Mérida, Mexico is a town lost in a time when the remote Yucatan capital was among the richest cities in the world, due to its production of rope, made from the local agave plant. These days old world meets older world in the city’s historical center, with its cobblestoned streets and decaying limestone mansions that speak to its faded grandeur. I just returned from Mérida and discovered its charms not only in the lively center, home to one of the oldest cathedrals in the Americas, but also along its side streets, on the gaily painted storefronts and houses that cram every alleyway. Mérida also happens to be safe; you can walk about freely at night.
However, if you’re staying at Rosas & Xocolate, an oasis of calm and color in the middle of town, you might not feel like venturing very far afield. A chic boutique hotel made by combining two derelict haciendas, it was designed by the Mexican architect Salvador Reyes Rios and features a terrific restaurant and a spa specializing in coco-based treatments. (Hence the Xocolate in its name.) I highly recommend Room 3, where you’ll enjoy not only an open-air shower, but also a courtyard and pool framed by palms, sky and pink walls—right outside your door.
For those in search of new flavors, check out Mérida’s latest haute cuisine at Nectar, where the ambitious chef Roberto Solis, having done time in the kitchens of Noma, Per Se, and the Fat Duck, brilliantly riffs on indigenous flavors. Nectar officially opens in September, but if you go now, you’ll be assured a seat at the table. Here are some of my favorite moments from Mérida.
Photos: Diane Solway