There was one month when I was living in Costa Rica that my visa almost expired. So the school I was working for sent me and a couple of my co-workers to Guatemala for a few days while it was being renewed. I couldn’t believe it. I got to take a few days off of work and go explore a new country with my friends?? Yes please! 

I often feel as though the capital cities in Central America get a bad rap. San Jose, Bogotá, Managua, are not often looked at as being go-to tourist destinations. Guatemala city is no different in this regard. When most people think of visiting Guatemala, they probably think about Antigua and Atitlán. Yet if you are able to slow down, and take the time to experience the city, you will be able to see the beautiful cultural practices that are deeply rooted in their ways of life. Here, I have documented the best things to do in Guatemala City to elevate your vacation. 

Fun Things To Do In Guatemala City 

Kaminaljuyu Archaeological Park 

Walking around the city of Cayalá is one of the best things to do in Guatemala City
The beautiful white buildings of Cayalá

One of the most important things to know about Guatemala is their Mayan culture is still very prevalent because of their large indigenous population. This is evident in the preservation of numerous Mayan ruins. Kaminaljuyu Archaeological Park in Guatemala city is one of the most important cities to be preserved. Between 1000 BC and AD 200, this city was positioned at the center of trade routes which led to its rapid financial growth. In the early 20th century, excavations began and these long abandoned ruins started to be unearthed. In 2010, the site became a part of the World Monuments Watch. 

The Park welcomes visitors in to learn about the history of the once thriving city, and pay tribute to the Mayan people that once inhabited it. As Guatemala city continues to expand, its people recognize the importance of prioritizing the safeguarding of the land. The site is open Monday through Sunday, from 8am-4pm. Cost of entry is 50 Quetzal, which is about $6. 

Mercado Central 

A crucial aspect of any major city is their markets. And in Latin America especially, their markets are nothing short of incredible. If you’re in Guatemala City, you need to come and at least check out El Mercado Central. It’s very plausible that you will come here with the intention of just browsing. But after looking at everything the stalls have to offer, I can all but guarantee that you will want to buy something. So it’s best to bring cash just in case!

The Central Market in Guatemala City is on another level. There are three floors that are filled with stalls of food, handmade trinkets, clothes, and pieces of art. As it is so big, there are also a number of cafes and restaurants inside that allow people to take a break and enjoy some food or a cup of coffee during their expedition. The artisans in Guatemala are incredibly skilled, especially in weaving baskets and crafting homemade jewelry. So if you need to get gifts for any loved ones or if you want to bring back a souvenir (or two, or three!) for yourself, this is the place to go. 

Free Things To Do In Guatemala City

Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago of Guatemala

Its full name, The Holy Church Cathedral Metropolitan Basilica of Santiago de Guatemala, is a mouthful. However, a great landmark deserves a great name. It began being constructed in 1783 and was officially completed in 1815. If you’ve read my article on Antigua, Guatemala, then you would know that Guatemala often is the victim of large scale earthquakes that claim many buildings. In 1917, a big earthquake occurred and destroyed the building. It was eventually rebuilt, and then was overtaken again in 1976. Five years later, construction was finished to create the Cathedral that tourists are able to visit today. 

One of my favorite parts of the Cathedral is the presence of 12 pillars at the front. They’re inscribed with the names of the soldiers that were killed during the Guatemalan Civil War. Inside, the building is host to many paintings and carvings that visitors are welcome to tour daily from 8am to 8pm. The building itself is not hard to find, as it’s located next to their Central Park. Coming here is a great way to appreciate the resilience of the Guatemalan people. 

Tour Cervecería Centroamericana 

You can always look for these fun drinks throughout the city
Quezalteca is a popular type of drink in Guatemala City — photo creds_ Charitas Chaussé

For those who love beer, this is the activity for you. Cervecería Centroamericana is the country’s primary beer manufacturer. Guatemala’s most prominent and popular beer, Gallo, is produced by them. Their headquarters and brewery are located in the capital city and they give free tours of the brewery to visitors. Tours are available in both English and Spanish, and the best part is they give you free beer to sample! At the end they give you tastings of Gallo Light, Victoria Lager and Moza (a dark beer). Be sure to book your tickets in advance, which you can do here. 

Iglesia de la Merced 

If you’ve been to Antigua, Guatemala then you’re probably familiar with the Iglesia de la Merced church there. Guatemala City decided to replicate the church (which has the same name). It was built in 1914 and for a long time, was the headquarters of the Guatemalan Police Force, for some random reason. Now, it has been converted into a museum for people to tour, which makes much more sense. 

There’s no charge to enter and tour around, so this is a great activity for those that love history and architecture. Or, if you are looking for things to do in Guatemala City on a budget, or if you just want to step outside of the sun for a bit! When I visited, I was getting tired from walking around the city so much, as we visited at the beginning of fall when it was still very warm. So I enjoyed coming in here to look at the interior design and cool off for a bit before venturing back out. 

Unique Things To Do In Guatemala City 

Ciudad Cayalá

Beautiful art is all around Guatemala City, and looking at them is one of the free things to do in Guatemala City
One of the most unique art pieces in Cayalá — photo creds_ Charitas Chaussé

This is the place to go. My girlfriends and I were sitting around one day trying to figure out what we should do, and one of them came across this part of the town. We unanimously decided that it was the perfect way to spend the day. And we were right! This area of the city is made up of 63 acres of land. It’s like its own small city within Guatemala City. 

Here, there’s a shopping center, parks, theaters, restaurants, cafes, art sculptures, you name it. The buildings are bright white with red roofs that captivate their visitors and make it hard to look away. The streets are lined with trees and bushes, adding pops of green everywhere you look against the charcoal colored cobblestone streets. Wrought iron balconies and hidden alleys that deposit you into large squares, make every moment of being here enjoyable. 

The architecture of this little city isn’t the only thing that makes coming here worth it. There are so many shops and restaurants to try out, it will seem as though the possibilities are endless. The best part is, the prices are very reasonable so you will be able to splurge a little without breaking the bank. As I mentioned before, my friends and I were all teachers so it wasn’t often that we had a whole lot of disposable income to spend on luxuries like eating out and shopping. Coming to this city allowed us to act a little more carefree than we were able to back in Costa Rica and it made the whole experience so much more fun. 

Mundo Petapa Irtra 

If you and your group are wanting something unique and fun to do while in the city, then visiting Mundo Petapa Irtra is perfect. Most people don’t have “theme park” on their list of activities when visiting a new country. So that’s what makes this park so entertaining. For me, I loved coming here because I was able to break away from the stereotypical activities associated with exploring a new city. In other words, this wasn’t a part of the normal tourist traps. 

I always like to make a point of visiting places that are filled with locals rather than other “extranjeros” like myself. If I’m able to satisfy that desire while also riding on roller coaster rides? Sign me up. If you are traveling with children, then this is a no brainer. The park is built like a child’s dream. With colorful castles, buildings, and attractions, it’s a great way to step outside of the stresses of reality for a moment and just have fun like a child.

The park is open thursdays- saturdays from 9-5pm and sundays from 9-6pm. Tickets for children are around $6.50 and for adults, they are $13. More information about the park can be found here


I wish I had been able to spend more time in this wonderful city. There were so many more things to do in Guatemala City that I wanted to get to but sadly just didn’t have time for. Even still though, I was able to experience the warmth and kindness of the people and get an idea of the types of things I would want to do when I return. I cannot recommend this city enough and I hope one day you and your friends will be able to experience it for yourselves. 


Is Guatemala cheap or expensive?

Guatemala is one of the cheaper countries in Central America. Of course there are parts of Guatemala, like Antigua, that are going to be more expensive because they are very touristy.

Does Guatemala have museums?

Yes! There are many museums, even just in Guatemala City. For example, the Museo Ixchel del Traje Indigena and Museo Popol Vuh are great options for museums to try out.

What language do they speak in Guatemala?

The official language of Guatemala is Spanish. However, as there is still such a large indigenous population, there are 22 other dialects spoken.


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