Most tourists visiting the Mexican city of Mérida use it as a base from which to explore the nearby Caribbean coast and the “grand” Mayan sites of Izamal, Ek Balam, and Chichen Itza. But Mérida is “one of the most cultured cities in America,” says Chris Haslam in The times – and much deeper acquaintance pays off.
It became rich in henequen, the fibrous part of the agave grown on the region’s plantations and used to make rope for the world’s shipping industry. In the late 19th century it was home to more millionaires than any other city, and although the development of synthetic fibers stifled trade, the city’s historic splendor has been well preserved.
Mérida is home to some 20 theaters and 18 museums, including the “magnificent” Museum of Anthropology in the Palacio Cantón, “where lithographs by British explorer Frederick Catherwood offer exciting snapshots of the lost cities and temples of the Yucatán Peninsula as they were in the middle of the 19th century 19th century”.
And the city’s dining scene is vibrant and distinctive. Its massive food market, Mercado Lucas de Galvez, sells a wide variety of Mayan ingredients, including the chocolate pudding fruit that looks like “a mutated tomato.”
The “ritziest” of the city’s “grand” restaurants is Kuuk, where the ten-course tasting menu includes rabbit with pibil broth and mezcal with Malabar squash. And at Huniik, Mérida-born chef Roberto Solís offers what he calls “the nueva cocina Yucateca”, with specialties such as snail sashimi.
There are good boutique hotels, too, not least Rosas y Xocolate, where rooms have “exquisitely tiled” floors and jetted tubs, and Casa Puuc, a 1914 establishment with six “understated, very stylish” guest rooms. Tourist numbers in the Yucatán are now exceeding pre-pandemic levels, so it is advisable to book well in advance, perhaps with a tour operator such as Trip to Latin America.
https://www.theweek.co.uk/arts-life/travel/956233/trip-of-the-week-fine-food-and-high-culture-in-merida Trip of the week: fine dining and high culture in Mérida