Our Guatemalan adventure took us from Guatemala City, to Solola, to Jutiapa, back to Guatemala City, to the jungles of Tikal and now we were finally heading to my favorite place, La Antigua Guatemala!
FALL IN LOVE
While everyone we met along the way kept trying to tell my husband that he wouldn’t like Antigua as much as the rest of the places we visited. I didn’t care what they said, I fell in love with the city since the first time I went there with my mother years ago. Well obviously they don’t know my husband either because he fell hard in love with it, so much he wants to move there.
It’s really hard not to get attached to this adorable city filled with so much history. It’s a tourist destination, people from all parts of the world want to experience Antigua and some of them stay. Other like my husband start his plan on how he can go and stay forever.
Antigua is a gorgeous Spanish colonial city that has kept its charm by only allowing to build and restore in the same style over the years. Similar to the rules of the French Quarters in New Orléans. The architecture is not the only thing you will love. Its history is never-ending and around every corner.
Antigua Guatemala translates to Ancient Guatemala. I believe its translation was because what is now Guatemala or Guatemala City was not there. The Kingdom of Guatemala began in other parts and its third was Antigua.
I was always told that Antigua was the prior capital of Guatemala before a major earthquake forced its survivors to move to now Guatemala City. I decided to do research and Ciudad Vieja in Antigua was one of the places that the capital once was. The Volcano of Water or Volcan de Agua erupted and destroyed it. Then they rebuilt still close to Antigua, then an earthquake destroyed the city again.
The city is filled with old ruins structures of churches, convents and monasteries. You will walk by a beautiful home or hotel and next door is the structure of this ancient building. It’s breathtaking!
The Palace or what is called the Captain General’s Palace is in the center of the city. We walked by it, went it and gawked at it in the morning and at night. You can’t help but try to imagine all the stories and what the walls have seen throughout the years.
Across the street is City Hall which is just as majestic. We sat in central park or la plaza one night and there was a very interactive celebration that started at city hall, went through the park and ended at the Captain General’s Palace.
San José Church is right next to City Hall. Beautiful and always being photographed. The best photographs to me were at night. It has an interesting feel watching it from the central park lit up.
Convento de Santa Clara was the first ruin that I took hubby to, and he was caught off guard. I had told him all about my love for this city and the ruins of all the structures but I don’t think he had really imagined it.
Casa Santo Domingo is now a luxury hotel but it was once ruins. You can enter the hotel and walk around and see what is left of the structure. Worth to stop by and see one of the places I want to get married in.
La Merced Church is bright yellow and has its own charm. Plus there are a lot of street food vendors in that park if you get lucky. About a block away is the Arc of Santa Catalina. Very popular, hard to get a photograph without a ton of people in it.
Church of Las Capuchinas I have to say was one of my favorites. It felt eerie and welcoming at the same time, if that makes sense. I think it’s the essence of how old it is that made me feel that way. The chapel is so romantic and I was told they hold weddings there.
San Francisco Church is pretty big and sits on a large piece of property. It’s one of the older churches and it is being restored. There are a lot of vendors on the property and food vendors. Apparently since it is private property they can sell there.
There are so many more ruins and you can tour several of them but we couldn’t make it to all of them. We took our time with the ones that we went to see. There is too much to see and read plus you pay to tour so you don’t want to just run through them. Just another reason to return.
CLEAN & SAFE
No matter what you see or hear about the dangers of traveling abroad, I can honestly say we felt so safe walking this city, even late at night in Antigua. There are cops patrolling and from what I was told from locals is that they also have tourist police. Which makes sense since their economy is largely based on tourism they don’t want crime to scare us away.
I remember my other visits and don’t remember Antigua ever ugly but this time it was more pristine. Everything was so clean, no graffiti or trash on the streets. I didn’t even see stray dogs, which you see in several parts of Guatemala.
I talked to several expats that we met during our stay. We are not particularly shy especially when we have things in common with people. They explained that the Mayor of Antigua was doing a great job at keeping the city clean and tourists happy. If you go to any touristic area in Guatemala, you can’t hide, THEY know you’re a tourist, you get attacked by the street vendors. This did not happen in Antigua. In fact it was rare that you saw any. Unless you were in private property like a church courtyard or if the church had a park. This allows you as a tourist to actually see the city and not be fighting off sales people. If you’re like me and want arroz con leche for breakfast you end up walking half the city to find it at a church park. So delicious, it was worth the walk and the 5Quetzales, which is 65 cents!
I did find that a lot of the restaurants in the heart of Antigua although good, catered more to tourists and you paid the same for a meal as you would here at home.
So we ventured off to eat elsewhere. We were also still full from all the food we ate throughout our Guatemalan adventure. We really stuck to snacking. Whenever I saw a street vendor making a doblada or a pupusa that was my meal. Hubby was happy to get his fruit with chile. Our hotel was close to central park so we walked to a panaderia (bakery) and got local sweet bread and juice for breakfast.
Our favorite thing of Antigua Guatemala? We stayed next door to an ice cream place on my list, recommended by Tripadvisor. It’s a small place called Sobremesa, the owner also has a restaurant around the corner with the same name and offers the ice cream there too. You HAVE to try it, several flavors of ice creams made with real ingredients. I want to say we tried six each in the few days we were there. Clearly we became obsessed!
If you’re heading to Guatemala make sure Antigua is on your list and take me with you!