This is a seven-part-story series on the magic of Merida, Mexico rated as one of the best cities to travel to in 2022.

If you are a lover of architecture, an architect or maybe an urban planner, you will easily fall in love with Merida’s 18th century colonial homes and buildings heavily influenced by both the Moorish and Mediterranean designs of that period. One of Merida’s most pleasing attributes is the preservation and restoration of what remains of a once colonial empire with a dark past. A real estate bonanza for those who seek to retire in a foreign country or invest. It certainly crossed my mind….

First, a Bit of History

The Spaniards colonized much of the Yucatan Peninsula. Besides enslaving the Mayans, they destroyed and leveled many of their temples and repurposed these same stones to build colonial-era edifices, including lots of churches. Today, they remain some of the most beautifully preserved architecture of a dark past. In my previous story on The Haciendas, the Gilded Age of Mexico, I also noted the role of Haciendas (which are also beautifully designed colonial buildings) in the mistreatment of the Mayans and their similarity to America’s plantations’ dark history.

Colonial Architecture in Merida and the Possibilities

Churches in Merida and surrounding areas are truly colonial gems worthy of a visit and a photo. As stated earlier, the architecture for the region was greatly influenced by Moorish and Mediterranean styles brought on by the Spaniards. As Mexico became an international economic power, you also see the architectural influences of other European countries such as Gothic and Baroque colonial style buildings as well as Italianate and Greek mansions with furnishings imported by the very rich.

The downtown area of the city is populated with restored historical buildings and churches, besides the many haciendas now used as museums, hotels, or businesses. There are striking examples of colonial architecture everywhere you travel within Merida, which makes the place so special for those who love architecture. I personally like walking through the downtown area, taking in the mix of older buildings, both restored and abandoned and feeling I am in another era (this is closest I can get to time travel).

Not all architecture in Merida has been restored. In fact, there are quite a bit of buildings that are abandoned and in terrible straits as there are streets and sidewalks in need of repair. There is also flooding on some streets and from time to time you come across the smell of sewage. After all, this was once a very depressed city wiped out by waves of recessions and economic decline. These abandoned buildings continue to hold on to their past beauty and offer an opportunity for new homeowners and businesses to revitalize them.

There is a growing expatriate community in Merida, both American and Canadian, that has actually begun to renovate these buildings as their retirement homes, businesses or as an investment. Since the Pandemic, prices have continued to go up but are still reasonably priced as compared to Florida….if you are interested in having a second home in Mexico. Believe me, I was tempted, but I have other plans (although I still can be tempted).

The city is very friendly to foreigners buying properties and restoring them, although you need to follow their historic preservation code requirements. Condos remain popular throughout the region. Some are in the inner city and are part of a restored building. Many are in suburbs newly constructed with a more contemporary Mexican design. There are lovely, designed boutique hotels everywhere in the city. I was surprised to learn that a minimum of three rooms and some open space qualify as a boutique hotel. Not bad, if you are looking for a new career as a hotelier that is both manageable and sustainable. In fact, Airbnb is very popular here and there are companies that will work with Airbnb on your behalf (again feeling tempted).

There is a negative side to this. Foreigners are driving up the prices of homes, which clearly is impacting low/moderate-income families unable to purchase a home or start a business as prices outstrip their ability to secure a mortgage or pay higher rent. This forces homebuyers to buy further away from the city where there are less job opportunities. Clearly, the ugly side of tourism brought on by the greed of speculation.

My Photos

My photos are a collection of my many walks among the streets of this historic city. They are a combination of churches, public buildings, colorful neighborhoods and corridor streets, interiors of boutique hotels as well as abandoned properties that reveal their past beauty and potential. Click the above link if you would like to see photos of both restored and abandon haciendas.

Don’t forget to click the center of the photos for a full view.

Also click here to access Nikisha’s google map list of popular restaurants, cafes, bars, gift shops, museums and historical sites with the intention of it becoming part of your bucket list (thanks Nikisha). More on Merida to come !!

“For more stories and photos like these, please click here to subscribe!