Santa Lucia Parque: What to see, do and eat
Santa Lucia Parque is a little gem of a square in Merida Mexico. A favourite place for natives and ex-pats to hang out the Santa Lucia Park is shaded with beautiful trees and is a truly restful place to people watch.
Full of little boutiques and restaurants and one heavenly chocolate store the quiet restful nature of the little Parque draws many wandering the colonial streets of Mexico to relax and people watch.
It’s also a fantastic place to watch live performances of folk music, dancing and admire the ladies in their beautiful embroidered dresses called huipiles. Don’t forget to enjoy some Yucatecan Street Food and refrescos while you relax in the Parque.
The Sublime Santa Lucia Parque
Santa Lucia Parque was originally a large tract of virgin land on the outskirts of Merida. In the 1500s the Santa Lucia Parque was home to one of the first churches built in Merida, the Church of Santa Lucia was built for the use of the slaves who had been brought from Africa. The commoners of Merida and area were interred in the atrium of the church. At the start of the 19th century, the Governor at the time decided that since the city had grown it was time to expand and they converted the land to the Parque de Santa Lucia.
Across from the Santa LuciaParque, there are several speciality shops and restaurants including ki’Xocolatl a sustainable chocolate business that began several years ago by two Belgian chocolatiers the Mathieu Brothers. Chocolate is sacred to the Mayans and the company maintains a fair trade business that has grown to include a Chocolate Museum. They grow their own cacao trees, their own spices and make their superb chocolate which is for sale in the shop.
Want to learn more about Mexican Chocolate? Check out Mexico Cassie’s story on Finding the Best Chocolate in Merida.
To further explore the magic of Mexican chocolate head down to Uxmal and check out the Choco Museum.
A lovely boutique just off the Parque that sells handmade in Mexico items. From throws woven in Chiapas to huipiles and handwoven baskets and much more. Prices are not cheap, but also not ridiculously expensive either and the money does go directly to the artisans.
There is often live entertainment in the Santa Lucia Parque. From the Yucatecan “Jarana” dancers accompanied by an orchestra. The musicians, singers and dancing “mestizos”, decked out in their colourful costumes begin the show at 9 PM.
Santa Lucia Parque is not just a park and square but it is a very exclusive neighbourhood and shopping area. There are houses to rent in the area and some lovely old colonial hotels. There is Jarana dancing, Trova Music and many other events held in the Parque on a regular basis.
You can also find some of Merida’s finest dining in the Santa Lucia Parque. From Apoala which has as its slogan “a Passion for Mexican Flavors”, to other restaurants serving the finest cuisine from Mayan to Mexican and even French and Dutch.
Sarah Arnaud and her brother Carlos who own the restaurant have created a fusion of their home state Oaxaca with Yucatecan ingredients and have created some genius dishes. The restaurant is also famous for its Mezcal collection which includes over 30 varieties. The name Apoala comes from the Náhuatl language and refers to the mythic tree from which the first man and woman were born of the Mixtec people of Oaxaca.
Merida was also where I had the best meal of my trip to Mexico. La Chaya Maya opened only a year ago and is now considered one of the best restaurants in the region. This gorgeous colonial villa has been completely restored and now hosts one of the best restaurants for authentic Yucatecan cuisine in Merida.
You will see a lovely antique carriage in the middle of a beautiful courtyard that sits at the centre of the restaurant.
The staff is dressed in traditional huipiles that are beautifully embroidered and you will notice a small table of women making fresh tortillas to be served in the restaurant.
We tried some absolutely delicious Panuchos which are corn tortillas that are split and stuffed with a black bean paste, they are then deep-fried and topped with shredded chicken, tomato, lettuce, pickled red onions and avocado.
Try the house speciality, Los Tres Mosqueteros, or The Three Musketeers, which combines three classic Yucatecan dishes: Relleno negro (a black sauce made from burnt chiles and spices) over pork; papadzul (an egg dish); and pipián (a sauce with a pumpkin seed base) over turkey.
Merida is a first-class city and the delights of the Santa Lucia Parque is not to be missed. The hotels are first-rate and really affordable, the food is amazing and the people delightfully friendly.
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