I recently returned from a 5-night stay at Hotel Catedral. The rooms are by no means luxurious, but for about $45 a night, there wasn’t much to complain about. I will say that the beds are extremely hard (my friend, in a different room, compared it to sleeping on a set of 2 boxsprings, but I wouldn’t say it was that bad) and the pillows very uncomfortable. I was never sore from the bed, but the pillows were another story.
The rooms were cleaned well every day, and the front desk was always helpful and friendly whenever approached. If you want to stay in the Centro, then you pretty much can’t beat the location of the Catedral. It was so easy to walk to many things, and to go further afield, the Turibus stops at the Zocalo, as does the metro. Piece of cake. Breakfasts each morning were good – if you opt for breakfast there, you go to the front desk and request your breakfast coupon, then take the coupon into the hotel’s restaurant, present it to the waiter, and order what you want from one section of the main menu. There's a choice of maybe 12 things. It was a decent enough variety and they had a nice mix of breakfasty items like eggs and pancakes mixed with more lunch-type fare of chicken tacos and the sort. Fresh-squeezed orange juice and coffee were also included. Another nice thing was that they didn’t stop serving the free breakfast/brunch until noon, so there was no rushing around in the mornings, trying to get downstairs by the typical 9am deadline.
The hotel also offers 2 computers with internet access for a nominal fee + currency exchange at the front desk at a surprisingly decent rate + a taxi service. There’s a travel agency right in the lobby as well, though I don’t recommend using them (more on that in a sec). All in all, a nice stay and a great price. BUT, there are some caveats…
The negatives: I found a roach in my bathroom on the first night, and was quite upset about that. By the time I found a shoe to kill it with, it was long gone and I had to worry about it running free in my room all night. In fairness, I didn’t see another roach for the rest of my visit, but then, I also slept with the lights partially on all night long to discourage any, so…
If you get a cathedral-facing room, don’t expect there to be any nice view at all. You may see the top of the Catedral poking up from behind the building directly beside you, but most of you view will probably be of the tenement building just next door with missing walls and re-bar everywhere. Definitely not nice to look at, but I didn't care at all.
If you go on a Friday or Saturday, expect the nearby disco/night club to keep you up unless you are an easy/deep sleeper or bring earplugs. I can’t wear earplugs, so I was up until at least 2:30am until I finally was exhausted enough to fall asleep. Don’t underestimate how loud it can be. I was really surprised given that the club wasn’t *that* close to the hotel. I could feel the vibrations of the base and in many songs, could even make out which song it was.
Finally, the travel agency. This one bothered me a lot, so it's going to be a long rant so that you'll know what to expect if you book a tour with them. We wanted to go to Teotihuacan and the travel agency set us up with one of their tours for $25 each. She said that the tour included transportation (in a van) to and from Teotihuacan along with the entrance fee into the sight, but that lunch would be “on our own”. We asked her how much time we would have at the site, and she said around 4 hours. The tour left at 11 and returned by 5, so that seemed to make sense given that it would be an hour’s drive. Everything sounded fine. Here’s what actually happened:
The guide picked us up and after waiting around awhile gathering more people (which was fine, and expected), we set off for the pyramids. When we got to Teotihuacan, they stopped off at a tourist souvenir trap. We listened to a brief lesson on how pulque is made, and then were shown around the different stations where men were making obsidian figurines. After the tour we were brought inside a *huge* store selling tons and tons of stone figures, chess boards, jewelry, blankets, tequila and pulque, etc. It was very high-pressure sales, and you could tell the items were greatly overpriced even without having some other experience to compare it to. Luckily our actual travel agency guides were not putting pressure on us to buy things, but the guides at the ranch who’d given us the tour of their facility were constantly hovering. I didn’t buy anything, but my friend gave in and got a couple of the smallest, least expensive items they offered.
After this 45 minute stop, we finally were on our way to the pyramids. (It had been frustrating seeing the pyramids rising in the distance but being stopped for 45 minutes at the tourist trap.) Our guide started to lead us around Teotihuacan, which we hadn’t expected. Apparently he would guide us for awhile and then we would have some free time to explore on our own. The problem was, we were running out of time. His guiding took too long and we knew if we didn’t break off, we wouldn’t have enough time to climb the pyramids (slowly, because of the altitude’s effect on us!). Why? Because we didn’t have 4 hours there; we had about 2 hours there. We had been told to meet the van back at 3:15 for lunch, which was a big surprise. We’d thought that lunch “on your own” not only meant that we’d pay for our own lunch, but would be free to actually find it on our own as well. Nope. When we only had around an hour and 15 minutes left, we broke off from the guide and started our free time a bit earlier than the rest of the people. We climbed the Pyramid of the Sun, enjoyed the view awhile, walked around a bit more and peeked at the souvenir shops by each gate, and then it was time to go. Oh, and those souvenir shops? They were selling many of the exact same things that we’d seen earlier, only for much lower prices! It made me wonder if they even made anything at that place, or if they just had machinery out and hired people to look busy when tourists came, meanwhile re-selling things that they themselves probably bought from elsewhere, like China.
Lunch was of course at a very mediocre, fairly overpriced place the guides shuffled us to. They didn’t eat, probably because of the cost/quality, all the while getting a kickback from the restaurant. In the middle of our meal, we were “entertained” by an “Aztec” dancer and drummer. Please. After lunch, we were taken back to our hotel and arrived there by 5:30. We did not tip our guides. We figured they’d probably gotten enough tips from the places they’d brought us.
My conclusion: avoid the Hotel Catedral’s tours at all costs, even if you have to pay more. The Turibus offers a tour to Teotihuacan for $45, substantially more expensive, yes, but at least we would have had enough time there and not had souvenirs and bad food pushed upon us. Even a private driver doesn’t cost that much. One of the Catedral’s drivers charged 100 pesos an hour with a 200 peso minimum. That’s about $10 per hour.
If you can deal with the negatives, then the Hotel Catedral is well-located and a good value.
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- Also Known As:
- Catedral Hotel Mexico City
- Catedral Mexico City
- Hotel Catedral Mexico City