Antigua is known to be Guatemala's most beautiful city. It is well preserved and set amidst a backdrop of volcanoes. It is also, perhaps outside of Lake Atitlan, one of the most visited cities in Guatemala. When you arrive, you can't help but be impressed by the colonial architecture, the cobblestone streets and the brightly painted pastel buildings.
Tourism in Guatemala has increased in recent years and Antigua received the bulk of this money. The city has grown perhaps not in size, but in wealth; there is a large selection of shops, restaurants, bars, and Spanish schools.
Guatemala is recognized internationally as a popular spot to study Spanish, and Antigua leads the pack. But to be frank, given the number of tourists and ex-pats milling around, if you really wanted to improve your Spanish, you might want to try studying in Quetzaltenango (Xela).
As a popular tourist spot, Antigua is also more expensive than other Guatemalan destinations, but still extremely affordable compared to traveling elsewhere in Central America. A double room can be found for $15 CDN, and a meal at a restaurant for around $7 CDN.
While Antigua wouldn't be the place I'd recommend you study Spanish, it is a great spot to hang out for a few days. There is good coffee, lots of bars and restaurants, and you can climb Pacaya if you are keen for a bit of exercise.
There is of course also the Earth Lodge, located in the mountainside just twenty-minutes outside of Antigua. If you have even an extra one or two days to spare, go! In fact, I'd even go just for breakfast or lunch!
A few nights exploring the city revealed a few great spots:
- El Mirador - El Cerro De la Cruz offers a great view of the city and on a clear day.
- Cafe Porque No is a small family run bar that serves drinks and has a small menu. Eclectically decorated with signatures from guests adorning the walls, it is a great place to go for a drink.
- Cafe No Sé has three bars in the same location and has live music almost every night. One of the three is also a Mezcaleria that sells the brand ‘Illegal Mezcal’ in three different ages
- Museo de Chocolate - more of a store/cafe than museum. It provides information on the process and evolution of chocolate in the Mayan Culture, and offers a delicious array of desserts and drinks!
Antigua: A great destination wedding venue?
Random but odd fact. Antigua can make a great destination wedding venue. Why do I know this? Because I talk to strangers, and I mistook a bridal sales store for a photography studio - easy mistake I suppose. But really, you can get married in an old church, monastery, or fort including food, the ceremony, photography, etc. for 100 guests, for under $15 000 CDN!