Antigua is the most visited city in Guatemala and one of the best-preserved colonial towns in Central America. Better still, there are lots of volcanoes nearby, making Antigua a must on your Guatemala itinerary. On this basis, here are the best things to do in Antigua, Guatemala.
Welcome to Antigua: Guatemala’s Most Beautiful City
Antigua Guatemala (also known as “La Antigua” or simply “Antigua”) was founded in 1524 in the foothills of Volcan Agua. The region is highly earthquake-prone and home to several volcanoes.
As such, Antigua suffered several destructions throughout its history, but some of its 16th-century houses and churches still stand.
Today, Antigua is home to the most well-preserved colonial architecture in Guatemala and one of the country’s primary tourist attractions.
Located around 30 km (18.6 miles) from Guatemala City, Antigua is a popular base for all sorts of travelers thanks to its fascinating architecture, stunning surroundings, high safety levels, and hip bar scene.
One of the most beautiful cities in Central America, here are the best things to do in Antigua, Guatemala.
The Top Attractions and Things to do in Antigua, Guatemala
You’ll find most of the best things to do in Antigua Guatemala in the city’s historic core. As such, you can easily explore the city on foot.
Discover the City’s Fabulous Old Town
Most of Antigua fell victim to a 1773 earthquake, but many 16th-century structures are still visible in the city’s old town.
Around Plaza Mayor, you’ll find stunning colonial houses, all laid-out in grid style. In this regard, the Town Hall and the picturesque Santa Catalina Arch are excellent examples of Spanish architecture in Antigua.
Get lost in Antigua’s side streets and go on a walking tour (free walking tours are available online). In this context, wandering around the city’s alleyways is one of the top things to do in Antigua, Guatemala.
Admire the City’s Colonial Churches and Ruins
Antigua has some of the most impressive churches in Guatemala, including the 18th-century yellow Iglesia de la Merced and Antigua Cathedral.
Aside from that, the historic Casa Santo Domingo, a former convent, is nowadays a hotel with an interesting museum. The Capuchinas Convent is another attraction where you walk through the ruins of what once was colonial Antigua.
Eat at the Caoba Farms
If you’re looking for organic food, the Caoba Farms are among the top places to visit in Antigua.
Located just a short walk outside of the city’s colonial grid, Caoba offers visitors a glimpse into sustainable farming and also serves delicious local meals.
Shop at the City’s Markets
Antigua’s central market is another structure that didn’t survive one of the region’s frequent trembles. As such, the new building dates from the 80s, but it preserved its authenticity and charm.
At Mercado Central, you’ll find everything from handicrafts to textiles and leather goods. If you’re looking for some typical Guatemalan products, the Central Market is undoubtedly one of the top Antigua Guatemala attractions.
Get Views of the City the at the Cerro de la Cruz Viewpoint
Antigua sits at the foothills of the breathtaking Agua Volcano, and the Mirador Cerro de la Cruz offers some of the best views of the volcano.
The hike is steep but short, and the views are best in the early mornings or late afternoons.
Visit the City’s Best Museums
Antigua has several worthwhile museums, including the Colonial Museum inside Casa Santo Domingo.
If you’re a chocolate lover, don’t miss the city’s Chocolate Museum. And finally, the Museo de Arte Colonial displays an impressive collection of Latin American art inside a former colonial palace.
Head to a Rooftop Bar
Enjoying some drinks in one of the city’s numerous rooftops bars is one of the coolest things to do in Antigua, Guatemala.
In this context, Rooftop Antigua, Café Sky, and Antigua Brewing Company are the hotspots.
Climb a Volcano: the Best Day Trips From Antigua Guatemala
There are numerous volcanoes in the city’s vicinity, and climbing one of them is one of the best things to do in Antigua, Guatemala.
First, Volcan Pacaya is reachable on a day trip, and the trek is suitable if you’re not an avid hiker.
Secondly, Volcan Acatenango is the daddy of all volcanoes in Guatemala. On a two-day hike, you can get breathtaking views of the nearby Volcan de Fuego erupting. Better still, you’ll see one of the most picturesque sunrises in the world. The trek isn’t for the fainthearted, but the views and feeling at the top are undoubtedly worth the struggle.
- Read my story and guide on Climbing Volcan Acatenango
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Where to Stay in Antigua, Guatemala
Lots of former colonial mansions in the center are now hotels, and these are the best places to stay in Antigua. Find a beautifully restored colonial hotel a few blocks from Plaza Mayor, and you’re good to go.
Things to do in Antigua, Guatemala: Know Before You Go
- How to get to Antigua Guatemala: Only 30 km (18.6 miles) separate Antigua and Guatemala City, but the journey sometimes takes 1.5 to 2 hours as a result of traffic. There are many local buses, but the easiest option is a shuttle service. In this context, Atitrans is a recommendable company with safe and comfortable shuttle vans. Many travelers arrive at Guatemala City La Aurora Airport and immediately take a shuttle to Antigua.
- The best time to visit Antigua: The rainy season runs from mid-June to mid-November. The rain usually comes in short afternoon bursts, but there is also plenty of sunshine. The dry season (also the high tourism season) runs from November to May.
- Safety in Antigua Guatemala: Antigua is generally a safe place and much safer than Guatemala City. Nevertheless, it is still Central America. Don’t flash around your valuables too much, and always stay alert. Finally, be aware of ATM rigging scams. Avoid all the ATMs near Plaza Mayor as many travelers reported credit card fraud here. Better go into a bank.