Antigua – Guatemala’s Charming Homebase

antigua guatemala

Antigua Guatemala holds a special place in our hearts as it served as our home base during our month traveling in Guatemala. With colonial style Spanish architecture and a backdrop of stunning volcanoes, it is such a special city. It is rich with history yet it has all of the modern conveniences you could want. This gorgeous city is a must-do when traveling in central America.

Read about our entire Guatemala trip here.

antigua guatemala

Where to Stay in Antigua Guatemala

Because we were in Antigua several times in between our trips to Lake Atitlán, the west coast, and Semuc Champey we stayed at a variety of hotels, hostels, and even an Airbnb.

Hotel Posada San Vicente

This was the hotel grant and I stayed in when we first arrived, the courtyard and rooftop terrace were beautiful however we found the room a little disappointing and overpriced.

Hotel Posada San Vicente in antigua guatemala

Matiox

After 2 nights in Hotel Posada San Vicente we switched to Matiox to meet our friend. It is a fun hostel vibe with an open air court yard and hot tub! They were out of privates so we had the cheapest dorm which was quite noisy from the street traffic (they warned us of this). Matiox has a typical hostel vibe with a great open courtyard and the location could have been better.

Wicho and Charlie’s

We stayed at Wicho and Charlie’s because we used them to book our Acatenango hike. It was the perfect “base camp” for hikers with a hot tub, great showers, and comfy beds, however I wouldn’t recommend it for a regular backpacker. The space is small but they have ample seating including a rooftop net you can stargaze in or if you’re lucky watch Fuego explode! Bonus: they have a super cheap and yummy breakfast.

Airbnb

When my parents visited us we stayed in a nice Airbnb on the edge of town. Haven’t tried out Airbnb yet? Click here to get a $40 travel credit.  This house is super beautiful and with three bedrooms it is perfect for a larger group. Check it out here.

antigua airbnb

Hotel Casa Antigua

When Grant’s family visited we stayed one night at Casa Antigua. It is a value as they had 3 beds in one large room so it comfortably accommodated all 5 of us for the price of one room! It is part of the same hotel chain as Hotel Posada Don Valentino and Hotel Posada San Vicente so it had a beautiful courtyard and rooftop terrace as well.

Hotel Posada Don Valentino

We stayed here one night with Grant’s family at the end of their trip. It too is in the same hotel family however it was not as nice. It had a small terrace but the rooms were very basic.

posada don valentino

Maya Papaya

I loved this hostel. It is very clean and has a trendy design. The dorms are super comfortable and have the much appreciated bedside plugs and privacy curtains. They also have a cute outdoor bar with delicious happy hour mojitos.

maya papaya hostel

What to Eat in Antigua Guatemala

The food options in Antigua are a dream for Central America. We had several favorites we ate at multiple times.

Mama JoJo’s

This is our all time favorite for breakfast in Antigua! You must go! It is so delicious and your first coffee is free! Mama JoJo’s shares a space with a restaurant called Travel Menu. Everything on the menu is delicious and they were able to easily accommodate a plant based diet as well. Insider tip: Google says they open at 6:30 but they don’t open until 7:00. We went very early before our long bus ride to Semuc Champey. If you are planning a trip to Antigua Guatemala plan to eat here!

mama jojos antigua

Epicure

Epicure is number 1 on Trip Advisor and it is easy to see why. It is very upscale with impeccable service and a great menu. Insider Tip: Ask to be seated in the garden area.

Luna de Miel

Luna de Miel is a great spot for both sweet and savory crepes. Be sure to sit on the trendy rooftop.

Angie Angie

We loved Angie Angie. The food is good but the atmosphere is what makes it so incredible. Who knew Antigua had such a great live music scene!? Skip the tapas and go for their specialty pastas and pizzas.

angie angie antigua

Pappy’s BBQ

Being from Georgia, we know and love BBQ. We were very impressed with the Texas style menu at Pappy’s BBQ. Grant would have eaten here every day if I let him! It is also fun to listen to country classics in the middle of Guatemala! We later met the owner, a really nice guy, in Monterrico. Pappy’s was a perfect taste of home.

bbq antigua

Samsara

Samsara is a great vegetarian restaurant in Antigua. It’s menu has a Middle Eastern influence and it is a good choice for a lighter lunch.

Union Cafe 

We ate here for breakfast our first morning in Antigua. The food is good but the smoothies and juices are great! They strangely have two locations on the same street so perhaps check out both! Union also offers weekly yoga in the park across form the restaurant.

Valhalla Macadamia Nut Farm

If you’re looking to switch things up head to the Valhalla Macadamia Nut farm for breakfast. It is about 20 minutes outside of Antigua and on the drive you get great volcano views. We took an uber there and a chicken bus back! The tables are in the middle of the lush trees and gardens and their specialty is macadamia pancakes. After you eat, you can go on a quick, complimentary tour of the grounds to learn about the macadamia farming process. The owner is a little cooky, but the place is beautiful they even offer free mini facials and have a spa on site all with macadamia products. I bought some lotion that is amazing! It was a real treat to my feet after hiking Acatenango. Insider tip: Go to the jungly bathroom, it is SO pretty.

view on the way to vahalla

valhalla bathroom

Frida’s

Named after Frida Kahlo, this is a great Mexican joint right under Antigua’s famed Santa Catalina Arch. The nachos are almost as good as their mezcal cocktails. The décor is everything Frida and full of color. Plus they often have live music and drink specials!

fridas antigua

Zoola

I was skeptical about eating at a hostel but this restaurant is great! The interior is beautiful and the Israeli cusine is delicious. Order a couple of things to share because the portions are huge. They also have a location we visited in San Pedro.

ChocoMuseo

Albeit this place is a little touristy, but who can pass up chocolate! Try some free samples or order a delicious chocolate drink or brownie. They also do tours of the chocolate making process. Insider Tip: The gelato place out front is amazing!

Toku Baru

Toku Baru was highly recommended to us and is always packed, however we were a little disappointed. $5 USD will get you a falafel style burrito and while it was pretty tasty it didn’t have that spicy, saucy goodness that is a prerequisite for Indian food.

Ta’cool

If you’ve read any of our posts, you know we are taco people. We went in Ta’cool for a quick lunch bite and were super impressed. With a limited, straightforward menu and three awesome sauces, it is a taco lover’s dream. We recommend the gringas…duh.

tacool tacos

Where to Drink in Antigua Guatemala

Antigua Brewing 

Our love of tacos is only second to our love of craft beer. We were getting so sick of the national beer, Gallo, when we stumbled upon this gem. The owner is great and their rooftop is the best in Antigua. Order the Fuego IPA as you watch Fuego erupt lava and smoke from the rooftop…seriously does it get any better than this?

view from antigua brewery

sunset antigua brewery

Tap & Barrel Brewhouse

This brewery is brand new and still getting everything together however it is delicious! Swing in for a flight and chat with the friendly owner.

Barrio

Barrio is a fun area with several bars. It reminded me of Plaza Fiesta in Tijuana. They have a nice rooftop, although it doesn’t have views as good as Antigua Brewing. We especially liked the quirky Ocelot Bar.

Cafe No Se

This bar is rad. With tons of dripping candles and cozy nooks, it has a dark library vibe.

What to Do in Antigua Guatemala

Visit El Mercado

This market is crazy! You must go. Walk down Calle 4a away from Parque Central until you see the market. The outside has modern clothes and electronics and appears to be a typical flea market but just wait. Slip inside to lose yourself in rows of colors, sights, and smells. From confetti and hats, to fresh flowers and chicken feet, they have it ALL. We never buy much but it is fun to walk around. We thought this market was better and crazier than the famed Chichicastenango. Right across from the mercado is an artisan market with colorful handmade goods. It is much more tame and a pleasant shopping experience where you can snag some souvenirs.

Hike a Volvano!

If you don’t have enough time or energy for Acatenango, book a half day hike to Pacaya. Pacaya is an active volcano outside of Antigua. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t see lava, Pacaya is typically only smoke and heat. The hike is a short half day, we left around 6am and were back in time for lunch. You can book with several tour companies in Antigua. The hike is moderately challenging as the ground is sandy ash and the incline is a little steep, but the views are great. The terrain makes you feel like you are walking on the moon! Buy a walking stick for under $1 from a local niño to aid your hike, or you can even rent a horse. You are assigned a guide and they typically bring marshmallows you can roast over the volcano’s hot pockets! So rad. Insider Tip: Dress in layers.

pacaya volcano

Visit Hotel Casa Santo Domingo

Even if you are not a guest at this luxury hotel you can walk around the beautifully polished grounds to visit museums and even see parrots!

Rent 4 Wheelers

When my parents visited we booked a four wheeler ATV tour with Simoon. It was awesome! We drove through Antigua’s cobblestone streets and then up to the neighboring town of San Cristóbal El Alto and Antigua’s famed Cerro de la Cruz. Our last stop was watching sunset at Hobbitenango, a very cool hotel and restaurant that looks like it is straight out of Tolkien. With life sized games and miniature houses, it is like a little fantasy land. The four wheeler tour was a blast and it is just enough of an adrenaline rush to liven up your trip.

sunset from hobbitenango

Visit Cerro de la Cruz

We visited this scenic vista on our 4 wheeler tour but several people walk up. I believe it is a bit steep but there are stairs the entire way. The views are breathtaking and the huge cross against the back drop of the city is a beautiful sight.

Santa Catalina Arch

The Santa Catalina Arch is a beautiful yellow arch framing Vulcan de Agua on one side and Iglesia Merced on the other. Its beauty surprised me every time we walked by.

arch in antigua

Parque Central

Strolling though Antigua’s Central Park on a bright sunny day is as good as it gets! There are several vendors, children playing, and tourists reading Lonely Planet books on park benches. Parque Central serves as a central meeting point for the Antigua community and is bustling with life!

Iglesia Merced

This church is 800 years old! The inside isn’t necessarily beautiful but the outside architecture and detail is quite impressive. There are also a lot of street food stands out front. It is the perfect backdrop for a yummy mango on a stick. We also saw several weddings at Iglesia Merced when we were visiting which were so beautiful and a great way to see local culture.

iglesia merced guatemala

Antigua Guatemala is a dreamy town. From the striking views of the surrounding volcanoes by day to the moonlit cobblestone streets at night it is such a beautiful city. It has a similar feeling to that of Cartagena’s old walled city. A feeling that can’t quite be described but trust me, it’s magical.

nighttime in antigua

Want more information to plan your trip to Antigua Guatemala? Check out the Guatemala Lonely Planet here.

Guat’s Up,
-Ray

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