What to Do in Antigua, Guatemala

Is Antigua, Guatemala on your bucket list?

As part of our โ€œCity Guidesโ€ series, we interviewed Marina K. Villatoro who has been been living in Antigua since 2009.

Marina shares with us her insider travel tips and knowledge on what to do in Antigua, Guatemala for those looking for the best places to see, eat, stay, drink, and explore.

Take it away Marinaโ€ฆ

Why Visit Antigua?

colonial buildings in antigua with volcano in background

So many reasons…

  1. It’s the last true Colonial City remaining in Latin America.
  2. You can have the cheapest Spanish lessons in the world here.
  3. Antigua is surrounded by three gorgeous volcanoes (one which is VERY active and gives off smoke daily).
  4. The cobblestoned streets, colorful houses and huge Central Park to watch the local life go by.
  5. The Mayan culture and people which intermingle with the foreigners.
  6. Exquisite, international restaurants.
  7. You simply get SO much more for your money with hotels, restaurants, souvenirs and other stuff.

What to Do in Antigua

Antigua experienced two severe earthquakes. You can visit hundreds of ruins all around the city that are preserved to bring you back to those moments.

I’m not a huge church goer, but Semana Santa – Holy Week – is without a doubt one of the most unique, colorful and traditional celebrations you will ever experience any where in the world.

The whole city transforms into building huge, intricate alfombras (carpets) along the streets as processions with hundreds of people pass over them and finish at the churches. This is a site not to be missed.

Along with the ruins of churches that once were, there are still 35 active churches in Antigua as well. The most popular one stands along Antigua’s famous Central Park.

Semana Santa Carpet antigua
Semana Santa Carpet

Coffee is one of Guatemala’s most priced commodities and some of the best coffee plantations are a few minutes outside of Antigua.

Jade – Antigua is world known for the best jade. This was a sacred stone to the Maya and is sold in stores all over the city. You can visit the museums for free that are attached to shops. One word of advice, for good quality Jade get it in the stores, not at the markets.

Jade Mask antigua guatemala
Jade Mask

Markets, markets, markets…I love outdoor markets with local handicrafts and there are three in Antigua to walk around and shop to your heart’s content.

a woman in a market
Handcraft Market

Antigua is one of the main reasons why visitors come to Guatemala!


  • Combo Tour: Colonial Antigua & Guatemala City Explorer Tour: Enjoy 2 wonderful cities, ancient colonial city of Antigua, a UNRSCO World Heritage Site, and Modern Guatemala City at the same day. Learn more here

Where to Eat in Antigua

Antigua is probably one of the best places in Central America for restaurants. You can find everything from typical Guatemalan restaurants to internationally known chefs cooking up gastronomical masterpieces.

However, it’s the street food that will give you the best flavors and is so cheap. There are street vendors all around Antigua, mainly by the parks and churches.

Street Food Stand antigua guatemala
Street Food Stand

Where to Drink in Antigua

Antigua is a party town – at night. The best bars are closer to Central Park, they change often so just follow the crowd.

Best Place for a Night on the Town in Antigua

I’m not a party girl anymore, so my night out on the town is different for those without kids. However, for my husband and I an ideal night out would be:

  1. Romantic restaurant – which is almost all of them with either courtyards or terraces.
  2. Walk to Arc Street – the most popular street in Antigua
  3. Get a drink at any of the little cafe’s or lounges around Antigua Center
  4. Some people like to hire horse carriages – I think it’s a bit cheesy, but you only live once – so why not.
Romantic Dinner antigua guatemala
Romantic Dinner

Where to Stay in Antigua

Antigua has some of the most gorgeous colonial hotels this part of the world. You can stay in a luxury hotel for less than $100. Although, there is no shortage of the hundreds of hostels for backpackers.

But one hotel, stands out above all else Santo Domingo. Staying here is more of an experience rather than just a place to sleep. Chances are if you don’t stay here you will definitely visit it at one time or another during your visit to Antigua.

a woman standing in front of a building
Luxury Hotel in Antigua

Best Markets and Shopping in Antigua

Definitely the markets. There are three main areas to shop:

  1. Arc Street where all the best Jade is sold
  2. Central Market which is close to the bus terminal – this is more of a local market with a handicraft market attached to it
  3. Capuchinas Ruins market – this is a year round market of great handicrafts – during the week it’s only indoors and on weekends they have more vendors sit outside
a market on a street
Handcraft Market

Events and Festivals in Antigua

Antigua, Guatemala is known for two of the most unique festivals in the world:

November 1 – Day of the Dead Kite Festival

On this day Guatemalans set out kites that are between 10 – 30 feet in diameter. They are huge. They believe that the kites they send soaring are talking to the spirits of their loved ones.

a mural
Day of the Dead Kite Festival

Semana Santa – Easter/Holy Week

No where in the world will you see alfombras (carpets) and processions as you would in Antigua. The two main days are the Thursday and Friday before Easter Sunday.

final carpet product
Semana Santa Carpet

Getting around in Antigua

Antigua is small enough to be able to walk everywhere you have to. However, if you want to get somewhere fast or are tired there are hundreds of Tuk Tuk’s and taxis.

The public buses take too long and are more for the surrounding areas rather than Antigua center.

a school bus
Public Transportation – Chicken Bus

Is Antigua WiFi friendly

Everywhere you will find wifi and it’s FREE.

Read more: How to stay internet safe and private when using free Wi-Fi [/ybox

Best Time of Year to Visit Antigua

It depends. If you want to come for Semana Santa, then Easter week is the best time.

But high season which is also the best weather of the year is mainly November through April and June – August

Low season is May (the weather is still great) and also September and October (but it can get rainy).

My advice, if you’re not coming for the major festivals, coming off season is the perfect time to be here. It hardly rains, certainly not enough to put a damper on your trip. And you have Antigua for yourself!

Getting There and Away?

To get to Antigua, Guatemala you need to fly to Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City which is about 45 minutes from Antigua itself.

To travel within Guatemala you will need to do either private or collective shuttles to other destinations such as Lake Atitlan, Chichicastenango, Tikal and other areas of interest.

Best insiders Tip for Antigua

Antigua has tons of NGO’s, but one has a really fun experience giving travelers a chance to meet local kids but in a most unique way.

It’s called Kids Restaurant. Every Friday the kids of this NGO open the doors to their house and make it into a restaurant. They cook, serve and hang out with you.

They practice their English and all the money they make (after the food costs) goes to them and to the program the NGO is running for surgeries for children born with Cleft Palates.

kids restaurant - antigua guatemala - only restaurant run by kids - charity 2
Kids Restaurant

I Love Antigua Because…

It’s home. I’ve lived in so many cities and countries all over the world but I have to say, this place is so special and unique on every level. It’s small enough, yet big enough to have everything you need.

The people are humble and kind and they love kids. The food selection is amazing. And there is always something new to do.

Thanks so much for the fun interview!

Do you have any tips on what to do in Antigua Guatemala?

More Resources for Guatemala

About the Author
Marina K. Villatoro is an expat living and traveling in Central America with her family for over 10 years. She blogs all about her family’s adventures and life ay TravelExperta.com.

With all their miles under their belts, she’s written a useful family guide book for traveling to Guatemala with kids – tested and approved by her family. Join Marina on Facebook and Twitter for more fun Central and Latin American fun.

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28 thoughts on “What to Do in Antigua, Guatemala”

  1. I just picked up a book on Guatemala a few days ago and was captivated by the photos of Antigua – it looks like such a beautiful city with some incredible architecture.

    1. I had the best coffee here yet at Finca Filadelfia this morning. Delicious!

      I later found out they are a premium exporter of coffee to the likes of Starbucks. Their coffee tour gets great reviews and they even have “Latte Art” classes, which I will take them up on in the future.

      As for Internet access, I wrote a huge post talking about your Internet options. Important if you want to work from the ‘net and stay here for a while.



  2. Ahhh. Antigua. All of these charms, and more, kept us in this deservedly-famous Colonial town for more than a month of our Trans-Americas Journey–long enough to discover a lot of specific food, hotel and attraction finds


    We also got to experience all 7 days of the mind-blowing Semana Santa celebrations and produced a feature about Semana Santa in Antigua for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.


    Read this before you go!

    1. Hey Karen! I’m hot on your trail right now! I’ll be staying here a few more months. There are shuttles to everywhere in the country form here, so it’s a great base for expeditions.

      I’ll keep up to date with you guys in case we ever catch up to you!


  3. I got my hair cut for $2 in Antigua and it was one of the best hair cuts I have ever had. I didn’t speak very much Spanish but the hair stylist had nice hair so I took a chance!

      1. Marina, would you mind telling me the details of your hairdresser? I am desperate to get my hair done here tomorrow. Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. I spent Christmas in Antigua, and it was so much fun to watch a 365-degree fireworks show (unorganized of course) at midnight from the rooftop terrace of my hostel.

    What do you mean by the “last true colonial city remaining in Latin America?” I would categorize Granada, Nicaragua and Colonia, Uruguay as colonial cities. Is there some official designation now?

    1. New Year’s in ANtigua is pretty amazing!

      Granada is teeny tiny and doesn’t really have the official ‘Colonial city’ it once was. A lot of it was redone. THe same with Uruguay. It’s mostly redone. Antigua, still keeps it’s buildings from when it was built back in the day, even the ruins. And it’s probably one of the larger ones.

  5. Jeremy Branham

    This is fantastic! I don’t know a lot about Antigua or Guatemala but this was a great read. I had no idea the city was so interesting and beautiful. I love the kids restaurant, Easter Week, and the variety of activities.

    Honestly, I had never really considered Guatemala before but I love this post. Thanks for the information Marina.

  6. Very comprehensive post Marina! I’ve followed your blog off/on for a bit now. Thanks!

    I’d visited to Guatemala in the past, a country unknown to me until I met the love of my life. Due to legal reasons, she was unable to join me in the US, so I decided to pack everything up and live as a digital nomad.

    The goal is to “slow travel” the continent by land, eventually reaching Patagonia… some time in the future!

    I fell in love with Antigua the most while visiting Guatemala and chose it as my first stop on my “slow travel” tour. There’s so much to see and do that it’s taken a while to catch up with pics/posts.

    Will be here a few months and will enjoy it as much as I can. I don’t think there’s a better/easier destination to explore for a first-time English-speaking traveler to Central America. Small enough to be easily walkable, but chock-full of restaurants and things to see. It is a photographer’s dream location.

    Come to learn Spanish, stay for the food/sights!


  7. Thank you for a lovely post! The pics were great and I am adding Antigua to my list of travel wishes right now!

  8. I’m planning to travel to Antigua this year, I was planning on going in September but, reading here that that is the rainy season has made me reconsider the time. Which months in the off season would be the best in terms of weather to travel?

  9. I enjoyed reading this beautiful colorful abstract. Having visited Antigua last summer, it’s nice to see this beautiful part of the country people so little complicated.


  10. Spent a few days in Antigua and I agree with you it is a great place. One of the things I liked the most was that almost everything was in a walking distance and nothing beats walking around to get to know a town or city.

  11. Thanks for sharing. I never thought about going there, but Antigua sounds like a great place to visit. I enjoy outdoor markets and shopping, so it sounds like a great place to visit.

  12. I have been toAntigua many times since 1977. It is a great place. I there are ,other cheaper places to stay.money, but don’t stay at the SantoDomingo as I’ve never had the

  13. Antigua is incredible and I’m happy to hear you share the same love of this wonderful colonial city. The architecture and food cannot be beat anywhere else in Guatemala. My family and I went to Antigua and Lake Atitlรกn using mayangateway.com and it was worth every penny. I would highly recommend the artisan markers in the city.

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