With its colonial background, buildings dating back to the 1700’s, and Spanish classes offered everywhere, this little city is a popular stop in Guatemala. You can and will get caught up in its beauty. Antigua is the perfect city to take on solo. Although, just be wary at night. This is where common sense comes in, use it and you will be fine. The best way to explore every nook and cranny of this delightfully photogenic city is a walking tour. Hiring a guide can be ideal. Unfortunately, it may not be in some travellers budgets (certainly wasn’t in mine!) to do so. And, why get a guide when you can get your awesome self around this small, easy to navigate, little treasure of a place!? I found some pretty awesome little places. Plus, I think it’s always way more fun being the traveller and not the tourist! There are so many old buildings, historically significant churches and monuments that you will discover when you walk around.
Central Park is the best place for a bit of people watching. I got here early and I would recommend you to do the same. I grabbed a green tea from an extremely cheap gourmet cafe, just across from the park. It was heavenly! Green tea is my coffee, and I had been struggling without it in this strictly coffee drinking region. I sat for a little bit watching 3 workers painstakingly scrub the central fountain. The care they take in this city is remarkable. I got spoilt the day I did my explore of Antigua. I had some high school students come up to me and ask if they could practice their english on me. I love this stuff, so I was more than happy to help!
From Central Park you can get a pretty sweet 360 degree view of old historical buildings. My favourite was The Cathedral of San Jose. It’s gorgeous of a day but its beauty truly radiates of a night. I was lucky enough to be here over Easter and the festivals that were surrounding this church was an amazingly cultural experience.
The famous Catalina Arch. This was unbelievable to see. This is the arch you see on all the postcards (do people still use those?) and google images when you search Antigua, Guatemala. Dating back to the 17th Century, it was used for nuns to pass between buildings without going out on the street. The clock was added in the 1800’s. I loved the street The Arch was on. There are street vendors, chocolate shops and trinket shops. The Arch isn’t the only thing that is enticing here.
Behind the Santa Catalina Arch, is the very beautiful Iglesia La Merced Church. Again, dating back to the 17th century. It was built with ever luxurious finishings and built to stable enough to withstand the serious earthquakes Guatemala use to face years and years ago. Every weekend they hold a market around the church. You will find some of the best street food here. Guatemalans are known for their sweet teeth and love of fried food, so of course all the food is delicious. I walked around the small market 3 times before I finally chose what to eat. Prices ranging from $3 – $5.
There are a few well known markets in Antigua. I feel like some of the local markets here are seen one market, seen them all kinda thing. The two I went to were a craft market and a locals market. There is one directly across from Central Park, that you can’t miss. You’ll find everything you need here at fair prices. You can also barter with the stall owners. I found with most stall vendors through Guatemala, they offer you a fair price and if you barter to low they won’t sell you anything. A little Spanish also goes a long way. The local one I went to is super busy and very popular among locals, tourists and expats.
There are so many more buildings and sites to see around Antigua. Such as the Tanque de la Union, San Francisco Church, and even the San Pedro Hospital is easy an the eye. I am the worst person for directions! Seriously, I sometimes don’t know how I have gotten this far in my travels! Luckily, Antigua was one of the easiest places I have ever been able to navigate myself around. All you have to do is head out if your hotel and hit the pavement. You will get your bearings quite quickly. Have fun!