Things to Do in Antigua Guatemala: A Comprehensive Guide

Antigua, Guatemala, is a charming colonial city nestled in the central highlands of Guatemala, renowned for its well-preserved Spanish Baroque-influenced architecture, vibrant culture, and stunning natural beauty. Whether you are a history buff, adventure seeker, foodie, or culture enthusiast, Antigua offers a wealth of activities and attractions to explore. This guide covers the top things to do in Antigua, ensuring you make the most of your visit to this captivating city.

1. Explore the Historic Center

Antigua’s historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, brimming with cobblestone streets, colorful facades, and historic landmarks. Start your journey at the Parque Central, the heart of the city. This bustling square is surrounded by notable buildings, including the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, the Ayuntamiento (City Hall), and the Cathedral of San José.

Key Highlights:

  • Cathedral of San José: Originally built in the 16th century, this cathedral has undergone numerous reconstructions due to earthquakes. Its ruins, alongside the functioning church, offer a glimpse into Antigua’s resilient history.
  • Palacio de los Capitanes Generales: This grand building once housed the Spanish colonial government and now serves as a cultural center.

2. Visit the Convento de las Capuchinas

The Convento de las Capuchinas is one of Antigua’s most impressive and well-preserved convents. Founded in 1736, the convent offers a fascinating insight into the life of nuns during the colonial era. The architecture is stunning, with beautiful cloisters, a central courtyard, and unique circular living quarters.


  • Circular Tower: The unique circular tower with 18 cells where nuns lived in seclusion.
  • Museum: A small museum showcasing religious artifacts and historical exhibits.

3. Hike Pacaya Volcano

For adventure enthusiasts, a hike up Pacaya Volcano is a must-do activity. Pacaya is an active volcano located about an hour’s drive from Antigua. The hike is relatively moderate and offers spectacular views of the volcanic landscape and, if you’re lucky, flowing lava.


  • Lava Fields: Trek across the rugged lava fields and feel the heat emanating from the ground.
  • Roasting Marshmallows: Guides often bring marshmallows for tourists to roast over the hot volcanic rocks.

4. Discover the Santo Domingo Del Cerro

Santo Domingo Del Cerro is an art and cultural complex located on a hill overlooking Antigua. It features a sculpture park, art galleries, a museum, and stunning views of the city and surrounding volcanoes. The complex is part of the Hotel Casa Santo Domingo, a historic monastery-turned-luxury hotel.


  • Art Galleries: Explore contemporary Guatemalan art and sculptures.
  • Panoramic Views: Enjoy breathtaking views of Antigua and the surrounding volcanoes.

5. Stroll Through the Local Markets

Antigua is home to vibrant markets where you can immerse yourself in local culture and shop for unique souvenirs. The most popular market is the Mercado de Artesanías, where you can find handcrafted goods, textiles, jewelry, and more.


  • Handicrafts: Purchase traditional Guatemalan textiles, pottery, and woodwork.
  • Local Cuisine: Sample local snacks and street food, such as tamales and empanadas.

6. Take a Coffee Tour

Guatemala is famous for its high-quality coffee, and Antigua is surrounded by coffee plantations. Take a tour of a local coffee farm to learn about the coffee production process, from bean to cup. Most tours include a visit to the coffee fields, the processing plant, and a tasting session.


  • Coffee Tasting: Sample freshly brewed Guatemalan coffee.
  • Educational Experience: Learn about the cultivation, harvesting, and roasting processes.

7. Visit the Cerro de la Cruz

For a panoramic view of Antigua, hike or drive up to the Cerro de la Cruz (Hill of the Cross). The viewpoint features a large stone cross and offers stunning vistas of the city and the surrounding volcanoes, including Agua, Fuego, and Acatenango.


  • Scenic Viewpoint: Capture breathtaking photos of Antigua from above.
  • Nature Walk: Enjoy a pleasant hike through the lush greenery.

8. Explore the Ruins of Antigua

Antigua is dotted with historic ruins of churches and monasteries that were damaged by earthquakes over the centuries. These ruins offer a glimpse into the city’s tumultuous past and are fascinating to explore.


  • Convento Santa Clara: Beautiful ruins of a convent with a tranquil garden.
  • San Francisco Church: A partially restored church with an adjoining monastery and museum.

9. Take a Cooking Class

Delve into Guatemalan cuisine by taking a cooking class in Antigua. Learn to prepare traditional dishes such as pepian (a spicy meat stew), tamales, and tortillas. Most classes include a visit to the local market to buy fresh ingredients.


  • Hands-On Experience: Prepare and cook a full Guatemalan meal.
  • Cultural Insight: Gain an understanding of Guatemalan culinary traditions.

10. Relax in the Central Park

Antigua’s Central Park, or Parque Central, is a vibrant gathering place for locals and tourists alike. It’s a perfect spot to relax, people-watch, and soak up the city’s atmosphere. The park is surrounded by historic buildings, shops, and cafes.


  • Fountain: Admire the iconic Mermaid Fountain at the center of the park.
  • Street Performers: Enjoy live music and performances by local artists.

11. Visit the Jade Museum

Antigua is known for its jade, a precious stone that was highly valued by the ancient Maya. The Jade Museum offers an in-depth look at the history and significance of jade in Guatemalan culture. You can also shop for beautifully crafted jade jewelry and souvenirs.


  • Exhibits: Learn about the mining, carving, and significance of jade.
  • Jewelry Shopping: Purchase unique jade pieces from the museum shop.

12. Attend a Traditional Dance Performance

Experience Guatemalan culture through traditional dance performances held at various venues in Antigua. These performances often feature colorful costumes, lively music, and intricate dance routines that reflect the rich cultural heritage of the country.


  • Cultural Shows: Enjoy performances showcasing indigenous and colonial dance traditions.
  • Festive Atmosphere: Immerse yourself in the vibrant cultural expressions of Guatemala.

13. Explore Surrounding Villages

Antigua is surrounded by charming villages that offer a glimpse into rural Guatemalan life. Take a day trip to nearby villages such as San Antonio Aguas Calientes, known for its traditional textiles, or Ciudad Vieja, the first capital of Guatemala.


  • Handicrafts: Purchase handmade textiles and crafts directly from local artisans.
  • Historic Sites: Explore historic churches and colonial architecture.

14. Visit the ChocoMuseo

Chocolate lovers will delight in a visit to the ChocoMuseo, where you can learn about the history of chocolate, from its ancient Mayan origins to modern production methods. The museum offers interactive workshops where you can make your own chocolate.


  • Chocolate Workshops: Participate in hands-on chocolate-making sessions.
  • Tasting: Sample a variety of delicious chocolate products.

15. Enjoy the Nightlife

Antigua’s nightlife is vibrant and diverse, with a range of bars, clubs, and live music venues. Whether you prefer a quiet evening at a cozy wine bar or dancing the night away at a lively club, there’s something for everyone.


  • Live Music: Enjoy live performances featuring local and international artists.
  • Bars and Clubs: Experience Antigua’s eclectic nightlife scene.


Antigua, Guatemala, is a city that effortlessly blends history, culture, adventure, and relaxation. From exploring historic ruins and vibrant markets to hiking active volcanoes and indulging in culinary delights, there is no shortage of things to do in this enchanting city. Whether you’re visiting for a few days or an extended stay, Antigua promises an unforgettable experience filled with rich cultural heritage and breathtaking natural beauty.


1. What is the best time to visit Antigua, Guatemala?

The best time to visit Antigua is during the dry season, from November to April. This period offers pleasant weather with less rain, making it ideal for exploring the city’s outdoor attractions and participating in activities.

2. How many days should I spend in Antigua?

A stay of 3 to 4 days is ideal to explore Antigua’s main attractions, take a day trip to nearby volcanoes or villages, and experience the local culture and cuisine.

3. Is Antigua, Guatemala safe for tourists?

Antigua is generally considered safe for tourists. However, like any destination, it’s important to stay vigilant, avoid carrying large sums of money, and be cautious in less crowded areas, especially at night.

4. What are the must-see historical sites in Antigua?

Must-see historical sites include the Cathedral of San José, Convento de las Capuchinas, Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, and various ruins of churches and monasteries around the city.

5. Can I hike a volcano near Antigua?

Yes, you can hike Pacaya Volcano, which is an active volcano located about an hour from Antigua. The hike is relatively moderate and offers stunning views of the volcanic landscape.

6. Are there guided tours available in Antigua?

Yes, there are numerous guided tours available in Antigua, including walking tours of the historic center, coffee plantation tours, chocolate-making workshops, and guided hikes to nearby volcanoes.

7. What traditional foods should I try in Antigua?

Be sure to try traditional Guatemalan dishes such as pepian (a spicy meat stew), tamales, kak’ik (turkey soup), and local snacks from the markets like empanadas and rellenitos (fried plantains stuffed with sweetened black beans).

8. Where can I buy souvenirs in Antigua?

You can buy souvenirs at the Mercado de Artesanías and various shops around the city. Look for traditional textiles, handcrafted jewelry, pottery, and jade products.

9. What is the currency used in Antigua?

The currency used in Antigua is the Guatemalan Quetzal (GTQ). US dollars are also widely accepted, especially in tourist areas.

10. Do I need to speak Spanish to visit Antigua?

While Spanish is the official language, many people in Antigua’s tourist industry speak English. However, learning a few basic Spanish phrases can enhance your experience and interactions with locals.

11. How do I get to Antigua from Guatemala City?

The most common way to get to Antigua from Guatemala City is by shuttle service or private taxi. The drive takes about 1 to 1.5 hours. There are also public buses available for budget travelers.

12. Are there any festivals or events in Antigua?

Yes, Antigua hosts numerous festivals and events throughout the year. The most famous is Semana Santa (Holy Week), which features elaborate processions and celebrations. Other events include Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and various cultural and music festivals.

13. What activities are available for families in Antigua?

Families can enjoy exploring the city’s historic sites, visiting local markets, taking chocolate-making workshops at the ChocoMuseo, and hiking to scenic viewpoints like Cerro de la Cruz.

14. Is it easy to get around Antigua?

Antigua is a small, walkable city, making it easy to explore on foot. Tuk-tuks and taxis are also readily available for longer distances or for those who prefer not to walk.

15. Are there any wellness activities in Antigua?

Yes, Antigua offers a range of wellness activities including yoga classes, spa treatments, and wellness retreats. Many hotels and dedicated wellness centers provide these services.