Visitors do not come to Guatemala City for its architectural charm or beauty; instead, they come to experience the vibrant energy of Central America’s largest city, to explore first-rate museums and to shop, dine and party in some of the region’s best places.
Guatemala City is a bustling capital, and one of the most vibrant sections of town is the Old City in Zona 1. The crowded streets are lined with 19th-century townhouses, clusters of cafes and bars, historic buildings and street vendors. Although the area is a bit run-down, it is experiencing a regeneration thanks to conservationists concerned with preserving the heritage of the capital.
While exploring the neighborhood, stop by the lively Parque Central, the imposing blue-tiled domed cathedral, the Art Deco townhouse Casa Mima and the Museo Ferrocarril, dedicated to the history of Guatemala’s railways. The museum is housed in a wonderfully restored train station, and the collection features railway curiosities, carriages and several steam engines.
The Old Town’s Central Market is an exciting place to shop and experience the local culture. The top floor is dominated by leather ware, jewelry and textiles; the first floor features snacks, fruits, vegetables and flowers; and the basement hosts stalls selling handicrafts, including traditional weavings and baskets.
South of Zona 1 is the New City district, known for its high concentration of boutiques, restaurants, elite residential neighborhoods and hotels. The Zoo is the biggest tourist draw in the area, and it is one of Central America’s best. The park is divided into three distinct geographical zones. In the African section, hippos, lions and giraffes can be seen up close. Bengal tigers, reticulated pythons and Indian elephants can be viewed in the Asian section, and the Americas region features jaguars, monkeys, tapirs and more.
One of the brightest gems in the New City is the Museo Nacional de Arqueologia y Etnologia. The outstanding collection features a world-class array of Maya artifacts with sections dedicated to prehistoric archeology. Highlights include recreations of royal tombs, stelae from Dos Pilas and Machaquila and a replica of the wooden lintel from the tomb of Tikal. The most popular and impressive exhibit is a collection of artifacts from Piedras Negras, one of the country’s most remote areas. Some of the pieces date from 670 AD, and many are decorated with superb glyphs and carvings.
Other sights worth visiting in the New City neighborhoods are the recreational Museo de los Ninos, the Museo Nacional de Arte Moderno, the Botanical Gardens, the Plaza Berlin and the Yurrita Church.
Just outside the city lies the Volcan de Pacaya, a highly active volcano that towers above the surrounding area at 2,250 meters. Clouds of ash and rock regularly spew from the volcano, creating a natural extravaganza of dramatic light and sound. For the most incredible view, visit at night to watch the brilliant orange lava erupt against the dark sky.
Vulcanos, Guatemala City
Climbing the volcano independently is possible, but most visitors prefer to take a guided tour to the exposed ridge that offers views of the volcano’s brutal beauty. The trek is steep and takes at least an hour of trekking through dense forest, but it is worth it to see the bowl of cool lava, the jet-black peak and the fossilized currents.
Guatemala City Geographical Location
Guatemala City is located in the central south of Guatemala and is its largest city with a population of approximately 3,700,000 people in the metropolitan area.
Guatemala City Language
Spanish is the official language of Guatemala. There are 23 Amerindian languages that are also very common and officially recognized.
Guatemala City Predominant Religion
- 56% Christian
- 40% Protestant
- 3% Eastern Orthodox
- 1% Indigenous Beliefs
Mayan religious practices are commonly incorporated into Catholic services.
Guatemala City Currency
The Quetzal is the official currency of Guatemala.
Guatemala City Climate
Guatemala City has a distinct rainy season form April until September while the rest of the year experiences very little rain. The temperature is extremely stable due to the city’s high elevation and is pleasantly warm throughout the year.
Guatemala City Main Attractions
- Zoologico Nacional La Aurora
- Museo Ixchel del Traje Indigena
- Mapa en Relieve
Other Attraction in Guatemala City
- National History Museum
- Palacio Nacional
- Popol Vuh Musuem
- Museum of Modern Art