15+ epic things to do in Antigua Guatemala

Only Once Today is a reader-supported website. We might earn a commission if you purchase something through one of our links, at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support!

What we talk about in this article

Antigua is one of the most popular places to visit in Guatemala. It’s a hub for backpackers, but also for tour groups and families on their exploration of this Central American country. Most travellers use the city as a hub to visit other places in the country. 

Over the years, we have visited Antigua multiple times and had a chance to explore it quite a lot. That’s why we feel in the right place to write a list with the most epic things to do in Antigua, Guatemala.

We really started feeling at home in this city. That’s the strength of Antigua: it welcomes you and embraces you like a long-lost child. Within days, it makes you feel at home!

These are a few sights and activities to spice up your trip to Antigua.

People widely recognise and enjoy some activities, while others are more obscure. We even included a long-hidden Antigua activity that has been a secret for a very long time!

Keep scrolling to find more information about this popular destination in Guatemala, like how to get there and things you can do on a day trip from here.

15+ Epic things to do in Antigua Guatemala

There are so many cool things to do in the city, and that’s just the tip of the volcano. Do I need to say more? We love this place so much, we could almost find a place to live and stay here forever!

Let’s get you through the best sights and activities in Antigua

1. Parque Central - Main City Square

The Main Square is as old as the city and it just breathes the colonial history of Antigua. The old buildings, housing cute bars, shops, and restaurants are beautiful to watch. In the centre of the square, there’s a nice garden, with benches, trees, and walkways. This place is the heart of the city and you will probably stumble upon it during your exploration.

Walk through the centre and sit down on one of the benches for a while, watching local life unfold before you.

Watch the local women sell goods to tourists, accompanied by their children and grandchildren. You’ll also see children selling goods to tourists, which is a whole different story. I’d recommend you to not buy goods from children in order to help break the circle of child labour in countries like Guatemala.

2. The Santa Catalina Arch

The Santa Catalina Arch is th most photographed view in all of Antigua. It’s the iconic place that you have probabaly already seen in hundreds of pictures before even setting foot in Guatemala.

The arch was built in the seventeenth century and it once served to help the Santa Catalina nuns to cross the street from the convent to the school across the street without being seen by anyone, since they had taken a vow of seclusion.

The arch itself has been restored over the years, but it has not been destructed by the many severe earthquakes that struck the area over the centuries.

That’s why the Santa Catalina arch is a symbol of resilience for Antigua. The former nunnery of Santa Catalina is now a hotel.

Walk through the centre and sit down on one of the benches for a while, watching local life unfold before you.

Watch the local women sell goods to tourists, accompanied by their children and grandchildren. You’ll also see children selling goods to tourists, which is a whole different story. I’d recommend you to not buy goods from children in order to help break the circle of child labour in countries like Guatemala.

Santa Catalina Arch Antigua
Santa Catalina Arch Antigua

3. Park Tanque La Union

Tanque La Union is a small park, which is located a bit out of the city center.

It’s worth the short walk in order to see the former lavanderia from the old days. A few years ago, you could still find local women doing laundry in the bassins which are designed as a laundry station, but the last time we visited the washing bassin wasn’t being used by anyone.

Even if the place isn’t in use anymore, it is still a very nice sight! The park is located next to the Santa Clara convent.

Park Tanque La Union Antigua
Park Tanque La Union Antigua

4. Convents and nunneries

The city of Antigua is home to quite a few convents and nunneries, dating back to a colonial era. There are more than 30 monastic orders in Antigua, which proves it to have been a religious hub in the past. 

Many of these have been turned into ruins after various earthquakes over the centuries, while some are still in use today. 

These are a few of the most interesting nunneries and convents  in Antigua Guatemala:

Capuchins Monastery in Antigua Guatemala
Capuchins Monastery in Antigua Guatemala
  • Convento Capuchinas is one of the most beautiful nunneries in the cities. It is the most visited and the most beautiful one. If you choose only one Convento to visit, make it this one!
  • Convento Santa Catalina is the second most viewed convent in Antigua, simply because it is located near the famous arch! The convent is now a hotel, but the famous arch remains as a part of the convent. There’s also a small piece of the garden that remains. In this garden, they’ve put some religious statues you can see from the street.
  • Antigua Cathedral is located at the main square
  • Convento Santa Clara can be found near Parque Tanque La Union.
  • Convento de San Jeronimo is located near the local market. You can look inside through the gate or pay a fee to enter the actual ruins. This convent was actually never fully built before it was destructed by an earthquake. The ruins mostly consist of a garden with walls around it.
  • Monasterio de Santa Domingo is another beautiful monastery: the largest and most prestigious, until it was destroyed by an earthquake. Today, this place is a luxury hotel and you can book a room there!
  • La Merced Church is a recognisable yellow building dates back to the mid sixteenth century and has been destroyed and rebuilt several times after earthquakes hit the region. Iglesia La Merced is a famous landmark in Antigua and the main facade is built in a baroque style. It’s possible to enter the church or just watch it from the outside. La Merced is also a main hub where the procession for Semana Santa walks by.
Convento San Jeronimo
Convento San Jeronimo
La Merced Antigua
La Merced Antigua

5. More Churches in Antigua

Well, we’re not huge fans of churches anyway, but these churches are special!

It’s just the way they look from the outside, which makes them look like either ruins or works of art.

El Carmen Church is a majestic church which was partly destroyed during an earthquake in the 18th century, people abandoned the place and the facade still looks exactly the same… partly destroyed. You can’t enter this church.

El Carmen Church Antigua
El Carmen Church Antigua

San Francisco Church is the largest church in Antigua. It was first built in the 16th century and it was destroyed and abandoned after an earthquake. Now, you can visit the church and gardens.

Fun fact

The ruins of the San Francisco Church are used as a film set in the 1935 ‘New Adventures of Tarzan’. The church was in worse condition back then! It has been restored later. Check minute 54 in the movie!

6. Largest fountain in Central America

The fountain at La Merced is one of the lesser known sights in Antigua.

Guide books and travel guides don’t usually mention this highlight. When you visit this fountain, you might be there all by yourself. So don’t tell anyone and we can keep it a secret!

This fountain is the largest in Central America. It was built in the sixteenth century and has been partially destroyed by an earthquake and restored again. At some point in history, local monks used the fountain to breed fish.

You can climb the stairs of the surrounding building and walk around the fountain with great views from above. The fountain itself wasn’t operational when we visited and I’m not sure if it ever is, but it’s still an impressive view!

Fountain La Merced Antigua Guatemala
Fountain La Merced Antigua Guatemala

7. Handicraft markets

On quite a few different spots in Antigua, you can check out various handicrafts markets. Some are more expensive than others.

I’ll just name a few in this list. You will soon notice that Antigua is simply full of artisanal shops. The ones we mention here are larger and interesting.

Nim Pot’ is one of the largest and most popular souvenir shops in Antigua. In this store, you can find cheap souvenirs of all kinds. It’s actually more of a warehouse. This shop is located near the Catalina Arch.

Mercado Artesanias is located next to the local market, there’s also an artisanal market. This place offers better quality products at higher prices. Definitely worth to check out if you’re look for high quality textile and other beautiful souvenirs.

Mercado de Artesanias El Carmen: This handicraft market is located next to the El Carmen Church. It’s an open air market where locals sell their goods from a blanket on the street.

Pro tippractice your bargaining skills when in Antigua. You can practice them on the handicraft markets, but also when shopping for a hostel, like we did.

8. Visit the local market in Antigua

The local market is a sight that is skipped by many visitors, but we do recommend walking through the mercado at least once. It’s not really much of a handicrafts market and more a place where locals do their usual shopping.

Here, you can find fresh vegetables, spices, and other food, but also shoes, clothing, kitchenware, … Really anything!

It feels as if you would get lost in this maze of small corridors with hundreds of stalls selling different goods. But even if you get lost, it won’t take you long to find the main road again. I always think that the main attraction of places like these, is to get lost for a while before returning to the touristy streets of Antigua.

9. Walking tours Antigua

Antigua is a cute colonial town that lends itself perfectly for walking around on your own. You can just walk around and hope to find some cool sights, which you probably will.

Of course, you can also book a guided walking tour through Antigua. This way, you will discover a lot more than when you walk on your own. A local guide will take you to the most interesting places and give you information about the past and the present. 

Usually, there’s quite a bit of interesting information to discover.

10. Cooking classes in Antigua

When you’re in Guatemala, you will discover a variety of tasty dishes you haven’t seen, smelled, or tasted anywhere else in the world. This might trigger you to learn how to cook some of these local delicacies. 

No better way to learn than when instructed by a local cook! In Antigua, there are a few different cooking classes you can follow where you will learn how to cook some local specialties.

Some of the Antigua cooking classes show you the entire process of making certain dishes. They take you to the local market and then teach you how to make delicious local dishes.

11. Salsa Classes

Antigua has a few salsa schools in the city. We didn’t try any of them, since we only discovered that it was possible right before we left.

If you want to learn salsa, check out the New Sensation Salsa Studio, Salsa Dreams, or Salsa y Mas dance studios. The Salsa y Mas studio offers a free try out!

12. Spanish Classes

Antigua is the walhalla for backpackers who want to study Spanish before they continue their travels into Latin America.

It’s a nice place to stay for a while and learn the language meanwhile!

We took Spanish classes in Antigua a few years ago and loved the experience. For us too, it was an awesome reason to stay longer, much longer!

You could also learn a little bit of Spanish before you leave home with an online language course!

13. Chocolate museum and chocolate workshops

Guatemala as well as Mexico are great locations for cacao to grow, so both countries offer some options for chocolate making.

In Antigua alone, two chocolate museums can be found and both offer a diversity of activities for travelers.

You can either learn to make chocolate, visit the chocolate museum, or even take a tour to the plantations.

15. Hike up to the Cerro de la Cruz

For amazing views over the city, the Cerro de la Cruz would probably the best place to go!

The Cerro de la Cruz is a hill you can hike near Antigua. The hike is only 30 to 45 minutes before you reach the cross and the view point.

We never hiked this trail. Keep reading to find out why!

This activity comes with a warning!

I know that most travel guides recommend this activity and nobody ever talks about safety. We want to talk about safety regarding this hike.

Each time we visited Antigua, we tried to do the hike. But each time, we were discouraged by locals who told us that it wasn’t safe. An elderly couple stopped us on the street on our way to the Cerro. They advised us not to go there.

Tourists get mugged or robbed on this trail constantly.

If you really want to do this hike, ask about it in your hostel. They will be able to give you recent and updated information about safety.

Or, alternatively, you can book a guided tour there and have a guide take you up the hill to assure a safe visit.

Seasonal activities in Antigua

Some Antigua activities can only be done during some seasons or particular days during the year.

16. Semana Santa (Easter)

Semana Santa takes place during the week before Easter, with the highlights of the celebration on Easter. This day, a huge parade walks through the entire city.

People are dressed up for the occasion and the procession is a delight to watch. Floats are being carried through the colonial streets in order to re-enact the crucification of Christ.

These floats can weight up to a few thousand kg and are carried by a dozen to hundred men.

All over town, you see men wearing purple robes, which symbolise the mourning process.

If you are in the neighbourhood of Antigua during this period, we definitely recommend planning your visit on the right dates in order to witness those special days.

Semana Santa Antigua Guatemala
Semana Santa Antigua Guatemala

17. Flowers Carpets during Holy Week (around Easter)

Also during the Semana Santa Week, locals from surrounding villages create beautiful flower carpets or ‘Alfombras’ to celebrate the Holy Week or Easter.

Preparations for the flower carpets start weeks or months before the actual event. These works of art consist of flowers and coloured sand, forming beautiful and colourful scenes, biblical symbols, and traditional Mayan symbols.

You can either watch the flower carpets in Antigua or in some of the surrounding villages.

The colourful carpets get trampled by the processions, so if you want to see them, arrive before the procession!

To see the flower carpets at their best, walk the procession route in the early morning of Good Friday.

18. Giant kite festival (Day of the Dead)

On November 1st, the Day of the Dead, you can attend the Giant Kite Festival in Sumpango. You can either travel there on your own to witness this event, or you can book a guided tour to attest the festival.

The Giant Kite Festival is one of these ‘once in a lifetime’ experiences, as it happens only once a year and only in 2 smaller villages near Antigua.

Local people from the village of Sumpango work on these kites for months before November 1st. It’s an impressive tradition which brings generations of people together to honor the dead.

Antigua Volcano View
Antigua Volcano View

Other day trips from Antigua

Aside from all the cool things you can do in the city itself, there are also quite a few things to do in the area surrounding Antigua!

That’s why we created this interesting resource with tons of activities you can do on a day trip from Antigua.

Map of top things to do in Antigua Guatemala

How to get to Antigua

Antigua is, by far, the most popular place to visit in Guatemala. It’s located in the highlands, not too far from Guatemala city. And it is, undeniably, a perfect hub for exploring the Western side of the country. There are a few places you can visit on a day trip from Antigua and some other places require more time than just a day trip.

Getting to Antigua by flight

If you want to go to Antigua by airplane, fly into Guatemala City, which is the nearest airport. 

From there, you can either get a shuttle or travel by public bus. We recommend getting a shuttle from the airport, as it is a hassle-free way to get from the airport to your accommodation in Antigua.

Getting there by public transportation

If you’re already in Guatemala, then public transportation is a great way to travel around. If you have the time and you really want to explore Guatemala, then getting a chicken bus or regular bus to Antigua is easy and cheap.

To do this, is depends on where you’re starting out. Each village and city has ways to get you to Antigua whether this is in one bus ride or rather a combination of different buses to cover more distance. 

Head over to the main bus station or the place where buses usually leave. There, start asking around to find the best way of travel to your desired destination.

Getting there with a shuttle

A shuttle is always a good choice. It’s an easy and safe way to reach your destination. Most of the time, it’s also the fastest way to do so. 

Bookaway has the best connections for a great price. Their website allows you to enter your destination and find a cheap ride to go just about anywhere.

Where to stay in Antigua Guatemala

When visiting a memorable place like Antigua in the heart of Guatemala, you might as well select accommodation that will stay on top of your mind for years to come. 

We stayed in Antigua multiple times and not every accommodation was as interesting as the other ones. But, we tested a few and we wrote some guides about it. 

Depending on your personal travel style and needs, you can choose to spend the night in a budget-friendly hostel, a beautiful boutique hotel or a luxurious hotel in Antigua.

Maya Papaya - Antigua - Guatemala

Maya Papaya hotel in Antigua, Guatemala, blends modern comfort with local charm, offering a unique stay amidst the city's vibrant culture. It features an excellent location, close to attractions and local life, and a delicious cuisine in the hotel's restaurant.

Check prices on Booking Check prices on Hostelworld
El Convento Boutique Hotel - Antigua - Guatemala

El Convento Boutique Hotel, situated opposite the Convento de Capuchinas in the heart of Guatemala, blends elegance with cultural immersion. Its antique decor and luxurious amenities, including spacious rooms with jacuzzis and terrace views, offer a unique experience.

Check prices on Booking Check prices on Agoda
Las Cruces Boutique Hotel - Antigua - Guatemala

Las Cruces Boutique Hotel in Antigua combines modern design with traditional decor, offering a unique and elegant stay in the city center. It has beautiful artwork and cultural ambiance, along with excellent amenities. It's an ideal choice for travellers looking to explore Antigua's highlights.

Check prices on Booking Check prices on Agoda

How much time do you need for Antigua?

If you want to do it right, 3 days minimum. 

I know that you can also visit Antigua in one day, but I believe you really need to get the day and evening vibe. And on top of that, take your time to absorb the local vibe. Antigua is such a lovely place. We usually stay a week or 10 days. This way, you don’t have to rush to explore everything, but you have the time to walk around and ‘find’ things instead of rushing through a to do list of ‘things to do in Antigua’.

And, if you want to fit the town of Antigua into your itinerary for Guatemala, make sure to count enough days here!

What to pack for Antigua

For a trip to Antigua, we recommend packing the same stuff as for a backpacking trip to Guatemala. Chances are that you will be combining the rest of Guatemala with your trip to Antigua. 

So, be prepared for a city trip, like the one in Antigua, but also prepare yourself for a more jungle-like destination, like Semuc Champey or Livingston. Aside from those destinations, also keep in mind that there are beautiful beaches in Guatemala and that you might want to visit some ancient Mayan ruins.

Let’s start with checking out our backpacking packing list and our packing list for Guatemala.

Found the best things to do in Antigua Guatemala?

As you can see, Antigua has a lot to offer for all types of travellers and it should be included in every Guatemala itinerary!

Are you still looking for reasons to visit the country? Check out our complete backpacking guide for Guatemala.

From Antigua, you can easily take day trips all over the country of Guatemala or you can cross the border into Mexico or El Salvador.

Have you been to Antigua? Maybe you found more interesting sights and activities!

Let us know in the comments below!

Pin it!

15+ epic things to do in Antigua Guatemala
15+ epic things to do in Antigua Guatemala
Start planning your trip

Plan your trip

Step-by-step guide to plan your trip

Find accommodation

Upgrade your trip & sleep comfortably

Get travel insurance

The best travel insurance for Europeans

Get a global travel card

Get cash & pay anywhere

"I need 6 months of holiday, twice a year"

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing to browse on this website, you accept the use of cookies for the above purposes.