Have you heard of Antigua yet? I hadn’t until a couple years ago. Antigua Guatemala means “old Guatemala” in Spanish. Spanish conquistadors founded present-day Antigua in 1543, making it one of the oldest Spanish colonial cities. They built the city in a square pattern, so it is very neatly laid out. Three large volcanos surround Antigua, and every angle of the city is a crazy beautiful view. It is also in a very earthquake-prone location, so many of the beautiful buildings have become beautiful ruins from earthquakes over the centuries.
In recent years, Antigua is becoming more and more touristic. Word is getting out about this volcano-studded colonial gem, which is only an hour’s drive from Guatemala City (the capital) and 2.5 hours from gorgeous Lake Atitlan. But this post is not about those places. This post is about Antigua. Keep reading for all the must-see tourist attractions in Antigua Guatemala.
1. ARCO DE SANTA CATALINA
The Arc of Santa Catalina is definitely the postcard picture of Antigua Guatemala. And no wonder why, with gorgeous Volcan de Agua towering through clouds in the background.
2. IGLESIA DE SAN FRANCISCO EL GRANDE
This was probably my favorite site in the city. The Church of San Francisco was badly damaged in earthquakes, making for some of the most picturesque ruins you ever did see.
3. IGLESIA DE LA MERCED
La Merced Church is bright as can be in mellow yellow. You’ll see yellow buildings are a common theme in Antigua Guatemala.
4. PARQUE CENTRAL
Plaza Central Park is called the heart of the city. It is a popular gathering spot for both locals and tourists alike. There is a fountain in the middle of the park, and all four sides of this plaza have photogenic buildings.
5. PALACIO DE LOS CAPITANES GENERALES
The Palace of the General Captains building lines an entire block of Parque Central, so don’t worry about missing it.
6. TEMPLO DE SAN JOSE CATEDRAL
The Antigua Guatemala Cathedral is adjacent to the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales. Ain’t it purty?
7. CONVENTO DE LAS CAPUCHINAS
Apparently the nuns in this Convent of the Capuchin lived under very strict rules of penance.
8. CATEDRAL DE SAN JOSE
If the San Francisco Church is my favorite site, then the San Jose Church is my second favorite. It is also in ruins from earthquakes.
9. TANQUE DE LA UNION
The Tank of the Union (whatever that means?) is another park in town. Though smaller than Parque Central, it is picturesque nevertheless, and quieter, too.
10. SAN PEDRO HOSPITAL
Yep, there’s a hospital on my list. San Pedro Hospital is another beautiful yellow building, and it is at the end of the Tanque de la Union.
11. IGLESIA DEL CARMEN
The Church of Carmen survived earlier earthquakes, but was almost destroyed by later ones. This was probably the first site I saw in my time in Antigua. I was on the way back home from dinner, and stopped in my tracks at the view pictured above.
12. CHOCO MUSEO
Who doesn’t like chocolate? Guatemala is known for it, and the ChocoMuseo is a cute and trendy place to sample some. I even had my first chocolate tea there. Maybe stop by and pick up some souvenirs for friends back home. Otherwise, just take a peek inside to enjoy the cute ambiance.
13. THE CITY STREETS
Seriously, Antigua is gorgeous from ALL angles. The only way to see all of its best sides is to leave some time to wander. Some of the most picturesque sights from my trip were not even attractions at all.
DAY TRIPS FROM ANTIGUA GUATEMALA
- Lake Atitlan (see my photo journal of my own day trip here)
- Hike Pacaya Volcano or Acatenango Volcano
- Caoba Farms
SO WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Did my list convince you to visit Antigua Guatemala? Have you already been? Let me know in the comments below!