16 Romantic Things To Do In Antigua Guatemala

Antigua Guatemala, commonly known simply as Antigua, is a city steeped in history, culture, and natural beauty. Located in the central highlands of Guatemala, Antigua is famous for its well-preserved Spanish Baroque-influenced architecture and a number of ruins of colonial churches. Here is a curated list of activities and sights to explore in this captivating UNESCO World Heritage Site city.

Spain colonized Antigua Guatemala in the early 1500s, building churches and convents in the shadow of three volcanoes. The Earthquake of 1773 reduced most of these structures to rubble, and though some were restored, the splendor of the remaining ruins seems to have a magnetic, and magical, effect.

Antigua Guatemala Street Scene

Tourists – even those from other areas of Guatemala – come here in droves. It’s not difficult to see why. Candy-colored Spanish-style buildings line cobblestone streets composed of lava rocks rounded and scuffed by centuries of human, animal, and vehicular traffic. These streets – I must emphasize – wreak havoc on high-heeled shoes worn by an increasing number of brides who book destination weddings here.

Expand on your Guatemala vacation with a stay on Lake Atitlan, one of the prettiest places on Earth.

Parque Central - Central Park - Antigua Guatemala

Best Things To Do In Antigua Guatemala

Wander Around Central Park (Parque Central)

Early light enhances facades of powder blue, watermelon pink, canary yellows, and other vivid hues. At the heart of Antigua is Central Park, a bustling square surrounded by historic buildings and shadowed by trees. It’s a perfect spot to sit, people-watch, and soak up the local atmosphere.

Tourists and locals mingle among handicraft hawkers and ice-cream vendors in Antigua Guatemala’s version of Central Park. Don’t miss the Mermaid Fountain. Water spouts from the buxom breasts of comely stone ladies.

Church ruins, Antigua Guatemala

Explore the Ruins of Convento de las Capuchinas

This partially ruined cathedral offers a striking contrast of decay and beauty. The remnants of its grandeur, reflected in the columns and facades, make it a poignant visit.

Visit the Cathedral of San José

Once a convent for Capuchin nuns, these ruins offer a fascinating look into colonial religious life. Don’t miss the unique circular dormitory.

Hike to Cerro de la Cruz

For those looking to escape the city for a bit, a hike to Cerro de la Cruz (Hill of the Cross) offers panoramic views of Antigua and the nearby Volcan de Agua.

Candy Store, Antigua Guatemala
Candy Store, Antigua Guatemala

Sample Guatemalan candy

Confections here are unique and lip-smacking, with prodigious use of sweetened “leche” and meringue. Candy shops, sprinkled around town, are immaculate – and tempting.

Enjoy Guatemalan Coffee

Antigua is known for its coffee, considered among the best in the world. Visit a local café and savor a cup of freshly brewed Guatemalan coffee.

Guatemala Street Food Corn, lime and salt
Guatemala Street Food: Corn, lime and salt

Eat Street Food

Grilled corn with lime and salt is one specialty – but you’ll find chicken with fresh tortillas as well. And, no, we didn’t get sick.

Take a Cooking Class

Learn to cook traditional Guatemalan dishes in one of the many cooking schools around the city. It’s a fun way to understand the culture through its food.

Antigua Guatemala street

Visit Mercado Central

Dive into the hustle and bustle of Antigua’s central market. From fresh produce to handmade crafts, it’s a sensory experience you won’t want to miss.

5th Ave, Antigua Guatemala
5th Ave, Antigua Guatemala

Walk the Cobbled Streets

Much of Antigua’s charm lies in its cobbled streets lined with colorful colonial buildings. Wander aimlessly and let the city’s allure unfold before you.

5th Ave is easily recognized by the yellow arch that spans what has become the city’s most photographed cobblestone street. The Santa Catalina Arch (Arco de Santa Catalina) is actually a hidden overpass built in the 1600s for nuns who were required to walk from the Santa Catalina Convent to school without going out in public. Now, the archway serves as a landmark and meeting place.

Jadite Jade in Guatemala
Jadite Jade in Guatemala

Explore the Museo del Jade

Antigua is also home to one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of Maya jade artifacts. The Museo del Jade is a must-visit for history buffs.

The ground in Guatemala coughs up “Jadite” jade (different from the “Nephrite” jade found in China), and locals love to educate the public about this semi-precious stone.

It’s been documented that Mayans wore jade masks weighing 16 pounds. But you can purchase a fraction of that in colors white to light green, dark green to black (lavender being the most rare), in jade stores around town.

La Merced Church

This yellow and white baroque church is not just a place of worship but also a testament to the resilience of Antigua’s architecture despite multiple earthquakes.

Attend the Semana Santa Processions

If you’re visiting during Holy Week, you’re in for a treat. The Semana Santa processions are an unforgettable cultural experience, replete with intricate alfombras (carpets) made of colored sawdust, flowers, and even fruits.

Guatemalan Folk Art
Guatemalan Folk Art

Buy Folk Art

This country’s hand-woven textiles are some of the best and most colorful on the planet (see our Lake Atitlan guide), but also consider purchasing a pop-art-y vividly-hued painting of villagers and Guatemala street scenes.

Visit A Coffee Plantation

The 28-family coffee co-operative, De La Gente, offers personalized tours. You’ll also have the opportunity to pick beans, help husk them, roast, and grind them – all by hand.

Afterward, the host family serves a large lunch in a modest home. The meal comes complete with coffee that will have you critically judging every cup you drink from then on. It is ambrosial. Our host was Virgilia Lopez, one of the first women to join the cooperative in 2010. Today she is one of the largest exporters in the group.

She works hard in the fields and at home and prides herself on earning her own income, thus being able to send her children to school.

Active volcano, Fuego, erupting near Antigua Guatemala
Active volcano, Fuego, erupting near Antigua Guatemala

Watch a volcano erupt

There are 33 volcanoes in Guatemala, with three–Volcán de Agua, Pacaya, and Fuego–still active. One, Fuego, is within view of the town and often spews smoke (sometimes rock and fire as well) in dramatic eruptions.

Locals shrug their shoulders – they are “used to it,” as they also are with frequent low-level earthquake rumblings – but it is definitely something that we foreigners might never see in our lifetimes, and transfixing as hell.

Romantic Antigua Guatemala Hotels

El Convento Boutique Hotel

Located near the famous Arch of Santa Catalina, El Convento Boutique Hotel offers an oasis of serenity in the midst of Antigua’s vibrant history. This luxurious establishment pays homage to the city’s past with its Spanish colonial architecture, featuring arched doorways, exposed wooden beams, and lush courtyards.

Ideal for couples, the hotel offers private plunge pools, canopy beds, and views of the surrounding volcanoes from select suites. A rooftop terrace, gourmet dining options, and personalized service make this a perfect romantic getaway.

Porta Hotel Antigua

Nestled amidst landscaped gardens, Porta Hotel Antigua offers a tranquil setting for couples looking for a romantic escape. The hotel is equipped with modern amenities while maintaining its traditional colonial charm, featuring terracotta floors, Guatemalan textiles, and ornate wrought-iron furnishings.

The rooms are spacious with private balconies overlooking the beautiful gardens or volcanoes. Couples can enjoy a romantic dinner at the in-house restaurant, relax at the spa, or take a dip in the heated outdoor pool.

Casa Santo Domingo

This unique hotel is a converted 16th-century monastery and offers a blend of history, art, and luxury, making it one of the most romantic hotels in Antigua. Situated near the famous Santo Domingo Monastery, Hotel Museo Spa Casa Santo Domingo has individually designed rooms that feature artifacts and antiques, lending each space a unique character.

The property is replete with gardens, fountains, and ancient ruins, creating an atmosphere steeped in history and romance. An on-site candlelit restaurant, a museum, and an array of wellness services add to the romantic allure of the hotel.

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  • Malerie Yolen-Cohen

    Malerie Yolen-Cohen is the Author of the cross-country travel guide, Stay On Route 6; Your Guide to All 3562 Miles of Transcontinental Route 6. She contributes frequently to Newsday, with credits in National Geographic Traveler, Ladies Home Journal, Yankee Magazine, Shape.com, Sierra Magazine, Porthole, Paddler, New England Boating, Huffington Post, and dozens of other publications. Malerie’s focus and specialty is Northeastern US, and she is constantly amazed by the caliber of restaurants and lodging in the unlikeliest places.

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