Guatemala City, the capital of the country, is a bustling, energetic city of more than 2 million residents. Located in the Hermitage Valley near to the active Pacaya volcano, this tourist hotspot attracts visitors every year to its extensive Mayan history, buzzing atmosphere and beautiful surroundings. If you have chance to make it to this wonderful city, you’ll be spoilt for choice with things to do both during the day and the evening. Here we’ll explore some of the best entertainment the city has to offer, including fascinating museums, historic watering holes and exciting clubs.
Due to the country of Guatemala’s rich history, its capital city has plenty of thought-provoking museums to choose from. One of the most interesting is the National Palace of Culture. A beautiful building which not only still acts as the modern-day presidential headquarters, but also marks the origin point of all roads in Guatemala! There is a plaque on the ground marking this which makes a good photo opportunity whilst you’re there.
Whilst entry to this particular museum is free for citizens, there is a small fee of about $5 for visitors. This will get you a pleasant and informative guided tour of the building pointing out items of historical interest, explaining architectural features and showcasing important artworks housed there. The building is affectionately referred to as both El Guacamolon (The Big Guacamole) and El Palacio Verde (The Green Palace). This is because the concrete on the building’s façade is mixed with oxidised copper therefore turning it green. A must-see if you’re in town!
Another great museum to take in whilst you’re visiting is the National Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, located near to La Aurora Zoo. It has the largest collection of Mayan artefacts in the city with over 20 000 archaeological items and over 5000 ethnological items housed within its walls. These include monumental sculptures, Mayan art and textiles, and other items detailing Mesoamerican culture. It has extensive displays detailing the lives and histories of Guatemala’s indigenous peoples with information about how the population has changed over the years. There is evidence that Guatemala has been populated since 12 000 BCE so there is plenty of history to the place!
Parks and Nature
Even whilst in the city, you can get a taste of Guatemala’s unique and biologically significant natural world. Guatemala has many endemic species of both plants and animals that contribute to its status as a place of rare and exceptional beauty. One way to plunge straight into nature is to travel the short distance over to Pacaya volcano just outside the city. Once there, you can walk up the volcano itself and see the solidified remains of its last eruption in 2010. Although you’re unlikely to see any flowing rivers of hot lava on your trip, it is a pleasant hike through some impressive countryside and you can see the volcano’s crater itself from a good vantage point.
If you’re still eager for more hiking through Guatemala’s stunning and ever engrossing countryside, then you can head over to the United Nations National Park in the suburbs of the city. Situated close by to Lake Amatitlan, this green space includes accessible hiking routes, horseback riding and mountain biking. There is an exhibition with small versions of many of Guatemala’s most famous landmarks and a natural history museum detailing some of the country’s flora and fauna. You can really make a day of it here with birdwatching opportunities, picnic spots, outside sports areas and plenty of views to marvel at.
Depending on your particular tastes, an evening in Guatemala City has something to suit everybody. One place which is often recommended to visitors is Shakespeare’s Pub, one of the oldest pubs in the city and a friendly place to socialise with a multi-lingual, multi-cultural crowd. You will find other English speakers here and it’s a great place to stop for a drink and a chat in a relaxed atmosphere.
If you’re after something a little more exciting, you can head over to the Crown Casino Colonial located inside on of the city’s shopping malls. You’ll find the casino on the second floor of Tikal Futura, an enormous futuristic shopping and business complex complete with hotel. The casino here is modern and fun, with access to video poker and slot machines. There are also traditional game tables where you can play poker, blackjack and roulette. The service is 5-star and the atmosphere is lively but refined. However, if you can’t make it over to the live casino you can still access your games online whilst you’re out and about at one of the city’s numerous free WiFi hotspots.
As far as clubs go, Guatemala has some great places for a drink and a dance. Genetic in Zona 4 has been a big part of the city’s gay scene since it opened in the 1970s, however you’ll find a mixture of people here now for the dance music and the fun atmosphere. It’s spread out across two floors so there should be plenty of space for everybody and has a rooftop area where you can go to cool off in between songs. Club Kahlua, located in Zona 10, attracts a youthful crowd with its electronica focused playlists and four floors of space to explore. It’s a well-established club which knows what it’s doing to get a party started and is open until 2am.
As you can see, there is plenty in Guatemala City to keep you occupied during your stay and lots to explore whether you’re interested in the history, nature or modern-day life of the area. The capital is a friendly place full of people who know how to have a good time and it is definitely on the up and up as downtown areas are painstakingly restored. Many people overlook Guatemala City in favour of the infamous Antigua, but it is well worth a visit for its unique buzz and atmosphere.