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Antigua is one of the many historic cities in Guatemala, and of course, there are lots of things to do there. It’s a backpacker haven, a hotspot for digital nomads, and a destination with a long history.
It’s a highly diverse country with some of the most amazing plant life and landscapes throughout. It’s a place with fantastic food and friendly locals. Volcanoes, jungles and fascinating architecture. It’s got it all.
Within that great country lies Antigua. It’s one of the most popular tourist destinations countrywide, and there are so many reasons why. Whether you’re looking for inspiration and getting ideas on how to plan your own trip to Antigua, or whether you already have an adventure planned and want to ensure nothing is missed.
Take a look below at the best things to do in Antigua!
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Things to do in Antigua Guatemala
People watching at central park
Central Park is an architect’s dream. The park is an outdoor space in the centre of the old town where you’ll find benches and bright flower beds around a large fountain. You’ll find art pieces and creatives showcasing their best work in the dry season.
You’ll find these things during the rainy season, except fewer people will be out in the wet weather. You might even find a local or two feeding the birds. This is a prime spot to take a break and watch the world pass by in the centre of Antigua.
The location of the park is here.
Visit the Santa Catalina Arch
Built-in 1694, The Santa Catalina Arch is one of the remaining reminders of Antigua’s colonial past. When it was first constructed, it was used to connect a convent and a school with a secret walkway for the nuns to travel between the two while staying hidden.
The walkway is the raised “bridge” of the archway. It is still very well intact and is one of the most famous landmarks in the city.
Here you can find directions to the arch
Hike to the Hill of the Cross
If you want to enjoy the weather a little bit more, you can take part in one of the most famous hikes in the city – The hill of the cross. Known as Cerro de la Cruz in Spanish, this is a favourite daytime activity. For those who like easy walking trails, this is one of the best things to do in Antigua, Guatemala, since you get an excellent view for just a little effort.
The walk takes around 10 minutes up concrete steps to reach the top and is a bit strenuous, but you can also drive to the top if you’d prefer not to break a sweat. The cross at the top of the hill marks the peak, and from here, you can see the city landmarks and the Agua volcano views.
You can find the start of the trail here.
Visit the Convento de las Capuchinas
This is an old monastery that was built between 1731-1736. It was once home to Spanish Nuns and some Monks. Until an earthquake damaged much of the property. The stunning gardens that line the property edges add a pop of colour to an otherwise damaged historical building.
Over the years and the multiple earthquakes since, it’s surprising to see how much of the property is still intact. These are some of the most stunning ruins found in Antigua today and are worth a visit during your stay.
Tickets cost GTQ 40 / £4.27 and can be purchased at the property here.
Visit the Ancient book museum
This unique museum is dedicated to showcasing the various types of print used across Guatemala. Opened in the 1950s, the building the museum is now located in once was used as the first printing press found in the city. A replica is still found there today.
Four exhibition rooms teach about the country’s colonial era. Plus, listed as one of the most interesting things to do, this Antigua museum is also home to the first book made in Guatemala in 1663 named the “Explicato apologética” by Fray Payo Enríquez de Rivera.
The museum is located here.
Be a Hobbit for a day in Hobbitenango
Hobbitenango is a fantasy lover’s land of make-believe. Loosely based on the Lord of the Rings franchise, it is an eco-friendly “hobbit” hotel with many fun attractions. You can play mini golf and archery, purchase souvenirs, visit the restaurant and play on the giant swing.
Located 25 minutes outside the city centre, this is a great way to enjoy the local valley and mountain views. This is the home to the giant hand viewpoint and other photo opportunities. Who would have thought that hobbit houses outside of New Zealand would still be rated as one of the best things to do in Antigua, Guatemala?
The best time to visit this attraction is early morning before the afternoon fog rolls in and blocks the valley views.
Visit the unique Starbucks
I usually would never persuade someone to visit a massive chain like Starbucks. There is just something unique about the one found in Antigua. This Starbucks sells all the usual menu items you would expect, except inside, it’s filled with brightly coloured murals, rocking chairs, a plant-filled courtyard and water fountains.
It’s arguably the most interesting Starbucks worldwide based on its aesthetic. It’s easy to forget you’re in a huge chain coffee shop!
You can find directions to Starbucks here.
Experience the nightlife
Technically, every city has a bar to check out after hours, but Antigua has a few tourist favourites. Reilly’s Irish tavern is a spacious nightclub where you’ll find a mix of expats and backpackers drinking at the end of the night.
If an Irish tavern isn’t your style, you can even stop by for a few drinks and dance at Las Vibras de la Casbah. Is partying something that you want to experience in the city? Then you can even hit up the local rooftop bars and join a pub crawl!
If you’d like to join a group to party with in Guatemala, the Antigua Bar crawl holds regular events!
Try chocolate at the ChocoMuseo
ChocoMuseo is precisely what it sounds like. It’s a museum of a small chocolate factory where the sweet treat is made locally. Not only can you have a small tasting to see what they offer, but you can also buy some to take home too. Once you’ve tried some, you’ll have a craving for more and more.
Visiting the museum is free, but there are two chocolate-related activities at a cost if you choose. These include the mini chocolate workshop (for those on a tight budget or schedule), or you can enjoy the bean-to-bar workshop making chocolate from scratch.
ChocoMuseo can be found here.
Eat in the McDonald’s garden
Shockingly I am recommending a second huge chain on this list. In Antigua, Guatemala, even McDonald’s fits in with the city’s historical aesthetic, which is why it’s on our list of things to do here. It’s known as the “most beautiful McDonald’s in the world”.
It houses a water fountain and lots of plant life in the courtyard of an old colonial-style building and is a tourist attraction in its own right. Not many of these particular fast food chains have beautiful gardens, so it’s definitely worth visiting. This will probably be the only time I recommend someone to see a Mcdonald’s as a tourist attraction!
You can find the McDonalds here.
Have a salsa dancing lesson
Salsa is the best-known dance style to grace Latin America, so it would be silly to assume you couldn’t find it here. Throughout the city, there are a few salsa classes to take part in – and you should definitely take up the opportunity.
Although there are often paid salsa dance experiences, there are occasionally free taster classes held by hostels if they’re only around for a short amount of time. This is also a fantastic way to meet new people in the city!
The best thing to do is visit the studios in person and get yourself booked into a class that way. You can find Salsa Y Mas here.
Explore the ruins of the old city
There are so many different ruins scattered throughout the city so it’s hard to know which ones to focus on. Whether you join an official tour or just take a stroll through the old town, it’ll be impossible to miss the many run-down old buildings that are partially destroyed.
You’ll find some structures still relatively intact like the church and society above, or you’ll see others where not much remains at all. You can spend an entire day exploring parts of the historical architecture.
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Treat yourself to a day spa
Everyone likes a little bit of luxury so why not check out the Oasis Aroma day spa? They have everything from full body massages to soothing facials as well as manicures and pedicures. The staff are fantastic at making their visitors feel relaxed and pampered.
If you’d like to book yourself in for a treatment, head down to the spa and speak to the team face to face so you can get the full experience while they don’t have a website. This is one of the best things to do in Antigua especially if you’ve climbed any of the Guatemala volcanoes! You’ll have earned it.
You can find the spa here.
Meet travellers in a hostel bar
If you’re a solo traveller you might want to meet some other travellers during your stay in Antigua. One of the best ways to do this is by hanging out in the Tropicana hostel bar. It’s a rooftop bar and they regularly hold bar crawls and offer affordable drinks for customers. Plus, due to how lively the bar is, you’ll easily meet other travellers there!
Luckily, anyone can visit the bar, regardless of whether you are a guest in the hostel or staying somewhere else. If you would prefer to stay here, you can book your own stay at Tropicana here.
Take part in a local cooking lesson
They say one of the best ways to immerse yourself into a culture is by eating the food. So why not learn how to cook it as well?
With so many cooking classes teaching you how to cook traditional Latin American and Guatemalan food, you’ll be doing yourself a real service by taking those skills home with you. There is never a bad time to eat pepian (chicken stew) which is a specialty in this amazing country.
This cooking class lasts 3-4 and picks you up from your accommodation.
Check out the local market
The local market caters for anything and anyone. It’s a total maze of displays and stalls of things waiting to be sold. You’ll find colourful flower displays, groceries, homewares, souvenirs and even clothing. The market is open every day except Sunday.
Be careful not to get lost as once you’re inside it can be tricky to find an exit, but that’ll just mean you’ve got more opportunity to see all the locals have to offer.
The market is located here.
Go on a coffee tour
Technically located in the countryside surrounding Antigua, coffee tours are one of the best things to do near the city. It’s often discussed how good coffee is in this part of the world, and that’s because it’s a fact.
You can join a guided coffee plantation tour and see how the beans are grown. You’ll get to see the coffee-making process as well as macadamia nuts and might even get to taste some! Considering how well-known Guatemalan coffee is, it cannot be missed from our list of things to do in Antigua.
You can join a tour here.
Take a day trip to Pacaya volcano
The Pacaya hike is the most accessible half-day tour up a volcano in the region. The hike takes around 2 hours plus travel time and gives you stunning views of the towering Volcan de Agua in the distance.
The tour allows you to get up close to an active volcano where you can actually walk along old, solid lava flows. Perhaps you can even roast some marshmallows on top of the heat pockets found at the top of the volcano trail.
Join a yoga class
Yoga is a great way to relax while improving your posture and mind. Well, lucky for those who enjoy participating, there are a few places around Antigua where you can join a class which is one of the best things to do on a quiet day.
Not only are there various yoga classes throughout the city, but there’s even one you can take in an art gallery! This is one way to take a common activity and make it a little more interesting, and Antigua did just that!
You can find the information on the art gallery yoga classes here.
Take a tour of Acatenango
For those hiking fans that are up for more of a challenge, I highly recommend climbing Acatenango. Easily one of the top bucket list things to do in Antigua, Guatemala, it’s a popular hike up to a high altitude where you can watch Fuego erupting.
When you join a tour group you hike 8 hours up to the base camp which is just 90 minutes away from the summit. The next morning you get to watch the sunrise from the peak and watch continuous eruptions from neighbouring Volcan de Fuego. This is one of the main things to do in Antigua as it’s one of the most famous volcanoes in Guatemala!
Do a hike up Agua volcano
Volcan Agua is one of the third of 3 main volcanoes in the area with popular hiking routes. It’s also the one you see in most parts of the city! With available hiking tours running on most days, you’ll have no problem finding a day and time that suits you.
If you love being outdoors you can complete this hiking trail as well as the others and hit the volcano trifecta during your stay in Antigua, it’s one of the best outdoorsy things to do!
Try some local wine
There are multiple opportunities to try out the local wine and it’s one of the more luxurious things to do in Antigua. Scattered in little pockets around the city there are small wine tastings being held just blocks from the famous ruins.
One of my favourite wine bars was a small hole in the wall just next to the Santa Catalina arch. Don’t worry though, they have a 2-for-1 offer on their house wine!
Go on an ATV-guided drive
With so many hills, volcanoes and valleys, there are countless routes your guide can take you during your daytime ATV drive. You’ll see stunning views through the trees and find driving routes through the forests and trees.
These drives are guided in small groups by professionals who can teach you how to stay safe while giving you a fantastic adrenaline-filled adventure. Plus, you can even go on a different tour around sunset if you’d prefer!
You will need to hold a valid driver’s licence to take part in these tours.
Visit the Antigua Guatemala Cathedral
Arguably one of the most stunning cathedrals in all of the city, Cathedral do San José is one of the main attractions. It is located in the centre of the city overseeing the central park as is a prime landmark in its own right.
What was once an amazing religious house is now just partial remains of a colonial church. The grounds are now part of a museum showing you part of the religious history within.
You can enter the ruins here.
Summary of things to do in Antigua Guatemala
As you can see there are activities suited to every type of person in this stunning, historical city. It’s one of my favourite destinations to date and was perfect for my time exploring the Central American region.
If you’re considering travelling here for part of your gap year or a shorter trip, it’s the perfect destination to include along the very popular “Gringo Trail” I talk about in our most popular backpacking routes.
Are there any other activities you think should be added to our list of interesting things to do in Antigua, Guatemala? Let us know!