Things to do in Antigua

Things to do in  Antigua

Step through the yellow arch

Guatemala City may be the country's capital, but the old capital of Antigua still steals the show. Sitting in a valley surrounded by volcanoes, Antigua was once the prize of the Spanish Empire, filled with cathedrals, monasteries, and palaces. These days, the city is a vibrant mosaic of cobbled streets and rich traditions—and the best things to do in Antigua tend to combine faded grandeur with a thriving social scene. After photographing the famous, sunshine-yellow Santa Catalina Arch, be sure to check out the town’s niche museums, intricate churches, and adjacent natural wonders.

Top 15 attractions in Antigua

Acatenango

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The 13,045-foot (3,976-meter Acatenango volcano towers over the colonial city of Antigua. While many travelers opt for the more-gentle ascent of the Pacaya Volcano, this twin-peaked volcano offers incredible views of its nearest volcanic neighbor, Fuego, which regularly spits out plumes of gas, ash, and hot lava. More

Pacaya Volcano

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This 8,373-foot (2,552-meter) smoking peak is one of Guatemala’s most accessible active volcanoes. Its upper reaches feature lava formations formed by recent flows, as well as vents that puff up steaming hot air, while its summit affords spectacular views of nearby volcanoes including Agua, Acatenango, and Fuego.More

Cerro de la Cruz (Hill of the Cross)

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Cerro de la Cruz is a lush hill on the northern edge of Antigua marked by a massive stone cross. From a scenic overlook, enjoy expansive views of the city’s grid of pretty terracotta rooftops laid out at the base of the magnificent Volcán de Agua.More

Santa Catalina Arch (Arco de Santa Catalina)

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One of Antigua’s most photographed structures, the saffron-coloredxa0 Santa Catalina Arch was built in 1694 to connect two convents to a school outside their confines, to protect them from entering the outside world on their way to teach there. Safe from breaking their vow of seclusion, they passed through a hidden passageway inside the arch.More

La Merced Church (Iglesia de la Merced)

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Canary yellow with white trim, the baroque La Merced Church (Iglesia de la Merced) is one of Antigua’s few colonial churches to survive earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Inside its thick walls are notable artworks such as a sculpture of Jesus carrying a golden cross, which is paraded through the streets on Palm Sunday and Good Friday.More

Antigua Central Park (Parque Central)

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Antigua Central Park (Parque Central) is considered one of the most beautiful parks in Guatemala. It’s the main outdoor area in town and where people go to sit, stroll, or meet up for an afternoon of relaxation and nice weather. From Central Park you have a superb view of the Agua Volcano, which towers over Antigua.More

Tikal National Park (Parque Nacional Tikal)

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Once a powerful seat of the Mayan empire, the Tikal ruins are now the most famous archeological site in Guatemala and one of the most-visited sets of Mayan ruins in all of Latin America. The UNESCO World Heritage Site, consisting of temples, plazas, and pyramids, was first settled around 700 BC, and modern visitors still get swept away by their beauty and powerful aura.More

Jade Factory and Museum (Jade Maya)

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This small museum is devoted to jade, the precious green gemstone that has been mined and revered in Mesoamerica since ancient times. Exhibits provide information on ancient mining of the mineral and include pre-Hispanic jade pieces. It also encompasses a workshop where jade jewelry and decorative objects are created and sold.More

ChocoMuseo Antigua

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The Maya were among the earliest civilizations to cultivate cacao for culinary use. At this chocolate-focused museum and shop in Antigua, exhibits detail Guatemala’s long-standing legacy of cacao cultivation as well as documenting chocolate-making processes, such as harvesting, roasting, tempering, and molding.More

Church of San Francisco (Iglesia de San Francisco)

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Each year, thousands of pilgrims journey to the multi-domed Church of San Francisco to offer their prayers to Saint Brother Peter (Santo Hermano Pedro), a Franciscan monk who opened a hospital for the poor of Antigua. Pope John Paul II made Brother Peter a saint in 2002, and today the monk’s tomb is one of the most visited and venerated holy sites in Antigua.More

Palace of the Captains General (Palacio de los Capitanes Generales)

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For more than 200 years, the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales was the colonial headquarters for the Spanish viceroy that governed the entire Central American region, housing the royal court, post office, treasury, and horse stables until the capital was relocated from Antigua to Guatemala City. After an extensive restoration, the palace now hosts cultural exhibits and performances.More

Casa Santo Domingo (Monasterio de Santo Domingo)

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Constructed in the mid-16th century, this Dominican monastery was one of the largest and grandest in all of the Americas until it fell victim to a series of ruinous 18th-century earthquakes. It was later converted into a luxury hotel, though large parts of the complex—including a series of fascinating museums—are open to the public.More

Las Capuchinas (Convento de Las Capuchinas)

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One of Antigua’s most visited ruins, Las Capuchinas (Convento de las Capuchinas) is a Guatemalan convent with a past unlike other convents—women were not required a dowry to join. The building, featuring the work of architect Diego de Porres, is a perfect example of colonial architecture, and there’s an art museum on the convent’s second floor.More

Catedral de Santiago (Antigua Cathedral)

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After being ravaged by an earthquake in 1773, Antigua’s Catedral de Santiago was never fully rebuilt. Behind the imposing white facade and modest-sized present-day church—which occupies what was the cathedral’s entrance hall—you’ll find roofless remains including pillars, archways, and altars with plants sprouting among the ruins.More

Iximché

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The 15th-century capital of the Kaqchikel kingdom, this Maya city is of a smaller scale than the more heavily-visited Tikal. A sacred site for modern-day Maya, Iximché remains uncrowded and tranquil, and its pretty setting—with temples, plazas, and palaces situated on an elevated plateau amid steep valleys—makes exploring a pleasure.More

Top activities in Antigua

Acatenango Volcano Tour with Overnight from Antigua
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Antigua ATV Sunset Tour

Antigua ATV Sunset Tour

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$65.00
Antigua ATV Coffee Tour

Antigua ATV Coffee Tour

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$50.00
Lake Atitlan Day Tour From Antigua
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Antigua ATV Mountain Adventure

Antigua ATV Mountain Adventure

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$69.00
Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Workshop in ChocoMuseo Antigua
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The Antigua Foodie Tour

The Antigua Foodie Tour

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$130.00
Antigua Sky High Adventure

Antigua Sky High Adventure

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$65.00
Antigua Cultural Walking Tour

Antigua Cultural Walking Tour

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$35.00
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All about Antigua

When to visit

Antigua is a destination that shines, no matter the weather. And, with a mild and warm climate—even during the rainy season from May to October—there isn’t really a bad time to visit this colorful city. Spring is especially beautiful, with visitors coming from across the world to celebrate Semana Santa (Holy Week), but it’s also one of the busiest times of year, along with Christmas, and July/ August, so you’ll have to plan well in advance.

Getting around

With picture-perfect ruins and colorful buildings around every corner, the best way to explore walkable Antigua is on foot. Take it slow and experience all the sights and sounds of the city. However, if you’re in a rush, tuk-tuks are another great option, while bicycles are a good way to avoid the traffic. If you’re heading farther afield, there are taxis and tourist buses, though a ride on a chicken bus is a full-on cultural experience in itself.

Traveler tips

As Guatemala’s tourist capital, Antigua’s drinking, dining, and nightlife scenes are second-to-none, with a plethora of boutique bars, restaurants, and fast-food chains that wouldn’t look out of place in a US strip mall. Even McDonalds has an amazing garden, complete with fountain. But for the best panoramic views, head up to one of the city’s many rooftop cafés before the afternoon clouds roll in.

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People Also Ask

Is Antigua Guatemala worth visiting?

Yes, Antigua is worth visiting. Ringed by towering volcanoes, Antigua’s cobbled streets are filled with faded churches, earthquake-damaged cathedrals, colorful architecture, and a rich fusion of Maya-Catholic culture. One of Guatemala’s most visited destinations, the 16th-century city also has a lively social scene, with plenty of restaurants, cafés, and bars.

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What is Antigua Guatemala known for?

The historic capital of Guatemala, Antigua is known for its colonial architecture, buzzing social scene, and myriad Spanish-language schools. The city draws upon its Maya-Catholic cultural heritage with vibrant festivals like the weeklong Holy Week (Semana Santa), when the entire city is transformed in a blaze of color and celebration.

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How many days should I spend in Antigua Guatemala?

You could easily spend a week in Antigua Guatemala, but if time is short, you can squeeze all the main highlights into just a couple of days. A lot of visitors also use Antigua as a base from which to climb the Acatenango or Pacaya volcanoes and visit Lake Atitlán.

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How do you spend a day in Antigua Guatemala?

There are many options for how to spend a day in Antigua, from exploring crumbling ruins and myriad cafés to shopping El Carmen Market and touring jade and chocolate factories. Other highlights include the Hill of the Cross (Cerro de la Cruz) and a trip to Hobbitenango in the hills.

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What is the best month to go to Antigua Guatemala?

The most popular months for travelers to visit Antigua are November through April. However, due to the city’s relatively high elevation, Antigua is one of those places you can visit all year round. The city enjoys pleasant temperatures and relatively low rainfall, even during the hot and wet summer months.

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Is Antigua safer than Guatemala City?

Yes, Antigua is generally seen as much safer than Guatemala City, especially for solo travelers. However, opportunistic crimes like pickpocketing can happen anywhere in Guatemala, so you’ll still want to exercise caution when walking around the streets, especially when carrying valuables. If possible, try not to walk alone at night.

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