Antigua Guatemala is a beautiful city in the central highlands of Guatemala. It is famous for its well preserved Spanish colonial buildings and architecture as well as its surrounding volcanos. Cobblestone streets can be found throughout the whole city. Antigua was for 200 years the capital of Guatemala.
I stayed three weeks in Antigua Guatemala and therefore I can give you some advice with my Antigua City Guide for things to do, tips on where to eat & drink or where to stay.
Ultimate 10 things to do in Antigua
- Stroll Around Antigua
- Cerro De La Cruz
- Arco De Santa Catalina
- Parque Central & San José Catedral
- Parque De La Unión
- Casa Santo Domingo
- Visit the Chocolate Museum
- Mercado De Artesanias El Carmen
- Hike the Acatenango Volcano
- El Paredon Beach
Stroll around Antigua
One great thing to do in Antigua is just to stroll along the streets to see the volcanos Agua, Acatenango and Fuego from different perspectives and the colonial buildings.
Especially the active volcano Fuego is impressive. It is one of Central Americas most active volcano. You will see and hear the eruptions even in Antigua! During the day you will see the smoke which is coming out of the volcano and when it’s dark, if you are lucky, you have the chance to see the lava spitting out of the volcano! That’s amazing.
And while walking around in the city you will see as well all the old beautiful Spanish colonial buildings and churches.
Cerro de la Cruz
Cerro de la Cruz is a cross and great lookout point on a small mountain which can be found near the city of Antigua Guatemala. It is approx. a 45 minute walk from Antigua center up to the hill (people told me around 400 steps). When you reach the top you will have an amazing view of Antigua and the Agua volcano in the background. What else do you want! It is a very peaceful atmosphere on top as everybody is enjoying the view and some moments of silence, away from the noise of the city. If you have only a short time, the walk up to the Cerro de la Cruz is definitely a must do in Antigua Guatemala.
Arco de Santa Catalina
The Arch of Santa Catalina is one of the most recognized landmarks of Antigua Guatemala. It has been declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and is located on the 5th Avenue North. It is hard to take a picture without any people on it as it is a very lively street and popular tourist spot. Therefore it is well worth to get up early one day to take a picture without a ton of people on it.
Expectation of the picture (yes you can get it, if you go early in the morning as I did here)
Reality most of the time during the day (if you can’t get out of your bed)
Parque Central & San José Catedral
Stroll around the busy central park of Antigua with its nice trees and benches inside for relaxed hours of doing nothing or people watchig. On one side of the park is the beautiful colonial San José cathedral and on the other side are little shops, restaurants, coffee shops and the street which is going to the Arco de Santa Catalina.
Parque de la Unión
La Unión is a small beautiful park in the center of Antigua (south of central park). On one side you can see and visit the San Pedro Apostol church and on the other end there is a pool filled with water and a little fountain. This park is a perfect place to sit on a bench, relax and enjoy the stunning view. For me the most beautiful thing is to see all the palm trees in the park and in the background the volcano Agua and Fuego.
Casa Santo Domingo (Hotel & Museum)
A wonderful place for every visitor to Antigua. Great location and atmosphere. It is worth to visit these ruins of the former monastery to see the old walls and the excavations. Except the museum part, the site can be visited for free.
Visit the chocolate museum (ChocoMuseo)
The chocolate museum is great place for chocolate lovers and if you want to experience something else between volcanos and colonial buildings. The aroma of the chocolate is irresistible. You can learn about the whole chocolate making process and taste some pieces for free.
Mercado de Artesanias El Carmen
Take a look at the local market in front of the iglesia El Carmen. You can find a lot of handmade and colorfull Guatemalan bags, paintings, towels or bracelets.
Hike the Acatenango volcano (2 days 1 night)
One thing you want to do for sure when you are in Antigua Guatemala is to climb the Acatenango volcano. It’s a tough 2 days 1 night hike, but a great adventure and you will be rewarded with stunning views to the active Fuego volcano. During the night you will have the unique experience of feeling the eruption and seeing lava of the volcano!
El Paredon Beach (2 days)
El Paredon is the hidden beach gateway close to Antigua. I recommend to go there at least 2 days, as it is a 2.5 hours drive from Antigua. It’s a great spot for surfing without having 50 other surfers in your way and after the workout you can enjoy the black sand beach almost for yourself.
Additionally, you can have the rare and unique experience of seeing the sunrise in the morning and in the evening the sunset from the same place on the beach without moving.
The easiest way to go there is with a shuttle or private car. I’ve heard you can also take several chicken buses to get there, but I never did that myself.
Panajachel (day trip – additional thing to do)
If you have time, money and want a day of luxury, make a day trip to Panajachel. The Tzampoc Resort has a stunning view over the Lake Atitlan and the surroudning volcanos. You cal relax in the beautiful pool they have.
What and where to eat in Antigua
Antigua is quiet touristy, therefore you can find all different kind of food. Local food, Japanese, Indian, Thai, Chinese, Mexican, western restaurants or fast food chains, you can find it all.
Food stall at the church “Santo Hermano Perdo”
This food stall is my favorite place in Antigua for lunch, as you get the best value for the money and the food is very tasty. You pay only 15 Quetzales but you can choose between grilled pork, chicken or Pepian (the local dish where the meat is made in a delicious brown sauce) and it comes with rice, salad, tortillas and a soft drink. Additionally you can take a big piece of fried chicken for 10 Quetzales.
On a Sunday you have even more options as there are other food stalls with Tacos and Empanadas.
Entre Carnes Express
Are you craving for a steak and good quality meat? Then I can highly recommend going to the Entre Carne restaurant. It will set you back only 45 Quetzales and you will get one of the best beef steak (Arrachera) I have had in Central America and it comes with your choice of two side dishes (I recommend mashed potatoes and vegetables). It’s a small but cozy place and the lady owner is awesome. Entre Carnes is my favorite place in Antigua for dinner.
Update July 2018: There was a gas explosion and the restaurant is temporarly closed.
Update November 2018: The owners told me they are open again, hooray!
You will smell the delicious taste of the barbecued chicken already on the street, which automatically makes you want to go inside. You will find a mix of locals and foreigners in the Rincon Tipico restaurant. For 30 Quetzales you will get the fresh grilled chicken from the spit, potatoes, salad and unlimited soft drinks.
Craving for a good coffee? Cafe Union is the place to. They serve flavourful local Guatemalan coffee.
Tacos El Delirio
Did you come to Guatemala from Mexico and missing now Tacos? Then head over to Tacos El Delirio. There you can have 4 Tacos Pastor for 25 Quetzales and almost as good as in Mexico. On Tuesday they have all you can eat Tacos (Pastor, Chicken and Beef) for 75 Quetzales.
Taqueria Dona Lupita
Another great and cheap place for Mexican Tacos is the Taqueria Dona Lupita. You will get 3 tacos for 20 Quetzales and you can add all the fresh additional ingredients from the little bowls.
Restaurant Mulan has a big variety of Chinese/Asian food, an authentic taste and big portions. If you are not super hungry then one portion is good for 2 people. I can recommend the “thick rice noodles with beef” for 65 Quetzales together with a Tsingtao beer.
Luna de Miel
Luna del Miel is famous for its crepes and it is beautiful decorated. Despite that it is a bit pricy, the crepes were delicious and large, way enough to fill us up. Their selection of crepes is massive, they have it all from salty to sweet. I had one with ground beef, cheese, curry and vegetables.
The Akai Sushi has good sushi and fried rice. It’s especially worth it if you go there on a Tuesday and Thursday when they have Happy Hour on their sushi rolls.
Food Market “La Merced”
Eat like the locals and head to the food stalls at the Parque La Merced and La Merced church. They offer all kind of local Guatemalan food. You can’t go wrong here if you want to eat good, cheap and local food.
Santa Clara Bakery and Restaurant
Are you craving for fresh baked bread? Then this is the place to go. They have a big variety of bread and sandwiches for take away.
In the restaurant downstairs are many tables and sometimes they have live music. Upstairs is a nice balcony where you can enjoy the fresh breeze and tasty food.
Pappy’s is definitely on the expensive side, but if you are craving for BBQ ribs it’s a good place to go.
Where to drink in Antigua – Bars & Clubs
I think Antigua has hundreds of bars. Some are good visible and some are almost hidden behind the big walls of the Spanish colonial buildings. I will only tell you about the bars I have personally been.
Café No Se
Café No Se is one of the freakiest but hippest bars in Antigua. It’s dark inside with three different little areas. One with a live band, a second one behind and a third almost hidden area. You nearly have to crawl through the little door to get into the third area. Super cool. The drink prices are a little bit more expensive than other places, but well worth it. Most of the time I have met tourists or expats living in Antigua in the Café No Se.
Like to dance more with the local crowd? Then head to the La Sala. Downstairs is bar inside with a dancefloor and upstairs you will find a more chill open-air rooftop bar. For all the ladies in the house: On Thursday is ladies night!
Cantina Royal Bar & Green Room Bar
Hidden behind a small wooden door are the Cantina Bar and the Japanese Sake Ichi Bar, which is now also called Green Room at the Poniente street.
In the Cantina bar they play all kind of music. At the Japanese bar (behind the Cantina) they have sometimes amazing live music or jam sessions and they sell Sake and have 2 for 1 beers.
Go to the “El Barrio” for some more fancy bars. There are several different bars behind the entrance gate like the Lava or Ocelot bar. The bars are either inside, outside or on the rooftop. There is a mixed crowd and the people were more dressed up compared to other places.
On Monday evening it is ladies night, 3 free drinks included for the ladies!
The Tropicana Hostel has a nice rooftop bar with affordable drink prices. In case you are in Antigua for new year’s eve, it’s a good place to see the fireworks.
The Londoner pub is close to the Bigfoot hostel. You will find mostly tourists inside The Londoner, but it’s a good mix of backpackers and short time vacationers.
Where to stay in Antigua
The street you stay in doesn’t really matter, as you can walk to all the main places within 10 or 15 minutes. Just stay in the center, in the area around hte central park.
Personally, I can recommend to stay at the MotoCamp Hostel. I like it because it is not a backpacker party hostel. The owners and the staff are amazing and it is a chill place. Everybody knows everyone. It is well known along people who are riding motorbikes, as you can park your bike inside the hostel at night.
The MotoCamp rent out motorbikes, scooters and quads. They offer great and adventurous motorbike tours around Antigua, Lake Atitlan or even further away in Guatemala.
The MotoCamp offers dorm rooms, private rooms, hot showers and a kitchen where you can cook your own meal. Additionally, they have a small bar where you can chill in the evening or sometimes as well until late at night 😉 The location is one of the best for me as it is located directly at the Parque de la Unión.
I didn’t stay at Hostal Vagamundo, but I went there to the hostel bar (with live music) for some drinks as my friend stayed there. The dorms looked nice and as far as I know it is one of the cheapest places you can stay.
If you want to stay at one of the common party hostels, then I suggest staying at the Bigfoot or Selina hostel.
Transportation in Antigua
In Antigua you can walk easily around in the whole city, as it is not that big and you see more of the beautiful city. In case you are too lazy or carrying heavy things with you there are always chicken buses or flag down a TukTuk.
For detailed information about transportation, check out my Transportation in Guatemala – How to get to Antigua Guatemala and Lake Atitlan post.
Best time to visit Antigua
Officially, the best time to visit Guatemala and Antigua is between November until April as it is not rainy season. Antigua is 1500 meters above sea level, therefore you can expect always cooler weather than at the east or west coast at the beach or as in Flores.
Personally, I prefer the weather after April, when it is getting hotter. As it can get very cold in the evening and night in January.
- Curious about Guatemala? My post about the Top things to do in Guatemala – Ultimate Itinerary will give you some useful advice.