Antigua, a small and beautiful city rich in culture and history, never fails to charm. Formerly the colonial capital of Central America, Antigua is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the heart of Guatemalan tourism. Its grid of cobblestone streets house baroque cathedrals, sunny ruins, handicraft markets, colorful shops, and quaint cafés.
Every time Rolan and I visit Guatemala, we make sure to spend at least one day in Antigua. Many tourists choose to make Antigua their home base from which to explore the rest of the country, given its beauty and easy access to guided tours and other infrastructure.
Rolan, his cousin, and I left Rolan’s family home in Guatemala City in late morning, and when we arrived in Antigua, we were greeted with perfect weather as always. Antigua has one of the best climates in the world, which may be part of why so many Europeans and Americans choose to retire there.
Our first stop was the Filadelfia Coffee Resort, one of many coffee farms around Antigua. Next time you’re in Starbucks, check for the Casi Cielo coffee—it comes from Antigua Valley!
From there, we made our way over to the tranquil ruins of La Merced Convent. Admission costs extra for foreigners, so Rolan and his cousin jovially tried to pass me off as a guatemalteca. The woman in charge of tickets didn’t believe us for a second. However, when I rattled off local phrases “to prove I was Guatemalan,” I amused her enough that she gave me the Guatemalan price anyway!
After strolling through the convent, we paused for lunch. My favorite spot remains La Fonda de La Calle Real, a charming courtyard restaurant serving delicious traditional food. We then wandered through the streets, enjoying the weather, the architecture, and the people-watching.
Antigua is a phenomenal place to shop for artisan goods, and no trip would be complete with popping into a market or three. For a wide variety of souvenirs, Nim Po’t is the way to go. My favorite spot, however, is a small, unmarked shop specializing in elegant tablecloths, scarves, and purses. To find it, go to Almacén Troccoli, cross the street, enter archway #13, and ask for Doña Xeni (SHEN-nee)!
As night fell, we took the opportunity to tour Pensativo House Hotel. The property, once a former president’s mansion, was magnificent inside and out. We’re definitely hoping to spend some time there and at Hotel Posada del Ángel someday!
For a sweet ending to our day, we paid a visit to Dulces Doña María Gordillo, a famous, 140-year-old candy shop. We enjoyed some milky, melty, fudge-like candies called canillitas de leche, which were divine.
Hearts, tummies, and memory cards full, we headed back to Guatemala City, eager to return next year.