Looking for the best things to do in Antigua, Guatemala? We list the top historic attractions, local breweries, a winery, and more!
Best Things To Do In Antigua, Guatemala
There are many reasons to visit Guatemala, and the city of Antigua is one of them. I’ve been going to Antigua since I was a little girl so I have a lot of fond memories of visiting with my family. However, the visits were always quick day trips from Guatemala City. That’s why I was so excited to spend more time in this historic city.
Antigua is beautiful with charming colonial architecture. The city is also historically significant and there are various museums to learn more about it. But at the same time, there are modern elements. There are hipster cafes, breweries, and amazing restaurants.
We definitely think everyone should visit at least once. Now, for being a small city, there is a lot to do. Depending on how much time you have, you can do everything on our list or you can pick and choose based on your interests. Either way, we’re sure you’re going to love Antigua as much as we do.
El Arco De Santa Catalina
El Arco de Santa Catalina (Santa Catalina Arch) is probably the most well-known landmark in all of Antigua. It was built in 1694, as a way for cloistered nuns to get from their convent on one side of the street, to the school where they taught on the other side of the street. Inside the arch is a hidden passageway that let the nuns cross the street without being seen.
This monument is very important to the people of Antigua. It symbolizes their resiliency, as the arch has survived into modern times, even withstanding the major earthquake of 1773. Today it is no longer used by nuns, but instead is constantly swarmed by tourists and local vendors. We suggest going early in the morning if you want to avoid the crowds. It is located on 5a Avenida Norte (5th Avenue North) between 1a Calle Poniente (1st Street West) and 2a Calle Poniente (2nd Street West).
Iglesia De La Merced
Iglesia de la Merced is another iconic landmark in Antigua. It was built in a baroque style and completed in 1767. The outside is a bright yellow with beautiful detailing of white plaster filigree. It is free to enter the church.
Next door is the Convent of La Merced. Inside is a beautiful octagonal fountain in the courtyard. Admission is 20 Quetzales ($2.50) per person.
Make sure to visit Iglesia de la Merced at night as well. There is a night market with food stalls and people selling crafts. We got some buñuelos that were drowned in warm honey. So good!
Parque Central (Plaza Mayor)
While you’re walking around Antigua, there’s no way to miss this beautiful park. It’s great to visit both during the day and at night. Take a seat on one of the benches and watch the whole town go by.
Catedral San José
Right off of the main plaza you’ll find Catedral San José. This 16th-century cathedral has been through many earthquakes and over the centuries has only been partially rebuilt. It isn’t as impressive as some of the other churches in town, but it is still worth a visit. It is free to enter.
Hotel Casa Santo Domingo
This hotel was once a convent, but now has multiple small museums inside. Even if you are not a guest of the hotel, you can still wander most of the property. We were surprised at how big it was.
There are pretty gardens and as you walk around you can see various old relics. It’s free to explore the ruins and property but if you want to enter the museums there is a small cost. We discovered that there is also a chocolate shop on the property, which is free to visit. We got a couple of truffles, and wow were they good!
MUNAG – Museo Nacional De Arte De Guatemala
Another great thing to do in Antigua is to visit the Museo Nacional de Arte de Guatemala. It’s right off of the main square (Parque Central) and free to enter. There are artifacts and pieces of art from various time periods in Guatemala’s history. The central courtyard also has some really cool Mayan stelae.
Museo De Arte Colonial
In what used to be the former headquarters of the University of San Carlos de Guatemala, you’ll now find the Museo de Arte Colonial. There are over 100 pieces from the 16th to 18th century. The architecture of the building itself is beautiful as well. And fun fact: The building is on the 100 Quetzal bill!
Located on the north side of Parque Central is the ChocoMuseo. Just like the ChocoMuseo in Puerto Vallarta, there is an exhibit that details the history of chocolate in the area. There is also a section where you can take a chocolate making class and a nice seating area. There are lots of goodies to buy, all made with local chocolate.
Casa Del Ron
Oh man, this was fun! We visited the Casa del Ron to do a rum tasting. It was a bit expensive at 200 Quetzales ($26) a person, but we decided to splurge because we really wanted to try these premium rums.
We sat down and were given three samples of Zacapa rum. Zacapa 23 which came with an orange peel, Zacapa XO which came with a small piece of chocolate, and Zacapa Edición Negra which came with two almonds. We were able to sip them slowly and enjoy the casual atmosphere.
Casa Del Jade
Visiting Casa del Jade is definitely one of the best free things to do in Antigua. They offer free guided tours in Spanish and English. It takes about 30 minutes, depending on how many questions you ask.
We learned about what areas in the world you can find jade, the various colors, and how it was processed by the Mayan people. We were also able to see the machines that are currently used. At the end of the tour you pass through the store, which has some really beautiful pieces. We ended up buying a beautiful lavender jade ring.
Museo Del Hermano Pedro
Here you will find the ruins of the San Francisco Church and Convent. It was originally built in the 1500s, but was damaged and reconstructed several time over the years due to many natural disasters. The 1773 earthquake was the final blow. You can get an idea of what some of the rooms once looked like, though, because they have been recreated with period pieces.
These grounds were also the home of Hermano Pedro (Brother Pedro) during the 1600s. He did a lot for the community, including building a school, orphanage, and hospital. Because of this, he is beloved by the people of Antigua and was canonized in 2002. Inside the ruins there is also a small museum. Here, visitors will find relics and even some of Hermano Pedro’s belongings. Note that pictures are not allowed inside of the museum. Admission is 35 Quetzales ($4.50) per person.
Iglesia Católica San Francisco El Grande
Another lovely church in Antigua is the Iglesia Católica San Francisco el Grande. It is adjacent to the Museo del Hermano Pedro. Inside you’ll find some beautiful paintings. It is also the burial site of Hermano Pedro. It is free to enter.
Mercado De Artesanias El Carmen
There are a few markets in Antigua, but this is one of the best. You can find all kinds of crafts and textiles and for good prices. Be warned, the vendors can be a bit pushy, but if you’re not interested just smile and keep walking. If you are interested in an item, feel free to haggle with them.
Tanque La Unión
Tanque La Unión is another nice park in town. We actually went there for morning walks since it was near our Airbnb. There are benches for you to sit and relax. But what this park is most known for is its carved out laundry tubs. This is where Mayan families went to do their laundry during colonial times.
Cerro De La Cruz
If you want to get some extra steps in during your visit to Antigua, hike to the top of Cerro de La Cruz. It’s on the northeast side of town, and although there are plenty of stairs, it isn’t a difficult climb.
Head north on 1a Avenida (1st Avenue) and you’ll see a sign at the bottom of the staircase. Once at the top, you’ll get some amazing views of Antigua and the surrounding volcanoes. There is also a cross at the top and many benches for you to sit and enjoy the views.
It’s a small place with only two tables and a bar top, but the beer is worth it. They have a lot of choices so the best way to get to know which is your favorite is by having a flight. You can get a flight of either four or seven small glasses.
They don’t offer food on-site, but they have a menu to a restaurant two doors down. They don’t mind ordering food for you and having it delivered. One thing to note, there are two locations. We visited the location labeled “Cerveteca” near the Arco de Santa Catalina. The second one is “El Bosque” which is a little further north.
Aqua Rooftop Restaurant
If you’re looking for beautiful views of Antigua, head over to Aqua. It’s a large restaurant with multiple seating areas. They even have a pool. For views, however, head up to the terrace. We recommend visiting just before sunset.
Aqua has really delicious food. They have options from all corners of the world too. For an appetizer we decided on the Guacamole. Although we had plenty of guacamole during our time in Mexico, this one was different. It came with roasted corn and truffle oil. It was so good!
For our main meals we had Lobster Mac and Cheese and Thai Curry. The lobster was great and the dish itself was super cheesy. The curry had a fresh blend of vegetables with a slight kick of heat. Their desserts looked pretty good too, but unfortunately we were too stuffed to order more.
Antigua Brewing Company
This is a fun brewery. There is plenty of seating and there’s also a rooftop terrace where you can enjoy views of the city. They offer food as well. We got a hamburger and empanadas. They also offer a flight of their six house brews.
La Cuevita De Los Urquizú
If you want to try some authentic Guatemalan food, eat at La Cuevita de Los Urquizú. What’s really cool about this place is that when you walk in, all of the food is cooking and on display to your left. This makes it easy to see and pick out what looks good to you. And if you’re not sure what something is, ask! The staff are super nice and helpful.
Once you decide what you want, you can take a seat and they will bring you your food. The restaurant is bigger than it looks from the outside, so there are multiple seating areas to choose from. We got some Guatemalan Tacos (not to be confused with Mexican Flautas) and a Guatemalan Tamal. We also had Guatemalan Mole, which is sweeter than Mexican moles and is typically eaten as a dessert.
Things To Do Near Antigua, Guatemala
Although there are so many things to do in Antigua, if you can, venture out to some of the attractions just a short drive away from town.
Chateau DeFay Winery
This was definitely an unexpected surprise. Located about 30 minutes south of Antigua, you’ll find Chateau DeFay. We took an Uber there and arrived just before 11 AM. We do recommend getting there are early as possible.
They offer 2 hour tours of the property for 80 Quetzales ($10.25) if you pay in cash and 85 Quetzales ($11) if you pay with a credit card. We originally thought we’d be able to do a tasting, but it is only offered as part of the tour. We instead decided to have lunch at their restaurant accompanied by a bottle of their house wine.
Afterwards, we walked a bit of the grounds on our own. It’s really quite beautiful. It was misty that afternoon and the clouds passing through really gave it a magical feeling.
One thing to note: If you don’t have a car, make arrangements for a pick up. There is hardly any signal and there won’t be Ubers in the area.
Valhalla Macadamia Farm
We really enjoyed our visit to Valhalla Macadamia Farm. It’s located about 20 minutes southwest of Antigua and was easy to get to by Uber. When we arrived we were greeted warmly and given a free tour of the property.
During the tour, we learned about the different varieties of macadamias and how they are processed. We even saw some of the equipment they use. Then we were shown some of the many things you can create with macadamias, including oils for skin care. We then sat down and were given facial massages that were absolutely heavenly.
We also learned about how much they do for the local indigenous community. Valhalla has donated and helped plant over a million macadamia trees around Guatemala. These trees help create income for local farmers and are also a source of food for malnourished families. Macadamia nuts are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and healthy fats.
Additional Things To Do In And Around Antigua
Thanks to being digital nomads, we were able to spend two weeks in Antigua. However, we still had to work. So although we managed to do and see a lot, there were still some places just didn’t have time for. Below are some additional places we’d like to visit when we return to Antigua. They all come highly recommended.
- Ruinas del Convento Santa Clara – Ruins of an 18th century convent with gardens and fountains.
- Antigua Mountain Trail (Finca El Pilar) – Nice hiking trail with spectacular views. There are also swimming pools and areas to picnic.
- Coffee Tour with De La Gente Coffee – Tours are led by the coffee growers themselves and are less “touristy” than some other coffee farms in town.
- Cerveceria 14 – Brewery with a large open space, good food, and live music.
- Hike Volcan Acatenango – At 13,041 feet (3,976 meters) it is the third highest volcano in Central America.
Final Thoughts On Antigua, Guatemala
Antigua is a city that I love and will be going back to for the rest of my life. I really hope that this article has inspired you to visit and given you an idea of the many things you can do while you’re there.
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