Like most cities in Mexico, museums proliferate in Merida. Because they are generally inexpensive, and most are small, it’s easy for families with kids to get a dose of culture in between other activities. Here are our favorite museums to visit when in Merida, Mexico with kids, starting closest to the main plaza and moving outward.
1. The Governor’s Palace
If you are in the main plaza looking at the cathedral, the Governor’s Palace is the mint green building on your left. At the bottom level, you will find the friendly, bilingual tourist office. Enter the arched doorway to the right into the arched courtyard. Head upstairs to see the murals on the balcony and galleries of local artist Fernando Castro Pacheco. My boys were intrigued by the rather gruesome, historical images of the Caste War and battles between the Spanish and indigenous Mayans, and it gave them some perspective of the clash of cultures in the Yucatan. The Governor’s Palace is free, open daily, and because of its central location, it’s easy to pop in and walk around.
2. MACAY: Museum
El Museo Fernando García Ponce, commonly called “Macay” (mah-cai) is the only museum dedicated to modern and contemporary art in all of the Yucatán. It is on the main plaza, just to the right of the huge cathedral, walking through the crystal arched roof. They have a lot of educational programs for kids, and we just missed the sign-up for their annual summer camp. Because Merida has a tropical climate, there are frequently short bursts of rain in the afternoon. If you’re walking around the centro histórico with kids and it begins to rain, head to the MACAY and check out the cool sculptures and modern art pieces, the paintings by local artist Fernando Castro Pacheco and grab a snack in the little store. Sometimes we would even study with our Spanish tutor at the tables in courtyard! The museum is free, and open every day except Tuesday from 10-6pm.
3. Museo de Arte Popular
El Museo de Arte Popular is one of my favorites! I love handicrafts and cultural art, and this small museum is packed with colorful pieces: from alebrijes, to huichol art, ceramic, textiles, instruments, masks, árboles de la vida, and much more from artisans around Mexico. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10am- 5pm and is free. On the Mejorada Park (a great grassy place for kids to run around), it is on the corner of Calle 57 and 50A. If you ask them beforehand, they can give you a free guided tour.
4. El Gran Museo del Mundo Maya
This newer huge museum highlights the Mayan culture, showing both the history and the dynamic culture of today. It is divided into four separate sections showing over a thousand yeas of history through contemporary Maya culture: The Mayab- Nature and Culture; The Mayas of Today; The Mayas of Yesterday; and Ancestral Mayas. If you are interested in the fascinating Maya culture, you should not miss their amazing collections!
The Gran Museo del Mundo Maya is a little more expensive than other museums in Merida, but well worth it. Expect to pay around $12 (150 pesos) for adults and $4 (50 pesos) for kids. The museum is open 8-5pm every day except Tuesday, and there is a free nightly light-and-sound show at 9pm with images projected on a wall outside. To kill time between the museum’s closing and the light show, there’s a movie theatre (with regular Hollywood movies) on the top floor open in the evenings, and it sells hot dogs, popcorn, and other kid-friendly snacks. My kids loved to take the public buses around the city, and you can catch several that go to the Mundo Maya from the main plaza (ask the driver to advise you when he’s near the museum). The tourist office can help you locate the buses that head down the Paseo Montejo to this museum.
Other Notable Museums in Merida:
* Anthropology Museum: housed in a gorgeous mansion on Paseo de Montejo.
* Merida City Museum: from pre-hispanic Maya city to the henequén days on the Eulogio Rosado park.
* Yucatecan Music Museum: lots of instruments from pre-hispanic objects and Afro-cuban pieces.
Check out the Yucatan Today’s museum article for more detailed information.