24 Hours in Antigua, Guatemala

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Welcome to Guatemala City, Guatemala, where cascading views of mountains are complemented by tiny houses and rolling hills. It’s truly a sight, one that you can take in as you walk from airway to terminal, only to be met with crowds of families, friends, and airport shuttles, all there to welcome loved ones Guatemala’s capital.

The ride to Antigua is long, but somehow relaxing. While weaving through winding roads and inevitable traffic, you can almost feel the city's energy: chicken busses creeping mile by mile, motorbikes slipping in and out of cars, fresh mango hanging from wooden fruit stands, and eventually, when your bus meets the perfect spot on an upward mountain road, unbeatable views of the city far, far below. 

You'll know when you've made it into Antigua. Paved roads succumb to cobblestone streets and vibrant colonial-style buildings. It's as if you've slipped into a different year – a different decade, really – can you feel the excitement? 

Antigua's welcome is like none other. Surrounded by volcanoes and mountains and the perfect golden-hour light, you'd be hard pressed to find a place more beautiful. If you're planning your stay or you've just arrived, grab your camera and a few quetzales – we're off to spend 24 hours(ish) in Antigua. 

Have coffee and fresh fruit in Central Park

Call me a creature of habit, but during my last two trips to Antigua, I found myself staying at Hotel Casa del Parque located just a few blocks from the park, a reliable ATM, and an expat sports bar perfect for late night shenanigans. If it's your first time visiting the city, I recommend grabbing a coffee at Bella Vista (just a few blocks from the park), some fresh papaya with chile from one of the nearby fruit stands, and taking a bench in Central Park to relish in the atmosphere. The views are unbeatable. The weather will not disappoint. And the fruit is sweeter than ever. Pro tip: not into the whole park idea? Grab a coffee at Bella Vista and walk through the liquor shop to the back where you'll find a set of stairs. Take them to the top, where there's a rooftop seating area with incredible views of Antigua.   

Hike Cerro de la Cruz scenic lookout

After properly fueling with some fresh fruit and (I'm hoping) some strong coffee, lace up your walking shoes and make the trek to Cerro de la Cruz scenic lookout. Warning: the many, many steps up to the top are not for the faint of heart (or, you know, heel-wearing). Snap a few photos, breathe deep, and take it all in.

Get your shop on

Who's up for a little shopping? Walking back toward the center of town, you'll find yourself at Nim Po't, a personal favorite one-stop-shop for picking up ceramics, chocolate, textiles, and postcards. Prices are marked, which is a nice little bonus. Even better? On your way to the indoor market you'll walk through the famous Santa Catalina Arch. Grab a few photos and take in the gorgeous sight. 

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Explore Antigua street food

I don't know about you, but I'm officially hungry. The good news is, we're right next to Iglesia La Merced, where the street food is flowing. Grab an assortment of eats from the local vendors, and taste some of the amazing flavors that Antigua has to offer. You won't be disappointed. 

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Time for wine

I have a few go-to places in Antigua, but for the sake of this article, let's take a spin to Tabacos y Vinos, a personal favorite spot to sit and sip after a long day of exploring. Have one glass for Q35, or, if you're up for the challenge, have three glasses for Q25 each...

Have an authentic meal at Rincon Tipico

Have I exhausted you yet? Now that we've wined, let's dine. Take a walk back through the center of town, and end up at Rincon Tipico, a local and expat favorite that serves up homemade dishes each day. It's simple and charming, but note that there are no menus. The servers will tell you the dishes of the day, which, in my humble opinion, are always amazing. 

And beyond

Alright be honest, did you read my itinerary and say, "meh." If that sounds like you – and don't worry, I won't be offended – I'll leave a few other suggestions below. Have any others to add? Leave them in the comments section so I can branch out on my next trip to the area. 

  • Take a tour of a coffee plantation. But hey, I might be biased. Finca Filadelphia is a great option, and you can't beat the views. 
  • Learn to make traditional Guatemalan food at one of the amazing cooking schools.
  • Up for an adventure? Book a trip to hike one of the nearby volcanoes. Rumor has it you can even roast marshmallows at the top. 
  • Stroll around the city and discover all the hidden gems. Markets, stores, and jade emporiums are overflowing. My personal favorite? Take a look at all the intricate doors. No, seriously. 
  • Visit Vudu Bar for some dancing and late-night fun.
  • Try the exotic ice cream at Sobremesa Helados Exoticos.
  • Take a dip in the pool at Hotel Casa Del Parque
  • Have a fancy meal at Bistro Cinq, and don't forget to try one of the local craft beers. 
TravelEllie Eckert