Most visitors arrive on one weekend and leave on the following weekend and that makes a lot of sense. Commerce comes to a halt on Saturday afternoons in Merida and starts again early on Monday mornings. It makes sense to stay in town on the weekend and do your day trips during the week when there will be less tourists at the sites. We have a three day trips designed for our guests to see the most possible ruins, cenotes, haciendas and historic villages at a leisurely pace with good restaurant recommendations along each route.
If Friday is the day you arrive make a reservation for dinner as the good places fill up fast during the winter season. On the weekends calle 60 is closed to traffic from 9pm so you can have a nice stroll up one of the main streets in the historic center without fear of being trampled or flattened by a bus. A good place to start is Santa Lucia Park where there are several good restaurants. Walk up Calle 60 past the Peon Contrares Opera House and the Church of the Third Order and take a peak inside both. There are often Yucatan Symphony concerts on Friday nights and weddings in the church with the most beautiful walls in Merida. There are some nice terraces on the Parque Hidalgo where I would not recommend anything beyond a cold beer. There are often nice crafts and jewelry for sale on the plazas and side walks in this area. When you get to the main square there are many important buildings to see and you can reward yourself with a sorbet or fresh fruit ice on the north and west side of the park or there is a nice coffee bar on the south side. Most everything is closed at night but you´ll want to come back on Sunday to see the craft vendors and performances. You´ll want to come back on a week day to see the museums of contemporary art (MACAY) and the Casa Montejo a decorative art museum in an historic home. Walk back on calle 62 where you will find some of my favorite shops selling crafts from Chiapas and Guatemala. If you walk down to calle 55 you find many of the most successful shops that have grown around the perfumerie Coqui Coqui over the past few years. Now you´re back at Santa Lucia Square where you can find the local speak easy or head off to Mercado 60 for live music and drinks or Fundacion Mescaleria for more serious drinking and dancing.
Saturday 10 am there is a tour in English of the second oldest cathedral in the Americas. It´s your once chance to see the roof and bell towers. Saturday is also a fun day to head over to the Mercado Lucas de Galvez where you´ll want to buy plastic woven market bags to fill with exotic fruits and mole pastes. Every square inch is Instagram worthy. You´ll work up an appetite here or loose it. There are plenty of food stalls dispersed around the edges and I can never resist buying a stack of hot tortillas to snack on while deciding on which saint´s candle to buy. You should pop into the old post office which is now the Museo de la Cuidad. You´ll find interesting models of the city from different centuries and some contemporary art exhibits on the top floors, often good. There are many interesting shops around the market where you can buy a saddle or a spool of henequen twine. It´s a good day to just walk around town poking your head in colorful shops and taking photos. Wander over to the Mejorada park where there a small craft museum or do a walk to all of the colonial churches. Saturday night youmight want to spend at the Noche Mexicana. So my advice would be have a big lunch and take a nap by the pool. Noche Mexicana is a variety show that might feature a folkloric dance troop from Guadlajara or a trio of juggling clowns from Kanasin. You never know but it´s always fun and it´s your first chance to have Ana Sabrina´s famous tacos. If the entertainment is feeble you can walk up the Paseo Montejo and find a cafe or bar worth dropping in. .
Sunday is the day we residents of centro adore. The streets are deserted. It´s a good day to take a buggy ride through town and up the Paseo. It´s also the only day the streets are closed to traffic along the biciruta and you can rent a bike from 8am to 1pm. It´s the day local families get together in restaurants to make a lot of noise or stare at TV sets so I´d avoid going to any restaurant with a TV on this day unless you are an anthropologist. It is a good day to visit the Palacio Canton, the anthropology museum on the Paseo. It´s a bad day to go the the beach unless you love a crowd. There´s a dance band in the Santa Lucia park and once again there´s Ana Sabrina with her taco cart. On Sundays the crafts people come from far and wide and set up booths in the Plaza Grande. There are a lot of food stalls as well. There are performances in the street front of the Palacio Municipal and later that night there will be dancing in the same street. There are 4 exhibition spaces and Museums on the main square, Museo Casa Montejo, MACAY, Olimpo and the Governors Palace.
Monday to Thursday head out of town. Any visit to Yucatan should include the Ruta Puuc and Chichen Itza. Get an early start so you can avoid the crowds and the sun. Have a leisurely lunch and decide whether you´d rather spend the afternoon exploring the ruins or floating in a cenote. If you are going to be spending time on the Caribbean don´t bother with the gulf coast beaches. You might want to see the flamingos up close in the lagoons around Celestun so you could lunch on the beach in that case.. There is the Ruta de Conventos which will take you through a dozen villages which you could combine with less touristy Maya ruins and lesser known cenotes. Monday is not the day to see the churches though as many are closed. Have lunch along the way in one of the restored haciendas and drinks at sunset in another. When you get back to Merida there is something planed every night of the week from free music concerts to folkloric dancing. Dinner can be taken late in Merida so you even have time for a quick nap after your day out of town.
Monday Night at 9pm the Ballet Folklorico de Merida and the Orchestra Jaranera perform the Vaqueria in the Zocalo the traditional dances of Yucatan that developed in the 18th century on the haciendas and cattle ranches.
Tuesday Night there´s salsa dancing in the Santiago Park from 8.30. So its a good night to have a dinner at La Reina de Itzlana of Yucatecan market food.
Thursday night is either the night to avoid dinner in Santa Lucia Park or make a reservation and enjoy the Seranata Yucateca a tradition in the same place for more than 40 years. Every night there is some form of live music at one of the restaurants in the square but on Thursday there is a crowd for the traditional trova music concert on the stage. I avoid the square at night now and choose to have lunch when it´s quieter.
On Friday nights at 8pm there is a Maya football game in front of the Cathedral in the Zocalo. Some think the winning team was sacrificed and others think the loosing team was. So far neither team has been sacrificed in these colorful reenactments.
Saturday night brings us back to Noche Mexicana at the bottom (remate) of Paseo de Montejo and if it´s not interesting there is a good chance there is live jazz at the Moon Bar lounge at Rosas y Xocolate. The streets are quiet and the cantina´s are open La Negrita or El Cardinal are good places to start and El Fundacion Mescaleria is a good place to end up.
Along the route to Uxmal you´ll find interesting haciendas to explore and some have restaurants like Sotuta de Peon, Ochil and Temazon.
The ideal day would mix haciendas with mayan ruins and colonial churches.