HISTORY HOPPING & HIDDEN CANTINAS TOUR
If you really want to step back in time, The Cantina Tour is the answer.
What is a cantina?
Expats in Mexico City will tell you they are a standard saloon bar - just with fancy waiters. But they are so very, very wrong! A real cantina is old-school, nostalgic and a truly wacky Mexican time-capsule .
From the kitsch decor, the way you order drinks, & the strict patron etiquette, you won't find anything like it, anywhere else in the world.
During this 4 hour PRIVATE , NOCTURNAL walking tour you'll explore a very non-touristy part of downtown Centro Histórico, chew the fat with a fun-loving local historian, and stop at three hidden cantinas - each with their own signature decor, drinks & bistro delights.
SO WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH CANTINAS?
It takes guts to walk into a cantina. They are very foreign, very Mexican, and very local. The irony is that once inside you'll find them friendly, fun and...hilariously kitsch!
Authentic 80's music video clips are a common backdrop.
Authentic 80's music video clips and margaritas are ubiquitous essentials.
Originating from Spain, the concept of a cantina is a place where you expect to eat and drink until the early hours. Where what happens in the cantina stays in the cantina. Often it has karaoke. And some Sports TVs. Like many drinking hole cultures across the world, at a certain period of Mexican history, female patrons were not allowed in .
We send you out to discover cantina life with a highly-literate, fun-loving, art historian so you can talk about anything from politics to advertising to soap operas.
So what makes then different to a bar? Their furniture, the kind of drinks they serve, the rules they put in place about eating and drinking, their colour schemes and paraphenalia. The decor is sentimental and working class but the waiters have all the pomp and pride of a michelin restaurant. So cantinas represent an odd sort of nostalgic time capsule - one that in Mexico noone even blinks at or considers oldschool in the least. Mexicans would call it 'popular' meaning 'for the masses' but with the onslaught of gentrification, true old-school cantinas are becoming less and less common in the central zones where it's cool (and safe) to live. That is why we have extracted this select cantina curation for you. Because in 10 years time, we are not sure they will actually exist anymore.
Bullfighting, religion and soccer are common decor themes.
Bullfighting, religion and soccer are common themes.
Most expats who have lived in Mexico City all their lives have NEVER been to a proper 'old-school' cantina.
They are not easy to find.
And like bathing in an onsen in Japan,
or visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi,
somethings are downright confusing if you don't have a local with you!
If you drink alcohol, then we recommend trying a michelada at once in your life.
MEET YOUR OLD-SCHOOL CANTINAS GUIDE
Your old-school cantinas host, Rafa, is fun-loving, literary, and a definitive mezcal & tequila connoisseur.
It's true that Rafa was an official tour guide for the Mexico City National Palace for over TEN years That's A LOT of history! Actually WE have him on board with Stylewalk MX because he is an awesome guy. He is exceptionally knowledgable about all things-Mexican, be it quirky, political, or literary. He can quote Shakespeare, but only to make you laugh. He can pull out the most amazing little-known facts about Mexico City, but he doesn't ....unless it's appropriate!
And we think that that balance of being smart ,without being a smart-arse, is key when your tour has history in it!
Perhaps most important of all, Rafa does this job because he loves meeting new people. Rafa brings beautiful insight into the origins of cantinas, village folklore, and modern social realities of life in Mexico. This makes him a GREAT drinking companion and a solid host for exploring downtown with.
The cantinas on this tour are not the Disneyland-version one finds in the expat neighbourhoods of Polanco or Lomas.
Those are simply modern saloon bars made to 'look' Mexican.
A proper OLD SCHOOL cantina is a PORTAL to take you BACK-IN-TIME. You walk in and you say:
CANTINA TOUR : PRICES
Your Hidden Cantinas tour price excludes drinks and food because we don't believe in locking you into any preset deals. You have free choice as to what you drink or eat. Including the option of not drinking alcohol if you wish.
Please remember that, as we would never to presume to know how much you want to eat or drink, we do not charge you in advance for these extras, and therefore kindly ask that guests pick up the tab at each cantina.
The grease on this wheel is mutual trust. Guests pick up the tab at each place. Rafa is not going to be ordering outlandish items at each stop (there aren't any anyway!), we agree we don't want to lock you into stupid prefixed deals at cantinas and so your tour price does not include drinks or food. That way you can choose what YOU want to drink or eat. and you, the guests pay the bill at each stop.
Private group of 1-4 people: US$237
Private group of 5 people: US$262
Private group of 6 people : US$287
Prices are in US dollars and do not include 10% tax.
If you have a larger group, ask us for a quote!
TOUR PROGRAM & SCHEDULE
Your private old-school cantinas tour. Here's the rough outline and what to expect.
The start time is 6pm.
- 6pm Meet Rafa at our predesignated downtown Centro Historico meeting point.
- Your guide checks in with you about how much you already know in the city, where you've been and what your interests are to make sure the tour is tailored to you and your group
- Discover the backstreets of downtown Centro Historico. Learn about the lesser known history of the city. The stuff they DONT tell you on the TURIBUS!
- Visit three cantinas. learn about their history, their social protocol (still observed today), their origins and one-of-a- kind pecularities.
- Order non-alcoholic drinks if you wish. Being a tee totaller isTOTALLY OK!
- Eat tried 'n tested street food or cantina/bistro style meals , to balance out the drinks!
- Ask Q's, be curious about anything, learn some expert history and culture in an easy-going, approachable way
- Learn about the differences between mezcal and tequila.
- Learn what makes a good margarita or michelada
- Eat some tried 'n tested traditional tacos en route to keep yourself steady.
- 10pm Guide helps you order your Uber or private transport and stays by your side you until you are safely en route to your hotel or onward destination.
Mezcal vs Tequila.
Learn some of the differences.
WHERE DOES THE HISTORY FIT IN?
The route between cantinas allows you a chance to glimpse some of Mexico City's varied and distinct historic and socio-political chapters through its buildings, landmarks and urban legends.
This tour is located in the lesser travelled areas of the central historic district of Mexico City. Because of this there are a lot of interesting stories, buildings and landmarks to learn about en route between cantina stops. In fact we have designed a special tour route that incorporates the most interesting streets and lesser known narratives that represent Mexico City's varied and distinct historic and socio-political chapters.
Rafa was a guide and editor at the National Palace (also located in Centro Historico) for over ten years, so there is not a single museum he has not researched or learned about through congresses and government events. The key to the history component of this tour is that you learn about snippets of the city's life - not encyclopedia barrels of info. We keep it pertinent, fun, and upbeat. Rafa uses history as a way of illustrating what has made life in Mexican culture different to other big cosmopolitan sites in the world. It's enriching, not asphixiating!
Did Pancho Villa really shoot a bullet in Mexico City's most famous and opulent bar?
Rafa uncovers the truth about a cross section of Mexico City's historic urban (and not-so urban) legends.
CANTINAS ARE.....ENTIRELY RANDOM
When my husband saw the photos he asked me where on earth did you go? It's like being in the best arthouse movie set ever!
Sandra H - Sydney, Australia
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