Antigua, what a charming Guatemalan city.
The quaint cobblestone streets surrounded by the Spanish-baroque inspired colorful facade of houses, hotels, restaurants & shops. Ruins of old colonial churches loom on what seems to be every corner. Flowers poor over the gates and fences of just about every architectural structure (this just might be my all-time favorite!). All of this smack in the middle of several active volcanoes undoubtedly makes for some killer views. On days where the sky is clear, you can look just about any direction and spot a volcano towering over the city. Antigua is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Guatemala, and after visiting, I can certainly see why.
As you might remember from last year’s trip to Lake Atitlan, my boyfriend’s brother and sister-in-law live in Guatemala City, and visiting them over Thanksgiving break seems to be becoming a tradition of ours….no complaints here! Guatemala every year, sign me up.
We flew in for the long holiday and stayed with the locals for a night; just enough time to have a proper Thanksgiving meal & a turkey bowl (I sat this year out, thank god. I literally couldn’t walk for a week after last year’s game!) – and then packed our bags and headed for Antigua. It’s a super short trip from Guatemala City if you are lucky enough to miss the traffic – seriously though, good luck with that though. The 30 minute trip ended up being around 1.5 hours, but I don’t think anyone was complaining considering everyone in the car was fast asleep within 15 minutes of the ride. I’ll chalk that up to the red wine and tryptophan we consumed earlier that day. Let’s all have a moment of praise for Thanksgiving and all it’s over indulging glory. One of the only occasions it’s acceptable to unbutton your jeans at the table. AMEN!
Anyway, here is a short guide to Antigua:
WHERE TO STAY:
Hotel Soleil , Casa Santo Domingo, AirBnB
There are hundreds of hotels in Antigua. Literally, hundreds. After careful consideration, we decided to stay at Hotel Soleil, which is about a 15 minute walk from town. The hotel was extremely nice, with multiple pools, a spa, gym, business center, the works. I would recommend staying here or Casa Santo Domingo, which is on the opposite side of town but equally as nice…so I hear. We actually tried to get a reservation at Casa Santo Domingo prior to booking Hotel Soleil, but they were all booked up for a wedding. Side note: weddings seem to be a big thing happening during December in Guatemala – I think we saw 4 different weddings going on during our 4 day stay.
WHAT TO DO:
- Shop – there are hundreds of Guatemalan artisan street markets set up in town, and let me tell you, they are always a good idea. Literally row after row, table after table of vendors set up every day and offer everything from little knick knacks, blankets, leather goods to apparel.
- Hike – Pacaya Volcano is an active volcano just outside of Antigua that you can hike (or take a horse up if hiking ins’t your thing, shout out to my lazy people!). Book a tour through your hotel, promise it is well worth it. The total trip will be around 6 hours and includes transportation to and from the volcano, and an official tour guide to take you up the mountain. BONUS: once at the top, you hike down a bit into the dried lava area and get to roast marshmallows over the steamy lava rocks. HOW EPIC IS THAT? I mean, I will never do something that cool again in my life. Dramatic, but whatever, it was really cool.
- Sightsee – I could walk those cobblestone streets for hours and hours. I would recommend heading to Central Park, The Arch and scouting out several of the colonial churches. The city is set up like a grid, so it’s super easy to find your way around.
WHERE TO EAT:
God the food in Antigua is good. Un-believably good. Most of the restaurants and cafes have interior gardens; take a peek around inside before settling on a place, you won’t want to miss out on the picturesque brunch spots!
- Bistrot Cinq – French food to die for. This restaurant had the vibe of a West Village french bistro with it’s large glass windows, brick interior, and candle chandelier fixtures throughout. Make a reservation here the day of and you will not be disappointed. Warning: the bread and butter they serve prior to the meal will make you want to cancel your order and carbo-load on yummy, warm, whipped goodness instead.
- Pappy’s BBQ – the “you can take the girl out of Texas, but…” saying was so real with this BBQ joint in the middle of Antigua. Boy do they know what they are doing with their meat! If you want a little taste of Texas in Antigua and a US brewed beer, this is the place for you.