When it comes to heading out for the night, Quetzaltenango is significantly better equipped than most cities in the Central American highlands. That’s what you get with a population of 250,000 and a healthy contingent of both university and Spanish-language students. If you’re expecting things to get rowdy early into the morning you might be slightly disappointed, since bars and clubs here (like Antigua) close down at 1 am. That said, during the weekend many establishments will keep the action going behind locked doors until the clock strikes two, so all hope for a raucous Saturday night is not lost. Curious? Then let’s take a minute (literally) to get to know the small but healthy nightlife offering in Guatemala’s 2nd largest city.
It will likely come as no surprise that most of the action in Xela is situated around the ever-popular Parque Centro America. Case in point, you’ll find both Salón Tecún and the rooftop Café el Balcón, quite possibly the two most consistently-frequented bars in the city, conveniently located inside the Pasaje Enriquez building. Grab a drink here and your night’s already off to a good start. Stroll a block or two west and you’re in the heart of Zona Vivia, which constitutes the densest concentration of bars, clubs and restaurants in the city. Names like La Parranda (5a Calle) and La Rumba (13 Avenida) are known for their high energy and popular themed nights, but there are plenty of other options nearby to cater to your mood.
Outside of Zona Viva the selection is more sparse, but not altogether absent. Farther down on 13 Avenida you’ll find the chill, live music-loving, mojito-drinking crowd gathered on the patio at El Cuarito, while anyone seeking some crooked pool cues and tasty micro-brewed beer will feel right at home at the aptly named Pool & Beer (southernmost block of 12 Avenida). If karaoke and alternative rock bands are more your scene, grab a taxi and follow the locals north to Vintage on 7a Calle in Zona 3, where weekends usually run Wednesday through Saturday nights. Stick around long enough and you’ll inevitably come across personal favorites of your own, but this should be enough to get your libation bearings straight in a city with a lively but navigable nightlife scene.