GEEKY HISTORY & COOL CANTINAS NIGHTWALK
Enjoy the calm and hidden secrets of Centro Histórico at night.
Discover Centro Histórico in a brand new light. At night, with an upbeat historian who knows a lot about Mexico City's lesser-known history.
If this was Trivial Pursuit - the Mexico City edition - Rafa would win! Except that he's not here to win. Or show off. Rafa's mission is to free you up to explore & enjoy Centro together. You'll have stimulating, safe evening out - with a mix of visually surreal cantinas, fascinating stories, and beautiful night-lit colonial architecture .
During this private 4 hour tour you'll visit three hidden cantinas and learn a very, very different history of Mexico City. Quietly, in the beauty of night.
SO WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH CANTINAS?
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 .
Authentic 80's music video clips are a common backdrop.
Authentic 80's music video clips and margaritas are ubiquitous essentials.
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.
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 at-night 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. This is the sentimental underbelly of Mexico City.
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.
If you don't drink then this tour is STILL for you. Teetotallers have toured with us and LOVED it!
The really great thing about Stylewalk MX is that the tour is tailored to suit your desires. Anytime we saw something that we were interested in Rafa would take a detour to satisfy our curiosity and his knowledge and information was still complete as if he had planned and prepped for the detour. My wife and I travel and live in different locations around the globe extensively and we rarely give reviews of what we do or who we use. Stylewalk MX and Rafael Rios are worth reviewing and recommending.
J Steen - livethefantasy.blog
MEET YOUR FRIENDLY HISTORY EXPERT
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:
We were a group of five who took this tour with Rafa on a Friday evening and it couldn't have been better. Rafa is very knowledgeable and speaks excellent English. Some of us had already taken a tour of Centro Historico and this tour only added to what we had already seen and learned.
We learned about the history of cantinas in Mexico City and visited four very different establishments. Rafa gave us recommendations on what to order and we were all very happy with his suggestions. Seeing Centro Historico, The Zocalo and Templo Mayor at night was also a completely different experience and was quite thrilling.
J & S Steen
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.
Private group of 1-5 people: US$220
Private group of 6-10 people : US$323
*Prices are in US dollars & don't include tax.
**We recommend contacting your bank BEFORE trying to book, because overseas banks frequently have a block or high alert for any payments linked to Mexico.
About the bill and how it works...
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.
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.
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
CANTINAS ARE.....ENTIRELY RANDOM
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This is our second tour with Stylewalk MX. We were a group of five who took this tour with Rafa on a Friday evening and it couldn't have been better. Rafa is very knowledgeable and speaks excellent English. Some of us had already taken a tour of Centro Historico and this tour only added to what we had already seen and learned. We learned about the history of cantinas in Mexico City and visited four very different establishments. Rafa gave us recommendations on what to order and we were all very happy with his suggestions. Seeing Centro Historico, The Zocalo and Templo Mayor at night was also a completely different experience and was quite thrilling. The really great thing about Stylewalk MX is that the tour is tailored to suit your desires. Anytime we saw something that we were interested in Rafa would take a detour to satisfy our curiosity and his knowledge and information was still complete as if he had planned and prepped for the detour.
My wife and I travel and live in different locations around the globe extensively and we rarely give reviews of what we do or who we use. Stylewalk MX and Rafael Rios are worth reviewing and recommending.
Thank you for your very kind and detailed feedback. It's an honor to receive your comments. We are glad it was a wonderful night out for you all!
I think it's fair to say most of our guests for the History and Cantinas tour arrive with some prior knowledge of Mexican history. They've already taken our 5 hour Must-See Centro Tour, or walked around the Zocalo on their own, so I am delighted to hear that Rafa offered you fresh and new insights (including spontaneous ones), and gave you a fun introduction to the rather kitsch and mysterious cantina scene.
As a scholar and a historian, Rafa really does love to give people the chance to get geeky with their questions, but he also understands the importance of being a good host. Knowing that there has to be a balance between talking and listening!
Your group is now one of the elite few who have seen the true beauty of Centro at night. So congratulations to you all, and many thanks for the privilege of taking you on a second tour!
We hope to see you again soon.