Valladolid, the Yucatan city with a small-town feel, comes to life after dark with courtyards selling Mexican craft beers and ambient drinking dens tucked beneath colonial-era arches.
This little town halfway between Cancún and Mérida feels like it’s barely changed since Spanish colonial days, with ochre and warm-yellow colonnaded townhouses and stately churches watching over palm-shaded plazas. Until a few years ago, most visitors dropped in on their way to or from the Mayan ruins in neighboring Chichén Itzá, but with a burgeoning local bar-restaurant scene and a sleepy village atmosphere, Valladolid is well worth an overnight stop.
Hidden away in a converted townhouse in Valladolid’s Northwestern neighborhood of San Carlos is the town’s only pub. It’s a simple affair – attracting a local crowd who drink Mexican craft beers and cocktail standards – minty Mojitos and generous Margaritas – in the air-conditioned cantina saloon, or al fresco in the garden sitting area. A TV shows soccer and U.S. sports whilst there’s live Mexican music some weekends.
With tables sat on a terrace under a colonnade of colonial-era arches opposite the Parque Los Heroes in the historical center of Valladolid, La Joyita is a great place to sit and people-watch; margarita or mezcal cocktail in hand. There’s a lively local and tourist crowd in the evenings and the bar serves botana Mexican tapas and standards like tamales and quesadillas.
The drinks menu is pared back – with a standard selection of Mexican and U.S bottled beers (Corona, Dos Equis, Bud Light), margaritas and a few mezcals, but the view is hard to beat in Valladolid. Tables sit on a terrace right over the main square and the twin baroque bell towers of the Spanish-colonial San Servacio church. There are bar snacks (nachos, guacamole, quesadillas) to keep you going and occasional live music at weekends.
Busy with twenty-something locals who mingle in the music-booming bottom floor bar whilst sipping cocktails and snacking on quesadillas, tacos and sugary sundaes on the open-air rooftop terrace, the Condesa is one of Valladolid’s most popular night spots. The cocktail choice is one of the best in town – with house martinis and margaritas that change weekly and a respectable choice of small-production mezcals and tequilas.
Conveniently located in the heart of the town center, this Spanish-era townhouse turned small hotel oozes colonial charm. Tables dot a colonnaded atrium garden tinkling with fountains and lush with tropical vegetation. It’s a cooling cocktail and bar snack pit stop – staff mix a long, cooling lemony margarita and a range of mezcal-based cocktails. If you’re hungry, there’s a decent lunch and dinner menu of both Yucatan and pan-Mexican dishes.
Low lit, decorated with psychedelic Day of the Dead murals and patterned tiles, with an eclectic mix of Spanish punk, folk and rock on the sound system, Libranos is as close as Valladolid gets to a hipster dive bar. The cocktails are some of the best in town and range from a long, refreshing Lulu (with pineapple and mezcal) to a potent tamarind mezcal. There’s a good selection of artisan tequilas and upscale bar food.
Sitting in a jungly garden dotted with palapas in the Casa Hamaca guesthouse, this café bar is popular with budget travelers and locals. During breakfast and lunchtime, it’s a simple restaurant serving comfort and snack food – Mexican scrambled eggs (with tomato and onion), club sandwiches, burritos, quesadillas. After dark, it becomes a lively bar serving ice-cold beers and margarita cocktails (try the tangy house special – the Balam) and hosting salsa dancing and themed party nights.
This restaurant and upscale juice bar – serving local Yucatec cuisine, is located right across the road from the beautiful Spanish-colonial convent of Saint Bernard of Siena. It’s a pleasant space to while away an hour or so over a long, icy mocktail: tables dot a lush tropical garden and there are excellent appetizers alongside the fuller menu. Signature drinks include the refreshing Depurativo, made with cucumber, chaya leaf, apple, ginger, parsley and celery.
If you need more inspiration of what to do in the Yucatán Peninsula, book a hotel through Culture Trip in Mérida, Cancún or Playa del Carmen. If you’re in search of some local culture, check out other beautiful destinations in the peninsular to visit or sample some local fresh cuisine that will be sure to hit the spot.
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