Guatemala City, capital city of Guatemala
Visitors do not come to Guatemala City for its architectural charm or beauty; instead, they come to experience the vibrant energy of Central America’s largest city, to explore first-rate museums and to shop, dine and party in some of the region’s best places.
Guatemala City is a bustling capital, and one of the most vibrant sections of town is the Old City in Zona 1. The crowded streets are lined with 19th-century townhouses, clusters of cafes and bars, historic buildings and street vendors. Although the area is a bit run-down, it is experiencing a regeneration thanks to conservationists concerned with preserving the heritage of the capital.
While exploring the neighborhood, stop by the lively Parque Central, the imposing blue-tiled domed cathedral, the Art Deco townhouse Casa Mima and the Museo Ferrocarril dedicated to the history of Guatemala’s railways. The museum is housed in a wonderfully restored train station, and the collection features railway curiosities, carriages and several steam engines.
The Old Town’s Central Market is an exciting place to shop and experience the local culture. The top floor is dominated by leatherware, jewelry and textiles; the first floor features snacks, fruits, vegetables and flowers; and the basement hosts stalls selling handicrafts, including traditional weavings and baskets.
South of Zona 1 is the New City district, known for its high concentration of boutiques, restaurants, elite residential neighborhoods and hotels. The Zoo is the biggest tourist draw in the area, and it is one of Central America’s best. The park is divided into three distinct geographical zones. In the African section, hippos, lions and giraffes can be seen up close. Bengal tigers, reticulated pythons and Indian elephants can be viewed in the Asian section, and the Americas region features jaguars, monkeys, tapirs and more.
One of the brightest gems in the New City is the Museo Nacional de Arqueologia y Etnologia. The outstanding collection features a world-class array of Maya artifacts with sections dedicated to prehistoric archeology. Highlights include recreations of royal tombs, stelae from Dos Pilas and Machaquila and a replica of the wooden lintel from the tomb of Tikal. The most popular and impressive exhibit is a collection of artifacts from Piedras Negras, one of the country’s most remote areas. Some of the pieces date from 670 AD, and many are decorated with superb glyphs and carvings.
Other sights worth visiting in the New City neighborhoods are the recreational Museo de los Ninos, the Museo Nacional de Arte Moderno, the Botanical Gardens, the Plaza Berlin and the Yurrita Church.
Just outside the city lies the Volcan de Pacaya, a highly active volcano that towers above the surrounding area at 2,250 meters. Clouds of ash and rock regularly spew from the volcano, creating a natural extravaganza of dramatic light and sound. For the most incredible view, visit at night to watch the brilliant orange lava erupt against the dark sky.
Attractions in Guatemala City
Guatemala city is an important start point of your journey and a keystone to understanding our culture, unfortunately, the historical center has been suffering the attack of modernists oriented authorities (including INGUAT, the central government and the municipality) so visit it and enjoy the remaining old buildings before they are gone and help us protect them from official and civil blindness.
Central Plaza or Constitution Plaza
It is in the heart of the Historic Center of Guatemala City, if you are lucky to be at Guate city on Sunday this is the place to visit and enjoy the “Muchachas” from distant Indian towns wearing their best expensive typical dresses while they are looking for a boyfriend or having an “atol de elote and tostadas”, buying “cortes” (Mayan Squerts) or just walking around, a must-see experience if you like to observe the Guatemalan textiles at their peak in variety and luxury. It was remodeled after the 1976 earthquake, the park was preserved but an underground parking lot was built underneath it., The Centennial plaza is next to it and is the place where the Central American independence was proclaimed in 1821 the original colonial government center was located here and was demolished by Jorge Ubico who wanted to build a neo-classic style building. It is surrounded by other important monuments, The National Palace has now ceased to be a house of government to become the National Palace of Culture museum (ID need to enter) , the Metropolitan Cathedral and the Trade Arcade where the famous “El Portalito” bar where the CHE GUEVARA , FIDEL CASTRO and other famous guerrilleros and famous people use to have drinks, also the Bohemian Bar call “las cien puertas” are located. Close by is National Library, the Newspaper Library and the General Archive of Central America. Many important political events, revolutions, battles the peace treaties signature and demonstrations have taken place here.
National Palace of Culture
This is one of the most important achievements of last century Guatemala’s architecture (Especially for the price paid). Its eclectic style is a combination of colonial architecture with French and neo-classic influence. It covers 8,860 square meters and is made of concrete and brick covered by an artificial green stone. Its construction was ordered in 1939 by President Jorge Ubico to Rafael Perez de Leon. It was completed in 1943. The best expressions of the Guatemalan artist of the forties are seen here, in the murals by Alfredo Galvez Suarez, that tell the history of pre-hispanic Guatemala to the time of the Independence, the stained-glass windows by Julio Urruela-Vasquez and his collaborators Guillermo Grajeda Mena, Dagoberto Vasquez, Roberto Gonzalez-Goyri and decorations by Rodolfo Galeotti Torres and Carlos Rigalt. The National Palace of Culture is open to visitors from 8.00 am to 3.00 pm.
It was built between 1782 and 1815 shelters may artistic treasures that were originally in the Cathedral of Antigua Guatemala. The Cathedral has lived through three earthquakes, in 1830,1917 and 1976. Worth seeing are the altars to both sides of the central aisle, that still preserves many of the images of Saints and relics of the churches in Antigua Guatemala brought here when the cathedral was transferred to Guatemala City. These altars present a clear contrast with the austerity of the rest of the construction. To one side is the Palace of the Archbishop, see of the highest hierarchy where there are currently several church departments located.
Central Market (Best Prices And Variety in the Country)
The Underground Market was constructed over the old one after the 1976 earthquake. All kinds of handicrafts may be found here (carved wood, items in leather and metal, textiles, silverware, ceramic and others). The Market also sells fresh fruit, vegetables, grains and meat and it is a dining place for people who live and work in its surroundings. It is open to the public from 7.00 am to 6.00 pm and Sunday from 6.00 am to 12.00 noon.
Relief Map (Do not miss it)
The Map is in zone 2, at the Hipodromo del Norte, close to the Minerva base ballpark. It was built in 1904 under the direction of Francisco Vela imagine to build it now without the help of any satellite pictures or planes, the guy walked during 5 years by mule to get all the topographic data to build it. It is unique in the world due to its 2000 square meters area. The map shows the country (All the country including stolen Belize) at a 1:1000 scale in 40 by 80-meter complex and includes the topography of Guatemala and its geographic accidents and villages, which will give you a good idea why a 30-mile distance in Guatemala is NOT a short drive. It may be seen from two towers that are strategically located. It is made of masonry and concrete and has a special hydraulic system able to simulate the rivers of the country. Public buses 1, 45 and 46 take you from the 5th avenue in zone 1 also the “GUSANOS” the red long buses from Avenida las Americas y Reforma Avenue and from zone 11. Hours: 9.00 am to 5.00 pm Admission: $2.00 or walk 2 miles north on 6ave all the way in zone 1. from the national palace
Many Catholic churches are located in zone 1 and offer an interesting sampling of neo-classic architecture. The works of art of the XVI and XIX century may be admired inside. Outstanding for their sculpture and artistic works are: La Merced, located on 11th avenue and 5th street, of the neoclassic style and home perhaps some of the richest altarpieces and colonial furniture and other assets. Capuchinas, of the baroque style, is famous for its altarpieces, carved figures, and paintings. It is located at 10th Avenue and 10th street zone 1. San Francisco is the church where the image of the Virgin of Conception is venerated and commemorated on December 8. It is an Italian neo-classic building and famous for its main altar and the image of Christ. Santo Domingo is a Basilica and is dedicated to the Virgin of the Rosary venerated during the month of October. The church has paintings by famous Zurbaran among its treasures. It is located at number 10-09 of 12th avenue in zone 1. The Cerrito del Carmen Church is considered a historic jewel because it was the first church built in the Ermita Valley, in 1620. Its altarpiece, dedicated to the Virgin of El Carmen, is very famous. The entire hill where the church rises is being refurbished.
The Civic Center is a set of buildings constructed between the ’50s and ’60s and includes The Supreme Court of Justice, The Ministry of Public Finance, City Hall, The Social Security, The Bank of Guatemala, The National Mortage Bank and the Guatemalan Tourism Commission. The Bank of Guatemala house a library and its exterior is decorated with high relief mural by Dagoberto Vasquez describing the history of the Country. Both, City Hall and Social Security buildings are decorated with a mosaic by Carlos Merida.
Miguel Angel Asturias Cultural Center
This complex was designed by Efrain Recinos, an artist as well as Engineer. It is worth seeing both because of its location from west to east, visitors can admire the city from a singular point and enjoy its beautiful modernist architecture. The complex has a Grand Theater with 2068 seats, a Chamber Theater and an Open-air Theater, plazas, rehearsal rooms, workshops and conference rooms as well as an old arms museum.
The Botanical Garden is located on La Reforma Avenue and has thousands of different flora species. Most of them are properly identified with their scientific and their common name. Address: Avenida la Reforma 0-63 zona 10 Phone numbers 331-0904 and 334-6064. Hours: Monday to Friday from 8.30 am to 15.30 pm.
Popol Vuh Museum
If you have an interest in Mayan and Colonial art you should not miss this museum, where you can see a valuable collection of pre-Hispanic art (sculpture in stone, polychrome ceramic, incensories, and burial chambers). In addition, their es a colonial art section and a folklore section the exhibits indigenous clothing and traditional dance masks and ask to project the videos. A visit to the museum is truly a must in Guatemala City. Address: 6ª Calle final Campus Universidad Francisco Marroquin Zona 10 Phone numbers 3612301 3612321 3612311.
Hours: Monday to friday from 9.00am to 5.00 pm. Saturday 9.00 am to 1.00 pm
Ixchel Museum of Mayan Costumes
This museum opened in 1973 as a non-profit private organization (ONG) And its name was inspired in Ixchel, de Mayan goddess of fertility and of weaving in the pre-Hispanic era. The museum has a vast collection of textiles dating back to the end of the last century to our days, which come from approximately 120 communities, most of them in the highlands. The museum keeps two permanent collections of paintings: That of Carmen Pettersen, consisting of 61 water-color paintings illustrating the regional costumes of the Mayas and that of Andres Curruchiche, a Mayan-Kakchiquel artist from Comalapa, with 48 oleos. Address 6ª calle final campus Universidad Francisco Marroquin Zona 10 Phones 331-3739 331-3638 331-3622 Hours: Monday to Friday from 8.00 am to 5.30 pm.
La Aurora National Zoo
The Zoo opened its doors to the public in 1925. It is home to a large number of native animals and from other regions in the world. It was recently remodeled and walking trough it is very pleasant. Address: Blvd. Liberacion zona 13 Finca Nacional La Aurora Phone numbers 475 0894 4720507. Hours Tuesday to Sunday from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm.
Archeology and Ethnology Museum (Do not miss it)
This Museum is located in an area where there are other museums, (Natural History, Modern Art and History museums) in zone 13, at Finca La Aurora. The Archeology and Ethnology Museum exhibits part of the legacy of the Mayan Culture, from objects of jade and obsidian to ceramic, stelae and tombs of royalty. It has many pieces, many of them of a very high value for their quality and age. Address: Finca Nacional La Aurora, zone 13. Phone number: 472 0489. Hours: Tuesday to Friday from 9.00 am to 4.00 pm Saturday and Sunday 9.00 am to 12.00n. and 1.30 to 4.00 pm.
National Museum of Modern Art
This museum exhibits contemporary Guatemalan art, particularly Painting and sculpture. In it you can see the work of one of Guatemala’s most famous painters, Carlos Merida. Address Finca Nacional la Aurora z. 13 Edif # 6. Phone number 472-0467 Hours Tuesday to Friday from 9.00 am to 4.00 pm. Saturday and Sunday 9.00 to 1.00 pm and 2.00, 4.00 pm.
National Museum of Natural History
This museum has a rich collection of dissected animals from different regions of the country. It also has an ecological library for children. Address: 6ª calle 7-30 zona 13
Phone number: 472 0468. Hours Tuesday to Friday from 9 am to 4pm. Saturday and Sunday 9 am to 1 pm and 2pm to 4.00pm. Entrance fee: Q 10.00, Sunday the entrance is free.
National Museum of History
The museum shelters the riches photographic collection of the history of Guatemala. In addition, you will be able to see the invaluable furniture and political documents. If you want to take a look at the history of the city since independence in 1821, this is the right place to go. Address: 9th street 9-70 zone 1. Phone number: 2536149. Hours Tuesday to Friday from 9.00am to 4.00 pm. Entrance fee: FREE
Kaminal Juyu (Go if you can)
This is a Mayan archeological site of the pre-classic period and a monument to the idiotic Guatemalans who destroy and keep destroying it building houses and malls on top of the only first-class Mayan center over 1000 m.s.n.m. It is located in zone 7 of Guatemala City, on 23rd Avenue of the Roosevelt Road. Here you will be able to admire sculpture, ceramics, and works of engineering and architecture, The city never had a fortification to surround it. During its peak, it had a population of 50,000 inhabitants but because of our cultural blindness and of the type of material used to build its temples and other constructions (mud bricks with pomes stones), little remains to be seen today but worth it to see before disappears totally. Address Colonia Kaminal Juyu zona 7. Phone number: 232 5571. Hours Monday to Sunday from 9.00 am to 4.00 pm
This market opened to the public in 1974 with the purpose of preserving and promoting traditional handicrafts: Textiles, and accessories, ceramics, natural fibers, jewelry, wood and leather, among other things. Occasionally, marimba and folkloric dance presentations are offered. Address: Airport Blvd. Zone 13, Finca Nacional la Aurora. Hours: Monday to Saturday 9.30 am to 6.00 pm. Sunday at 9.3 am to 2.00 pm. Entrance fee: FREE.
Volcanos, Guatemala City
Climbing the volcano independently is possible, but most visitors prefer to take a guided tour to the exposed ridge that offers views of the volcano’s brutal beauty. The trek is steep and takes at least an hour of trekking through dense forest, but it is worth it to see the bowl of cool lava, the jet-black peak, and the fossilized currents.
Guatemala City Geographical Location
Guatemala City is located in the central south of Guatemala and is its largest city with a population of approximately 3,700,000 people in the metropolitan area.
Guatemala City Language
Spanish is the official language of Guatemala. There are 23 Amerindian languages that are also very common and officially recognized.
Guatemala City Predominant Religion
- 56% Christian
- 40% Protestant
- 3% Eastern Orthodox
- 1% Indigenous Beliefs
Mayan religious practices are commonly incorporated into Catholic services.
Guatemala City Currency
The Quetzal is the official currency of Guatemala.
Guatemala City Climate
Guatemala City has a distinct rainy season from April until September while the rest of the year experiences very little rain. The temperature is extremely stable due to the city’s high elevation and is pleasantly warm throughout the year.
Guatemala City Main Attractions
- Zoologico Nacional La Aurora
- Museo Ixchel del Traje Indigena
- Mapa en Relieve
Other Attraction in Guatemala City
- National History Museum
- Palacio Nacional
- Popol Vuh Museum
- Museum of Modern Art