Travel Guide Guatemala: everything you need to know about Antigua!

Last Updated on by Charlotte van de Sande

Antigua is a small city one hour away from Guatemala City. It is one of the first colonial cities in Central America and you can see the Spanish elements everywhere. In this blog, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about Antigua.


Travel guide Antigua: the start of our trip through Guatemala!

We start our journey through Guatemala in the lovely city Antigua, something I can recommend to everyone! Guatemala City, where you probably will land, is not a pleasant city. We skip this and drive directly to Antigua. Because we travel in low season, it is super peaceful and quiet. The city is not large and very well-organized, perfect for two or three days. The atmosphere is very nice here, so if you have more time, it’s not bad to spend them in Antigua. It’s a good base for trips to the beautiful nature in the area. Antigua is surrounded by a number of large and smaller volcanoes, some of which are active. Early in the morning, the chance of clear weather is highest, which will make all the volcanoes visible.

Antigua does not have many tourist highlights, but just strolling through the city along all the beautiful buildings is already nice. The city looks Spanish and has a number of beautiful squares and churches. Almost all houses are built around courtyards. These courtyards are beautiful to see and we find it very nice to wander around and discover these secret places. Next to that, you will find ruins everywhere in the city. These are mostly of churches that were destroyed during a major earthquake in the 17th century.


The best restaurants in Antigua

There are hundreds of nice restaurants in Antigua. Often these are hidden behind doors leading to the cute courtyards. A little research in advance can certainly do no harm. Below are a number of restaurants that we can recommend.

Where to go for breakfast, brunch or lunch in Antigua?

Bakery San Martin
This restaurant, which is just behind the central square, is reasonably well known in Antigua because of the delicious bread. There’s a large courtyard where you can have lunch in the sun. The food is good, but a tad pricey (a lunch costs about 90Q, 10 euros). We often go to the bakery that belongs to the restaurant. There we take their delicious sandwiches which we eat in the sun on the central square. In the three days that we were in Antigua, we went here at least three times.

Y … Tu Pina Tambien
We had breakfast here on our first morning in Antigua and this has set the bar very high for the rest of the city. Really, if I can only recommend one place, it would definitely be this place! The coffee is delicious, the portions are very big and tasty and the atmosphere is really fun! We ate here the avocado toast, American pancakes and the granola bowl. Including coffee, it was 110Q (€ 12.50).

Refacciones Patty’s
Are you looking for a budget-proof breakfast, then you should definitely go for breakfast at Patty’s. For only 20Q (€ 2.20) you have a local breakfast made of eggs, baked beans, banana, bread and coffee. Refacciones Patty’s opens around 8 am, and if you do not know it is there, you will pass it by. We searched for quite a bit ourselves, but now we have the right address: 1a Calle Poniente, number 12a.

The best coffeeplaces in Antigua!

Cafe Estudio
This is a nice coffee shop with good wifi. The coffee is good, but I found the Chai Tea Latte a bit too sweet. You can sit inside as well as on the courtyard.

Fat Cat Coffee House
Wow, the coffee is really great here! Fat Cat Coffee House is a little bit of a hipster hotspot, think a lot of MacBooks, tattoos and beards, but secretly we didn’t mind. We spent a few hours writing and reading here and ordering coffee after coffee. The prices are relatively high for Guatemala, 20Q (€ 2.20) per cup, but really, the coffee is worth 200%!

Cool hotspots for dinner in Antigua:

Samsara
This vegetarian restaurant is super hippie. Think dream catchers and TVs on the toilet that broadcast information about the School of Life. Pretty weird but funny. We ate here a quinoa falafel wrap and tomato soup, tasty and well priced.

Toko Baru
We have not eaten here ourselves, but from other travellers, we only hear very good stories about it. You seem to be able to eat delicious Indian, but also great falafel and hummus. In addition, the portions are very large and relatively cheap.

We also ate at the Italian restaurant Toscana, but I didn’t think it was great. It was relatively expensive, and the dishes contain a lot of cheese.

Drinks, cafe’s and lot’s of wine in Antigua

Tabacos y vinos
This great wine bar is tucked away on the tourist main street. Normally not a place where we would drink something, but believe me, this bar is really nice. Inside you are surrounded by hundreds of wine bottles and you sit at a tall glass table. In Guatemala, no wine is produced, but in slightly more southern countries it is. We drank a few glasses of wine from Chile and Argentina. A glass of wine is relatively pricey (35-40Q, € 4-5) but this is totally worth it.

Sky Cafe
We also had some drinks at Sky Cafe, a bar on the rooftop terrace of a hostel. Nice to see the sunset, within the background the many volcanoes. Furthermore, it was not very special.


Five awesome activities to do in Antigua!

Stroll through the city

Antigua is really a beautiful city. It’s wonderful to walk around and enjoy the Spanish architecture with the volcanoes in the background. Be sure to enter some of the courtyards, here you will often find all kinds of restaurants, shops or just a beautiful fountain. In addition, you must, of course, visit the Santa Catalina Arch from where you can see the volcano Aqua. Furthermore, the central square, Plaza Mayor, is beautiful to see. And of course the yellow church, Iglesia de la Merced.

Visit one of the ruins with a tomb

In the past, there seems to have been an underground tunnel system underneath Antigua. These corridors connected the different churches and cathedrals. Unfortunately, almost all of these corridors collapsed during the big earthquake of 1680. A number of large cathedrals collapsed during this earthquake, which has never been rebuilt. We have been looking for the remains of these corridors, but unfortunately, these are nowhere more accessible. However, there are tombs accessible under some ruins of cathedrals, which were previously also the entrance to these corridors. We visited the ruins of the San José cathedral, with a small tomb underneath. The ruin is beautiful to see, half overgrown with plants and trees. The tomb is a bit scary but funny to have seen. The entrance to the San José cathedral is 15Q (€ 1.65).

Hike to Cerro de La Cruz

To the north of the city, there is a hill with a viewpoint: Cerro de la Cruz. You come here after a small hike of about 20 minutes and recognize it on the big cross that lies at the top. From here you have a beautiful view over Antigua and the different volcanoes. We visited this around noon when it is quite busy. The best time to be here is just after sunrise when it is very quiet here (even though the sun is coming from behind you) or just before sunset. Pay attention to your stuff, there have been many pickpockets here in the past.

Make a hike to Hobbit village: Hobbitenango

Yes, you read it correctly, Hobitenango, named after the Hobbit village from Lord of The Rings. Just outside Antigua, one has built Hobbiton on a hill! It is a funny place full of hobby huts (where you can sleep), a restaurant, a number of viewpoints and a large bungee jump swing. You will find mainly tourists from Guatemala, but we didn’t see any tourist from outside of Guatemala. There are many children, but also for adults it is nice to spend a few hours here.

To get here, we took an Uber with destination Hobbitenango (50Q). You will be dropped off in a small parking lot, from where normal cars can’t go up any further. We choose to hike up in 30 minutes, but you can also take a 4X4 shuttle. There is no admission fee from Monday to Saturday, but on Sundays or public holidays, you pay 35Q per person.

Climb a volcano

There are many volcanoes around Antigua, three of which are active (Fuego, Pacaya and Santiaguito). You can climb a number of volcanoes, as a day trip or overnight from Antigua. In a day trip, you can climb the Pacaya, which constantly spits lava or the  Acatenango where you have a beautiful view of the Fuego volcano, which erupts every few minutes.

We climbed the Acatenango volcano, and Ries also climbed a piece of the Fuego. We booked with the organization Wicho and Charlie a two-day tour where we camped on the Acatenango volcano. The price is 450Q (€ 50) per person. Really a huge recommendation! Soon there will be a blog online with our experiences and tips.


Our favorite hotels and guesthouses in Antigua

There are countless hostels and hotels in Antigua, in every price range there is more than enough supply. Below I describe three accommodations that we visited ourselves.

Casa Blomston €

This is the hotel where we stayed during our visit to Antigua. It is located in the north of Antigua, in a quiet area, a short walk from the centre. All rooms have a private bathroom and a nice bed. From €24 per night for 2 pers.

Click here

Lemon Tree hostel €

This hostel is located right in the centre of the city. The rooms overlook a courtyard where a small aeroplane is parked, funny to see! There are dormitories or private rooms with shared bathroom facilities. From € 28 per night for 2 pers.

Click here

Adra Hostel €€

This hostel is so beautiful, that it feels like a design hotel. The location is very central and it has a cosy courtyard where you can relax for a few hours. The private rooms are very large and have room for 5 people. From € 60 per night for 2 people (breakfast included).

Click here


Additional tips for a visit to Antigua

>> In Antigua (and in the whole of Guatemala) cash is king. There are a few cash machines and banks, which you will find mainly around the central square. Please note that you pay a surcharge of around 30-40Q (€ 3 to € 4). This amount is lower at official banks than at stores where an ATM is in the store.

>> Antigua is known as relatively pricey. We found it not bad at all, but you do pay more than in small villages. On average, we spent about €90 per day (2 people). This amount includes hotel, transport and activities.

>> The time people eat is about the same as in The Netherlands, breakfast is between seven and nine in the morning, lunch around noon and dinner between 7 and 9 p.m.

>> Antigua is relatively high (1470 meters above sea level). This makes it pleasantly warm during the day, but it can be pretty cool at night. So be sure to bring a sweater and long trousers with you. High heels are not recommended, the whole city is covered with cobblestones.

>> Antigua is an hour away from Guatemala City. A taxi from the airport to Antigua costs about 250Q (€ 27). From Antigua, several shuttle buses go to other cities and locations. Our next destination is Lake Atitlan, where we take a shuttle bus for 80Q (€ 9) per person. Booking a shuttle bus is often possible at your hotel or at one of the dozens of tour operators that you will find in the city.


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