World Heritage Site
One hour from Guatemala City is its Colonial City, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO for its well-preserved architecture. It is a small and charming town that has become one of the most visited destinations in the country, it is surrounded by 3 volcanoes, one of them active and mostly at night you can appreciate its movements and lights.
There are many charms that the city of Antigua has, the best to know, live and feel them is to walk through its cobblestone streets, leaving you surprised by its monuments as well as by the everyday images that its inhabitants give us. In Antigua there is color, the houses are painted in bright colors. Some buildings are much better preserved than others, and there should not be a house that has more than two floors. The color is also in the clothes of the indigenous women, who dress in their long skirts, embroidered shirts and colorful fabrics. And the color is in the craft markets and products that are offered throughout the town: clothes, hats, dolls, carpets, pillows, bedspreads, necklaces, bracelets, wallets, masks, instruments, paintings, wallets.
Traveling to Antigua and not buying a souvenir from the city is almost impossible. Its streets are full of craft shops. You can find from simple places that have bags, tablecloths or other products hand knitted by the family, to elegant shops where they sell jade jewelry or leather bags with applications of Mayan fabrics. However, one of the best and most attractive places to go shopping is the Craft Market next to the Church of Carmen, it has a covered area open every day. On weekends, in addition, street stalls are added. You can haggle and compare prices before deciding what to buy among the hundreds of Guatemalan handicraft products displayed there. To the insistent call of “pass forward, without commitment”, the famous sellers try to put some of them
To eat, the city of Antigua Guatemala has many options of all kinds, styles and budgets. You can find true gastronomic luxuries, with a very careful decoration and a refined menu, or cheaper places where for less quetzales you will leave quite satisfied, or the traditional street food in the Plaza de la Merced, the Union Park or the interior of the market where you can enjoy delicious typical dishes such as tacos, tamales, etc … There is also a good offer to stand alone to drink something on a lovely terrace overlooking the volcanoes, where time stops next to a coffee or your favorite drink, a good option that I recommend either to eat or just to spend time in the terrace, is Posada de Don Rodrigo, a very traditional place of authentic “chapina food” highly recommended!
The Central Park is undoubtedly one of the busiest and most entertaining places in the city. Surrounded by beautiful buildings from the colonial era with large portals, it is the heart of the city and a good option to take shelter from the heat in the shade of its large trees and alongside its fountains. But also at the end of the street of the Arch, the emblem of the city, another widely visited square is opened, in which the figure of the Church of Our Lady of Mercy stands out, it is undoubtedly one of the meeting places for the population of Antigua. When the sun goes down, numerous food stalls are placed around their benches to the delight of all.
Located in the Plaza de la Unión, known as the Union tank, it can give you some of the most authentic images of the city. Of colonial origin and neoclassical style, the public laundry continues to fulfill today a social function, since it is not used only as a place to wash clothes but also as a meeting and conversation point for its inhabitants.
There are two sites that you cannot miss, first the Capuchin Convent, one of the most visited and the few that survived the continuous earthquakes that the city has had. You can visit their patios and the underground passages in addition to the cells located in a circular way, it is worth walking around. Another place you cannot miss is the Convent of Santo Domingo, which was almost completely destroyed by the Santa Marta earthquakes, but nowadays part of its ruins has become one of the most luxurious hotels in Antigua: Hotel Casa Santo Domingo. The entrance is free and you can visit part of its facilities, including its beautiful gardens and ruins.
After a nice walk through the streets of Antigua, you can climb a not very steep slope surrounded by forest, reaching Cerro de la Cruz, it is a very visited place since, from its viewpoint, you get the best views over the city and of the Water Volcano in the background. The place is full of locals and of course tourists. Several handicraft stalls and some other police to make you feel calm.
Antigua can be visited at any time of the year, in the summer you can find rain in the evenings, but the weather is always pleasant. But if you want to live an authentic Guatemalan tradition, I recommend you go at Easter: the streets are covered with decorations made with flowers and sawdust of different colors. The drawings represent saints or are only ornamental, such as flowers or crosses. Two days before the procession, they begin to draw, and the streets are closed to all types of traffic. All the neighbors participate in the making of the carpet. On the day of the procession the saint goes through all the decorated streets, and in seconds, the work of several days is trodden and reduced to nothing.
When you go to Guatemala, do not forget to visit Antigua, you can stay for the night or just spend the day if you decide to stay in the city, I assure you that you will not regret it.