mercado de Pan in Itzimina. (C. 17 102A, Itzimná).
To reach this place from Parque Itzimna, follow Calle 20 (the main road that runs in front of the church). When you see a turn for called 17 on your left, turn down it and walk a short distance to find Mercado de Pan.
This place is great because, not only are the pastries and baked goods excellent, but there is a little window at the entrance where you can see the chefs hard at work preparing everything fresh. Pastries in Merida are generally incredible – something that we can credit the city’s French influence for as many French citizens traveled and relocated to the city during the henequen boom.
Casa Gemela and other places dedicated to the arts
A few notable cultural spaces have opened up in Itzimna in recent years and are worth noting if you enjoy the arts. Casa Gemela (Calle 16 No.107 Esq. 31, Cto. Colonias) is an art gallery and culture space that hosts regular live artistic performances.
The structure dates back to the 1940s when it was built as a place of residence for the noble Rodriguez family. Today, the rooms have been converted into art exhibitions displaying the works of contemporary artists from across the Yucatan and wider Mexico.
On Saturday nights, musicians, poets, and other creatives perform in front of an intimate audience. You can expect everything from live pianists, to traditional Latin American folk music, violin jazz, and poetry recitals.
A short way along Calle 20, the Lux Perpetua Art Centre is open from 10:00 am to 14:00 pm Monday to Friday, and again between 16:00 to 19:00 hrs in the evenings. Its permanent and temporary exhibits showcase the works of emerging contemporary artists from across Mexico and the world.
Restaurants in Itzimna
Wayan´E is a Merida institution and one of the best places to grab breakfast in Itzimna. The name Wayan´E means ¨ it’s here¨ in Mayan and people travel from across the city specifically to eat at this spot, especially at weekends.
Wayan´E (Calle 15 X 18A y 20, Itzimná,) is a simple taqueria where you can watch your food prepared fresh in front of you. The eatery offers a massive selection of breakfast tacos and tortas like huevos con longaniza (egg tacos with longaniza sausage from Valladolid), and papas con chorizo.
Just across the way, you will find Senza Gastrobar – no doubt one of the best restaurants in Merida. The breakfast menu here is also excellent, serving a selection of Mexican classic breakfasts like chilaquiles and huevos Mexicano.
At night, enjoy elevated Mexican dishes and Mediterranean-inspired cuisine in the garden, when live musicians perform rock, blues, and jazz classics to a delighted audience.
Notable buildings in Itzimna
In 1886, Itzimna was the final stopping point on a tram that departed from Merida city center and headed north. You can still see the overgrown, rusted tracks and signage scattered around the area today.
The convenient connections to the capital city encouraged numerous wealthy Spanish families to build grandiose neo-colonial mansions and houses in the area. Noble Meridian families like the Cámara, Zavala, Poveda, and González families.
Sadly, most of the mansions were destroyed in a fire that ravaged the area in the 19th century. Still, a few elegant structures remain and when it’s not too hot, it’s worth taking the time to get lost in the residential streets of Itzmina and search for the particularly special ones.
Final thoughts on Itzmina Merida
The Itzimna district of Merida is a safe and charming place to live and explore. It is missed off most Merida itineraries but it is worth checking out if you want to discover somewhere authentic, and you have more time to spare during your trip.
Some Merida tours, like the North circuit of the Merida sightseeing bus drive you through Itzimna so you can see the church from the top of the double-decker. But it’s worth taking the time to come here and explore independently too.
I hope this article helps you plan your visit! I have been based here since the beginning of 2022 and I am happy to help you with any questions you may have about visiting.
If this is your first time traveling to the Yucatan capital, you might also enjoy these other articles about Merida.
- Is Merida Mexico safe?
- How to spend one day in Merida Mexico
- Day trips from Merida Mexico
- Renting a car in Merida Mexico