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Discovering the best Churches in Antigua, Guatemala (Ruins, Convents and Monasteries)

Vising the churches in Antigua is one of the best things to do even if you’re not a religious person, those places hold so much history and culture that you will have a lot of fun! So if you are going to travel to Guatemala, don’t forget to take a walk around the churches in Antigua, Guatemala.

Antigua is a town of churches, cathedrals, and monasteries, but due to many natural disasters such as earthquakes and volcanoes, a ton of these buildings have seen better days. However, nowadays you can enjoy the newly rebuilt editions and get a feel of the golden days.

Must-Visit Churches in Antigua

While living in Antigua I learned there are more than 30 churches, convents, and monasteries here, many of those are ruins now, and while several have been rebuilt most of them are in rough shape due to the 1770s earthquakes.

Religion plays a huge role in the town’s history and heritage, you can find many old artifacts and statues that date back ages in places like Casa Santo Domingo with its museums and the El Convento Hotel, which is an actual convent.

While not all of the churches can be visited here are the ones you definitely need to check out:

san pedro church antigua guatemala
My family and I agree that Antigua has the best architecture around, buildings like the San Pedro Church can turn memorable even a small walk.


San José Cathedral (Antigua Guatemala Cathedral)

By far my favorite cathedral in the country, its design and architecture are amazing and so intricate, especially its facade with all the religious images. I highly recommend visiting it during the night, it gets illuminated and has a whole different vibe.

This cathedral can write a book on earthquakes and the damage it has experienced over the centuries. You can enter the building, but the one-time expensive decorations have been long ago destroyed.

However, the most impressive part of the cathedral is behind it: the ruins. You can still see many of the brick structures and statues. Plus, behind the main altar are steps leading down to a former crypt, now serving as a chapel with a black Christ.

  • Where is it? Eastside of the central park. Ruins – 5a Calle Oriente
  • Schedule: 9 – 5 pm, daily
  • Admission: church – free, the ruins – $0.40
Antigua Cathedral Guatemala
By far most most striking facade that’s still standing after several earthquakes, it’s worth checking out.

Nuestra Señora De La Merced

This is Antigua’s most impressive colonial church, its construction started in 1548, and even though it was affected by earthquakes, it stands in great shape.

Throughout the church, you’ll find a water lily motif. This is a traditional symbol of the power of Mayan lords left by the indigenous laborers who built it.

You can visit the monastery ruins where you’ll find the 27m diameter fountain, the largest one in Hispanic America.

  • Where is it? 5a Avenida
  • Schedule: 9 – 6:30 p.m. daily
  • Admission: Church – free, ruins – $0.80

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Iglesia de San Francisco

This church is well known for the tomb of Santo Hermano Pedro de San Jose de Betancourt (1626-67). He was a Franciscan monk who founded a hospital for the poor in Antigua.

In 2002 Pope John II visited Guatemala and made him a saint. On the south side of the church is a museum and ruins of a monastery. Some people still pray at Hermano’s tomb and you can see the pasillo de Los Milagros, which is full of testimonials of his miracles.

There’s not much left of the original structure, but the excellent reconstructions and restorations do the trick.

  • Where is it? corner of 8a Calle Oriente and Calle de los Pasos
  • Schedule: 8 – 5 p.m. Tue – Sun
  • Admission: Church – free, museum and monastery ruins – $2
San Francisco church Antigua Guatemala

Las Capuchinas

In 1736 some nuns from Madrid inaugurated this building as Iglesia y Convento de Nuestra Senora del Pilar de Zaragoza.

In 1773 it was severely damaged by the earthquake and then abandoned. Later in 1943 restorations started and are still going on today.

It’s an impressive building with a tower-like building around the patio that housed the 18 nuns’ cells. Now it is home to the Council for the Restoration and Preservation of Antigua.

  • Where is it? Corner of 2a Avenida Norte and 2a Calle Oriente
  • Schedule: 9 – 5 pm daily
  • Admission: $4 adult, $2 children/student

Iglesia y Convento de Santa Clara

It was built in 1702 and greatly destroyed in the earthquake of 1773. You can still see a great deal of this church as you explore the remains.

  • Where is it? 2a Avenida Sur 27
  • Schedule: 9 – 5 p.m. daily
  • Admission: $4 adult, $2 children/student

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Iglesia y Convento de La Recoleccion

This was one of the most impressive churches of Antigua during its heyday. However, the 1773 earthquake destroyed the building.

Now you can rumble around the well-preserved ruins and relics.

  • Where is it? Avenida de la Recoleccion
  • Schedule: 9 – 5 p.m. daily
  • Admission: $4 adult, $2 children/student
Ruins of the Recolección church and monastery antigua guatemala

Iglesia y Convento de Santo Domingo

In 1542 this church was the richest and biggest monastery in Antigua. However, the 18th-century earthquakes destroyed it, while in the 20th century, parts of it were pillaged for construction material.

Today, the remains are tastefully scattered throughout the property of Hotel Casa Santo Domingo.

  • Where is it? 3a Calle Oriente 28
  • Schedule: 9 – 6 p.m. Mon-Sat, 10 – 6 p.m. Sun
  • Admission: $6

Iglesia y Convento of La Campaña de Jesus

Walking up towards the famous craft market in Antigua, you are greeted by an imposing and beautiful church ruin.

It was built in 1690, the Church of the Campaña de Jesus was constructed in a Spanish Baroque style, but unfortunately, the church was hit by the earthquake, and it’s now a ruin, but you can view the architecture of the church, it’s still an amazing spot for photos

  • Where is it? 3a Calle Poniente, Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala
  • Schedule: No
  • Admission: No
Church of the Jesuits in Antigua, Guatemala

Iglesia El Carmen

Unfortunately, you can’t go inside the church. Only the external of Iglesia El Carmen remains after the earthquake destroyed everything else.

The columns in the front are intricately carved and show how much work they did, and it catches the eye.

As I already mentioned you can’t actually go inside but you can take a peek into the center of the cathedral through its gate

  • Where is it? 4 Avenida Sur 7, Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala
  • Schedule: No
  • Admission: No
el Carmen church in antigua

San Jose El Viejo Church

The San Juan el Viejo church has an interesting and beautiful edification. It was supposed to hold the statue of St. Joseph inside, but the church only worked for a few years, because the earthquake ruined it totally.

Today, it’s increasingly popular for people to visit the gardens and relax.

  • Where is it? H738+768, Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala
  • Schedule: No
  • Admission: No

How to Get to Antigua?

Getting to Antigua is a no-brainer, it’s easy and most people actually stay in Antigua instead of Guatemala City.

So, if you’re at the airport in the capital just take a taxi or a shuttle, from the Guatemala City Airport to Antigua is around 40 km, and it will take you 45 minutes to get there on a good day.

On a normal day an hour or so and on a bad day with heavy traffic it could take you 3h hours max.

The best way to get there is by taking a taxi, a private driver or using the chicken buses (local buses are called like this but personally I don’t recommend this one, buses are crowded and noisy)

ruins hotel santo domingo antigua
One of my favorite hotels in Antigua is Santo Domingo, it’s so unique, with the ruins you can explore and even a museum.

Where to Stay?

There are many good options when it comes to lodging in Antigua, you can go for safe bets like D’Leyenda Boutique Hotel or Finca Filadelfia Coffee Resort but this time I’m going to recommend two options that go with the churches and convents of Antigua:

  • The Hotel Museo Santo Domingo is the most famous monastery hotel in Central America.
  • The El Convento Boutique Hotel is a cool and unique property. The hotel’s great reviews are just another indicator of how cared for this place is.

Both hotels are really old and have an incredible history of the religion in Antigua you can find many paintings, statues, and other stuff related to the churches and Catholic movement from many years ago.

FAQs

Are these churches open to the public?

Yes, most of them are accessible to visitors. Some may have limited hours, so it’s best to check in advance.

Can I attend a service in any of these churches?

Absolutely! Many churches still hold regular services, and attending one can be a moving experience.

What’s the best time to visit these churches?

Early mornings or late afternoons offer the best light for photography and a quieter ambiance.

Are there guided tours available?

Yes, guided tours are available, providing deeper insights into the history and significance of some churches.

Is there an entrance fee?

Some churches request a small donation, while others are free. Your contribution helps with maintenance and preservation.

Discover the Churches in Antigua Guatemala | Travel Experta

Last Updated on June 22, 2024

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