A good mix of bars in the downtown area caters to the city’s bohemian population as well as to international travelers. In Zona 10, the Zona Viva sector centered around 16 Calle is the place to go if you want to hang out with the city’s wealthy elite in the hippest establishments.
Downtown, El Portal (Portal del Comercio, 9a Calle, between 6a and 7a Avenidas, 10 a.m.- 10 p.m. Mon.-Sat.) is said to be the old stomping grounds of none other than Che Guevara, who lived in Guatemala City in the early 1950s. You’ll find a long wooden bar and some wooden tables along with draft beers for about $2. The entrance is at the Portal del Comercio arcade entrance on the south side of the park along 6a Avenida. Nearby Las Cien Puertas (9a Calle between 6a and 7a Avenidas, Pasaje Aycinena, Zona 1, noon-2 a.m. Mon.-Sat.) is the city’s quintessential bohemian hangout set in a restored colonial arcade. Enjoy tasty quesadillas and tacos when you get the munchies. Europa Bar (11 Calle 5-16, Edificio Testa, Local 201, tel. 2253-4929, 8 a.m.-midnight Mon.-Sat.) is a restaurant doubling as a bar that is popular with the expat crowd. CNN and sports are on the cable TV and the restaurant serves decent food, including the all-American staple breakfast of eggs, hash browns, bacon, and toast. The newest of the downtown venues is Reilly’s GuateCity (12 Calle 6-25 Zona 1, email@example.com), a spin-off of the popular Irish pub in Antigua Guatemala.
Zona Viva’s motley assortment of upscale bars is constantly in flux. New places open and close all the time, and it’s hard to keep up with all the changes, even if you live in Guatemala City. A classic expat hangout, the William Shakespeare Pub (13 Calle and 1a Avenida, Torre Santa Clara II, Local 5, Zona 10, tel. 2331-2641, 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Mon.-Sat., 2 p.m.-1 a.m. Sun.) appropriately advertises, “No tragedy, no comedy, just good times.” Cheers (13 Calle 0-40 Zona 10, tel. 2368- 2089, 9 a.m.-1 a.m. Mon.-Sat., 1 p.m.-midnight Sun.) is the city’s best sports bar with scrumptious buffalo wings, frosty beer on tap, dartboards, pool tables, foosball, big-screen TVs, and classic rock on the stereo. Another excellent brew pub, Brass Beer Co. (3a Avenida 12-48, Zona 10, tel. 2332-3329, noon-1 a.m. daily) offers a large selection of microbrews on tap and is one of the few places in Guatemala where you can order a ginormous beer. Rattle N Hum (4a Avenida 16-11 Zona 10, noon-1 a.m. daily) is a fun, Australian-owned place often featuring live music.
La Iguana Azul (12 Calle 3-46 Zona 10, tel. 2331-9866, 6 p.m.-3 a.m. Mon.-Sat.) is a Zona Viva hotspot popular with the younger crowd. The venue is built in contemporary style with steel and glass. Try the bar’s signature drink, the Iguana Azul.
Like the bars, nightclubs are in constant flux, but here are some options that have been around for a while and don’t look to be going anywhere. In Zona 1, El Gazabo (6a Calle and 3a Avenida, 8 p.m.-1 a.m. Thurs.-Sat.) is a lively venue for dancing and nightlife in downtown Guatemala City. Nearby is Metropole (6a Calle between 3a and 4a Avenidas, 8 p.m.-1 a.m. Thurs.-Sat.) which welcomes a mixed gay-straight crowd.
In Zona 10, Kalhua (15 Calle and 1a Avenida, Zona 10, 8 p.m.-3 a.m. Mon.-Sat., $5 cover) is one of Guatemala City’s most popular clubs with a wealthy clientele and hip atmosphere spread out on four floors. In vogue with hip locals and international jet-setters is NYX (2a Avenida 12-52 Zona 10, 8 p.m.-1 a.m. Thurs.-Sat.).
A popular place for live music in a wonderfully bohemian atmosphere is La Bodeguita del Centro (12 Calle 3-55 Zona 1, tel. 2230-2976, 8 p.m.-2 a.m. Tues.-Sat., $4 cover on weekends). Besides live folk, rock, and jazz music, there are poetry readings, forums, and movies some nights. The atmosphere features posters the likes of Bob Marley and Che Guevara, as well as tons of Che-related memorabilia. Food is also served, with tasty chicken sandwiches. Nearby is Blue Town Café Bar (11 Calle 4-51 Zona 1), with live bands and a younger crowd. TrovaJazz (Vía 6 3-55 Zona 4, tel. 2334- 1241) has live jazz Thursday through Saturday evenings. It also serves food and coffee beverages. In Zona 10, check out Sesto Senso (2 Avenida 12-81, tel. 2361-6897) for its hip, lively atmosphere.
Excerpted from the Fourth Edition of Moon Guatemala.