×

22 of My Favorite Things to Do in Antigua After 20 Years Living There

Learn, by the hand of an actual expat, all the amazing things to do in Antigua that are waiting for you, from relaxing or adventurous to romantic or free activities. I have lived more than 20 years in this charming town and can tell you exactly the activities, hidden gems, tips, and more from my personal experience!

The first time I arrived in Antigua I completely fell in love with it, imagine a colonial town in the heart of Central America that’s surrounded by volcanoes, coffee plantations, and lively markets. I was speechless, the town seemed so alive and trapped in time, and its people were so welcoming and warm.

There’s a high chance that after arriving in the country you will head to this town and set your holiday base here, and I recommend you do that since most of the attractions in the country can be done as a day trip from Antigua.

So, there will never be a shortage of activities in Antigua, in fact, there are enough tours and activities around the town that can easily fill your travel days.

Top Things to Do in Antigua, Guatemala

Let’s say you get to Guatemala City airport, ideally, you’ll book your stay in Antigua, which is only 1 hour and 30 min from the capital, so you can go back and visit it any time.

Antigua is not big, I loved walking around the town and I recommend you do the same, most locations in the town are a few minutes walk.

Despite being small, it’s packed with bars, restaurants of all kinds, and attractions as well as tour operators, you can explore its history and culture, enjoy its nature and adventure, or have fun with its art and entertainment.

From my experience living here and traveling there for several years, I can confidently say that these are the things to do in Antigua that you can’t miss:

Learn About Its History and Culture

Something I loved about the town was how well-preserved it was and how every corner was filled with history and interesting culture.

Antigua used to be the capital of the Spanish colony of Guatemala back in the day when Spain was established in the country, from 1543 to 1773, and surprisingly the town still preserves a lot of its colonial heritage.

There are a couple of museums where you can learn about the history and culture of the town but the real thrill is visiting the ruins of the sites as well as the churches, monuments, and ancient markets.

street in antigua guatemala
One of my favorite things to do in Antigua is walk its historical streets and enjoy the buildings and views of the volcanoes around.

Stroll along the cobblestone streets and admire the colonial architecture

The first thing you need to do as soon as you get to Antigua is to walk around, the cobblestone streets, the colorful buildings, and the volcanoes as a backdrop make just walking around an incredible experience.

I loved sitting on the Parque Central (Central Park) and just enjoying the vibes, looking around, and checking the historical buildings that surround the park.

Make sure to admire the Baroque-influenced architecture and layout of the town, and visit some of the impressive ruins of churches and convents that were destroyed by earthquakes, like La Merced, Santa Clara, and Las Capuchinas.

Some of the most iconic landmarks of Antigua are:

  • The Santa Catalina Arch
  • Palace of the Captains General
  • The Antigua Cathedral (Catedral San José)
  • The San Francisco Church

Planning a Trip to Guatemala?
Check Out These Helpful Services:

Find the best flight deals

This is the site I recommend, you can check all the different prices.

Best accommodation prices

I highly recommend this one, it’s the best option right now for Paris.

The best way to get around is by car

Check out this site to rent a car and go at your own pace.

Learn about the Maya culture

Guatemala is home to the Maya people and its culture is highly present even today, making Antigua not only a colonial city but also one of the best places to learn about the Maya culture and its amazing heritage.

One of my favorite places in the whole town is Casa Santo Domingo Museum, make sure to visit it you’ll be able to spot real Maya artifacts, like pottery, textiles, jade, and sculptures as well as other items related to the Catholic religion.

On the other hand, you can also see the Nim Po’t Center, which is like a market that displays and sells traditional Maya items made by the actual Maya people.

Now, if you want to take your experience even further you can even take a Maya language or cooking class, and experience their way of life.

Market in Antigua Guatemala
There are many markets around Antigua, where you can find all kinds of local products, food, clothes, accessories, and more but by far my favorite is Mercado Central, it has everything!!

Enjoy the local cuisine

One of my favorite things about Antigua is its food scene, the food is delicious and so diverse. You’ll find a large number of restaurants for all kinds of budgets and tastes, from international cuisine to traditional dishes and even Guatemalan street food.

Something I highly recommend is trying a good cup of coffee, Guatemala is a world known for its coffee due to the volcanic land. So, I highly recommend visiting Starbucks Antigua or Cafe Barista if you want a local chain.

On the other hand, you can find a handful of restaurants. My family and I loved visiting El Comalote, which is not only a restaurant it’s a whole experience worth checking out.

Also, vegans and vegetarians will love the town, there are at least seven restaurants that cater to them, and many others willing to modify their dishes for you.

But definitely, make sure to try some of the local specialties, like chuchitos, rellenitos, and atol de elote.

📖 Recommended Reading: If you’re looking for more useful information, check out Ultimate Guide for Restaurants in Antigua, Guatemala

Explore its Nature and Adventure

Guatemala is a very outdoorsy destination, it’s very close to nature and you will notice that the moment you arrive in the country. Antigua is a colonial and historical town, yes, but what steals the show are its volcanoes.

The town is surrounded by three volcanoes, several mountains, lakes, and forests. You’ll find plenty of tours and activities around those, and one you MUST do is hike the Acantenango Volcano and see how Fuego Volcano puts up a lava show.

I have done the Acatenango hike several times and it never stops impressing me.

Not only that, you can do canopy tours, several other hikes, mountain biking, ATV tours, and a lot more.

a group of people hiking to the top of acantenango volcano
 Guatemala is packed with volcanoes, and Antigua is the perfect place to experience it and enjoy a great hiking experience, with stunning views, and challenging trails.

Hike the volcanoes

One of the most popular and rewarding activities in Antigua is to hike one of the three volcanoes that overlook the city: Agua, Fuego, and Acatenango.

You can choose the level of difficulty and duration of your hike, from a few hours to a few days. You can also witness the spectacular views of the city and the countryside, and even see the lava and smoke of the active Fuego volcano.

Not only that, there’s a popular day trip to hike Pacaya Volcano, while it’s not around the town it’s still pretty close and my family’s favorite hike!

Here’s a quick overview of the hikes:

Hike Agua Volcano

The easiest and closest volcano to hike is Agua, which is visible from almost anywhere in Antigua.

The hike takes about 4 to 6 hours round trip, and you can start from the town of Santa Maria de Jesus, which you can reach by bus or taxi.

The hike is not very difficult, but it can be steep and slippery, so wear good shoes and bring water and snacks.

Hike Acatenango Volcano

The most popular and spectacular volcano to hike is Acatenango, which is the highest of the three, and the closest to Fuego, the most active one.

The hike takes about 10 to 12 hours round trip, and you can start from the town of La Soledad, which you can reach by taxi.

It is a very difficult hike, but it’s worth it, as you can see the sunrise and sunset from the summit, and witness the eruptions of Fuego from a safe distance.

Hike Pacaya Volcano

The most adventurous and dangerous volcano to hike is Pacaya, which is an active volcano.

The hike takes about 2 hours and 30 min, and you can book a tour and start from Antigua, and they will take you to the volcano.

It’s very challenging, as you can be exposed to lava, ash, and gas, so you need to be very careful and prepared.

woman and kids next to a horse while hiking pacaya volcano
Out of the many paths I have hiked around the country, my son and I agree that hiking Pacaya is one of the most memorable. This is hands-down one of the best things to do in Antigua if you’re here in the right season.

Relax in the hot springs

If you want to relax and rejuvenate after a long day of exploring, you can visit one of the hot springs near the town.

You can soak in the mineral-rich waters, enjoy the natural scenery, and pamper yourself with massages and treatments.

Most of the hot springs are not located directly in Antigua, but you can find several that are close enough to go, take a bath, and go back, like Santa Teresita in Amatitlan.

Essential Travel Resources

❗Don’t forget travel insurance


This company is the one I trust, it’s one of the most essential things for any trip. It has your back in case you get sick abroad, or have an accident.

🎒Pack smarter, not bulky


Check out this vacation packing list, including all the essentials you need to pack when traveling, from travel clothing to backpacks and more.

🏡Where to Stay – Here are Suggestions


This is my favorite place to look for accommodations, it offers different types, a ton of locations, and good price options.

🗺️Get Around Hassle-Free


This one is the perfect option to look for different transportation options between cities, from flights, buses, and taxis to minivans and more.

🛫Find Cheap Flights


Whenever I need to fly, I head to this website for low-cost flights.

Experience the fincas and coffee culture

The colonial town is known for its high-quality coffee, which is grown in the surrounding plantations.

You can learn about the history and process of coffee production, from the seed to the cup, by taking a coffee tour.

Taste some of the best coffee in the world, and buy some beans or souvenirs to take home.

Some of the most famous coffee farms are:

woman and kid riding a mule finca filadelfia antigua
I have ridden a horse several times before but doing it in a place like Antigua and its surroundings is a unique experience and one of the best things to do.

Go zip-lining or mountain biking

If you are looking for some adrenaline and fun, you can go zip-lining or mountain biking. Fly over the treetops, valleys, and rivers, and enjoy the panoramic views of the volcanoes and the city.

You can also ride through the trails, hills, and villages, and discover the hidden gems of the countryside.

Some of the best places to go zip-lining or mountain biking are:

  • Earth Lodge
  • Antigua Canopy Tours
  • Old Town Outfitters
bikes on top of a truck with people ready to go biking in antigua
Antigua is the perfect base to do all kinds of activities, tours, and travel around the country since most tour operators can pick you up here.

Explore the Art and Entertainment

Antigua is a lively and creative city, where you can find art and entertainment in every corner.

You can shop, admire, and participate in the artistic and cultural expressions of the town and its people, and have a lot of fun.

Shop at the handicraft markets

One of the best things to do in Antigua is to shop at the handicraft markets, where you can find a variety of products, from textiles, and ceramics, to wood, and jade.

You can also bargain with the vendors, and get some unique and affordable souvenirs, but keep it respectful.

Some of the best handicraft markets are:

  • Central Market
  • The Artisans Market
  • The Nim Po’t Center
street market in antigua guatemala
Outdoor markets are common in Guatemala, but in Antigua, you can find true Mayans selling their handicraft which makes it a worthy experience.

Admire the street art

It is not only a city of historical and architectural beauty, but also a city of artistic and contemporary beauty.

Admire the street art that decorates the walls, doors, and windows of the city, and see the creativity and talent of the local artists.

Also, you can find some murals that reflect the social and political issues of the country, and learn about the messages and stories behind them.

traditional guatemalan painting and wood work starbucks antigua guatemala
This is inside Starbucks in Antigua, but you can find a lot of murals and street paintings like these around the town.

Join the festivals and celebrations

One of the best ways to experience the colonial town and the country’s culture is by pairing your visit with one of the festivals and celebrations, where you can experience the joy and traditions of the people.

Join some of the most famous and colorful events, such as the Semana Santa (Holy Week), the Festival of the Giant Kites, and New Year’s Eve.

You can also enjoy the music, dances, costumes, and fireworks accompanying these festivities which are a whole adventure by themselves.

a carpet made with flowerrs in guatemala during holy week
Out of all the festivities in the country, the holy week is by far my and my family’s favorite,

Take a salsa lesson or watch a show

If you want to have some fun and learn some new moves, you can take a salsa lesson or watch a show in Antigua.

You can find some of the best salsa schools and clubs in the city, where you can learn from professional instructors, practice with friendly locals, and dance the night away.

You can also watch some of the best salsa shows, featuring live bands, singers, and dancers that will leave you speechless.

salsa class antigua guatemala
I remember the first time I took salsa classes, it was incredible and I even took my kids with me. Definitely a top thing to do in Antigua if you want a different day.

Best Free Things to Do in Antigua: Explore the Plaza Central Park

The Plaza Central Park is the heart and soul of Antigua and a great place to start your exploration of the town. The plaza is a large and beautiful square, surrounded by important buildings, like the Cathedral of San José, the Palace of the Captains General, and the City Hall.

The plaza also has a fountain, a gazebo, and many benches and trees, where you can sit and relax, or watch the local life unfold.

The plaza is lively and atmospheric at any time of the day, but especially in the evening when you can see street performers, musicians, vendors, and locals hanging out and having fun.

It is also the main venue for many festivals and celebrations, like Semana Santa, Independence Day, and Christmas.

The Plaza Central Park is a must-see in Antigua, and a free thing to do that will give you a glimpse of the history, culture, and spirit of the town.

old building in antigua guatemala
The town is not a pricy place to visit, but there are also many free things to do that will make your trip more enjoyable and affordable.

Visit the Mercado Central

The Mercado Central in Antigua is a huge and colorful market, located on the western edge of town, at the end of 3a Calle Poniente.

The market is a maze of stalls and vendors, selling everything from fruits and vegetables, to clothes and souvenirs, to electronics and household items.

It is a great place to experience the local culture, taste the local food, and buy some cheap and unique gifts.

The market is also where you can find the famous chicken buses and the old and colorful American school buses that are used as public transportation in Guatemala.

Admire the ruins of Convento Capuchinas

The Convento Capuchinas, or the Capuchin Convent, is one of the most impressive and well-preserved ruins in Antigua.

The convent was built in 1736 by the Capuchin nuns, a branch of the Franciscan order, and was one of the last and largest convents in the town. It was abandoned in 1773, after the earthquakes, and was partially restored in the 20th century.

The ruins now serve as a museum, where you can admire the architecture, the art, and the lifestyle of the nuns.

Ruins of the Recolección church and monastery antigua guatemala

Go hiking in Corazón de Agua Ecological Park

Corazón de Agua Ecological Park is a natural reserve and a community project, located about 10 km south of Antigua.

The park is a hidden gem, where you can enjoy the nature, the wildlife, and the culture of the local people. It has several trails, waterfalls, pools, and viewpoints, where you can hike, swim, or relax while admiring the scenery.

The park fee is only Q20 per person, and make sure to follow the rules and recommendations of the park.

See the iconic Arco de Santa Catalina

The Arco de Santa Catalina, or the Santa Catalina Arch, is one of the most iconic and photographed landmarks in the town.

The arch was built in 1694, as a passageway for the nuns of the Santa Catalina convent, who had to cross the street without being seen by the public, due to their vow of cloister. It was damaged by the earthquakes but was restored and reinforced in the 19th century.

The arch is a beautiful and elegant structure, with a clock tower on top, and a yellow and white facade. It’s also a great spot to take pictures, especially with the Volcan de Agua in the background.

Make sure to check it out at night when the arch is illuminated, creating a romantic and magical atmosphere.

arc and clock in antigua guatemala
Santa Catalina Arch is the most iconic landmark of the town and a popular place to take pictures and check the daily life of the locals.

View the city from Cerro de la Cruz’s viewpoint

Cerro de la Cruz is a small hill on the north side of Antigua, where you can find a large cross and a viewpoint that offers a stunning view of the city and the volcanoes.

The hill is a popular spot for locals and tourists, who come to enjoy the scenery, the fresh air, and the tranquility.

The hill is easy to reach, as you can walk, bike, or drive up to the top. The walk takes about 20 to 30 minutes, and it’s not very steep, but it can be hot and dusty, so bring water and sunscreen.

It is open from 6 am to 6 pm, and it’s free to enter. You can also find some vendors at the entrance, who can offer you snacks, drinks, or information. The hill is safe and well-maintained, but you should still be careful and aware of your surroundings, especially at night.

cerro de la cruz antigua guatemala

Most Romantic Thing to Do in Antigua: Relax and pamper yourselves in a spa

If you want to relax and pamper yourself, you will find many options in Antigua, since it is a city that offers a variety of treatments and services that can help you unwind, rejuvenate, and heal.

You can choose from massages, facials, aromatherapy, yoga, and meditation, among others.

Enjoy the ambiance, tranquility, and facilities of these places, like gardens, pools, saunas, and jacuzzis.

Some of the best spas and wellness centers in Antigua are:

The Ceiba Porta Spa

This is a luxury and holistic spa that offers a range of therapies and products that are inspired by the Mayan culture and natural elements.

You can choose from massages, scrubs, wraps, and masks, like the Ceiba Signature, the Chocolate Therapy, and the Volcanic Stone Massage.

Not only that, you can also enjoy the sauna, steam room, and relaxation area.

The Earth Lodge

An eco-friendly and rustic lodge and spa that offers a peaceful and natural setting. You can choose from massages, reflexology, reiki, and acupuncture, as well as yoga and meditation classes.

All of this while enjoying the views, hammocks, and a cozy fire pit.

a man and kids sitting under an umbrella in earth lodge guatemala
Antigua is surrounded by a lot of green, lush vegetation and is almost blended with the town, make sure to check out its viewpoints, trails, and camping spots.

Enjoy the nightlife and entertainment of Antigua

Something I don’t often see listed around is the nightlife in this colonial town, you will find many options for a night out and entertain yourself.

Antigua is a city that offers something for every taste and mood, from bars with live music to dance floors, stand-up comedy, and more.

You can also find many bars, pubs, clubs, and venues that have a great ambiance and service.

How to get to Antigua?

You can get to Antigua by bus, shuttle, taxi, or car from Guatemala City, which is about 40 kilometers away.

You can also fly to the La Aurora International Airport, which is the closest airport to Antigua and welcomes flights from many cities in the US and Europe.

Best time to visit Antigua

The best time to visit Antigua is from November to April, which is the dry season and the peak season.

You can enjoy the sunny and pleasant weather, and join some of the major festivals and events.

However, you can also visit it from May to October, which is the rainy season and the low season. You can find lower prices, fewer crowds, and more greenery but a lot more rain.

Where to stay in Antigua?

You can find a variety of accommodation options in Antigua, from hostels and guesthouses to hotels and resorts.

You can choose the place to stay that suits your budget, preferences, and needs. Some of the best places to stay in Antigua are:

ACCOMMODATIONS




🏨

Hotels

Find the best hotels, resorts, villas, and villas in any place around the world and the best prices.




🏡

House Stays

Get the best prices for houses, condos, apartments, villas, and a ton of other options.




🏬

Budget Options

If you’re looking for cheaper options, check out Hostel World and browse budget-friendly accommodations.

What to pack for Antigua?

You should pack some comfortable and casual clothes, such as jeans, t-shirts, and sweaters. Pack some warm and waterproof clothes, like jackets, hats, and boots, for the colder and wetter days.

Make sure to pack some sunscreen, sunglasses, and insect repellent, for sunny and outdoor days.

Remember, packing is always better, but make sure to bring everything you need, from a medical or first aid kit to extra batteries.

FAQ

Is Antigua Guatemala safe?

Antigua and Guatemala in general are usually safe for tourists, however, you should still take some precautions, avoid walking alone at night, keep your valuables in a safe place, and be aware of your surroundings.

Follow your common sense and also follow the local laws and customs, and respect the culture and people of Guatemala.

Tip: Antigua is a safe place for tourists, but be aware!

The biggest issue is theft.

Get travel insurance before starting your journey.

I recommend Visitors Coverage.

How long should I stay in Antigua Guatemala?

This is a small town that can be explored in two or three days, but it also has a lot to offer, so you might want to stay longer and enjoy its attractions, activities, and atmosphere.

The ideal length of your stay depends on your preferences, budget, and itinerary, but we recommend staying at least 3 to 5 days in Antigua, to have enough time to see the main sights, do some day trips, and relax and have fun.

Of course, that can extend all you want if you’re going to use the colonial town as your operation base.

What are the best souvenirs and gifts to buy in Antigua Guatemala?

The colonial town of Antigua is a great place to buy souvenirs and gifts, as it has many shops, markets, and galleries that sell a variety of local products and crafts.

Some of the best souvenirs and gifts to buy in Antigua are:

Chocolate and coffee: The country is famous for the quality and taste of chocolate and coffee, due to the volcanic soil, which is grown and processed in the region. You can find many brands and varieties of these products, as well as accessories and tools to prepare and enjoy them.

Textiles and clothing: You can find a lot of textiles and clothing around Antigua, both traditional and contemporary, most are made with traditional and colorful fabrics and patterns. You can find many items and styles of these products, from scarves, and bags, to shirts, and dresses.

Jewelry and ceramics: Antigua is also known for its jewelry and ceramics, which are made with local and natural materials and techniques. There are many pieces and designs of these products, some made with jade, copper, silver, and even gold.

What are the best day trips and excursions from Antigua Guatemala?

Antigua makes the perfect operation base to explore some of the nearby attractions and destinations in the country, as it has many options and opportunities for day trips and excursions.

Some of the best day trips and excursions from Antigua are:

Lake Atitlán: One of the most beautiful and scenic lakes in the world, which is surrounded by volcanoes, mountains, and Mayan villages. Enjoy the views, the nature, and the culture of this place, as well as activities like boating, kayaking, hiking, and shopping.

Chichicastenango Market: Another must-do while in Guatemala, the largest and most colorful market in Central America, which is held every Thursday and Sunday. Enjoy the atmosphere, the diversity, and the bargains of this place, as well as local traditional products like textiles, clothing, food, and handicrafts.

Tikal National Park: This is one of the most impressive and important archaeological sites in the world, which was once the capital of the Maya civilization. A place to check out the history, the architecture, and the mystery of the Maya, as well as the wildlife and the flora that inhabit it.

Looking for More Inspiration?

I have been traveling and living in Guatemala for over 25 years
Check out these Hand-Tested GUIDES

Tips

If you want to travel without the hassle and confusion – check out a complete guide for traveling to Guatemala.

Places

For more travel ideas to add to your bucket list, check out a complete guide to all the best places to visit in Guatemala.

Food

Guatemala has a huge variety of food, check out the guide to the top 15 Guatemalan Food and Dishes.

Disclosure: This blog post may contain affiliate links, which means that I may receive a commission for any purchases made through the links. Your trust is important to us, and we ensure that all products or services we recommend meet or exceed our editorial standards.

Last Updated on May 16, 2024

4 thoughts on “22 of My Favorite Things to Do in Antigua After 20 Years Living There

  1. Great ideas–those are some of our favorite things to do when volunteers travel to Guatemala to see our education projects in rural villages. We always end the week with time in beautiful Antigua!

  2. These are all great. I highly recommend spending time at Hotel Santo Domingo. If there for Sunday, then by all means try to get a table for brunch. If not, however, walking through the grounds and ruins, walking through their art gallery, checking out the birds, and getting a small piece of chocolate or a hand crafted candle is well worth your time. I officially fell in love with Antigua at Santo Domingo for brunch 8 months ago and this last Sunday was just as serene and magical.

  3. I’ve spent about 4 months in Guatemala, 5 years ago!
    I so can understand why you chose to live there! * jealous* 😛

    Love your travel advice!

    Greetz from Germany
    Ani
    http://www.ani-hearts.blogspot.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.