Mérida offers some of the most beautiful historical buildings in Mexico. Visitors only have to walk around the city center to find a wealth of 17th and 18th century architectural details. The city was laid out by rank with the royal houses, governor’s residence, diocese, and other buildings being arranged around the main plaza.
The Arch of San Juan, the Dragon Arch, and the Arch of the Bridge in the Barrio de la Mejorada neighborhood date from the Colonial period, as do the city’s main churches: the church of San Juan de Dios, the church of Santa Lucia, and the cathedral built by King Philip II, some of the most magnificent Colonial buildings in Mexico.
Along the south of the main square stands the Casa de Montejo, built between 1542 and 1549, with an intricate Spanish Baroque Plateresque carved stone facade surrounding the doorway. The house belonged to Spanish conquistadors Francisco Montejo “El Mozo” (the Lad) and his father Don Francisco Montejo “El Adelantado” (the Governor).
During the 19th and early 20th centuries, when President Porfirio Diaz was modernizing Mexico, Mérida experienced a sisal (henequen) boom.
Grand French-style mansions were built along the Paseo de Montejo, which itself had a Parisian influence, being inspired by the boulevards of the French capital.