A Guide to Guatemala City

Guatemala City, Guatemala’s largest urban area, lies on a high mountainous valley surrounded by ancient volcanoes. It’s an ideal destination for those interested in exploring both the Latin American city lifestyle as well as its gorgeous and unique natural environment.

zona 10, 5 Avenida 14-67, Guatemala
Sizzling, juicy steak will keep you coming back to Hacienda Real in Guatemala City. A favorite of tourists and locals alike, this steak house is famous for its tenderloin called “lomito.” Giant shrimp or flaky fish grilled and smothered in garlic and butter are great options if you are a seafood enthusiast. Whatever your tastes, Hacienda Real will keep you coming back for more!
Zona 2 de Mixco, Cdad. de Guatemala, Guatemala
When U.S. school buses are decommissioned, they are reincarnated in Central America and given new life. Repainted and rechristened, they become tropical intercity transport worth taking. For travelers, a journey on one of these is an immersive Guatemalan experience as well as a nostalgic ride. For crossing international borders on land, many Centroamericanos ride on double-decker buses, from which you can look down on all the Panamerican Highway action; traveling from Guatemala through El Salvador and Honduras to Nicaragua, this was a typical scene, as we wondered, “are we there yet?”
6 6A Calle
The incomparable beauty of Mayan textile arts is often the first thing that strikes a visitor to Guatemala and one of the memories that sticks with them the longest. The Museo Ixchel del Traje Indigena, or the Ixchel Museum of Indigenous Dress, honors that beauty in its extensive collection of weavings, textiles and dress, and works to conserve the traditional practice of Mayan weaving. The permanent collection features clothing from 156 local communities in Guatemala.
Central America 9 Avenida 14-75 Guatemala, Cdad. de Guatemala 01013, Guatemala
Guatemala City was developed in the valley between three ancient volcanos: Agua, Fuego, and Acatenango. When flying in to the area try to get a window seat because the view of these giants will be stunning. The Spanish built their first colonial capital at on the slopes of the Agua volcano, or present day Ciudad Vieja. While volcanic regions are fertile and often cradle civilization, the Spanish wisely decided to move the capital away from the mountains to what is now Guatemala City—a reasonable distance from the volcanos themselves. The 12,336ft peak of Agua dominates this photo and in the center you can see the steam rising from the more distant summit of Fuego. Fuego has been in a constant state of eruption the past year so while it’s a uniquely fascinating time to explore its base, check local conditions before heading nearby.
13 Calle 2-75, Guatemala
After indulging in delicious local Guatemalan fare – plantains, rice, beans, and the like – you may want to let your body take a breather with some healthier sustenance. Thankfully, Guatemala City is home to a branch of Pitaya Juice Bar (Antigua has the other branch), a colorful, playful shop that serves up light and fresh tastes of Latin America. Not in the mood for a liquid lunch, or even a Latin one? You can still bring a Greek wrap or Thai salad out to savor on the patio.
Wherever you travel, it’s always good to locate the nearest bookstore to your hotel. And in Guatemala, you don’t want to be caught without a book: there’s too many plazas and lush patios for you to lack some easily accessible literature at any given moment. But if you packed extra sunscreen instead of extra reading material, Sophos in Guatemala City has you covered. The bookstore is stocked with both Spanish-language and English-language books. There’s a separate room for books on Guatemala and Guatemalan history - handy for the newcomer - and the elegant store, located within an upscale mall in Zona 10, also hosts events for the literary-minded.
14-68 7A Avenida
There’s a reason that Zona 10 in Guatemala City is called Zona Viva, or the lively neighborhood. Allegretto, a restaurant, bar, and dance venue with a self-described “European ambiance,” is part of that reason. During the day, locals pop in for coffee on a lunch break. In the evening, you might see them again sipping a cocktail on the patio during a convivial happy hour. Depending on your mood, you’re welcome to a seat indoors or out for an espresso, wine, or a mojito.
5A Calle, Guatemala 01013, Guatemala
I love checking out local zoos while traveling—especially when they’re clean, humane, and informative. The Aurora Zoo in Guatemala is definitely a great spot to take the kids for an easy day of excitement. It’s been open since 1924 and actually helps both conserve and rehabilitate animals. Oh, and tickets are less than $5. Worth a stop!
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