Antigua is often described as the most beautiful city in Guatemala and for good reason! It may have been our favorite city we visited the entire trip. It was once Guatemala’s capital city back when it was still a Spanish colony. Sadly an earthquake destroyed the city in 1773, but the ruins of a lot of buildings are still there. It has a chill, extremely laid back vibe and we felt right at home wandering the small colorful streets. Plus it has the perfect temperature all year long (22-26 degrees Celsius). Who wouldn’t want it to be spring all year long!? Let me tell you about all my favorite things to do in Antigua Guatemala.
What to do in Antigua Guatemala?
See the famous Arco de Santa Catalina
Probably the most famous spot in Antigua. This is surely the most photographed street in Guatemala. The best time to photograph it is on the weekend as then there are no cars. In the same street you can find artists, little shops and museums to visit. If you want the arch to yourself, make sure to come early in the morning. However, around sunrise it’s usually quite crowded with people doing photoshoots.
Climb the Acatenango volcano
Some people travel to Guatemala just for the chance to see an active volcano erupt. The Acatenango volcano gives you a great view of the neighboring volcan Fuego. The climb takes a day, but you’ll want to take the 2 day tour to see the sunrise from the volcano. You sleep in a campsite on the Acatenango volcano at around 3800m high and in the morning you’ll to the final ascent to the top. Once it gets dark you’ll have an amazing view of Fuego spitting lava right from your campsite.
I personally chose to do this trip with Camp Akt. They only do the trek with small groups. Our group was only 6 people, compared to some other groups having around 40 people. Their campsite is ideally located and I got the perfect shots of Volcan Fuego right from the campsite.
Do a free walking tour
A great way to explore and get to know the town is by doing a free walking tour! This way you’ll get a good first impression of the city and decide which churches and ruins you’d like to see more of later on.
Explore all the ruins and churches in the city
On every corner of the street you can find another ruin or church to visit. The one pictured here is the Iglesia de la Merced. Convento de las Capuchinas is a convent and church that should be on your list of ruins to visit. Another one is La Recolección, a former church and monastery.
Climb the rooftop of the Iglesia de la Merced on the weekend
On the weekend you can climb to the roof of the Iglesia de la Merced for just 20Q. You get a beautiful view of Antigua and it’s a great spot to watch the sunset.
Cerro de la Cruz
Hike up this hill for a beautiful view of the city and the volcano. It’s a popular spot for sunrise, but the morning will give you the clearest view of the volcano.
MUNAG – Museo Nacional de Arte de Guatemala
Visit this museum for free! Y0u can find the art museum under one of the arches on the side of the main square. They show local art throughout many different era’s. Especially the second floor I found impressive.
Museo de Arte Colonial
Visit the colonial art museum. It’s not a huge museum, so you can visit it quite quickly and its worth a visit just for the architecture.
Santo Domingo El Cerro
Located on a hill you can find an (partly outdoor) art museum and a restaurant with a stunning view. First explore the museum area before treating yourself to a drink overlooking Antigua in the restaurant.
Local Craft Market/Mercado de Artesanias
This market was my favorite market out of all the markets we visited in Central America. There were just so many beautiful leather bags and tons of cool jewelry. I scored a leather bag that I still wear every day.
Where to eat?
Nana: They offer international cuisine with different dishes that are meant to be shared. I personally love sharing food, their chef is amazing, but it is a little pricey. You’re basically paying European prices.
El refectorio: This restaurant is tucked away in what used to be a 17th century convent. They serve international cuisine and the candlelit rooms of the convent and grand piano make for a very interesting setting. Their tuna tartar and fresh pasta are wonderful. A bit of an odd addition to the menu is the sushi, but their rolls are great!
Wachuma: A wonderful little place serving vegan food. Their most popular dishes are the bowls.
Fridas: If you want a quick but good Mexican meal try Cactus or Fridas. Frida’s theme is (surprise surprise) Frida Kahlo. They serve all the Mexican specialties, but also wonderful margaritas. Quite often you’ll be able to enjoy live music here too.
Caobra Farm: Caoba Farms is an organic, sustainable farm on the outskirts of Antigua. The have a farm-to-table restaurant, butterfly sanctuary and yoga classes among other things. It’s a nice place for a yoga class in the morning with brunch or lunch right after.
12 Onzas: A super cute little coffee shop with a garden. They have great coffee’s and also a good lunch!
Rincon Antiguena: This is a popular spot to try Guatemalan food. Recommended by many locals and at times there’s a line of people waiting to get a seat.
Where to stay?
Adra Hostel: A great place to stay in the center of town, with a beautiful rooftop and a great restaurant. The dorm rooms are quite large, but every bed has a curtain, it’s own electrical socket an a little light.
Maya Papaya: We took a 18 hour shuttle from Nicaragua to Antigua in Guatemala and knew we were not going to in the mood for a party hostel. We booked this hostel because it looked nice, clean and had good reviews. It exceeded all our exceptions. Everything was so well thought out. You could tell the owners were concerned with making your stay as great as it could possibly be.
Another good hostel option is Selina Hostel.
Barbara’s boutique hostel:Besides a dorm, this hostel also has private, luxurious rooms. It has a great vibe and there is a kitchen available for those who like to cook.
Looking for a more unique destination? A little outside Antigua, you can find Earth Lodge. This is a beautiful escape to nature. They offer yoga, wellness services and lots of adventure activities!