Antigua is a true gem in Central America. The city literally translates to “ancient,” and you’ll see why as soon as you enter the town. As a UNESCO Heritage Site and the first Spanish colonial capital in Guatemala, it is a truly beautiful place with a lot to do, see, and explore. 

So, without wasting any time, let’s dive straight into our list of the 32 best things to do and see in Antigua, Guatemala!

1. Go on a Free Walking Tour

things to do in antigua

An important activity you should add to your Antigua Guatemala itinerary is to go on a free walking tour. Walking tours give you a feel for the new place, and generally, your tour guide will also give you some local tips for restaurants, bars, tours, etc. So, what better way to get started?

Antigua has no shortage of free walking tours. We found ours online through Free Tour, but you can also ask your hotel or hostel if they have any recommendations.

Antigua’s streets are lined with ancient, rocky cobblestone, so make sure you have a good pair of travel shoes with you for your trip!

2. Hike Acatenango and Fuego

things to do in antigua

No list of the best things to do in Antigua is complete without mentioning at least one of the legendary volcano treks. When we arrived in Antigua, we wasted no time and almost immediately headed off on our trek up Acatenango, the 3rd highest summit in Central America.

This 1.5-day hike takes you up to a base camp near the summit of Acatenango, and then you have the option to hike out to the ridge of Volcan de Fuego, which is one of the most active volcanos in the world. You’ll stay on the ridge until the sun sets and watch as the volcano spews huge swaths of fire and red hot ash every 15 to 30 minutes. It is one of the most amazing things we have ever seen!

Important note: This hike is pretty extreme, and the elevation is very high (over 3,900 meters or 12,800 feet). So, if you are not in good shape, we recommend opting for an easier volcano, such as Pacaya (more on this below).

3. Eat Like a Local

Things to do in Antigua, Guatemala

Antigua has a huge variety of restaurants, from authentic local street food spots to American fast-food chains. We found Guatemalan food to be delicious, and there are so many good restaurants to try in this city.

Best Places to Eat in Antigua

  • Street Food at Iglesia de la Merced: Best street food in Antigua.
  • Rincón Antigueño: Cheap local sit-down restaurant.
  • Toko Baru: Great, affordable place for international food.
  • Quiltro: Best fine dining restaurant in Antigua.
  • Brooklyn Pizza Co: Best pizza in Antigua.
  • La Casa De Las Sopas: Excellent place to try traditional Guatemalan soups.

Check out our full list of the 19 best restaurants in Antigua!

4. Explore the Central Market

Things to do in antigua

If you enjoy exploring local markets as much as we do, you must check out the Central Market in Antigua. You could spend hours here exploring; just try not to get lost! You can pretty much buy anything you can think of in this market, from electronics to furniture, groceries, SIM cards, household products, and even second-hand clothing. Across the street from the main market is the artisan market, which is probably one of the best places to buy souvenirs in the city.

5. Walk to Cerro de la Cruz

One of the best and most popular viewpoints in Antigua is the Cerro de la Cruz or Hill of the Cross. This viewpoint is a short walk and relatively easy from the city center, and you’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking birdseye view of Antigua and the three surrounding volcanos (Agua, Acatenango, and Fuego). This is definitely one of the best things to do in Antigua, and better yet, it is free! We recommend heading up to the hill at sunset for the best views.

6. Explore a Coffee Plantation

Things to do in Antigua

Guatemala is one of the top 10 producers of coffee in the world, as the climate is perfect for high-elevation Arabica beans. Antigua and the surrounding countryside are perfect places to explore a coffee plantation, learn about the coffee process, and sample some of the best coffee you’ll ever have! If you love coffee and have never visited a coffee plantation before, we highly recommend doing so in Guatemala. It is a great experience that is sure to turn you into a coffee snob.

Here are a couple of the best coffee tours in Antigua:

7. Learn How to Make Chocolate

Things to do in antigua

Chocolate is no longer one of Guatemala’s major exports, but chocolate production has a very important place in Guatemalan history. In fact, Ancient Mesoamericans are thought to be the first culture to turn cacao beans into chocolate. Chocolate is an important part of Mayan culture and is unequivocally tied to Guatemalan history.

One of the best things you can do in Antigua is learn about the chocolate process and make your own chocolate in a workshop. We went to the ChocoMuseo and spent 2 hours learning about cacao and chocolate in the “Bean to Bar Workshop.”

8. Photograph Some Ruins

Things to do in antigua

Prior to 1776, Antigua was the bustling capital of the Spanish colony in Guatemala. However, after two major earthquakes essentially destroyed the city, the Spanish moved the capital to Guatemala City. While large portions of the old city have been restored, many of the larger buildings are still in ruins. Most of the ruins are open to the public, and you’ll be able to explore them.

Here are a few of the best ruins to check out in Antigua:

  • Convento de las Capuchinas
  • La Recoleccion
  • Convento de Santa Clara
  • Catedral de San José
  • Convent of La Merced
  • Museo del Hermano Pedro

9. Visit Hobbitenango

Located around 20 minutes by car from Antigua is a very interesting tourist attraction. If you are looking for an “Unexpected Journey” on your visit to Antigua, head to Hobbitenengo, a beautiful theme park modeled after Hobbiton from The Lord of the Rings. Here, you’ll find several “Hobbit Huts” that can be rented for the night, a restaurant, tons of incredible viewpoints, and hiking trails. There are also themed games such as archery, axe throwing, mini golf, and a giant swing!

Hobitenango is truly one of the most unique and “unexpected” things to do near Antigua!

10. Learn Spanish

things to do in antigua

The Spanish accent in Guatemala is one of the easiest to understand for foreign speakers, making Guatemala a top choice for travelers looking to brush up on their Español. The best way to learn Spanish is by joining an immersion program, in which you will learn, speak, socialize, and essentially live in a Spanish world.

There are many Spanish schools in Antigua, most offering weekly packages for group or private Spanish classes. Here are a few of the best Spanish schools in Antigua:

11. Head to Lago Atitlan

Lake Atitlan Guatemala

Antigua is by far the most popular place to visit in Guatemala, but Lake Atitlan is a close second! Located just 3 hours from Antigua, Atitlan is a stunning place to visit, with a rich culture and absolutely jaw-dropping views. There are several villages surrounding the lake, all with their own unique character. The majority of the locals in Atitlan are Mayan and speak a dialect of the Mayan language, which is super interesting to hear and witness. Atitlan isn’t really possible as a day trip, as the main draw is to visit several of the local villages around the lake. We recommend setting aside 2 to 3 days for a trip to Atitlan.

What are the best places to visit in Lake Atitlan, you might ask? We have got you covered:

  • San Juan: This town gets a lot of local visitors and has exploded in popularity in recent years. It is a beautiful place to witness local life, sample delicious coffee, and learn about indigenous Guatemalan culture. 
  • San Pedro: One of the larger settlements in Atitlan and a popular hub for backpackers, San Pedro is another excellent place to visit on the lake. This is the most affordable town and the best place to go if you want to party.
  • San Marcos: Known as the “hippie capital of Atitlan,” San Marcos is a hub for yogis and alternative travelers. If you want authenticity, I’d steer clear of this town, but it is a great place for a yoga retreat and relaxing.
  • Panajechal: This is the main tourist hub of Lake Atitlan and where your shuttle will likely drop you off when you arrive. There is no shortage of restaurants and places to stay here. It isn’t somewhere that we recommend spending too much time, but it is a good place to base your travels, as you can easily catch a public boat to any of the villages for a day trip.

12. Go on an ATV Tour

Antigua is, of course, a breathtaking city, but the surrounding countryside is also worth exploring. While you could technically rent a car to explore the areas near town on your own, you’d be much better off (and safer!) joining an organized ATV tour. These tours generally last between 4 and 9 hours and will take you all around the region to see many different places of interest. If you are strapped for time, this is a great way to see as much as possible in a single day!

13. Visit Caoba Farms

Caoba Farms Antigua

On the outskirts of Antigua, you’ll find a restaurant and eco farm called Caoba Farms. This is a great place to have breakfast or lunch, with a beautiful setting and some spectacular food. Caoba Farms is much more than a restaurant, with many activities running throughout the week. They offer yoga and capoeira classes and even have opportunities to volunteer at the farm. On weekend days, there is a farmer’s market where you can purchase some healthy, locally sourced products.

14. Take a Salsa Dancing Class

Things to do in Antigua

If you visit Latin America and don’t take a salsa dancing class, you are missing out. Salsa originated in Cuba in the 1920s as a blend of traditional Latin American dances such as mambo and rumba, as well as swing dancing in the USA.

While Guatemala certainly isn’t the salsa dancing capital of the world, it is still a great place to try it out. Our salsa class was one of our favorite things we did in Antigua! The salsa studio we visited in town was Frank Arrango Salsa Studio. Frank is a fantastic teacher and even offers free group classes several days per week. That said, if you have never tried it before, we highly recommend a private lesson, as you’ll really get to nail down the basics!

15. Ride a “Chicken Bus”

Things to do in Antigua

“Chicken buses,” locally known as camionetas are the main form of public transportation in Guatemala. If you are from the US, you will likely recognize these buses, as they are old American school buses that have been heavily customized and painted to look… well, kinda awesome!

If you are up for an adventure, you can use the chicken buses to get from one city to another in Guatemala. Just simply head to the main chicken bus station in Antigua and tell the driver where you want to go. They will direct you to the proper bus. These buses are a fun glimpse into local life in Guatemala.

Note on safety: It isn’t inherently unsafe to take a “chicken bus” as a tourist, but use common sense and hold on to your valuables. It is also worth noting that your bag will likely be thrown on the roof of the bus and may or may not be strapped down. So, if you prefer a more comfortable and stress-free form of transportation, take a shared tourist shuttle.

16. Get Your Obligatory Santa Catalina Arch Photo

Anitgua Santa Catalina Arch

Chances are, if you have ever seen a photo of Antigua, you have seen the Santa Catalina arch. This is one of the most iconic views in the city, and, in our opinion, it is certainly worth visiting. It is a beautiful site; and if you correctly line up the photo, the arch will curve perfectly over Volcan de Agua. 

Top tip: Come early in the morning; the arch gets VERY crowded in the afternoons and on weekends, so head over before 9 am to snap the best (crowd-free) photos.

17. Hang Out on a Rooftop Terrace

Antigua things to do

Antigua is stocked full of rooftop terraces, all with incredible views of the city. Head up to a terrace for an afternoon cocktail to watch the sunset or simply have brunch with a view! You can’t really go wrong with a rooftop terrace view. But there are some with better views and offerings than others.

Here are the standouts from our trip to Antigua:

  • Antigua Brewing Company
  • Cafe Sky
  • Snug Irish Pub
  • Cafe Boheme

18. People Watch at the Parque Central

Things to do Antigua, Guatemala

The “Parque Central” or “Plaza Mayor” in Antigua is the main square of the city and the center of all the action. This is one of the oldest parts of the city and the middle point of the colonial city. This plaza has lots of large trees that provide shade and an enormous fountain with statues of “sirenas” or sirens on it.

One of our favorite activities in Antigua was simply sitting at one of the benches in the square and people-watching. There are always men selling ice cream from carts and Mayan women selling handicrafts. It is a great place to soak up Antigua’s culture. The square gets busy, especially on the weekends, and is the meeting point for walking tours and shuttle pickups to other cities in Guatemala. 

19. Take a Day Trip to the Largest Market in Central America

Chichicastenango is a village just north of Atitlan and is located around 3 hours away from Antigua. People visit this market for one reason: to go to one of the world’s largest and most colorful markets. This is one of the best places to witness everything Mayan culture has to offer, from street food to handicrafts, clothing, and more! 

The best words to describe this market are colorful, aromatic, authentic, and hectic! The market occurs every Tuesday and Sunday and is open from 8 am till around 5 pm. More than 90% of the population in Chichicastenango is indigenous Mayan, making this an amazing opportunity to witness one of Guatemala’s amazing cultural hotspots. This is, without a doubt, one of the best day trips to take from Antigua.

20. Learn How to Cook Like a Local

Antigua cooking class

If you love to cook, you absolutely must take a cooking class during your trip to Antigua! Guatemalan food is rooted in history and is pretty delicious. Traditional Guatemalan food consists of corn, beans, tortillas, stews, chilis, and more! While it may not be as world-famous (or spicy!) as Mexican cuisine, Guatemalan food is unique and definitely worth exploring, especially if you like to cook.

There are several cooking classes in Antigua. Here are a few of our top picks for cooking classes:

21. Go Thrift Shopping

Things to do in antigua

If you are a thrifting fanatic like us, you’ll be in heaven in Antigua. Here, you’ll be able to find tons of used clothes, from upscale vintage shops to massive second-hand clothing markets. Guatemala is the number one importer of second-hand clothing from the United States, and the US donates tons and tons of clothing to the country each year. So, there is a very high chance you’ll find some decent US-branded clothing when scouring the thrift shops and second-hand markets in Antigua!

22. Go to the Jade Museum

Guatemalan Jade

Guatemala is one of only seven countries in the world that has discovered jade within its borders. Jade is one of the strongest natural minerals and has been used for thousands of years for tools, weapons, and jewelry. In fact, jade is stronger than steel, and jewelry producers use diamond blades to cut the mineral!

La Casa Del Jade in Antigua is the best place to learn about Guatemalan jade and take a look at some of the beautiful jade jewelry. The company gives free tours of the museum, where you will learn about the history of jade production in Guatemalan and the different types of jade.

While certainly not cheap, you’ll be able to purchase authentic jade jewelry for a much more affordable price than most places in the world here, and the pieces are simply beautiful. You may find cheap “jade” bracelets at handicraft markets around Guatemala, but these are almost always not made of actual jade.

23. Party the Night Away

Nightlife Antigua Guatemala

Despite being a pretty small town, Antigua is an awesome place to party. There are countless rooftop bars, speakeasies, clubs, and parties around the town. We had the pleasure of spending New Year’s Eve in Antigua and spent the night at a rave at an abandoned pool just outside of town.

If you want to meet other travelers on a night out, your best bet is to join the Antigua Bar Crawl. You’ll get free drinks, bar discounts, free entry, and a welcome shot at each venue!

Best Bars in Antigua

Antigua has some really amazing and unique bars. So, here are our top recommendations if you are looking for somewhere to have a few drinks:

  • Cafe No Se: Interesting candlelit dive bar with Mezcal.
  • El Ilegal: Very affordable dive bar with awesome decorations and some of the best prices in town.
  • Las Vibras De La Casbah: The only real club in Antigua. Has a large dance floor and a small outdoor terrace.
  • El Barrio: A large venue with several bars within it. It has an American sports bar, a cocktail bar, and a shot bar.

24. Drink Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice

things to do in antigua

There are several small carts located around the main square in Antigua that sell freshly squeezed orange juice. We cannot recommend trying this juice enough if you want to sample the best orange juice you’ll ever have in your life. The juice is refreshing and affordable, perfect for a small break when exploring the city on a hot day.

25. Go Cafe-Hopping

activities Antigua guatemala

As mentioned above, Guatemala proudly produces some of the best coffee in the world, so it is no surprise that Antigua has no shortage of cafes. In fact, we essentially worked from a different cafe every day during our one-month stay in Antigua and still didn’t manage to visit them all! Whether you are looking to try some local specialty coffee, relax on a rooftop terrace, or get some work done at a quiet cafe, we are sure you’ll find your spot in Antigua. Most of the cafes in the town source their coffee from local farms and roast in small batches. Every cup of coffee we tried in Antigua was delicious.

Here are a few of our favorite coffee shops from our stay:

26. Check Out Iglesia de la Merced

Churches in Antigua

You may remember this church from our street food recommendation, but it is also an excellent place to visit. While most of the old churches in Antigua are almost completely destroyed, La Merced is still pretty intact. The exterior of the church has a beautiful design with white and yellow paint, and inside, you can find a massive fountain in a large colonial courtyard. On weekend days, you can also climb to the top of the church to get an excellent view of the city.

This church was originally completed in 1767, just six years before the major earthquake that wreaked havoc on the city.

27. Go to the (Free!) Art Museum

Antigua things to do

On a tight budget? Don’t worry! There are plenty of free things to do in Antigua. The best free museum in the city is the Museo Nacional del Arte de Guatemala (MUNAG). This is a relatively new museum, only opening to the public in 2021. It sits inside the Captain General Palace, which is one of the oldest buildings in Antigua, dating back to the 1500s.

The MUNAG is filled with local artwork, ranging from the precolonial period to the modern era. There are some really interesting art pieces to see here, and the building itself is incredible. And the best part? Entry is completely free!

28. Shop for Handicrafts

Mayan handicrafts are definitely the best souvenirs you can bring home with you from your trip to Guatemala. All around Antigua, you can find local stores selling clothing and other goods made in the traditional Mayan design. We had the pleasure of learning about the weaving process in Lake Atitlan. Women will hand-die the cotton with natural plants, fruits, and even insects!

The clothing, bags, and other handicrafts in Anitgua are definitely unique, so we recommend at least browsing some handicraft shops during your visit.

29. Toast Marshmallows on Volcan Pacaya

Hiking volcanos in Guatemala

If Acatenango is too difficult of a trek for you, your best bet is to hike Pacaya. While it certainly isn’t going to be the most leisurely hike of your life, it is much easier than Acatenango/Fuego and still offers some incredible views.

It only takes about 2 hours to hike Pacaya, so this is a perfect day trip from Antigua. Pacaya is another active volcano, and occasionally, you can see massive red-hot lava flowing down the side of the mountain.

That said, when we were in Antigua, there were no lava flows (always check beforehand if this is important to you!), but you could still roast marshmallows in volcanic hot pockets on the mountain!

30. Try Beer at the Antigua Brewing Company

Gallo takes the trophy for being the most popular beer in Guatemala, but craft beer fanatics can still enjoy some tasty brews at the Antigua brewing company. They have a large selection of craft beer and a beautiful rooftop terrace, making this a perfect place to relax and unwind after a long day of walking on cobblestone streets.

31. Go Grocery Shopping at La Bodegona

Grocery shopping antigua

We think one of the best ways to get to know a new place is to explore its grocery stores. Antigua only has one main grocery store, and that’s La Bodegona. La Bodegona is a tourist attraction in and of itself. Since it’s the only real grocery store in the town, it’s always crowded and always chaotic. The seemingly illogical way they stock the store doesn’t help the chaos, but it certainly makes it a fun thing to experience when shopping! You’ll find pretty much everything you need here, from food, produce, pantry items, socks, games, towels, and more!

32. Do a Pub Quiz

There are a couple of different spots where you can do a pub quiz in Antigua. The two that we recommend are:

  • Snug – Tuesdays at 8pm
  • El Barrio – Thursdays at 8pm

To play, you may need to pay a tiny entrance fee for your team, but once you enter, you’re guaranteed two to three hours of fun while sipping on delicious Guatemalan beer! We highly recommend doing this on a quiet night.

FAQ

When Should You Visit Antigua?

As a tropical destination, Antigua doesn’t really experience winter and summer but instead a dry and rainy season. The best time to visit is between November and May. Keep in mind that Antigua’s peak tourism season is during the winter holiday season up until spring break, so if you want to avoid crowds and marked-up prices, head to this destination in April.

What to Pack for a Trip to Antigua, Guatemala?

You should pack a good pair of walking shoes, warm clothes for the night (it gets quite chilly), breathable clothes for the day, a good camera, sunglasses, sunscreen, flip-flops, and your normal travel amenities. Check out our ultimate digital nomad packing list for an in-depth breakdown on what to bring with you.

Need to purchase a new travel backpack for your trip to Antigua? Head to our guide on the best travel backpacks.

Go Explore Antigua!

We’ve had the real pleasure of experiencing and getting to know Antigua over the course of a month, and we’ve really never run out of things to do. This is a fun town that’ll keep you occupied for days – or even weeks!

If you’d like to check out some other travel destinations in Latin America, check out our digital nomad guide for Tulum.

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