Often left off the gringo trail in southern Mexico, Mérida is a city full of little surprises. Besides its surprisingly diverse vegan scene there's plenty going on in this Yucatecan city, many of which don't require you to spend any money at all. Here are my recommendations for free things to do in Mérida.
Enjoy the parks
The historical centre of Mérida has several clean and well kept parks that are pleasant places to hang out and watch the world go by from if you can find a spot in the shade. Some of them, including the Plaza Grande in central Mérida have wifi and even power sockets where you can charge your phone or other devices.
Watch an evening dance performance
Several evenings a week there are free outdoor dance performances put on by the city featuring dancers in typical Yucatecan dress and live music. These are very popular with locals, so get there early to get a seat and decent view. You'll notice the setup for these events during the day, as the streets around the Plaza Grande will be closed to traffic and stages and seating will be going up.
Visit the Museo Casa Montejo
For an idea of how the upper classes lived during Mérida's colonial period, visit the Museo Casa Montejo on the Plaza Grande. Originally built to house soldiers, but soon converted to a mansion for the Montejo family, where they lived until the 1970s when it was bought by the city and turned into a museum. Inside, it's full of gaudy Victorian and neorenaissance antiques.
Check out the Fundación de Artistas
Hidden in a crumbling but charming courtyard a few blocks from the main square, this non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting and encouraging the arts in Yucatán has several free exhibition spaces with a constantly changing selection of works by local artists. There is a lovely café at the centre, which also plays host to various free musical events in the evenings.
Tour the Palacio del Gobierno
The most prominent building on the Plaza Grande, the main courtyard and several rooms of the government palace is open to the public. With some very unique and honestly wacky paintings depicting Mayan creation stories, the Spanish colonisation of Yucatán and other local events, it offers a curious mix of opulent 19th century colonial architecture and indigenous visual art.
Other free things to do in Mérida
There is a free walking tour of the historical centre every day except Sundays at 9:30am, starting outside the main entrance to the Palacio del Gobierno, though we didn't get around to taking it. There are also several other museums with free entry, including the Museo de la Ciudad de Mérida, which takes you through the history of the city, and the MACAY contemporary art museum.
Have you been to Mérida? What free things to you recommend doing there?