Leigh Anne Stein
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Out on the Town

April 20, 2010 @ 7:49 PM | Permalink

Another piece for my magazine writing class...

Mérida, Venezuela is known countrywide as college-town. And like any good student-populated city, it has a thriving nightlife. The University of the Andes is centered in the Mérida area and on any given evening you will find groups of twenty-somethings bumming around downtown Mérida, more commonly called el centro. But regardless of whether you live here or are only visiting, Mérida offers a variety of nightly hangouts for anyone.

So where should we start the night?

For an Early Night

Mojitos

One popular meeting place for the younger crowd is a bar called Mojitos. And truth be told, they serve the mojito well. As long as you like your drinks strong, and don’t mind standing while you drink them. There are benches along the walls and outside the bar, but personal space is scarce and people are plenty. Try the mixed drinks. There’s a long menu of choices and they’re some of the cheapest in town.

Mojitos is located in a corner of a small shopping center off the main roads, so don’t be surprised if taxi drivers don’t know where you want to go. Have the address handy. (Centro Commercial, al lado de la Parque Ciudad de los Niños)

The place closes at midnight so make Mojitos your first destination for the night.

Tascas

A tasca is a small bar/restaurant. Usually just a bar. There is an abundance of them located throughout the downtown area. Tascas are another popular place to meet friends. When they close around midnight, groups can easily split ways. Some head home early, others go out for a late night at the clubs.

Try Meson, La Cibeles on Avenida 3 and Calle 29. Cheap beer, friendly locals of all ages, and a few crazies from the street popping in to try and sell you incense are the quirks that make it one of the busier tascas.

Abadía Cafe

Come for the excellent food and drinks. Stay for the hookah bar in the basement. The décor may be a little medieval, just ask the host at the door dressed in a cape, but the open terrace dining is a unique way to pass an evening. After eating, or without eating at all, make your way through the mazelike building to the basement where couches and enclaves await the hookah adventurer. Abadía plays a relaxed musical selection throughout the night. You’ll find yourself singing along to a soothing female voice jamming to a jazz version of Pink Floyd. Who knew that even existed?

Doors close at 10:30, but if you’re in the building before that, you can stay until around 11:30.

For a Late Night

Hoyo del Queque

If you decide you want to go out for real after 11 p.m., Hoyo is a pretty relaxed crowd. DJs play a combination of reggae and techno, with a little salsa thrown in. Bob Marley posters cover a majority of the walls and when there isn’t an important baseball or football game, the TVs show a mix of trippy films and animations. People seem to go more for the atmosphere than the drinks. You find the same light Venezuelan beers and cuba libres (rum, coke, and a splash of lemon) cheaper in other bars.

Occasionally you’ll encounter a night of live music, which can be anything from guest DJs to traditional tambores bands. Hoyo tends to close by one o’clock. Not late, not early.

Gradas

Directly across the street from Hoyo de Queque is el centro’s main dance club. Gradas will always charge you a cover (if you don’t know someone working the door), but your ticket is good for a free drink at the bar, where the most popular drinks are beer, cuba libres, and on certain nights, red alcoholic slushies.

The two large, open floors of Gradas are meant to be full of dancers. And they usually are. Expect a mix of musical genres, including a significant amount of reggaeton and salsa.

Poco Loco

If dancing the night away isn’t your beat, you may like Poco Loco. Essentially a sports bar, there is a fair amount of late night salsa dancing that happens after 2 a.m. There are TVs located in all the corners of the bar, with random wooden tables and stools dispersed throughout. The bar is in the center of the place and seeing as they serve beer for 3 bolivares fuertes (less than a U.S. dollar), the bartenders are always pretty busy.

Poco Loco gets hot. The atmosphere is akin to a basement without windows. There is one door, and the bouncer tends to keep it shut since there are residential areas close by.

Biroska

Biroska has a unique way of serving patrons. Eight straws and an upside-down sand castle bucket. Pour in six beers and few shots of surprise. Who doesn’t want to drink out of a child’s beach-toy?

Biroska feels like the big brother to Poco Loco. Lots of wooden tables, and just as dark, but it’s more open and you won’t get heat stroke since the doors stay open and fans are blowing. There is often live hard rock music, but usually just a mix of American ‘80s, hard rock, ska, and of course, salsa. If you want a quieter place to sit, there are booths hidden behind the stage and off to the side of the entrance.

El Bodegón

What Latin American city would ever be complete without a salsa club? Bodegón sees a mix of ages throughout the night. And a mix of music too, but the predominant sound is salsa.

Drinks are midrange, as is the cover, but if you are itching to give salsa a try they are open late and there are two huge floors to practice on. Bodegón is one of the older places in town and a bit separated from downtown. It can be an enjoyable night, just don’t expect to bar hop from here.

Racing Bar

Racing Bar is actually one part of a multiplex called La Cucaracha. La Cucaracha Racing Bar is a massive dance club that does a pretty good job of imitating a club from a major U.S. city. With cars hanging from the ceiling, light shows, and white décor, this place oozes money. Partiers must go dressed to the nines and expect to pay a hefty cover charge. The cover will occasionally include a few free drinks, but don’t count on it. Expect drinks to be overpriced as well. Racing has a fun selection of music throughout the night, but focuses mainly on playing American bands.

Racing is a place to show off yourself and your money. Don’t be surprised when you’re wanded and patted down outside the entrance. And don’t be surprised if the bouncers turn you away based on appearances. 

Café Calypso

Coffee shop by day, crazy techno dance club by night. Café Calypso undergoes an identity change between 5 p.m. and midnight. If you’re looking to make it a long night, Café Calypso is often open until 5 a.m. It isn’t unusual for people to begin showing up after midnight. It’s a small place, and only the real night-owls make it to Café Calypso when it’s cool to be there. If you must go earlier, bring a group of friends so the place won’t feel so empty.

 

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PS: Here are some pictures from my first few days in Merida. We students at VENUSA took a tour around the city after an unavoidable orientation session. http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=135435&id=508054791&l=dc8bdf59d9

Leigh Anne Stein on Arrival In Merida 2010-02-04
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