Our 10 days in Mérida (hint: It was not as expected)

I’ve been debating with myself whether to write this post or not, because we didn’t really enjoy Mérida like we thought we would, so why write about it? On the other hand I want this blog to be trustworthy and truly reflect my likings and how can I do that if I only write about our positive experiences? So here it is; a reflection of our 10 days in Mérida…

Pretty houses in the streets of Mérida, but somehow it lacked some atmosphere

Mérida

So Mérida. Everyone we’ve met since we arrived to Mexico back in January have said: “You’ll love Mérida!” “Mérida is so beautiful!” “Mérida is so charming!” “Mérida is so liveable”

I will start by saying that we have visited many colonial cities over the past years. On top of that we came straight from Oaxaca (also colonial), which we adored. So Mérida was having tough odds even before we arrived. Sorry, if I sound spoiled, but if you have seen 10 waterfalls then you might not be surprised with number 11, right? Especially not if number 10 was the most incredible ever.

Read my guide to Oaxaca here

Why did we go?

We visited Mexico 7 years ago and back then we only stayed on the coast. I would have loved to visit Mérida back then, which would have been my first ever visit to a colonial city, but we didn’t have time. Since then I had the idea of Mérida as something special. So it was on the wishlist from the start of this trip and since everyone kept praising that city, we went without further research.

When we finally arrived to Mérida it was like “is this it?”. This worn down city, with an astronomically noiselevel around the city center, tons of tourist shops and restaurants, was this really what we had been waiting 7 years to see?

The pictures might not really reflect my thoughts of the city as I only photographed things I found nice. It would obviously have made sense to showcase visually what we didn’t enjoy to make a point, but I only photograph when I feel inspired, so yeah… But it also proves that there are nice areas in the city!

Hotel Rosas & Xocolate Merida
We had breakfast one day at Hotel Rosas & Xocolate which was a nice experience

What we missed in Mérida

In general we missed some kind of atmosphere in the streets. It felt like a city that tourists come by to see during their cruise or tour-de-Yucatán, take some nice pictures and then leave. We missed some kind of homey feeling with more coffee shops where locals hang out, small boutiques and healthy restaurants to sit and work from. There were some nice places, but I felt we had to really look for them. In other cities you can take a walk and be surprised at each corner, but here I felt like I had to do a lot of research to find a great place for lunch etc.

The area around Paseo de Montejo was fine and we found some nice places there, but it is a very small part of the city. Maybe we just didn’t find the right neighbourhood, I don’t know, because I feel we’re the only ones who are not blown away by Mérida.

Casa Tho Merida
The concept house Casa Thô on Paseo Montejo

The positive side of our stay

From a personal point of view we had a good time in Mérida. Since we didn’t truly enjoy the city then we had many good talks about what we do appreciate in a city and in life in general. It was a nice process and we stayed in an incredible house and chilled by the pool. And oh, Lasse met an old old old carpenter, who trained him in restoring vintage chairs during three mornings. That was a great experience!

So in general our time there was fine, but knowing what I know now, then I wouldn’t have gone there as there are so many other wonderful places to explore in Mexico.

Carpenter Merida
Lasse was “an intern” three mornings at a carpenter who taught him to restore a chair like this. A very nice experience.

Pros for Merida

Obviously there are nice things about Mérida as a destination and I’ll list them here:

Rentals are low

You really get a lot for your money in Mérida. While many Mexican cities are cheap, then the interior design leaves a lot to wish for… But in Mérida you can rent beautiful colonial houses with private pool for as little as 50€ per night.

Our home in Mérida. The yellow house is just the guest bedroom with private bathroom. On the property we had an entire house plus two bedrooms like the one in the picture. Everything for 50€ per night.
It’s a perfect base for exploring Yucatán

Whether you want to swim in a cenote, go to the beach, climb a Mayan ruin or indulge yourself in the history of Mayan culture, then Mérida is a good choice.

The Mayan pyramids in Acaneh, just 35 minutes from Mérida (on the way to Izamal and many cenotes) are among the few guests are allowed to climb.
It’s very safe

I feel a bit awkward writing this because we have felt very safe in all the cities we have visited, so I didn’t really find Mérida to be safer than any other city. But it is said to be a very safe city, also at night (we are never out at night, so I wouldn’t be able to tell from a personal perspective).

There are many malls

Okay, I never thought I would ever write this as a pro, because honestly, spending your time in a mall? But this also emphases my general thoughts of Mérida, because spending time in one of their huge air conditioned malls was some of our favourite things to do.

They have a couple of grand malls just north of the city and they have everything a family can dream of: small cars for toddlers, ice cream shops etc. We went twice and our little son loved it. But again; if some of the biggest pros about a city are the malls, then it might not be worth it (in my opinion obviously).

Casa T’hô

Casa T’hô is a concept house with a little restaurant and some local up-scale boutiques. This place was by far our favourite in Mérida. It was calm, clean, beautiful and had a very relaxed vibe. The staff was extremely friendly, so we came here for a bit of shopping and coffee/lunch various times.

Casa Tho Merida
We bought some all natural locally produced soap bars in Casa Thô and enjoyed quite a few cortados and macaroons too.

Taking advice

We have really learned to be more thorough with the advice we get. We’re all so different and our opinions are based on our previous experiences in life. Read my post about taking advice from the right people here in case you missed it.

If you have never visited a colonial city before and don’t care for cafés and little boutiques, then you’ll might like Mérida. But if you really appreciate jumping from coffee shop to coffee shop, chatting with the baristas, strolling along neat streets, playing in parks with your child and being surprised by one little boutique after another, then you’ll probably end up a bit disappointed like us.

There are so many cenotes in the area that the chances for having it all to yourself is quite big

Have you ever been disappointed when visiting a destination that has been on your wishlist for a long time?

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Any ideas or thoughts you wish to share? Don't hold back, I love to chat :)

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