As the largest city in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, there’s plenty to do in this bustling cosmopolitan area. Here are six reasons to visit.

The Markets

There are a variety of bustling markets to choose from in Merida. A must-visit is the Mercado Lucas de Gálvez—a vibrant downtown market with all sorts of authentic specialties, including tortillas made on-site and at least a dozen varieties of fresh peppers ranging from mild to knock-ur-socks off!

The Handicrafts

Because Merida is situated in the Yucatan Peninsula, where Mayan culture is still alive and well, you can find a variety of heritage-rich, reasonably priced handicrafts unique to the area, such as dishes made from the jicara gourd (a local fruit). Find other local offerings at places like the Casa de las Artesanías, a government-supported market for local artisans. Merida is also well known for guayaberas, embroidered men’s dress shirts; head to Guayaberas Jacks to get one custom made.

The Chocolate

There’s no question that Ki’Xocolatl makes the most incredible hot chocolate—enjoy it outdoors at one of the tables next to the Santa Lucia Park plaza, or inside the small café. The “Tradicional Chocolate Mexicano” combines organic Mexican cocoa paste, natural cinnamon, and cane sugar with your choice of milk or water (the water is recommended) to produce a cup of heaven that is neither sweet nor fatty.

The Food

Yucatecan street food is abundant and cheap around Merida. Try Las Quekas, near the Plaza Grande, for a superb, freshly made beef, cheese, and onion quesadilla for 13 pesos (roughly $1).

The History

A re-enactment of the ancient Mayan ball game is played in the Plaza Grande every Friday night at 8 pm. This is a free demonstration of the ancient Mesoamerican game that has been played by indigenous cultures since 1000 BC as a sacred ceremony for the cosmos. Chairs and bleachers are provided.

The Nightlife

On Saturday nights there’s free entertainment at Noche Mexicana (Mexican night) in the plaza at Paseo de Montejo Blvd. The action begins at 8 pm and goes until midnight, with music and dancers representative of the different states of Mexico, as well as vendors selling food and crafts.