Antigua Guatemala is a charming colonial town and is the heart of Guatemala. Surrounded by volcanoes and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, there are many great things to do in Antigua Guatemala.
If you are looking for adventure or for a relaxing visit to Antigua Guatemala, this list will give you just what you need. We loved our time in Antigua and all of Guatemala. You’ll find there is plenty to do here.
We spent 4 nights in Antigua and another night after our Volcano Acatenango trek. You can easily see all the sites in 2 nights (plus one after a volcano trek) but we loved the relaxed vibe of Antigua and were happy we took it a bit slower. It’s a completely walkable town and if you need to get just out of town, there are plenty of affordable taxis or even Uber. You can also book tours for day trips or a shuttle with your hotel for further rides.
> Read more about your transportation options in Guatemala!
We’ll cover things to do in Antigua Guatemala, the best restaurants in Antigua Guatemala, free things to do in Antigua, unique things to do in Antigua, and more!
This post is all about the top 10 things to do in Antigua Guatemala!
10 Things To Do In Antigua Guatemala:
Admire the Arco de Santa Catalina
This is the main Arch you see in nearly every photo of Antigua Guatemala. The iconic arch is truly unique and no trip to Antigua is complete without it. The best time to visit is at sunrise when there are no cars in the street (they can still drive under it!) and the crowds haven’t arrived yet. It gets super busy during the day and having a peaceful moment to yourself to explore is perfect. If you stand on the north side you can get a perfect view through the Arch of Agua Volcano.
The coolest part about the Arch is its history. It was actually built in 1694 by a convent of nuns that were sworn to seclusion. As their convent grew, they were forced to buy the property across the street. The nuns couldn’t simply cross the street as they weren’t allowed to see the public. They rallied to get the whole street shut down, but with its prime location, neighbors resisted. The monastery finally settled on building the arch with a covered walkway over the street for the nuns to pass freely from one side to the other.
Explore the Ruins
The town of Antigua Guatemala is a UNESCO Heritage City due to its well-preserved architecture and city planning. The city was mostly abandoned after a massive earthquake in 1773 that destroyed much of the city. Since no one was living in the city for nearly 100 years, the ruins sat as is without repairs and further destruction. This makes for some fantastic ruins to explore.
The largest is at Antigua Guatemala Cathedral. You can explore the newer cathedral but on the right side, you can enter the ruins of the original cathedral. It’s stunning how massive it was and built back in the 1600s. Entry is only Q20 per person and worth it to just walk around for a short bit. Be sure to look up because the ceiling was the most impressive part with perfect circles so high in the air. There are also the Convento Santa Clara ruins and the El Carmen.
> See our full guide to visiting Lake Atitlan!
Try the Local Food
Guatemalan food is some of our favorite and there is plenty of good options here in Antigua. We highly recommend heading to Rincón Típico and Saberico Deli for the best local fare. The most popular (and delicious) Guatemalan dish is chicken pepian. It’s a thick stew with fruits and veggies and tons of spices. You eat it usually with corn tortillas and it is heavenly. You should also have a typical breakfast with eggs, beans, and plantains. The coffee, rellenitos, and local chocolate are also must-tries!
See an Active Volcano
This requires a day or two of your trip and a planned tour, but it is so worth it. For an easier single-day trip, try hiking Volcan Pacaya. The hike can be difficult due to the elevation and steepness but it is far easier than Volcan Acatenango. On Volcano Pacaya, you can do a half-day hike and even roast marshmallows or cook pizza on the lava! Volcano Acatenango is an overnight trek where you will summit Volcano Acatenango overlooking the constantly erupting Volcano Fuego. At night you can see full-on explosions, it’s truly incredible. It’s a six-hour hike up and a three-hour hike down and it is probably the hardest thing we have ever done. But so worth it.
> See our full breakdown of the Volcano Acatenango Trek!
See the Sunset from Cerro de La Cruz
Just at the edge of town sits Cerro de La Cruz. This viewpoint is only a 15-minute walk out of town and an easy hike for even the most out-of-shape (i.e. me). It’s a great spot to head for a sunset view over the city overlooking the surrounding volcanoes. I’ve heard it’s also legal to fly a drone here, so could be a great spot for any photographers out there!
> See our complete list of Travel Photography Essentials!
Relax in Parque Central
One of my favorite things about Central and South America is the impressive use of plazas and parks. They are always full of families on their weekend vacation, vendors selling homemade goods or food, cute stray dogs, and older men meeting up for their weekly chats. I love visiting these squares to sit on a bench for a while and just watch life go by. This one, in particular, is in the center of town and is just bustling. It’s surrounded by beautiful buildings and has plenty of people to watch. You can even grab an ice cream or a bag of nuts! People will ask you to buy something, but the people in Guatemala are the most respectful we have ever seen. If you say “no, gracias” they will accept that and walk away.
Shop for Local Textiles
Guatemala is known for its incredible textiles. The Mayan women have been weaving them for generations and continue to this day. If you get out of Antigua you can even visit some textile workshops. There are a few in Lake Atitlán that are open to tourists. While in Antigua though, you can shop for some of these beautiful, brightly colored textiles. Stop by Mercado La Merced for an authentic shopping experience. You can also check out Luna Zorro just a ways out of town and Stella 9.
> See more of the best activities in Guatemala!
Enjoy the View from a Rooftop Restaurant
There are quite a few rooftop restaurants and bars in town, perfect to get outside in a very crowded town. We personally loved Los Tres Tiempos restaurant. It’s just downtown and has some delicious food. You don’t really have much of a view but it’s still lovely to be out and you can see the surrounding mountains and volcanoes! We also loved the Antigua Brewing Company. Their rooftop is tiny and fills up fast but it has a great view overlooking Volcano Agua and you can see Fuego and Acatenango off to the right. They have great craft beer and a pretty good bar menu.
Roam the Cobblestone Streets
You can get lost roaming the streets of Antigua (but not really lost because it is a super simple grid format). Even if you have no destination in mind, it can be fun walking down random streets to see what new buildings are around the corner. You’ll find colorful walls and intricate doorways. Just be on the lookout for protruding windows, those things will take an eye out! Be sure to also check out the Iglesia de La Merced and Palacio de Los Capitanes Generales building while you’re out.
Visit a Local Brewery
If you head just outside of town in a quick Uber or taxi ride, you can find a sprawling place called Cerveceria 14. This brewery was opened in 2018 and has some delicious craft beers. The best part of this place, besides the beers, is the fact that it sits on a huge sprawling property complete with lawn games. This is a great spot for a nice weather day to get out of the hustle of the city and enjoy the outdoors. We also already mentioned Antigua Brewing Company but their live music and craft beer also make a great option!
Hotels in Antigua Guatemala:
We highly recommend staying right in the historic district of Antigua Guatemala. This way you can easily walk to everything and get a true feel for the town. There are tons of options in town and some really stellar reviews all over. We personally loved our stay at both Maya Papaya and Ojala, two hostels owned by the same family. As always, we get a private room with a private bathroom and both had great, affordable options and perfect locations in town.
Budget | Maya Papaya – Rated as the best hostel in Latin America, Maya Papaya knows what they are doing. It has a perfect location in the old town with an incredible breakfast served in the courtyard daily (included). The family that runs it is so sweet and you can meet so many great people here!
Mid-Range | Camino Real Antigua – This hotel is located on the edge of town making it perfect to get a quiet night’s rest. It’s a gorgeous property and is especially perfect for the day after a hike to lay by the pool and enjoy the hot tub.
Luxury | Meson Panza Verde – The Meson Panza Verde is a luxurious property just a few blocks from all the sites. Be spoiled with a full fireplace and spa-bath in the room, overlooking a gorgeous courtyard.
> Look for your perfect hotel in Antigua Guatemala!