Antigua, Guatemala, a quaint city amidst three majestic volcanoes, is the perfect destination for a traveler looking for scenic hikes, bustling markets, and peaceful walks. Antigua is easily accessible, just a two hour shuttle ride from La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City. Covering an area of less than 5 sq miles (12.9 sq km), this colonial city can be explored easily by foot. The quiet streets are perfect for those who enjoy wandering. With a population of less than fifty thousand people, the locals are friendly and inviting. Whether your visit is brief, a home base for a volcano hike, or extended, an opportunity for deeper exploration, here are several places to visit in the historic city of Antigua.
Parque Central (Plaza Mayor): historic plaza
The center of Antigua, Parque Central, also known at Plaza Mayor, is the perfect spot for a stroll. The plaza has been the center of the city since it was first built in the 1500’s, when important government buildings and churches first began to concentrate on the surrounding streets. To this day the plaza remains a central location for not only government buildings, but also for restaurants, cafes, and banks, which have popped up over the years. There is a beautiful fountain, plenty of trees and benches where travelers can stop and read a book or just observe. A wide variety of performers and vendors set up in the park offering entertainment for those passing through. Adjacent to the park sits the Arco de Santa Catalina, one of the most distinguishable architectural landmarks in Antigua, originally serving as a passageway for nuns from a convent to a school. The park is a perfect spot to go to if you are looking to re-orient while exploring and a great starting point for finding volcano tours, transportation to other cities and anything else you are looking to do in the city.
ChocoMuseo: history, tasting, and teaching
If you are a chocolate lover, visit the ChocoMuseo Antigua, just one and a half blocks from the Parque Central. The museum walks through the history of the cacao bean and its significance in Central American culture. The cacao bean, now a main ingredient in chocolate recipes around the world, played a versatile role in ancient Mayan and Aztec civilizations, serving as both a means of currency in trade and as a key ingredient in a spicy ceremonial beverage.
At the ChocoMuseo, not only can you learn all about the history of this sacred little bean, but you can also see how the bean is made into chocolate. The museum offers plenty of samples of a wide variety of cacao-inspired treats, such as chocolate covered fruits, cacao based toothpaste and cacao butter hand cream! And of course, there are plenty of opportunities to take some chocolate home at the giftshop. The museum also hosts trips to the cacao plantations where the beans are grown and workshops where you can learn how to make your own chocolate or truffles. A trip to this museum is the perfect combination of educational and delicious, leaving your taste buds watering.
Café Sky: drinks and local food with a breathtaking view
If you are looking to sit back and relax, stop into Café Sky, a rooftop bar and restaurant located at the intersection of 6a Calle Oriente and 1a Avenida Nte. This café, on the top of one of the tallest rooftops, has a breathtaking view of the quaint little city of Antigua. The rooftop has a direct view of la Iglesia de San Francisco El Grande, a church built during the sixteenth century when Franciscan missionaries arrived in Guatemala. Further in the background stand the three main volcanoes that surround Antigua: Volcán de Agua, Acatenango and the still active Volcán de Fuego. Watching the sunset on top of this rooftop is a divine experience full of serene colors and a peaceful aura. The view is not the only perk of this awesome café. Café Sky offers traditional Guatemalan food like rice and beans. At Café Sky you can enjoy delicious food with an unforgettable view.
Amanecer: healthy food in a positive, bright setting
If you are looking for health-conscious food, Amanecer is the perfect spot for you. The space is brightly decorated, full with positive energy and employed with smiling happy people. The menu offers sandwiches, wraps, fresh squeezed juices and coffee. If you are ordering a juice, you can choose from one of the crafted blends on the Amanecer menu, or you can choose to make your own. The juices are made with fresh produce and there is a large selection of fruits, veggies and superfoods, like moringa and hemp seeds. Not only are the juices packed with all the nutrients and vitamins you need, but the portions are also large, served in a large canter, making it easy to share. Open 7 AM-6:30 PM Mon-Fri and 8 AM-6:30 PM Sat-Sun, this uplifting juice bar, located on 6a Avenida Sur is the perfect spot to energize your body prior to your volcano hike, or revitalize your soul when you return.
Street market: food, clothes, souvenirs & surprises
If you are looking for a true Guatemalan experience, visit the street market of Antigua. Any hotel or hostel will be able to guide you to this large six city block market. With indoor and outdoor vendors, the market has isles and isles of goods. Papaya, mangoes, pineapples and more, fresh fruit is abundant in this market! You can also buy a large variety of nuts, seeds and traditional spices here. If you are looking for souvenirs, the market has clothes, purses and little trinkets that are perfect gifts for your family and friends. The market is also stocked with random products, like electronics, sunglasses, and light bulbs. If you are looking for something, there is a good chance you can find it here. You may even find unexpected gems. Even if you are not planning on buying anything, a trip to the market can be a fun experience to sit back, people watch and soak up the experience.
Note: Be sure to keep your valuables secure while in the market and be aware of your surroundings. Like any crowded place, if you are not paying attention to your surroundings you can be an easy target for pickpocketing. Leave anything important, like your passport, at a secure place in your hotel or hostel.
Inquire with your hotel/hostel for market hours as they are subject to change.
Antigua’s charm offers a relaxing atmosphere for all travelers
Walking through the streets of Antigua, you will stumble upon streets with solitude, bustling markets and breathtaking views. This colonial city is full of culture, delicious fresh food and beautiful scenery. Whether you are a chocolate lover, a fresh fruit smoothie addict or a volcano enthusiast, Antigua has activities that interest a variety of travelers. The mix of powerful nature and colonial architecture will remind visitors to sit back, take a deep breath and soak in the treasures that life has to offer.
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