Though its history dates back to the time of the Aztecs, Mexico City is—like Shanghai, Sao Paulo or Mumbai—very much a city of the 21st century. The sprawling metropolis, home to some 20 million people, is a place where the past and future, the wealthy and poor, the native and global all butt up against each other, sometimes on the same block.
Mexico City’s bustling continues after darkness falls, and its night-life scene reflects its jumbled diversity. Visitors and chilangos, as Mexico City dwellers call themselves (having reappropriated a pejorative as a mark or pride), sip tequila and sangrita in aging saloons, dance to pulsating beats, and lounge in swank hotels. Following are but a few nighttime options in Mexico City’s hip Centro, Condesa and Roma neighborhoods.
Those looking to get a head start on the evening, and to get some food in their bellies, would do well to settle in at one of the city’s many cantinas. These old-school watering holes, many of which are located in Centro, the historic district, range from the stripped-down to the gracefully weathered. Patrons soak up beer and tequila with botanas: appetizers that are free or cheap with the purchase of drinks. (Perhaps now is a good time to note that Mexico City’s high altitude can magnify intoxication.)
La Mascota is a classic cantina in Centro with an unvarnished charm and comforting home-style food. Covadonga, in the nearby neighborhood of Roma, is a popular hangout of artists, writers and other bohemians.
Music and dancing are always at hand in Mexico’s thrumming capital. There is mariachi music at the famous Plaza de Garibaldi and folk dancing by the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico, of course, but those are only the tip of the iceberg. The rock club El Imperial, all done up in red and gold and lit by glowing chandeliers, books a dynamic lineup of indie and alternative bands, including local and touring acts.
The Black Horse, a sort of simulacrum of a European pub, comes complete with Guinness paraphernalia on the walls and bangers and mash on the menu. It caters to an international crowd with live jazz, funk, blues and rockabilly.
Shows of a different sort—indeed, unlike any other—go down at the tiny, garish cabaret bar La Perla. A flamboyant drag show full of pop-star impersonations is the main draw at this kitschy dive.
Visitors to La Perla also hop out of their seats and twirl to salsa music between shows, but dedicated dancers flock to the Cuban nightclub Mama Rumba. With two locations, the club swings with salsa, timba and cumbia into the night. Fans of house and electro, meanwhile, hit up the disco time warp Patrick Miller to get sweaty under laser lights and show off their best moves.
As a place to crash after a long night of drinking and dancing, or as an alternate venue for languidly imbibing cocktails, the chic Condesa DF is tough to beat. The 40-room boutique hotel opened in 2005 and anchors a neighborhood so cool that it is already considered passé by some of the tragically hip. Its buzzing rooftop bar and lounge area, La Terraza, offers views of Chapultepec Castle and España Park. And in the event one parties a bit too hard, the hotel’s tasty brunch options should help soothe a hangover.
La Mascota: Calle Mesones 20, Centro Histórico. 55/5709-7852
Covadonga: Puebla 121, Roma, 55/5533-2922
El Imperial: Alvaro Obregon 293, Roma. 55/5525-1115
Black Horse: Mexicali 85, Condesa. 55/3547-9494
La Perla: Republica de Cuba 44, Centro Histórico. 55/1997-7695
Mama Rumba: Queretaro 230, Roma. 55/5564-6920; Altamirano 46, San Angel. 55/5550-2959
Patrick Miller: Merida 17, Roma. 55/5511-5406
Condesa DF: Avenida Veracruz 102, Condesa. 55/5241-2600