Antigua was better than I expected, and I expected a lot. The city is beautiful and energized and just full of life. There’s a lot more going on here – more people, more tourists, more volcanos, and more unexplained religious festivals. It’s somewhere you can spend a day or a year and probably still have lots to discover and explore.
Where to Stay:
Cost – $10/Night
There’s a lot of options for hostels and hotels in Antigua, and you probably can’t go totally wrong. That said, I absolutely loved my hostel. We stayed at Three Monkeys Hostel, which will set you back about $10/night for a bed in a dorm. Three Monkeys is a total backpacker hostel – the dorms are really nice and there’s a great little bar for the guests. The staff were really helpful in arranging tours and booking transfers, and were very knowledgeable in general. The common area in the hostel is all a courtyard with hammocks and chairs for relaxing – it’s really beautiful. Location is pretty good – we were about 5-10 min walking from the main square. That said, after dark we weren’t totally comfortable as two women alone in the area.
Where to Eat:
We ate breakfast every day at Cafe Condesa. This is in part because it was the end of our trip and after getting sick in the Peten region we were willing to pay a bit more for our food, but mostly it was because Cafe Condesa had the best breakfast in town. Located on the main square, the cafe is a little sanctuary. They have a few things for sale out front, but you definitely want to make your way back to the courtyard area decorated with little tables and beautiful flowers. The food was delicious – there’s a big menu with good vegetarian options and lots to choose from. My favourite part was the coffee – if you’re a coffee drinker you have got to try their coffee.
We really wanted to try a cooking class while in Guatemala and were recommended La Tortilla by our hostel in Antigua. La Tortilla is awesome – We signed up do to an entire meal, so we got to make four traditional Guatemalan dishes and also got unlimited wine, which is always fun. We learned to make a tortillas, a traditional roasted vegetable soup, a beet salad, and plantains stuffed with chocolate. It was all delicious, and we had such a great night.
Cafe Sky is a great rooftop terrace restaurant in Antigua. It’s the place to go for solid food and incredible views. We went on our last night to soak up as much of Antigua as we could before leaving. The food was also surprisingly good – Don’t miss the mushroom quesadillas! And although I was just drinking beer the cocktails looked impressive as well. We made sure to be there for sunset, which I’d definitely recommend. There’s no better spot to watch the sun go down behind Antigua’s volcanoes.
What To Do:
The chocolate museum in Antigua is a lot of fun, even if you just stop in for free samples. There’s some information about how the chocolate is produced and its significance to Mayan culture, but mostly it’s a shop and showcase of all the different things they do with chocolate. I came home with a lot of chocolate coffee, which was delicious, and the bars and cocoa powder was pretty delicious as well.
Santa Catalina Arch
Santa Catalina arch is definitely the most famous land mark in Antigua, and it’s pretty spectacular when you see it on a clear day with the volcano behind it. We set out to find it on our first day in Antigua, but quickly found out that we came across it all the time without even meaning to because Antigua’s pretty small. It’s a really nice spot, and the street is beautiful as well and full of different kinds of venders and shops.
Ruins of Catedral de Santiago
The ruins of Catedral de Santiago were one of my favourite spots in the city. We walked by the entrance everyday on our way to the hostel, and on our last day finally decided to pop in and see what there was to see. The ruins were from this massive cathedral that had been damaged by years of earthquakes. The walls were covered in vines and wild flowers and it was such a beautiful place to explore.
I would kill for more days in Antigua, and it’s definitely on my list for next time I visit Guatemala. There’s so much to do in the city itself and it also makes a great home base to visit other spots in the country. I can’t wait to go back!