It is called "La Ciudad Blanca", or "The White City", because of its beauty and the way that its streets and buildings sparkle in the brilliant sun. All around, there are dazzling details like tree-lined boulevards right out of a picture postcard sent from Paris. There are filigreed wrought iron railings reminiscent of old Spain, beautifully carved wooden doors, marble and mosaic floors, walled gardens and ornate fountains. It is the city of Merida, a true jewel of the Yucatan Peninsula.
In 1542, the Spanish Conquistadores captured the Mayan City of T'ho and renamed it Merida, because it reminded them of the city of Merida back home in Spain. A Mayan stronghold long before the arrival of the Spaniards, Merida still has its roots in the Mayan Culture, but it is now accented with European touches, making it a Cosmopolitan destination for visitors from around the world. Merida is a genteel, laid-back colonial city with a population nearing 2 million and offers a diversity of culture and contemporary development.
The Spaniards built the Plaza Grande (the Zocalo) on the rubble of the ancient pyramids of the original Mayan City. This is the colorful heart of the city featuring shops, restaurants, and hotels just blocks away. Visitors who come here on fiesta days and Sundays, when the locals display their wares, are in for a treat. Across from the Plaza Grande is the Merida Cathedral, which was constructed from the stones of the toppled Mayan Temples and completed in 1598. It is the single oldest cathedral in the New World and contains many priceless relics from the Conquistador era.