Aerial view of Plaza Cayala in Guatemala City

Things to do in  Guatemala City

Urban jungle to the max

Unlike many capital cities, Guatemala City—or Guate, as it is locally known—is not a city renowned for its beauty. As the second-best option for the colonial capital, chosen only after earthquakes ravaged nearby Antigua, it has often been a second-best choice for travelers too, especially given its slightly shady safety reputation. But, after years of being side-stepped by most tourists, the biggest city in Central America has been on a mission for redemption, transforming crime-riddled suburbs into buzzing social hubs with plenty of things to do, a place where glassy skyscrapers meet cosmopolitan streets and modern museums shine a light on the secrets of the past.

Top 13 attractions in Guatemala City

Plaza de la Constitución (Parque Central)

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Guatemala City’s huge central plaza is a hive of activity, with people and pigeons milling about. Surrounded by important historical buildings, such as the Metropolitan Cathedral (Catedral Metropolitana and the National Palace, the square is the focal point of the city, and is frequently the setting for demonstrations and celebrations.More

National Palace

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This stoic structure in the heart of Guatemala’s capital city was built in 1939 entirely by local hands and using only local materials. As a result, the National Palace offers up an homage to Guatemalan heritage and is ranks tops among the buildings prized by locals. Its green-tinged exterior is a nod to the favorite color of the former dictator’s wife, and the result of concrete and copper used to cover the exterior to avoid painting. As a result, it’s affectionately known by some locals as 'The Big Guacamole.'An impressive bronze plate at the entrance to the Palace marks a spot known as 'Kilometer 0.' According to residents, this is the official starting point of all roads in Guatemala. Travelers will find a beautiful courtyard at the center of the five-story building, which is surrounded by five archways on every side. A touching Monument to Peace is located in the center of the palace to commemorate the end to the nation’s most recent civil war. Because the National Palace is also home to a national museum, travelers will find unique and historically significant artifacts like the first switchboard and hand painted murals depicting scenes from the nation’s past. Be sure to check out the stained-glass windows along the presidential balcony and the palace salon, used only for ceremonial events.More

Metropolitan Cathedral (Catedral Metropolitana)

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Overlooking Plaza de la Constitución in the center of Guatemala City is the impressive Metropolitan Cathedral. Though several devastating earthquakes have rambled through the city, the blue-domed Neoclassical-Baroque structure stands strong as the city’s main house of worship. Pass through the 12-pillar entrance to admire the massive interior, austere though wonderfully embellished with religious paintings, carvings, and sparkling gold altars.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

Mixco Viejo

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Set on an elevated ravine-surrounded site, this Maya city was built with defense in mind, with its inhabitants—the Chajoma people—having battled against neighboring Maya groups before finally succumbing to Spanish forces. As well as being of historical interest, Mixco Viejo also offers spectacular views of the surrounding valleys.More

Relief Map (Mapa en Relieve)

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Constructed in 1904, long before Google Earth, this huge 3-dimensional outdoor map of Guatemala offers a grand-scale viewpoint of the mountainous country from above. A family-friendly attraction, Mapa en Relieve contains all the country’s volcanoes, rivers and lakes (some with running water), as well as its cities, roads, bridges, and railroad tracks.More

La Aurora Zoo (Zoólogico la Aurora)

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One of the best-maintained zoos of Central Asia, the La Aurora Zoo is located next to Guatemala City’s International Airport. Established in 1924, the zoo also houses the relics of an ancient viaduct. This zoo has three distinct areas- African, Asian and American where animals from the respective continents can be found.More

Popol Vuh Museum (Museo Popol Vuh)

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The Popol Vuh Museum located within the Francisco Marroquin University campus exhibits one of the largest collections of Mayan art in the world. Extraordinary artifacts are here, including masks, ceramics, pre-Hispanic statuettes, traditional fabrics, and more. One of Guatemala City’s must-visit destinations, some pieces date back to 9000 BC.More

Iglesia de Santo Domingo

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This 18-century neoclassical church in Guatemala City’s historic center rose to fame after the Virgen del Rosario was dedicated here in 1933. Join the pilgrims who come to visit the venerated image along with celebrated sculptures such as El Senor Sepultado and Jesus de la Buena Muerte. The splendid gold stuccoed altar is one of the best preserved in the country.More
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IRTRA Mundo Petapa

IRTRA Mundo Petapa

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IRTRA Mundo Petapa is more than just another theme park; aside from it's large size, it also features botanical gardens, Guatemalan history, and a zoo. Exceptionally clean and well maintained, Mundo Petapa even features an Olympic sized swimming pool for beating the midday heat, and a towering, 175 ft. “skyscraper” with a thrilling vertical drop. Parts of the park are devoted toward preserving a slice of Guatemalan history, and quieter parts of the sprawling park are built in an old, 1950s style of small Guatemalan villages. You’ll also find a zoo on site with dozens of species of mammals, as well as 60 species of birds that flit and squawk in the aviary. Before you leave for the day, be sure to ride the ferris wheel that towers above the park, where the view looks out over Guatemala City and the surrounding volcanoes beyond. Even the grandiose rainbow archway is an entertaining sight, and Mundo Petapa is a guaranteed day of family fun.More

Quiriguá

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Though it’s much smaller than Tikal or nearby Copán, Quiriguál attracts attention thanks to its collection of large, intricately carved stelae. Standing as tall as 35 feet (10 meters, the towering monoliths are artfully carved with hieroglyphs that reveal clues about the rise and fall of this Maya city.More

Santo Tomas Church (Iglesia de Santo Tomás)

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Built during the 1540s upon the ancient foundation of a Maya temple site, Santo Tomas Church (Iglesia de Santo Tomás) is a Roman Catholic church in Chichicastenango, Guatemala. It remains a venerated holy site for people of both Catholic and Maya faiths and blends of the two. The stone stairs leading to the gleaming white Dominican church are reminiscent of those at ancient temple sites, and the steps have turned black from prayer sessions in which shamans waft copal incense and set purification fires. Inside, the church is adorned with offerings, everything from maize to liquor, and numerous candles, which have colors and patterns that correspond with those they've been lit for.More

Biotopo del Quetzal

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Named after Guatemala’s colorful national bird, Biotopo del Quetzal is a vast nature reserve in central Guatemala encompassing Lanquin Caves, Rey Marcos Caves, and the rock pools of Semuc Champey. Abundant wildlife populate the expanse, including howler monkeys and elusive birds such as emerald toucanets, highland guans, and the endangered quetzal.More

Top activities in Guatemala City

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All about Guatemala City

When to visit

Although you can visit Guatemala City all year round, the best time to visit is during Guatemala’s dry season (November–April) when the days are warm and sunny. The beginning of the tourist season, November is a great time to take a day trip from Guatemala City out to the nearby towns of Sumpango and Santiago Sacatepéquez for their All Saints’ Day celebrations. June to October is the wet season in Guatemala City, but the city gets a bit of an easy run compared to other parts of the country, with just one or two short downpours in the afternoon.

Getting around

The streets of Guatemala City juxtapose colorful old buses, flash European sports cars, and bumper-to-bumper traffic. While the city has a public transport system, most travelers use taxis or rideshares (one of the few places in the country you can), as they’re readily available and affordable. The Transmetro is also a great—and relatively safe—way of traveling around the city while avoiding those pesky traffic jams, with the bright-green rapid transit buses running around the city in dedicated lanes. For safety reasons, travelers are usually advised to avoid walking in certain parts of the city, especially alone or after dark.

Traveler tips

While many visitors bypass Guatemala City, the capital is still worth visiting, even for the museums alone. While other parts of Guatemala may feel like an open-air museum, the city's museums allow you to piece it all together and walk away with a deeper understanding of Maya culture—past, present, and future. Guatemala City has three main museums: the Museo Nacional de Arqueología y Etnología, the Museo Ixchel, and the Museo Popol Vuh.

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People Also Ask

Is it worth going to Guatemala City?

Yes, Guatemala City is an interesting place to visit, with plenty of historical attractions, museums, and a buzzing social scene unlike anywhere else in the country. The biggest city in Central America, it’s also a fascinating place to people-watch, even if you just swing by for a night on your way to or from the airport.

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Is there anything to see in Guatemala City?

There are plenty of things to see in Guatemala City, from museums to markets and street-food stalls to some of the best restaurants in the country. The historic center is also home to some interesting architecture and colonial buildings, while the origins of the city can be found in the ruins of an ancient Maya city in the western suburbs.

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How do you spend a day in Guatemala City?

There are plenty of different ways to spend a day in Guatemala City, but the museums are a good place to start. There’s also the central market, the Palacio Nacional and the Parque Central, and La Aurora Zoo, one of the best things to do in Guatemala City with children.

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How long should you spend in Guatemala City?

A few days is long enough for most travelers to take in the main sights in Guatemala City. A full-day city tour is an excellent way for most visitors to get their bearings and squeeze in most sights without worrying about taking taxis and buses, and then a second day exploring the museums. Adventurous travelers might also like to spend half a day hiking nearby Pacaya Volcano.

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Is Guatemala City walkable?

Yes—and no. Some areas of Guatemala City are best avoided on foot, while the pedestrianized areas can’t be visited in any other way. The best way to walk around the city is to join a walking tour, where your guides will be able to keep you on the straight and narrow path—and stop you from straying too far afield into the lesser-desirable parts of the city.

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Is Guatemala City safe?

Guatemala City doesn’t have the best reputation. Still, for the most part, it isn’t any more unsafe than the rest of the country—as long as you stay away from the dodgier parts of the city and take the usual precautions to avoid opportunistic crime like petty theft. Generally, zones 1, 3, 6, 8, and 12 are best avoided unless you’re traveling with a guide. Zones 9 and 10 are the safest and most affluent parts of the city and where you’ll find most tourist accommodation.

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Frequently Asked Questions
The answers provided below are based on answers previously given by the tour provider to customers’ questions.
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