Mérida is the capital and largest city in Yucatan state in Mexico, as well as the largest city of the Yucatán Peninsula. The city is located in the northwest part of the state, about 35 kilometres off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Mérida is located in the northwest part of the state of Yucatán, which occupies the northern portion of the Yucatán Peninsula. To the east is the state of Quintana Roo, to the west is the state of Campeche, to the north is the Gulf of Mexico, and far to the south is the state of Chiapas. The more affluent neighborhoods are located to the north and the most densely populated areas are to the south. The Centro Histórico area is becoming increasingly popular with Americans and other expatriates who are rescuing and restoring the classic colonial structures.
As the state and regional capital, Mérida is a cultural center, featuring multiple museums, art galleries, restaurants, movie theatres, and shops. Mérida retains an abundance of colonial buildings and is a cultural center with music and dancing playing an important part in day-to-day life. At the same time it is a modern city with a range of shopping malls, auto dealerships, hotels, restaurants, and leisure facilities. The famous avenue Paseo de Montejo is lined with original sculpture. Yucatán food is its own unique style and is very different from what most people consider “Mexican” food. It includes influences from the local Mayan cuisine, as well as Caribbean, Mexican, European and Middle Eastern foods. Tropical fruit, such as coconut, pineapple, plum, tamarind and mamey are often used in Yucatán cuisine.
In 2000 the Mérida municipality had 244 preschool institutions, 395 elementary, 136 Jr. high school (2 years middle school, 1 high), 97 High Schools and 16 Universities/Higher Education schools. Mérida has consistently held the status of having the best performing public schools in Mexico since 1996.