Planning a trip to Guatemala and wondering if the capital city is worth visiting?
Guatemala City has been the capital of Guatemala since 1777 after ‘Santiago de los Caballeros de Guatemala’, now known as Antigua, was destroyed by an earthquake and deemed too risky to remain the country’s capital.
The new capital is not as picturesque as the old one but don’t cross if off your list just yet.
Guatemala’s main airport, ‘La Aurora’ is located very close to the city and is therefore where most people arrive when coming to Guatemala via air, yet the capital doesn’t seem to be visited by all the tourists who come.
I must admit that despite visiting Guatemala before, I only spent time in the city for the first time very recently. When travelling I tend to minimise my time in urban areas as much as possible, but I am glad to say that I have been pleasantly surprised by this city.
I’ll touch on the below topics in the hope you’ll find it helpful:
- Where to stay?
- Where/what to eat?
- What to do?
Where to stay?
If you decide to stay in the City, I would recommend staying in ‘Zona 1’ – the city centre; Zona 2 and Zona 4 are other options in case you don’t find in Zona 1. Airbnb is a great way to find affordable places from rooms in local homes to entire apartments. I like Airbnb because it offers the possibility to pick a place with a kitchen, which I find convenient, but if you are looking for a hotel there are plenty to pick from online.
What/Where to eat?
I’m not the best person to give restaurant recommendations since I tend to cook most of the time, but a Food section seems essential to any travel blog – so here is a little of what I can say about eating in the city.
If you like cooking and decide to rent a space with a kitchen you’re in luck because Guatemalan markets are full of fresh fruit and vegetables, spices and herbs and many exotic treasures. I recommend going to the Mercado Central in Zona 1. As per my former article: ‘Visit Guatemaya’ bring small change and bags to enhance your experience. You can also find fresh corn tortillas at every other street corner for 1Q for 4 tortillas.
If you want to eat out, you can find ‘comida tipica’ – traditional food, at the Mercado Central for between 20 and 50Q. The market closes at 4pm so make your way there for breakfast or lunch.
As mentioned in my former blog article, I recommend trying the street food and comedores – local restaurants, over chains of course. If you eat meat you can ask for the ‘Plato del dia’ which will often be meat with side dishes. For vegetarians eating out is a little harder but not impossible, just make sure that you say ‘sin carne’ when you order to avoid confusion.
I haven’t been but I hear ‘Diamante Tipico’ is one of the recommended restaurants in the city.
If you are looking for a chilled bar I’ve heard ‘La Rayuela’ is a good option.
The ‘Cafe esquina Jazz’ is a less authentic but comfortable pizza place from what I have been told by locals.
If you come and have any recommendations, I’d love to hear from you so I can include them here for future travelers 🙂
What to do?
Like most tourists I don’t like doing touristy things, But I must say I enjoyed visiting the ‘Mapa en relieve’, a large 3D map of Guatemala.
There is also the Palacio Nacional – the former presidential palace which can be visited from inside, but you may enjoy a more authentic experience by simply walking around the plaza in front, people watching and buying ‘street snacks’.
The Parque Cerrito del Carmen is a great park to visit if you want a free outdoor activity.
The Museo Popol Vuh is one of Central America’s most famous Maya art museums
The Museo Ixchel del Traje Indigena has textiles and clothing of the Mayan people
The Museo Nacional de Arqueologia y Etnologia is the National Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology
The Museo de Arte Moderno Carlos Merida is a Modern art museum
Please note that tourists pay more than locals for entry: 5Q for locals vs 50Q for tourists at the Mapa for example. I find this normal but I mention it so you are not surprised by this.
Like in most countries, urban areas tend to be more prone to petty crime. To avoid being an easy target avoid walking around with your phone in plain sight and keep your belongings close to you. If you decide to go out at night I would recommend going ‘home’ in an Uber or taxi.
In terms of ‘shopping’, I think the best traditional articles you can find will be in the rest of the country, but if you have a day in the city at the end of your stay and wish to buy gifts, the Mercado Central is a good place to roam.
Thank you for reading and please feel free to reach out to ask questions and/or to share your thoughts and experiences here.
Love and light to All,