Antigua Guatemala

Antigua Guatemala: The Top 10 Attractions

If you’re traveling to Guatemala and need a quick reference guide to the top sights in Antigua – then this article is for you.

Undoubtedly, one of the most beautiful and historic cities in Guatemala, as well as in Central America, Antigua is a true gem.  Its original name was Santiago de los Caballeros de Guatemala, before it was renamed to Antigua, which can be literally translated as “Ancient”.  Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, this cobbled-stone city is also very walkable and is easily accessible from Guatemala City on a short 45-minutes – 1 hour ride.

How to get to Antigua:

You can book a shuttle online in advance, or you can book one upon arrival to Guatemala City (where the country’s main airport is located).  If you are arriving from other places, you can always find a local bus going to Antigua, since Guatemala is well connected by roads, and has a good transportation network.

1. Arco de Santa Catalina (Santa Catalina Arch)

If there is one sight in Antigua which makes it instantly recognizable – it is this beautiful, 17th century arch named after Santa Catalina.  Its original purpose was to connect a convent to a school across, so that the nuns living in the convent would not have to go outside its borders.

Located right in the heart of Antigua, this famous landmark is especially gorgeous at night, once it is lit up and glowing opposite the dark sky.

  • Location: 5a Avenida Norte
  • Hours: open 24/7
  • Admission: free

2. Las Capuchinas (Church and Convent of Las Capuchinas)

Built in 1736, this gorgeous, historic sight was founded and used by nuns as a place of shelter and worship.  The eighteen tiny cells of the convent were used as the living quarters, each included a window and a latrine, and were arranged in a circle.  Right next to the convent there was a cathedral, and a beautiful garden.  All that remains of the convent now are the captivating ruins, the garden and the cathedral, which are all accessible to visitors for a small fee.

  • Location: between 2a Avenida Norte and 2a Calle
  • Hours: 10am-4pm
  • Admission: Q.40

3. Cerro de la Cruz (Hill of the Cross)

For the best panoramic views of Antigua – head over to this sight, which is easily accessible by foot.  However, due to security reasons, one can also take a tuk-tuk to the top and down the mountain for a small fare.  The views from the top are simply breathtaking, and it is a favorite, romantic spot for couples, as well as locals alike.  Unfortunately, it closes early (at 6pm) and the security guards will not usually let one watch the sunset from there.

  • Location: entrance to the trail is at 1a Avenida Norte
  • Hours: 9am-6pm
  • Admission: free

4. Iglesia de San Francisco El Grande (San Francisco Church)

San Francisco Church is one of the most important religious constructions in Guatemala.  This stunning church has suffered significant damage during one of the major earthquakes in Antigua, in 1500s, right after it was built.  Yet, it remains the center of local pilgrimage, as well as a weekly mass attendance to this day.

Behind the main entrance, on the right side, one can visit beautiful ruins attached to the church, as well as a small museum dedicated to Peter of Saint Joseph Betancur, who was an important missionary figure in Guatemala.

  • Location: between Calle de los Pasos and 9 Calle Oriente
  • Hours: 8:30am-5:30pm
  • Admission: ruins and the museum fee – Q.7

Iglesia de San Francisco El Grande Antigua Guatemala

5. La Plaza Mayor (Main Plaza, aka Central Park)

Every old and historic city was always built around a church and a main square, and Antigua is no exception.  La Plaza Mayor is literally translated as the Main Square, which it is for Antigua.  And since it is the main plaza of the town, this is where numerous fiestas, celebrations, as well as bullfights once took place.  It is a great place to sit down and relax in a shade for a few moments and to enjoy watching the local scene.

  • Location: between 4a and 5a Calle and 4t and 5a Avenida
  • Hours: open 24/7
  • Admission: free

6. Catedral de la Antigua (Cathedral of Antigua)

Conveniently located right next to the Main Plaza, the main cathedral of Antigua is simply stunning and it’s not to be missed (though it is somewhat hard to).  It was added to the World Heritage Sites list in 1979.  Right behind it, there are fascinating ruins of what remains of this fabulous Catholic church after several major earthquakes almost destroyed it completely.  One can access the ruins for a small fee during its opening hours.

  • Location: 5a Calle Oriente
  • Hours: 9am-4pm
  • Admission: free; ruins behind the cathedral – Q.8

Catedral de la Antigua Guatemala

7. Museo de Arte Colonial (Museum of Colonial Art)

Located just half a block from the main plaza, this interesting museum contains a number of religious artifacts, as well as numerous sculptures, paintings and other beautiful artwork from the colonial era.  However, the building itself is also worth a visit, since it used to house an important university (University of San Carlos de Guatemala) and its architectual beauty is equally impressive and inspiring.

  • Location: 5 Calle Oriente No. 5
  • Hours: Tuesday – Sunday: 9am-4pm; closed on Mondays
  • Admission: Q.25

8. Iglesia de la Merced (Merced Church)

This gorgeous Baroque Church is located next to a beautiful, small and lively park by the same name Parque La Merced (Merced park), which is bursting with activity at any hour of the day.  It was built in the late 1700s and it is without doubt one of the most beautiful churches in Antigua.  As with the other churches in town, there are fascinating ruins located right behind the cathedral, in addition to a beautiful fountain, which is the largest in Central America, that can all be explored for a small fee.

  • Location: 6a Avenida Norte and 1a Calle Poniente
  • Hours: 9am-6pm
  • Admission: free; ruins behind the cathedral – Q.15

Iglesia de la Merced Antigua Guatemala9. Museo de Armas de Santiago (Museum of Arms)

Located inside the Palacio de los Capitanes on the Main Plaza, this small and charming museum contains some interesting artwork from the colonial era.  It includes a nice collection of weapons, tools, portraits, furniture, pottery and some other religious artwork.  Visit this museum for a sneak peak back in history, to get a better insight into the city life of that time.  

  • Location: 4a Calle Poniente bajos del Ayuntamiento
  • Hours: 9am-4pm
  • Admission: Q.30

Museo de Santiago (Palacio de los Capitanes) Antigua Guatemala10. El Tanque la Unión

This gorgeous and charming park, neatly tucked in next to the beautiful Convento Santa Clara, and only a few blocks from the Main Plaza, is one of the most rewarding sights in Antigua.  It was officially inaugurated in 1853 as not only an open, public square but also as a collective laundry site.  While laundry is no longer done here, the wide and beautiful “fountain” (pilas) remains to this day, to the shared delight of the locals and visitors.

  • Location: between 2a and 3an Avenida Sur, and 6a Calle Oriente
  • Hours: open 24/7
  • Admission: free

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Antigua Guatemala Top Sights To See

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