Guatemala City Travel Guide
Guatemala City, the capital of the country of the same name, combines tradition and present. It houses ancient churches alongside modern restaurants, nightclubs and shopping malls.
Guate, as the natives call it, hides attractive curiosities. For example, the Mayan ruins and the Relief Map of Guatemala, a huge map of the region that you must see from above. It also has interesting museums.
Delicious street food, traditional dishes and restaurants with marimba music shows are a must on your tour. Also the markets, ideal for interacting with the locals.
- Top 5 reasons to visit Guatemala City
- What to do in Guatemala City
- When to visit Guatemala City
- How to get to Guatemala City
- Where to stay in Guatemala City
- How to get around Guatemala City
- Cost of living in Guatemala City
- Where to eat in Guatemala City
Top 5 reasons to visit Guatemala City
Beautiful ancient architecture
Examples of interesting classical architecture are abundant, especially the churches. Visit Yurrita, the Metropolitan Cathedral of Guatemala, Santo Domingo and El Calvario.
Museums to enjoy
Discover the traditional costumes and wonderful paintings in the Ixchel Museum. Don’t miss the National Museum of Modern Art in Zone 13 and, if you’re interested in archaeology, the Popol Vuh Museum in Zone 10.
Impressive Mayan ruins
Head to Zone 7 to visit the ruins of Kaminaljuyú, an ancient Mayan city. Although some mounds are visible from outside, you can explore certain excavations. Complete your visit at the Miraflores Museum -Zone 13- to learn more about it.
Shopping at the Plaza Central
It is one of the main attractions of this capital. It includes the Central Market, where you can buy souvenirs and taste street food. Stop by on Sundays to enjoy live music and other shows.
The Zona Viva
The Zona Viva is a small area, within Zone 10, with a large concentration of restaurants, bars and nightclubs. Dining at Kacao is highly recommended, as the waiters dress in the traditional way. Afterwards, dance the night away in the Secret Garden.
What to do in Guatemala City
Kneeling in the cathedral
Built at the end of the 18th century, the enormous Metropolitan Primary Cathedral has withstood severe earthquakes and traumatic political changes. In addition to being a place of pilgrimage, its artistic, cultural and historical importance make it a must-see.
Admire the art of the Mayas
The Ixchel Museum of Indigenous Textiles and Clothing is a testimony to the ingenuity and creativity of Maya artists past and present. Its exhibition of century-old artwork and tools presents the textile processes and technologies used by these legendary peoples. You will be impressed by the beauty of the patterns and designs of the garments, blankets and tapestries.
Enjoy Guatemalan culture
The Miguel Ángel Asturias Cultural Centre is a building in the shape of a sitting jaguar. Using the name of the respected local Nobel Prize winner, it hosts numerous stage shows and art exhibitions throughout the year.
See the National Palace of Culture
This palace, situated above the Central Park, is one of the most imposing buildings in the city because of its inspiring fusion of the Spanish Renaissance and the neoclassical traditions. It offers guided tours to better admire its murals, sculptures and banquet halls. Don’t miss the presidential balcony and the religious stained glass windows!
Exploring historical art
The Popol Vuh Museum is one of the world’s largest exhibits of Mayan artifacts. Located on the campus of the Universidad Francisco Marroquín, this collection offers pre-Columbian and colonial art: from funerary ceramic art to stone sculptures. Its Mayan ceramics, which include incredibly well-preserved vases and bowls, is one of its main attractions. It’s a fun visit for kids, too!
When to visit Guatemala City
Guate’s climate is hot and humid in the summer. The ideal time to visit is between November and March, to enjoy a drier and cooler climate. The month of August can be saturated by the celebrations of the Patron Saint’s Day of the Virgin of the Assumption, but it also allows you to experience its colorful parades and fires. The average annual temperature is 26 ºC.
How to get to Guatemala City
La Aurora International Airport (GUA) is located in the southern part of the city, in Zone 13, about 5 kilometers from the city center. Once there, you can travel by bus to any area of the city for only 1 Q. If you prefer to take a taxi, the trip from the airport to Zone 10 will cost you 90 Q. Finally, remember that some hotels offer a free shuttle service from the airport.
Driving in Guatemala City is complicated because the roads are badly signposted. You can use the CA-1 highway if you are coming from the Mexican border or the CA-8 highway if you are coming from San Salvador. Highway CA-9 connects Guatemala City with Escuintla in the south. If you are traveling from the east, you will have to take the CA-19.
Chicken buses or trambillas are a popular method of transportation for traveling from one city to another. You can travel to the capital city from any major city in Guatemala. The price is calculated according to the duration of the trip: normally, 10 Q per hour. In addition, many first-class buses will also take you to Guatemala City.
For example, if you travel from Antigua it will cost you 8 Q, from Puerto Barrios 80 Q and from Flores 80 Q. The main intercity and international bus companies are Tica Bus and Linea Dorada, whose stops are distributed throughout the city.
Where to stay in Guatemala City
Most of the hotels are located in Zone 10. Comfort Hostel and Hotel Mansión Imperial are good options if you are looking for affordable accommodation there. If you prefer Zone 1, consider the Hotel Pan American.
The Hotel Barceló Guatemala City, in Zone 9, offers exclusivity and style. The prices of the most sybaritic alternatives, such as The Westin Camino Real, exceed 1200 Q. At the other end, you can get good cheap rooms from 250 Q.
Interesting neighborhoods in Guatemala City
Zone 1 is the historical center, which has most of the attractions. Treat yourself to a great afternoon of shopping in the Plaza Central or visit the Palacio Nacional de la Cultura.
Zone 10 is one of the most modern areas. It has hotels, restaurants, bars and shopping centers. It is home to the Zona Viva, the hub of nightlife, which is full of clubs and bars.
Zone 13 offers different entertainment, highly recommended, such as attending a football match at the CDAG’s Domo Polideportivo or admiring the South American fauna at the Aurora Zoo.
How to get around Guatemala City
There are 3 different bus systems, whose tickets cost 1 Q, regardless of the route. Transmetro buses are green and have only two routes. The blue and white Transurban buses require the purchase of a prepaid SIGA card. This is a more convenient option, with more stops and routes, including one that connects Zone 1 and Zone 10. In addition, the chicken buses, painted red, stop when the driver is asked to stop.
Yellow cabs use meters. The flag descent costs 25 Q and you will usually pay 8 Q more for every 1.6 km. There are also white taxis, which are not registered and do not have meters. Their prices vary, so you must agree on them beforehand. If you are satisfied with the driver, ask him for a card and call him back.
Driving is difficult because of the lack of road markings and signs. If you decide to do so, you can rent a car for 450 Q daily at the Hertz, Alamo or National Car Rental agencies located at the airport. You can also rent a local driver for about 300 Q a day.
Cost of living in Guatemala City
The Plaza Central is the best place to buy souvenirs, crafts and textiles. Visit the Mercado de Artesanías in Zone 13 to buy textiles and traditional clothing. You will find more modern shopping centers in Zone 10 and 11, including Oakland Mall, Arkadia Shopping Mall and La Pradera.
Groceries and others
The Central Square is the best place to buy fresh food. There is a Walmart next to the airport, the Hiper Paiz supermarket in Zone 1 and the Econo Super in Zone 9. You’ll also find many small family owned convenience stores. A half-litre bottle of local beer will cost you Q8.7.
Where to eat in Guatemala City
Zone 5 and Zone 1 are ideal for finding street vendors offering shucos, sliced mangoes and gauchos. The best restaurant in Zone 1 is San Angel, for its views, steak and shrimp. Zone 10 concentrates most of the restaurants. Casa Chapina, which offers live marimba music, is the best in traditional food. Hacienda Real also serves good meat. A simple meal costs between 30 and 45 Q; in a mid-range restaurant, between 50 and 100 Q; and in an exclusive restaurant, over 200 Q.