Walking Tour of La Antigua, Guatemala
La Antigua Guatemala is the old Colonial capital of Guatemala. It lies in a valley surrounded by three volcanoes, Acatenango, Fuego, and Agua and its history has unfortunately been closely tied and partially determined by geological forces. Although it dates to the 16th century, much of the city was destroyed in 1773 by a catastrophic earthquake. Another earthquake in 1976 added to the destruction. As a result, many of the buildings are in ruins or are still being restored.
However, the city is still charming and shows much evidence of its former grandeur. Its cobblestone streets, fountains, plazas and tropical gardens are a delight to explore. Its multi-colored (primarily yellow, orange, and ocher) one-story buildings are evidence of optimism, not despair. It has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
My walk begins at Central Park (Parque Central), the city’s primary gathering place, for both locals and travelers alike. Check out the beautiful fountain, the park’s centerpiece, which dates to 1738.
On the southern border of the park is the Palacio de los Capitanes, once the government center for all Central America. On the east side of the park is the city’s Catedral de Santiago. It dates to 1542 but has been damaged and restored many times, due to earthquakes. The north side of the park features Antigua’s City Hall, which also houses several museums.
Exit the park at the southeastern corner, walking east on 5a Calle Oriente. Ahead, on your right, is the former Universidad de San Carlos, now an art museum. Continue east to 1a Av Sur and turn right. Immediately on your right, is the Casa Popenoe, a veritable time capsule which illustrates the life-style of the wealthy in 17th century Antigua.
Continue south to reach one of the city’s most important churches, Iglesia de San Francisco, founded in the mid-1500’s.
From here, walk west on 7a Calle Oriente, which becomes Calle de Santa Lucia. Turn right onto Calzado Sant Lucia to find, on the left, the Landivar Monument, dedicated to one of the area’s favorite poets.
At 4a Calle Poniente, turn left to experience Antigua’s lively and fascinating Market. Browse the many stalls for bargains before proceeding. An Artisan’s Market sits across the street.
Continue on this street as the road winds past a bus station. Take a right on Avenida la Recoleccion, named for the convent and church of the same name, ahead, on your left, now an impressive ruin.
Next, turn right on Calle de la Recoleccion. At the corner with Calle de Santa Lucia, you will find the Colegio de San Jeronimo, another ruin. Further east is the city’s most important church, Iglesia y Convento de Nuestra Senora de la Merced, on the left, after the intersection with 6a Av Norte.
After your visit, exit the church plaza and head south on 5a Av Norte, passing under the picturesque Arco de Santa Catalina, a symbol of the city. Now, turn left on 2a Calle Oriente. Las Capuchinas, a church-turned-museum with an unusual architectural design, is ahead on the left.
Turn south on 2a Av Norte, and then turn right on 4a Calle Oriente, which passes the Bishop’s Palace, on the left, and then returns to Central Park, your starting point.