Founded in 1542 by Spanish conquistadors, the area today call Antigua was actually the capital of Guatemala and an very important commercial and religious center for Central America. However, due to a multitude of earthquakes and volcanic activity, the center of government was, in the 18th century, relocated to what is today Guatemala City.
Today, Antigua (now an UNESCO world heritage site) is a charming small town complete with cobblestone streets and well preserved colonial Spanish architecture.
While walking around, you are bound to run across the beautiful ruins of the La Iglesia del Carmen. In front of the facade, there is typically a local handicrafts market - great for gifts!
My favorite things to do in Antigua, Guatemala:
1. Simply walk around taking in the beautiful colonial style architecture and colorfully painted buildings with a volcano backdrop.
2. People watch - Many Guatemalans continue to wear their traditional cultural clothing and conduct life as they have for centuries.
3. Visit Antigua Guatemala Cathedral (also called San José Cathedral).
4. Walk through the Arch of Santa Catalina
5. Eat delicious food from street vendors.
6. Visit the famous El Carmen Church ruins.
7. Shop at various handicraft markets that surround El Carmen Church.
8. Visit museums and art galleries located in refurbished colonial homes. My three favorites - the Jade Museum, El Carmen Galeria de Arte and La Antigua Galeria de Arte.
9. Walk through the Casa Santo Domingo - a 17th century convent turned hotel.
10. Visit an Antiguan tile stop. Antiguan artist are famous for this craft
For a small town, there really is a lot to see and do. It’s a great place (1 hr drive from Guatemala City), to spend a long weekend.