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Antigua Travel Guide: What to do in Antigua Guatemala, Prettiest Colonial City in Central America

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Antigua Guatemala is a place I visit often, so I finally decided to put together an Antigua travel guide. This beautiful and lovely little city is one of my favorites in Central America, it’s full of gorgeous historic homes and churches, colorful walls, leafy greens, incredible textiles, and mountains + volcanoes on all sides. So here is a list of what to do in Antigua, where to eat + drink, as well as some of my best recommendations about where to stay. I update this guide after every new visit, so I hope to keep it current and keep adding new great spots.

Find Antigua Airbnbs and Hotels:

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Walk the Beautiful Centro + Check Out the Pretty Churches & Historic Sites

My number one suggestion for what to do in Antigua is simply wander around the beautiful centro and take in the architecture, colors and sites.

Antigua used to be the capital of Guatemala, but was largely destroyed by an earthquake in the 1700s. It’s now a UNESCO world heritage site and the important monuments and buildings have been beautifully preserved.

what to do in antigua
Tanque La Union

Wander aimlessly, zig zag the streets, or do a loop around the centro. Try to pass by Iglesia La Merced, El Arco de Santa Catalina, El Carmen, Tanque la Union, Iglesia San Pedro Apóstol, Santuario San Francisco, Antiguo Colegio de la Compania de Jesus, and Iglesia San Agustin.

Antiguo Colegio de la Compania de Jesus antigua travel guide
Antiguo Colegio de la Compania de Jesus

Take some time to walk around Parque Central and the Templo de San Jose Catedral. Sit in the park for awhile and people watch, there is always lots of action here.

parque central in antigua guatemala
what to do in antigua visit the plaza central

One of the most special things about Antigua travel is just soaking in the beauty and magic that this city emanates.

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Visit 2 Beautiful Convents: What to Do in Antigua, Guatemala

In the 1700s, there were 18 convents in Antigua. There are still a few that you can visit, and the following two are my favorites. These ex-convents are both absolutely worth a spot on your what to do in Antigua list. I revisit them almost every trip.

The first is Convento Capuchinas. This ex-convent in the northeast side of the centro was finished being built in 1736. It’s a beautiful site with interesting architecture, grand archways, courtyards, greenery and pretty flowers.

courtyard at convento capuchinas

The second is Convento Santa Clara. This site is quite large, full of indoor and outdoor rooms and courtyards to explore. I’ve always seen people relaxing here on the grass and thought that was such a great idea. So you might consider giving yourself some time to sit and hang out for awhile.

If you can time either or both of these visits with golden hour, the light is just incredible in these historic structures. If you love architecture or photography, this is a must do during your Antigua travel.

Climb Cerro de la Cruz for a Beautiful Viewpoint

cerro de la cruz viewpoint over antigua

This little mini hike brings you up to the best view point over Antigua, Guatemala. It’s located on the north side of the centro. You climb up some stairs and end up on a green hill with a large cross that has a perfect view of the city below and Volcan de Agua behind.

I have heard a few safety warnings before about the walk up the hill, but have never encountered anything unsafe during my two walks up and down. Still, it would be a good idea to minimize valuables you are carrying with you, be aware of your surroundings, and walk up in a pair or group. I also don’t think it would be a good idea to walk down after dark.

Visit the Local Market: What to Do in Antigua, Guatemala

Visiting and shopping at traditional markets is always one of my favorite activities when I travel. If you want to learn about local culture, the main market should be on your what to do in Antigua list.

The main market, located on 4a Poniente is full of fresh fruits, veggies, food items, some artisan goods, and more. If you can time your visit with the main market days on Monday, Thursday or Saturday, you will see an even more bustling market with villagers from outside the city coming to sell additional items. Behind the market is the bus station, full of brightly colored chicken buses, and people rushing to their destination.

Shop for Traditional or Modern Textiles

One of the most amazing things about Antigua travel, and Guatemala in general, are the gorgeous traditional textiles that you can find.

Even though I love searching the largest market in the country and all of Central America (Chichicastenango near Lake Atitlan), I still consistently find special and unique things in Antigua.

My favorite big market is Nim Pot. This big, warehouse space is filled with every kind of artisan product – huipils, textiles, ceramics, glass, masks, and much more. The most fun part (to me) is to dig in their used bins full of vintage huipiles and textiles. I have found some really great things here and at amazing prices.

A few of my other favorite stores are Luna Zorro, Nativo, Uxibal, Colibri, Algodones Mayas, Stela 9, Wakami, and Casa de los Gigantes. I highly recommend checking out Luna Zorro’s Antigua guide – she is the textile expert (several of the shops I mentioned were her recommendations) and also has lots of great suggestions for where to eat, drink, etc.. Speaking of, Luna Zorro has some of my favorite textiles and a gorgeous workshop and showroom just outside the centro, you can visit her showroom on the beautiful coffee farm of Finca La Azotea just a 30 minute walk or a 15 minute tuk-tuk ride outside the centro.

Watch Sunset from a Rooftop: What to Do in Antigua, Guatemala

The view from above is beautiful in Antigua, so be sure to plan for at least one rooftop sunset on your what to do in Antigua list.

A couple places with the best rooftop view – Cafe Sky, and Antigua Brewing Company.

Other Ideas: Take a Coffee Tour, Hike Pacaya Volcano

I haven’t done either of these tours, but have heard great things about them from multiple people.

You can visit some of the coffee farms near Antigua Guatemala that make the famous and delicious Guatemalan coffee. I’ve heard good things about De La Gente Coffee Tours and Finca La Azotea.

If you want to get moving and are looking for adventure, you can climb Pacaya Volcano and see lava flowing up close.

You can arrange either of these tours with any agency in the city or with your hotel/hostel.

Where to Eat + Drink in Antigua Guatemala: Antigua Travel Guide

Here are a few favorite restaurants and bars that I would definitely recommend during your Antigua travel.

Restaurants: Antigua Travel Guide

Y La Pina Tambien – super cute breakfast or lunch spot with tasty food.

Caoba Farms – delicious farm to table food, just outside of the centro. You can also walk around their beautiful farm.

Rincon Tipico – this is my favorite place to have typical Guatemalan food. This casual spot is always filled with a mix of locals and tourists. The standouts here are the pipian and the pollo asado.

antigua travel guide where to eat

Kombu – don’t make assumptions about ramen in Central America. This ramen shop is delicious.

Cactus Grill – good Mexican food and fun atmosphere.

Cafe Stela – this is a great cafe to sit, relax, and enjoy the gorgeous leafy interior and colorful murals. And the bonus is the food is fresh and delicious with items like avocado toast and shakshuka.

Por Que No? – divey restaurant bar with great food.

Saul L’Osteria – I haven’t tried the food here but the atmosphere is amazing and the drinks are great. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed a few coffees and beers in this lovely spot.

best restaurants in antigua guatemala

Romeo & Julieta – this Italian spot is run by Italians and the pasta is delicious. That is all.

Sobremesa – finally you must head to Sobremesa for artisanal ice cream. With rotating creative flavors like pineapple with chile or roasted strawberry with basil and black pepper, you won’t be sorry.

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Coffee: Antigua Travel Guide

Fat Cat Coffee – delicious coffee shop.

Raiz – great coffee and atmosphere.

Roots Juice Bar + Cafe – good juices and coffee.

Bars: Antigua Travel Guide

Cafe No Se – the best bar in town, plus mezcal and live music.

Cafe Sky – great view for happy hour.

Antigua Brewing Company – tasty craft beers and a great rooftop.

Where to Stay in Antigua: Antigua Travel Guide

Best Antigua Airbnb: Casa de Stela

Disclosure: this section is written in partnership with Casa de Stela. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Casa de Stela is a gorgeous set of Airbnbs in a colonial style home in a great part of the historic center. These Airbnbs are run by Stela 9, an ethical and stylish clothing line designed and made in Guatemala.

The shop is just in the front of this building, alongside a Cafe Stela, a beautiful and tasty cafe serving breakfast and lunch. One of my favorite things about staying at Casa de Stela is that breakfast at Cafe Stela is included in your stay. We had tasty and fresh dishes like avocado toast and coffee while sitting in the lush and lovely designed cafe.

antigua-guatemala-breakfast-at-cafe-stela

The master suite was super comfy and a beautiful choice. There are two levels, with a living room and huge bathroom on the first level, and a loft bedroom above. There is also a private terrace adjoining the bedroom with a volcano view. However, there are so many beautiful common spaces to hang out too, so you have so many options for enjoying the perfect Antigua weather.

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Everything in the suite was perfectly curated – there were gorgeous rugs, beautiful towels, and throw pillows. And the bed was super comfy.

As I mentioned, the common spaces are lush and leafy, with lots of pretty hammocks to swing in, tables to use your laptop, and chairs to lounge in. There is also a yoga room that is available to use during non-class times.

I loved my stay at Casa de Stela and think it’s a really great value in Antigua. (If you haven’t used Airbnb before, you can get up to $44 off your first bookings here.)

Best Antigua Hostel: The Yellow House/Casa Amarilla: Where to Stay in Antigua

On 3/4 of my Antigua travel visits, I’ve stayed in the same hostel. That’s not very normal for me, I usually like to try new places, but there is something about this hostel that is just so comfortable and convenient that I keep returning!

Yellow House is an excellent value, a great location right in the centro, and has a wonderful helpful staff.

There are dorm rooms and private rooms available. All rooms have shared bathrooms, but the staff does an amazing job keeping these shared bathrooms clean. I swear, every time I’ve walked into one, it smells and looks like it was just scrubbed down. There is plenty of hot water, and the facilities are good.

Another amazing thing about Yellow House is the daily free breakfast. It’s not some skimpy breakfast, but a full, healthy, tasty, fresh breakfast. There is fruit, eggs (often a made-to-order omelette station), pancakes, potatoes, tomatoes, beans, bread, etc.. There is also coffee and tea.

The common areas upstairs are also comfy and colorful, and there is a nice view over the city. The rooms are pretty simple, but still decorated nicely with local textiles and are really comfortable.

Other Options: Where to Stay in Antigua

A couple of other good Budget to Mid-Range options:

Maya Papaya

Barbara’s Boutique Hostel

Or for a beautiful hotel with a social mission: The Good Hotel.

Or Search for Other Airbnbs and Hotels in Antigua

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Antigua is a beautiful and convenient place to base yourself as you explore Guatemala. Spend a couple of days in this charming colonial city, soaking in the color, historic architecture, local markets, traditional artisan work, and surrounding nature.

Check out my other Guatemala posts, or if you are heading north or south, you can find lots of Mexico posts or Central America posts.

Pin it for Later! Antigua Travel Guide

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