Merida is the capital of Yucatan district and a good point for several day trips in it's close proximity. This is why I decided to use it as a second accommodation in my trip around the Yucatan Peninsula
Now there are some things that I would do no differently for a potentially enhanced experience, but it all depends on time/cost.
I think that the best way to get there is with the ADO bus. I am not sure if they are all the luxury version, but in case you can chose, ADO platinum is actually super nice. You can book your ticket online, I did not spot this. On the electronic tickets though it is mentioned under Service: Lujo (aka Luxury). If you leave from Playa, the total trip is between 3:45 - 4:05 h depending where your stop in Merida will be. There are discounts for buying in advance.
We stayed at City Express Plus, which I would say was quite far from the center (20-25 min walk) but very close to Paseo Montejo. I have nothing to complain about the hotel (friendly staff, clean, big rooms), but I did not like it as it looked far to business trip type hotel to my.
What to do and see
In Merida Itself
The Yucatan capital was found on January 6, 1542 by Francisco de Montejo, but the history of Merida goes back to the ancient Maya city of Ichcanziho. Merida is the biggest city in the Yucatan Peninsula and you can feel it. On the other hand, not being a super touristy place to easier can mingle with locals and experience their traditions. If I were to generalize there are 2 main streets you can visit (Paseo Montejo) and Calle 60 and Plaza Grande.
Something that stroke me on this street is the big amount of art galleries. It's quite nice especially if you have the time to check
Santa Ana Church
Located in Santa Ana Park, i liked the exterior of this church a lot as it is pained in 3 colours. I have no clue if on purpose or not :).
It was built and consecrated in 1733 where apparently a Maya religious structure had stood.
Santa Lucia Park
This Park is filled with fancy (and expensive) restaurants. The main action happens on Thursday's where for the last 55 years, they organize an event called Serentas Yucatecas. It's quite impressive to see everyone gathering to watch what the week prepared from them (be it music, ballet, poems etc)
This is also the park where you can find the cute double (you and me) chairs in huge size. Maybe to add a note on these chairs (sillas tu y yo en Spanish) were first added to Plaza Grande after it's remodeling in 1915.
Some Buildings & things I spotted along the way
This is the place where Fanceso Montejo put the founding stone of the city.
Before you do anything else, go to Casa Montejo to get a bit of history of the place. Francesco Montejo was the one who started the Plaza Grande by setting his home to be built on one of the corners (1543 and 1549)
"The main facade, which has not been altered, is considered the most valuable jewel of the art and civil plateresque architecture of the nation. The hand carved stone, stands out for the delicate original gures of personages and mythological characters." (Source)
The entry and guided visit is FREE of charge and totally worth your time! The building is owned by the bank (Banamex) so if you see a queue outside, most likely it is not for the museum :)
Catedral de San Ildefonso
"On the site of a former Maya temple is Merida’s hulking, severe cathedral, begun in 1561 and completed in 1598. Some of the stone from the Maya temple was used in its construction. The massive crucifix behind the altar is Cristo de la Unidad (Christ of Unity), a symbol of reconciliation between those of Spanish and Maya heritage." (Source)
All over the Yucatan Peninsula you can find colorful Letters with the names of the city which make a perfect stop for a great memory.
Chamber of Commerce
I had no idea what this building was, before digging into Google. The information there is not clear, but you can go inside and upstairs getting a nice view over the square (FREE)
Palacio de Gobierno del Estado de Yucatan
I actually missed this, when I realized it was too late and they had closed. But try to go as it's free and apparently totally worth it
Dulceria and sorbeteria Colon
Ok, this is not a touristic attraction, BUT I've been told you have to get some desserts here as they have more than 110 years of experience.
Random Places in Merida
We read into Lonely Planet that you can visit the Yucatan Popular Art museum for free and so we thought it would be a good idea. First it was not that easy to find on offline maps, and then, I will apologize to anyone who thinks otherwise, I did not find it's worth it.
But along the way we got to take some pictures
It's a long street with houses of beautiful architecture, It looks very European. i could for my (being Romanian) mostly associate it with Kiseleff Boulevard but it's actually inspired by french boulevards
Monumento a La Patria
The monument is telling the story of Yucatan and the country through more than 300 sculpted figures under the supervision of the Colombian sculptor, Romulo Rozo from the establishment of Tenochtitlan and up to the mid 20th century. It's considered a masterpiece and a must see if in Merida.
Day Trip to Izamal*
Izamal was listed on the Pueblos Magicos list and it is for good reason. The bright yellow decorating all houses as well as the free Maya ruins you can check out are 2 of the main reasons for it.
I will share in a separate post all the details you need to know
Day Trip to Uxmal & Celestun
Uxmal is one of the Maya Ruins which I found the nicest, bare in mind that we were there right when they opened.
If you fancy flamingos, then you'll love this tour, although you won't come close enough to almost touch them, you can get a pretty good view of them. Best season I understand are February & March.
* We realised later that you could if you hire a private driver leave Merida early, go to Izamal, spend there about 2h, then drive to Valladolid spend there probably 4-6 hours and then drive to Tulum. We understood from our driver to Uxmal & Celestun that he would ask approx 3000 Mexican pesos especially if you also did other trips with him.