If you’ve reached this travel guide to find out what to see and what to do in Antigua, Guatemala, you’re in luck.
Antigua is a great destination for first-time travelers in Central America as well as seasoned travelers who want to enjoy the culture, food, markets and scenery in this beautiful Guatemalan town.
With so much to see and do, where do you begin? Should you spend two days as a long weekend trip, or spend a whole week?
I’ve done both, seven years apart, and in this guide, I’ll brief you on the essentials for travel in Antigua, along with ideas for your Guatemala travel itinerary. Let’s go!
How long to spend in Antigua, Guatemala
Unlike major cities, Antigua is actually a town. Its population is between 45,000-50,000, making this a manageable place to visit for a one-day stop or a month-long relaxing time in a city for working remotely.
The first time I visited Guatemala, in January 2015, I tried to see the top sights in the span of a business week, plus weekends. My friend and I did a pretty OK job at this, but we were exhausted from all the bus travel and we nearly spent more time in transit than we did in seeing Guatemala’s top sights.
We spent about two days in Antigua, and this was such a short amount of time that we didn’t even get to take all the great day trips from Antigua in the surrounding region.
Two or three-day itinerary in Antigua
With a long weekend or a visit of several days in Antigua, you can see the top sights. The good news is that everything is walkable in Antigua.
You could take the first day to see the city market, the historic ruins, Parque Central and an assortment of great rooftop cafes and coffee shops.
When I spent two days in Antigua, we did exactly this, and made sure to have brunch on a rooftop, walk around the old cobblestone streets taking photos and try one of Antigua’s cool bars at night.
Spending a week or a month in Antigua
I gave Antigua another shot, this time for longer. I knew that I could get to know the city better, try more cafes, try more food, see more sights and relax more if I had the time.
I chose to spend some time working remotely in Antigua at a coworking space called Impact Hub Antigua that I really recommend! It’s a nice place with WiFi where you can sit in a comfortable desk chair and be around other expats and digital nomads also working remotely.
With a week or more in Antigua, you can take it slow. You can really start to call the place home, like two of my friends did, as they rented a three-bedroom remodeled Airbnb and tried living like locals in Antigua.
With more time in Antigua, you can visit nearby towns of Jocotenango and see how coffee is made. You can hike the Pacaya and Acatenango volcanoes. You can visit the breweries outside of town like Cerveceria 14, and not be worried that you’ll run out of nights to see the pubs and bars in Antigua’s downtown center as well.
I thought spending more time in Antigua was awesome, as the city has really grown in recent years to cater to more Western-style conveniences. Alongside the growth, you will still see the indigenous locals selling handicrafts in the square and in the market.
Additionally, it pays to be armed with some Spanish to get around and use conversationally. Head on to our guide for learning languages for travel if you need some tips on brushing up in a fun way.
Best things to do in Antigua: what to see and do
Antigua has something for every type of traveler, from visiting art museums and historic ruins, to walking aimlessly, taking photos and munching on some local street food.
Check out all these great things to do in Antigua to have a memorable trip, and don’t forget to tip all tour guides (along with anyone in the service industry) approximately 10% as a standard.
Free Antigua Walking Tour with a Local Guide
We really liked starting off a trip to Antigua with a free city walking tour. I did a bunch of research to find the best one, and I landed with GuruWalk.
GuruWalk is a new platform that I used for the first time for my Antigua trip, and it was easy to use! I signed up for free of charge, and was put on the attendance list for a walking tour that would start in the morning and meet at the fountain in Antigua’s Parque Central.
Our guide, Alfredo, was amazing! His English was fantastic and he answered all our questions, taking us to the city’s top sights. In the beginning and at the end he was very transparent that all tour participants were expected to tip, and that was no problem, because he provided great value.
For tips, it’s customary to give any amount between $10-20, and the guides also take USD and Euros. To book this free Antigua walking tour, check out GuruWalk.
Half-Day History Walking Tour with a Local Guide
If you’re more into an architecture and history-heavy tour, book ahead with a tour like the Antigua Half-Day Walking Tour, which could end up costing you about the same.
Parque Central is a beautiful little oasis in the center of Antigua. It’s the point from which the streets become named east and west (”oriente” and “poniente” in Antigua, rather than the standard “este” and “oeste” in Spanish), and north and south (”norte” and “sur”).
The park itself is beautiful, with paved stone paths, trees that blossom purple flowers during winter and a historic fountain that I’ll let you see for yourself.
Around the park are important city buildings, one of Antigua’s most historic churches and lastly, many street vendors selling ice cream, hats, fresh fruit and shoe shining services.
Museo de Arte Colonial
This museum is very impressive and features Latin American art and sculpture. It’s a serene place, housed in a historic building that’s one of the great examples of Baroque architecture. There’s more info at the landing page on Guatemala.com.
Convent of La Merced & Iglesia de la Merced
This convent and church are absolutely one of the most picturesque places in Antigua. Our walking tour guide described the church’s exterior as looking somewhat like a wedding cake, and I have to agree.
Many say that this church is one of the most photographed churches in Antigua, and if you look closely, there’s lots of detail to admire. At the time of my visit, entering was reserved only for locals attending the service.
Check out more about La Merced at TripAdvisor.
Santa Catalina Arch
Now this has got to be the #1 most-photographed spot in Antigua, made famous by Instagram in recent years.
This yellow arch is especially beautiful because from the north side, you can see the Volcano de Agua as a backdrop. On either side, there are traditional colonial buildings, restaurants and shops, and you may see local men sitting and painting scenery.
Make sure you watch for cars and tuk-tuks while you take your photo!
To learn in-depth about chocolate and to do something unmistakably “Guatemalan” during your trip to Antigua, check out Chocomuseo. Choose from experiences like a “Bean to Bar workshop,” a mini chocolate workshop and the chocolate museum tour.
Chocomuseo is located right on Parque Central, so if you’re short on time, this is something easy to do without doing much walking. This chocolate attraction is also child-friendly and good for families. Find out more about the free museum at the website.
Catedral San José
To be technical, this “Catedral” is not actually a cathedral in the traditional sense, but it is one of the most prominent religious locations in all of Antigua.
From the outside, it is impressive. It was also built in the 1500s. For this church, you can indeed tour the inside, and photos are allowed. It is located right on the east edge of Parque Central, across the street. (You can’t miss it!)
Local Market (Mercado) of Antigua
The Mercado de Antigua is an essential stop on a tour of Antigua and on any itinerary! I think markets are so much fun in all parts of the world, and this one is no different.
If you are easily overwhelmed, make sure to go with a buddy or a group, because on the busiest days, there may be lots of people and lots of vendors speaking to you in Spanish about buying their goods.
Nevertheless, be prepared to bargain and don’t hesitate to buy something you want to try! The market is located at the west of town, at this location.
To take a food-centric tour of Antigua with a local guide who can show you all the ins and outs of Guatemalan food, consider this professional Gastronomic, Cultural and Traditional Antigua.
Artisan Market of Antigua (Mercado Artesanal)
The artisan market of Antigua contains a lot of what you will already have seen in small shops near the Sta. Catalina Arch and on the streets near Parque Central. The artisan market of Antigua has more shops on repeat with hats, clothes, trinkets, wood carvings, dolls, bags, scarves, you name it.
Come with your haggling skills ready and be prepared for seeing all the bright colors that are so popular in the traditional fabrics of Guatemalan culture.
Cerro de la Cruz (short city hike)
This easy hill hike in Antigua is a great thing to do if you’d like to get some steps in and see the city from a new angle! I didn’t find out about it until I went to Antigua for a second time. It’s something you can do whether you have two days to explore, or two weeks.
To get to Cerro de la Cruz, walk up Avenida 1 up to this spot and then turn left when you see the cement steps start.
This hike lasts a whole ten minutes if you’re moving at a constant pace. If you’ve just arrived and you’re feeling winded from Antigua’s altitude, take it slow and make sure you bring water, as there are no shops or bathrooms on the way.
This would be a great place in Antigua to see the sunset! Note: it closes at 6pm.
Church of Candelaria Ruins
Antigua has many ruins to see, and the Iglesia de la Candelaria (Church of Candelaria) is unique. Built in the 1500s, it was a Catholic Parish that got destroyed during earthquakes of later centuries.
Now, it stands half-demolished next to a local basketball court, making this a scene you might not see elsewhere.
While it seems you can’t visit or tour the inside of these ruins, you can take a photo from the outside, especially with the basketball court in the foreground.
These ruins in Antigua are a point of interest that you’ll see on your walk up to Cerro de la Cruz (the hill hike mentioned above).
Casa de Jade (Museum & Store)
The Casa de Jade is one of the more interesting things to see in Antigua. Previously, I only thought jade came from East Asia, and I was very wrong! At this small museum, workshop and store, you can learn about where jade comes from throughout the world, see different types of jade and look at the many uses of jade throughout Central American history.
I thought the Casa de Jade was fascinating! At the end, you’ll be in the Casa de Jade store, which has jade jewelry for sale, as well as other precious metals.
Finca La Azotea (Jocotenango town)
Finca La Azotea was a lovely coffee farm to visit during a trip to Antigua. It’s located in Jocotenango, a village northwest of Antigua that you can take a quick Uber or tuk-tuk ride to at any time of day.
We did the 10 am coffee museum and farm tour, and it turned out that it was a private tour because we were the only ones! You can get in touch with the staff at La Azotea at their Facebook page.
Eat at: Pitaya Cocina Saludable
During your tour of the farm with your guide, you’ll see the Pitaya restaurant. As of 2022, it is brand new, and the staff is SO nice. The menu is absolutely delicious and the food is so fresh, great for vegetarian or vegan travelers. This was one of our most memorable meals.
Drink at: The Beer Garden (Azote)
If you’re into the beer and pizza scene, check out the beer garden “Azote” at Finca La Azotea. This new beer garden would be an awesome place to come with friends in the afternoon for some food and drinks in this lush green spot. The vibe is right at Azote, and you’ll see what I mean when you go.
Where to stay in Antigua
Antigua has a plethora of places to stay, from budget backpacker hostels to luxury hotels with pools and gorgeous views. At any budget, you can find somewhere to stay in Antigua, and there’s really no shortage of choices.
I’ve stayed in both hostels and hotels in Antigua, and have friends who had great luck in finding an Airbnb for the month.
For figuring out which type of accommodation is right to you, read my guide to deciding among Airbnb, hotels or hostels.
Hotel El Carmen
We found Hotel El Carmen kind of by mistake, and spent most of our trip there. This colonial-style hotel is located just two blocks from Parque Central and the location was one of the best features.
There’s more, though. This hotel is moderately-priced and the staff is super friendly and nice. Every room has a filtered water jug from which you can have safe-to-drink water. The ground floor features a small indoor courtyard with flowers, and up two flights is the awesome rooftop from which you can see all the volcanoes and ruins!
The daily housekeeping service left our towels folded in new shapes and animals every day like we were on a cruise ship.
We booked this hotel at Booking.com, which was great because a) you can see all the available prices, b) view all the included amenities and c) pay by credit and avoid foreign transaction fees if your credit card is charging you fees locally in Guatemala.
Head here to book Hotel El Carmen in Antigua.
Selina Antigua Hostel
If you are looking for a big hostel that has all the desires for a backpacker ready to party, check out the new Selina Antigua Hostel on the northwest side of town.
This huge hostel has its own campus, basically, complete with a pool, bike rental, coworking space, bar, restaurant and daily activities and events.
The property has both private rooms and dorm rooms, even featuring an all-female dorm room for female travelers.
Earth Lodge (eco-lodge/”glamping” outside Antigua)
Earth Lodge is a special place for travelers who are ready for a bit of adventure and nature.
Located outside Antigua by 20 minutes, on the outskirts of a village called El Hato, Earth Lodge is an oasis with a yoga retreat owned by an expat couple.
Anyone who stays at Earth Lodge is going there for a reason: to be away from the hustle and bustle, to wake up to the sunrise between the volcanoes and to start every night by being able to gaze at the stars.
Rooms are everything from private cabins, treehouses and family rooms to private doubles with ensuite baths. You can book your room on your preferred dates, and read all the reviews, on Booking.com.
If you are already staying in Antigua, you can visit Earth Lodge’s restaurant for a meal, or come to lay in a hammock. If you do, I’d advise reading my “how to get there” information at the day trips from Antigua guide.
Where to Eat in Antigua
Anyone who has been to Antigua will tell you that the food scene is diverse and amazing! There are far too many restaurants to call out and name, so I’m listing the ones I’ve been to, here:
This Mexican rooftop restaurant has an affordable menu, rooftop bar tables and even some swings to sit in. The tacos are not big, but they’re not expensive, either! Note that to enter, you have to walk through a mattress store.
This lovely and bright cafe with a beautiful interior design was one of our favorite places to eat in Antigua. They make a full set of brunch and lunch items, including avocado toast, omelets and lunch salads. The cold brew is delicious!
You’ll also find that remote workers gravitate to 12 Onzas to get some work done with the cafe’s WiFi, but do be mindful that you’re not hogging a whole table to do your work! We have more detail at the Antigua coffee shop article.
El Taqueria Chingarro
This tiny taqueria has a menu with only about six or seven items on it, and they are all tacos. If you know how much I love tacos (enough to write an entire guide to them in Mexico City), this made me very happy.
Cafe Condesa is a lovely spot to eat a traditional Guatemalan lunch in a garden. With its location right on Parque Central, this restaurant will fit into any Antigua itinerary without much effort.
Cafe Boheme is a rooftop cafe that serves breakfast, brunch and lunch items, along with hot coffee drinks, teas and smoothies.
The vibe is really chill, and if you’re into plants and greenery, you’ll appreciate the cactuses and other vegetation growing on the terrace.
The staff is really nice, and you’ll find that people find Cafe Boheme to be a good restaurant for working remotely at. See more about it with photos in our guide to Antigua’s cafes.
La Bruja is everyone’s top vegan pick for health food in Antigua. It’s located in a shared courtyard that houses about five to six other restaurants, cafes and pubs, so the ambiance is great!
La Taquiza Antigua
This rooftop taqueria (make sure you head up the small staircase to the roof) is casual, inexpensive and has a big, big taco menu. The biggest treat is that if you go here after dark, look off to the west to see if Volcan Fuego is erupting. There’s a clear view of it. The address is 3a Calle Poniente 38b.
This Mexican restaurant has moderate prices and is located not far from Parque Central.
Rincon Tipico is like “the place” when it comes to authentic Guatemalan lunch food. This lunch restaurant is located right off Parque San Pedro, and your walking tour guide may point it out as a legitimate place to go for Guatemalan cuisine.
Note that they close mid-afternoon, so no dinner here! It’s also not the best place for vegetarians or anyone with a special diet, because they make a few items per day and the menu is small. If you eat anything, this is the place to go for sure.
Caoba Farms comes highly recommended by friends of ours who’ve been to Antigua recently. It’s a farm-to-table restaurant located at the south of town.
The menu has lots of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options, so if you have a special diet, this is a great place to stop in for lunch.
See more about the Caoba Farms menu at their website.
Earth Lodge was also one of the most memorable meals I had in and around Antigua. As this restaurant is not in the town of Antigua at all (it’s a mile outside El Hato village, located up the mountain), head over to my Antigua day trips guide to find out how to get there seamlessly.
Where to Drink (Bars) in Antigua
Antigua does have its own nightlife scene, and any local will tell you that the town lights up with weekenders on Friday and Saturday nights.
I personally think Cafe Sky has one of the best unobstructed rooftop views in the whole town for watching the sunset. It was also the first restaurant I ate at when I came to Antigua a few years ago!
The staff are friendly and nice, and they have a big drinks menu with dinner items as well. Make sure you head to the third floor for the best view.
Antigua Brewing Company at Kafka
I was so happy to find Antigua Brewing Company and their amazing rooftop. This place really feels like heaven for beer lovers, photographers, travelers, backpackers and anyone who likes to relax with a drink in hand while looking at volcanoes.
In addition to beer, they serve kombucha on tap and non-alcoholic beverages as well. There’s also a bar food menu and the fries are great.
This massive brewery and restaurant is also a live music venue, located closer to Ciudad Vieja than to Antigua. Don’t worry though, because you can take an Uber here and it’ll be about 10-15 minutes from where you are staying in Antigua.
For drinks, they’ve got domestic and foreign beers, and for food, there’s a whole menu of pizzas, vegan items and appetizers to share.
Most days of the week there are local performance artists playing on the stage, and for extra entertainment, check if any of the volcanoes are erupting!
Where to Work Remotely in Antigua
Antigua is a remote work destination that’s getting more attention in the digital nomad and ‘workation’ community. Check out where to work remotely in Antigua in these coworking spaces.
Impact Hub is a coworking space located close to Parque Central, just a few blocks to the east. It’s a chill environment and it has an indoor-outdoor setup. This is interesting because you can migrate a few feet from your desk or table and sit in the sun if it’s nice out.
There’s also a coffee shop and a vegan cafe on the premises, which is awesome if your days are busy and you have very little time to get up and search for lunch.
I discuss the day pass membership and all the features of this coworking space in my review of Impact Hub Antigua for working remotely.
Selina CoWork at Selina Antigua
Selina Antigua on the other side of town (closer to La Merced) also has a “CoWork” space for remote workers. They market the WiFi speed of the coworking space to be an average 25-50 Mbps. For flexibility, there’s a hot desk day pass, weekly hot desk membership and monthly hot desk membership.
Compared with the remote worker crowd at Impact Hub, you can expect a slightly younger demographic here due to it being at a hostel.
How to get to Antigua
Like I mentioned above, Antigua is not a major city, despite being the #2 destination in all of Guatemala! Therefore, Antigua does not have its own airport. To get to Antigua, you’ll fly to Guatemala City, which is about 25 miles away.
By airport transfer from Guatemala City Airport
One of the simplest ways to get from the Guatemala City Airport to Antigua is to book an ‘airport transfer’ (private car ride). This is what many travelers do, and it is what I did, my second time in Guatemala.
An easy way to book an airport transfer is to do it through a travel tour platform. You can quickly book this airport transfer to Antigua from GUA and check this off your list.
By shuttle bus from another destination in Guatemala
There are shuttle buses at the Guatemala City Airport that take travelers to Antigua several times a day. The trip is between one and two hours, depending on traffic.
Shuttle buses will charge a fee per person, and you can ask for shuttle buses upon arrival (there is only one terminal at GUA, so this is straightforward).
The downside to taking the shuttles to Antigua is that they could fill up if you do not book one in advance. Things are always changing regarding the shuttles and their schedules, so I suggest looking into this more on your own!
By renting a car
If you plan to rent a car during your time in Guatemala, then you’ll be able to drive to Antigua from Guatemala City.
The drive is quite simple, on major roads, and it should total around 25 miles (40 km).
Once you approach Antigua from the highway, there will be a rather sharp right turn, and then you’ll be going straight into the historic town!
Taking a day tour from Guatemala City to Antigua
If your trip allows you to be based in Guatemala City and you’d like to see Antigua for the day, you can book a Morning Tour of Antigua from Guatemala City to see the top sights and get transport as well.
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Last updated on May 19th, 2022