Also known as “La Ciudad Blanca,” or “The White City,” Merida,Mexico,is one of the most beautiful cities in Mexico’s stunning Yucatan Peninsula. Its streets and buildings shine brilliantly in the warm sunlight,with beautiful shady,tree-lined avenues that could have easily been plucked straight out of a Parisian street scene.
Merida’s architecture is stunning,with ornate filigreed wrought iron railings that hint of the region’s strong Spanish heritage,impressive hand-carved wooden doors,and intricate marble and mosaic tile floors. In addition,special attention has been paid to the landscaping of the city,which is home to countless quiet walled gardens and public squares with majestic fountains.
Merida was founded in the early 1540s when Spanish Conquistadores overtook the existing Mayan city of T’ho. They gave it the name Merida because of its resemblance to a Spanish city by the same name,but the area had long been an important location for the indigenous Maya civilization. Today,Merida is still firmly rooted in its Mayan cultural heritage,but this historical resonance is blended with a definite European influence.
A popular tourist destination,Merida has a certain cosmopolitan feel and is one of Mexico’s most popular colonial cities,in part because of its close proximity to the Mexican Caribbean,combined with its cultural diversity and modern infrastructure. It has a permanent population of around 1 million people and is home to the Merida Cathedral,which dates back to the late 1500s and was erected on top of Mayan temples that were destroyed by the European visitors.
While in Merida,be sure to check out the colorful Plaza Grande,or Zócalo,which is the city’s center and home to many diverse cafes,restaurants,shops and hotels. It was originally constructed by the Spaniards on the site of ancient Mayan pyramids and is a popular locale for fiestas today. Merida is also one of the best places to find high quality local handicrafts from the Yucatan Peninsula. With excellent prices,a wide selection of items and plenty of local color,the city’s Central Municipal Market is open daily,while the Handicraft Bazaar is open Sundays in the Plaza Grande.