Things to do in Antigua Guatemala

This is one of the most beautiful destinations, low cost and perfect to visit alone, as a couple or as a family. In Antigua, you will be able to walk its streets safely (yes, you read well) and enjoy each colorful corner.

Arriving in Antigua gives the impression that time was returned to 1542, the year in which this former colonial capital of Guatemala was founded, which still retains its original roadway with large, rounded stones. Each element of this place forms a true and colorful traditional landscape, a faithful witness of the Spanish colonial era.

Around this charming city, a World Heritage Site, you can see the volcanoes of Fuego, Agua, and Acatenango. You can even see them when you land in Guatemala City if the good weather is in your favor.

Places to visit in Antigua, Guatemala

Their people: warm and beautiful. The gastronomy … delicious! I still remember the taste of black corn tortillas, broths, and tamales, and, of course, traditional sweets of all shapes, colors, and flavors. In this post, I tell you what you can see and do in the wonderful city of Antigua Guatemala.

What to do in Antigua Guatemala?

Santa Catalina Arch

It is perhaps the main icon of Antigua, along with the volcanoes. It belonged to the nuns of the St. Catherine the Virgin and Martyr convent, but after the earthquake of 1773, the structure was abandoned. In 1890 the arch was remodeled and, several decades later, the tower and the clock of French origin were built.

The Santa Catalina Arch is the place where locals and foreigners receive the new year.
The Santa Catalina Arch is the place where locals and foreigners receive the new year.

The yellow color of the walls of the arch has a religious significance, as the historian Julio Castellanos told the local newspaper La Prensa Libre. It derives from the belief of the colonial era that color makes mention of the Blessed Sacrament.

The street of the arch is a place of compulsory passage of tourists and connects with different restaurants, museums, and shops in the area. It is also the place where nationals and foreigners receive the new year.

Churches La Merced, San Pedro, and San Francisco

In Antigua, you will find many churches but you must visit these three. For its architecture, the most representative is the Church La Merced, easy to recognize for its yellow color with white. It has an ultra-baroque Guatemalan style and was inaugurated in 1767. (Open from L to D, from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m./ Address: 6a Avenida Norte and 1 Calle Poniente / Free admission)

In Holy Week, the Palm Sunday procession starts from the church of La Merced.
In Holy Week, the Palm Sunday procession starts from the church of La Merced.

San Francisco Church is an essential visit, for its historical and religious significance. There is the tomb of Peter of Saint Joseph de Betancur, a Guatemalan missionary of Spanish origin, canonized in 2002 by Pope John Paul II. (Open from L to S from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., D and holidays from 6:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m./ Address: Calle del Hermano Pedro 3b. Free admission).

In Antigua, there are many churches and colonial ruins that can be visited either alone or with a guide.
In Antigua, there are many churches and colonial ruins that can be visited either alone or with a guide.

Parish of Saint Peter Apostol, of yellow color with white, housed the old hospital for Clerics and Temple of the Peter Apostol. The church has the social works of the Holy Brother Peter and is next to the hospital of San Pedro. (Address: 6a Calle Oriente No. 20. Free admission)

Ruins of the Church of Our Lady of Carmen

The earthquake of 1773 managed to destroy almost all of this church, except with its colonial facade. It does not go unnoticed by tourists for its baroque style and for the traditional and picturesque sales of handicrafts in front.

The facade of the Church of Our Lady of Carmen was the only thing left standing after the earthquake of 1773.
The facade of the Church of Our Lady of Carmen was the only thing left standing after the earthquake of 1773.

Church and Convent of the Capuchins

It is one of the most visited and representative sites in Antigua. Its construction began in 1731. The temple was damaged by the earthquakes of 1773, but the convent remained intact.

I found it interesting that this is the first convent that stopped asking for a donation to the new nuns, in order to allow poor ladies to participate in religious life.

The Convent of the Capuchins began its construction in the year 1731.
The Convent of the Capuchins began its construction in the year 1731.

It was created with the arrival of the Order of the Capuchin Poor Clares, coming from Europe. The convent of Spanish Baroque style received between 25 and 28 nuns and the cloister was formed by cells.

The visit can take up to an hour, it is located on 2nd Avenue North and 2nd Street East corner.

Despite the years, the arches of the cloister and the rest of the structure have remained in an acceptable state.
Despite the years, the arches of the cloister and the rest of the structure have remained in an acceptable state.

Central Square

As in many cities, this is the meeting point of many tourists and their guides. It is a large space with buildings of colonial architecture, shops, and banks around. The Central Plaza is located at 4 Avenida and 5 Calle.

The most representative is the Palace of the Noble City Council, with arches and stone columns, which today houses the Municipality of Antigua Guatemala. At night is thas one of the best views.

Cathedral of Antigua, in Central Square. Open every day from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays close at 7:30 p.m.
Cathedral of Antigua, in Central Square. Open every day from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays close at 7:30 p.m.

Craft Markets

Right next to the ruins of the Church of Our Lady of Carmen is one of the most varied and beautiful markets: El Carmen Handicraft Market. Ideal to buy souvenirs, this place offers very good prices for different products. The market opens every day from 8:00 a.m. at 8:00 p.m., and is located between Calle 3a Oriente and Avenida 3a Norte.

I was looking for Jade, a beautiful stone that, for the Mayan culture, meant life, fertility, and power. I found it at very good prices, in bracelets, earrings, necklaces, and rings.

 One of my favorite markets! Products offered by this and other venues are made by indigenous people from Antigua surrounding areas.
One of my favorite markets! Products offered by this and other venues are made by indigenous people from Antigua surrounding areas.

The Handicraft Market of Antigua, located on the 4th Poniente street, is another good option to see and buy. Opens from 8:00 a.m. at 5:00 p.m.

On the street that passes in front of the ruins of the Church of Nuestra Señora del Carmen (and in front of the El Carmen Handicraft Market), there is an improvised market attended by indigenous people, with a great variety of products.

In the markets, it is worth bargaining, but the prices are really good, so do not do it if you want to collaborate with tourism in the area.

Museums in Antigua Guatemala

Casa Santo Domingo

It is a hotel that houses six museums inside. It is ideal to visit it at the end of the afternoon, to observe the beautiful installations with the daylight and at night observe the beautiful lighting offered by the hotel.

In the same place, you can visit the Colonial Museum, the Archaeological Museum, the Museum of Pre-Columbian Art and Modern Glass, the Silver Museum, the Pharmacy Museum and also a room dedicated to temporary art exhibitions.

The schedules and the tickets price depend on the museum you decide to visit, so I recommend you check it on the official website. Tickets can be purchased at the place and the address is Calle Oriente Calle 28 A.

Chocomuseo

Chocolate was a ceremonial and sacred drink for ancient cultures, so in Antigua, offcourse there is a place where the protagonist is this product.

This museum, which also includes a cafeteria, is located on Calle del Arco (4th Street East) and offers the possibility of learning about the chocolate process, its history, and cultural legacy. Must do in the place – drink a hot chocolate. It is open Monday through Thursday and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. at 6:30 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 10:00 a.m. at 7:30 p.m.

Museo Casa del Tejido Antiguo

Here you can see an extensive variety, originality, and beauty of the indigenous costumes of Guatemala. The visit is guided, with information about the fabrics, the materials of the fabric and the geographical origin of each piece exhibited.

The museum has given work opportunities to indigenous women who keep the Mayan culture alive. In the place, you can see the different costumes of this culture. More information on the museum’s website.

It is open Monday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. at 5:00 p.m. and the cost of admission is approximately $2.

Jade Museum Antigua Guatemala

This museum is located inside the Casa del Jade. It offers a collection of original sculptures and replicas and, a guide that will explain everything about “the stone of heaven”, as the ancestors called Jade. The variety found in Guatemala is named Jadeite.

In the museum, you can experience the process of making the art worked by local artisans and discover the mysteries of the Mayan world. The museum staff speaks English, Spanish, Italian, German and French. It opens every day from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., no entrance fee and it is not compulsory to buy jewelry. It is located at 4 Calle Oriente N.10, El Jaulón building.

Day trips from Antigua Guatemala

Visit Lake Atitlan

If you have an extra day (or more) in Antigua, you can take a tour to Lake Atitlán, whether you go and return on the same day or plan a night’s lodging in the place.

The lake is almost three hours from Antigua and it is best to go by private transport. It is worth to visit this place, surrounded by mountains and the San Pedro, Tolimán and Atitlán volcanoes, forming a unique landscape. Crossing the lake for approximately 20 minutes will take you to visit beautiful indigenous villages.

We went to Panajachel, a super welcoming community that offers restaurants, various handicraft stalls, art galleries, and bars.

From Antigua, you can take a day tour to Lake Atitlan. To enjoy a day it is advisable to leave at 6 am or earlier.
From Antigua, you can take a day tour to Lake Atitlan. To enjoy a day it is advisable to leave at 6 am or earlier.

Hiking Pacaya Volcano

If you like hiking and mountaineering, and apart you have an additional day on your visit to Antigua, you will like this tour. The Pacaya is an active volcano, located approximately one hour from Antigua.

It has easy access, signposted roads, sanitary services, mini shops to buy drinks and snacks. Normally, two excursions departure from Antigua every day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon (consult in your hotel or tourism agencies, if you need information about a tourism agent,
send me an email).

The entrance to the Pacaya Volcano and Calderas Lagoon National Park costs approximately $ 7. You have the opportunity to climb walking or riding. Find out about the options you have in the volcano, more on its official website.

From Antigua, there are excursions to hiking or riding in this active volcano.
From Antigua, there are excursions to hiking or riding in this active volcano.

Guatemala City to Antigua

The city is located 40 kilometers from the capital of the country, in the department of Sacatepéquez. On a family trip, we arrived at the International Airport of La Aurora on a Friday morning, and there the tourism agency that we hired from prior was waiting for us.

In Guatemala there is UBER service, taxi, bus and, as in any city, you can rent a car, but, for a security, we prefer to do it with a tourism agency. Even some hotels have Shuttle Bus from the airport to the hotel and vice versa. I recommend you check before booking your room.

Another reason we hire private transportation is that we travel with a one-year-old child, and we needed a baby seat.

Write to me if you need information about the agency we used. Send email

Tip: leave Guatemala City towards Antigua between 4 and 6 p.m. It is not a good idea, because the traffic is dense and it could take you more than two hours which normally only takes one.

Is Antigua Guatemala safe?

You are probably thinking about the security of the country. The news is not always encouraging, nor can Guatemala’s crime rates be hidden. However, we walked through Guatemala City and Antigua and discovered that they are quite safe places. Even so, it is always good to take some considerations (in these and in any city), such as taking care of bags, cameras and not exposing jewelry or electronic devices.

Holy Week in Antigua Guatemala

Those who want to live with religious fervor this time, Antigua is one of the best destinations. The tradition is to commemorate the passion and death of Jesus with live processions, accompanied by orchestras and carpets hand made by the faithful, with sawdust of colors, rose petals and Mayan motifs. They are true artworks!

Usually, the Palm Sunday procession starts from Iglesia de la Merced.

Antigua Guatemala hotels

We rent an Airbnb for seven people. I recommend them: it is very close to the main attractions and it is a beautiful house, with colonial finishes, super equipped and with an incredible terrace -> Casa Cordero.

If you prefer to stay in a hotel, we valued this other option – Hotel Soleil La Antigua, which we found very good.

And if what you’re looking for is a 5-star super hotel, check out Casa Santo Domingo which is located in a former convent 10 minutes from downtown Antigua Guatemala.

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