Mérida is a great city; life here is more relaxed and slow-paced, but once the sun goes down, you will discover an important truth: Yucatecans know how to party, and they’re good at it. Testament to this are the numerous bars and discos scattered throughout the city, too many to count. Here at Yucatan Living we have undertaken the painstaking job (it’s tough, really…) of probando (trying out) an assortment of different nightspots to give you an idea of what’s out there when it’s Friday night and you’re ready for a little fiesta.
La Parranda (note: there are two, one in the centro and this one, in the north) is a lively, outdoor bar that’s usually crowded on most nights not only because it is a popular place, but also because the staff crams their tables into a small space. The décor is like Friday’s, but Mexican-style: sombreros, piñatas and red, white and green banners adorn the brightly painted walls. It’s always loud at La Parranda, especially when the live band plays (every Friday and Saturday night). If you’re lucky, along with traditional Mexican favorites like Luis Miguel and Ricky Martin, the band might play a few American pop songs, with questionably accurate lyrics. The various TVs scattered throughout the bar play music videos, and of course the music playing and the videos never seem to correspond. The drinks are not exactly cheap: about $30 pesos for a cerveza and $40 for mixed drinks, but it’s the fiesta atmosphere that makes the bar worthwhile. Save money and get a pitcher for $55.
If you’re looking for a place to see and be seen, check out El Cielo, the aptly named terrace lounge bar/disco. Be prepared for a sometimes painfully long wait at the door, however, if you don’t know anyone behind the velvet rope or aren’t a hot chick (being blonde helps, too). People push and wave their hands in the air at the bouncers manning the door, trying to gain entrance. What fun! Once you do cross the threshold and climb the metal stairs to “heaven,” you’ll be greeted by minimalist, white décor accented by lazy neon lights. The bar is completely open to the air with one part covered by a roof. You can sit at high tables or low, white tables with white couches and square cushions. At first glance, the furniture looks posh and sleek, but a closer look reveals the wear and tear of many a borrachera such as cigarette holes, stains from spilled drinks and black streaks and rips from high heels. If you do get a table on open bar nights, the waiter will bring you a bottle of either vodka or rum, a bucket of ice, glasses and mixers for your table so you can be your own bartender. El Cielo plays mostly techno music, with some Spanish and English pop thrown in, and often invites guest DJs to spin. For everyone, the cover is cheaper before 10:30. It depends on the night, but women pay between $0-100 pesos and men between $30-150 pesos. Thursdays and Saturdays are open bar and Fridays are pay as you drink. It’s a good idea to make a reservation.
For a taste of the tropics and to test your salsa-dancing skills, head to Mambocafé in Plaza Las Américas. An older crowd usually frequents this disco, but twenty-somethings go too. Outside the music pulses, beckoning the experienced dancer and the two-left-footed alike. Once inside, choose a sala (there are two) and head to a table. A DJ warms up the crowd with latino pop music before the real show begins: a salsa band. They take the stage in front of a waterfall, and couples make their way to the dance floor in anticipation. The Cuban musicians dance and sing with such high energy and the floor literally shakes with the crowd’s appreciation. Don’t worry if you can’t dance, just have a good time with the flashing lights, smoke machine and Caribbean rhythms. During breaks, the DJ plays reggaetón, so you can either rest at your table or break it down some more. There is no cover charge on Wednesdays. Thursdays are open bar, women $70 pesos and men $150 pesos. Fridays and Saturdays have a general cover of $60 pesos for men and women.
Mérida is not without a bowling alley, either. Planet Bowl, a two-story bowling and pool behemoth offers 32 lanes of bowling paradise, a pool room with around 15 tables, an arcade and a bar with full menu of all the junk food you need to bowl. Downstairs is the normal bowling alley and upstairs is “cosmic bowling,” which means music, UV lights that make the pins and space-themed walls glow, and waiter service. If you decide that bowling isn’t for you, but drinking is, then head to the small but comfortable bar and sit at one of the low tables surrounded by couches. All around on the walls are TVs playing music videos, but sometimes you can catch something more entertaining, like a video of incredible stunts. Normally the beers cost $22 pesos and mixed drinks cost $30 pesos, but on Mondays and Fridays it’s happy hour 2 for 1 from 6-9 pm. If there’s a lot of you (or if you just want to get really drunk,) order a cañon, a tall cylinder of cerveza with a tap at the bottom. On Tuesdays, bowling is 50% off.
If it’s a casino you’re after…well too bad, because that’s illegal in Mexico. However, various places have been able to bend the rules just enough to be called centros de entretenimiento, or entertainment centers. This means that inside you can find slot machines, bingo, and depending on the place, sports betting.
One of the newest, Golden Island, was constructed in the Planet Bowl style (and it’s right next door), as a mammoth box. Upon entering this 24/7 game center to the sound of easy listening/lounge music, an abundance of slot machines greets the eye, mostly being played by an over-40 crowd. The first thing to do is buy a card for $100 pesos to use on all of the machines. Then, get to it. Being a casino novata, or novice, I had to have the rules of the game explained to me twice by two different employees, and they were still almost impossible for me to understand. But after pushing some buttons, losing some money, then winning it back, I got the hang of it. Once out of money, just ask one of the attendants walking around on the floor to recharge your card for you; the minimum amount is $50 pesos. If you get hungry or thirsty, there are free soft drinks, but no alcohol, and snacks for a price. On Fridays and Saturdays starting at 2 a.m. they serve free pozole and chilaquiles. To claim your winnings, you have to leave the building (why?) and open a door on the outside where you will find room with a lone employee behind a glass partition counting money.
La Orden is a quirky bar above iiches(see below) with, believe it or not, a medieval theme. When it first opened, the waiters dressed in sinister-looking brown monk robes, complete with hoods. Thankfully they’ve abandoned that fashion statement in favor of more traditional waiter-garb. Amazingly, the bar still has a dark, dungeony feel to it even though it’s on the roof and open to the air. You can get a view of Prolongacion Montejo if you sit at one of the tables around the edge. On weekend nights there is a band that plays Spanish rock music and will take requests, if you have any. They have “snacks” on the menu, but they are little more than defrosted cheese sticks, French fries, etc. A pitcher of beer goes for $70 pesos.
If you’re tired of watching music videos or live bands and want something different to entertain you at the bar, check out iiches, a bar offering all the board games you could ask for. Located underneath La Orden, you can’t miss it because it has big, yellow smiley faces on the windows, presumably because playing board games and drinking is a happy combination. Grab your iiches (“friends” in Mayan) and take your pick. They’ve got Jenga, Battleship, Uno, dominos, Chinese checkers, Parcheesi, even Risk and Twister. The beers go for around $30-$35 pesos and mixed drinks from $30-$60 pesos and it’s ALWAYS 2 for 1, meaning they bring you two beers at once. Unless you’re a really fast drinker, the second beer gets warm by the time you’ve finish the first. Still, it’s pretty funny to play Uno in Mexico… I feel like I should say “One!” instead.
To drink a cerveza under a thatched roof without leaving the city, go to Lapa Lapa (read: la palapa) The first thing you see inside is the huge bar, showcased in the center of the room and on a lower level than the rest of the area. Towering above everything is the stage where bands play on weekend nights, usually rock tunes in Spanish and English. One night the singer did a pretty good rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen, getting most of the nonsense words correct. Here you can buy a liter (yes…a liter) of beer for around $40 pesos that they serve you in giant plastic cups. Like most bars around town, they have a bunch of TVs scattered around, which usually play sporting events during the day and music video at night. If you’re hungry, order the nachos. They are rrrrrriquísimo! Arrachera and pastor, guacamole, cheese, beans, jalapeños… all on a huge plate. Your arteries get a little bit tighter just looking at them.
If you spend any amount of time in Mérida, be it a day or a year, you must try a very special drink guaranteed to give quite a kick: the michelada. It’s beer mixed with lime, salt, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce. And to try some great micheladas, go to Las Birras where you can find them in different flavors; chamoy (a tangy fruit), tamarindo, mango, pineapple and clamato (a mix of tomato and clam juice). Right now Birras is on its third opening (it was closed twice for selling to minors), but it’s packed on weekend nights with young Meridanos, which isn’t very hard because it’s a really small place. It’s grungier than other bars in town (in a good way), and it’s one of the few bars in Mérida where you don’t feel the need to dress up. One michelada will cost you $25 pesos, a liter is $40 pesos, and if you go with a lot of friends, get a metro, an impressive cylinder one meter high, for $110 pesos, which comes with eight prepared glasses. Delicious!
Editor’s Note: This is only the beginning. We’ll be adding more nightspots to our list as time and sore left feet allow. If you have a favorite place to hang, let us know by leaving a comment. For other great places to spend an evening, be sure to see our latest Events article.
Prolongación Montejo esquina con 13
Calle 32 por 59 y 61
Col. San Antonio Cucul
El Cielo Lounge Bar
Calle 30 # 83-A entre 15 y 17
Prolongacion Paseo de Montejo.
Calle 21 #327 Mezzanine 2
Col. Miguel Hidalgo, Plaza Las Américas
Tel: 987-7533 / 987-7534
50 Diago. #476 x 29-A y 31
Col. Gonzalo Guerrero
Prolong. Montejo (Plaza Carrillon)
Fracc. Campestre (across from Club Campestre)