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guatemala City Travel Guide

Oh, Guatemala City. There are a lot of things to do in Guatemala city that you will hear. After you visit, I can assure you will also have a lot of things to say about it too. You will quickly notice that it is not a tourist place as you won’t find a lot of information about places to visit or places to stay on Google.

When you approach a tourist agency and mention you want to visit Guatemala City, they will immediately tell you that it is not worth it. Instead, they offer other places like Antigua, Lake Atitlan, Rio Dulce, Semuc Champey, and Flores. Those places are really amazing and are worth visiting, but Guatemala City also has many attractions, interesting buildings, and tons of history to tell from which you will have a clearer idea of why Guatemala is the country that it is today.

And so, that is why I’m here. I have gathered information to make this guide as complete as possible such as places to visit in Guatemala, things to do in Guatemala city and best time to visit Guatemala. So, you can make informed decisions and enjoy your visit.

A Little Bit Of History

You won’t be able to understand many things about Guatemala City if you don’t understand some history, that’s why I’ve squeezed almost 500 years of happenings in a few paragraphs:

Guatemala City is actually the fourth capital this country has had since the Spanish colonization in 1524. The first capital was settled in what is known as the archeological site of Iximche, the second was what is known today as Ciudad Vieja, and the third was what we know today as the city of Antigua. Finally, in 1776 the capital moved to where it is today.

That may sound like a lot of effort to move the capital over and over again for such a “young” country since they signed their independence from Spain in 1821, but history didn’t happen like that because Guatemalans like to move around. You can blame mother nature since the reasons are one major flooding and two earthquakes that left buildings underground or destroyed. Thankfully, anti-seismic buildings began to spread, and the city has remained where it is.

Though, it hasn’t been easy to stay afloat, since after those happenings, also a 36-year civil war happened in this country that ended in the mid 90’s. This event, in particular, has scared many Guatemalans around the country, and you will see some memorials on your way around the city.

Did You Get Insurance Yet?

If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that you need to be prepared for anything!

The Insurance companies I personally recommend are Hey Mondo and Safety Wing

Hey Mondo is great if you are looking for a great value flexible policy. They offer single trip cover, annual multi trip cover, and long term travel cover.

Safety Wing is great value with monthly cover starting at $39. It’s super easy to use and it just renews each month. I currently use them as they offer me free cover for my son as part of my policy.

Read my full travel insurance post here where I go into detail about the companies. 

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guatemala city travel guide
Guatemala travel guide

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Quick Tip: Book accommodation, tours and transport ahead of time online to save money and stress. 

Best Guatemala City ToursClick here to check out the top Guatemala City tours
Best Guatemala City Accommodation: Click here to check out the best accommodation in Guatemala City
Best Guatemala City Transport: Click here to book a bus, ferry, or train in Guatemala City

Top 10 Things to do In Guatemala City

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Ciudad Cayala

1. Go to Plaza de La Constitucion

This is the heart of Guatemala City with a whole lot of history of revolutions. You will see the National Palace where for Q40 you can get a tour inside the stunning building. On the other side of the plaza, you will find the Metropolitan Cathedral. This is one of the best places to visit in Guatemala

Also, something not to be missed while you are there is Sixth Avenue, you can walk through it and arrive at another important building, the old Palace of the National Police.

Do you remember I mentioned memorials from the Civil War? If you walk Sixth Avenue, at the entrance of Pasaje Rubio, you will find two small plates as a memorial of the place where Oliverio Castañeda was murdered. He was a young student, leader, and human rights activist in the 70’s.

2. Walk Around Centro Civico

The history junkies have had their share with the Plaza de la Constitucion, now is time for the architecture and art junkies. Head to the Centro Civico and look for the Finance Buildings, National Bank, CHN, and IGSS. All of these buildings have postmodern low relief murals from two very famous Guatemalan artists, Rodolfo Galiotti Torres and Efrain Recinos.

3. Visit

If you are into Mayan history, this is one of the main places to go to if you are in Guatamala City. This museum is owned by Francisco Marroquin University. Here, you will find pre-Hispanic and colonial pieces that range from 15,000 BC to 1,821 when the independence from all the central American countries was signed.

4. Head to Museo de Historia Fuerte de San Jose

This place is not known by many, not even by Guatemala people. This fortress was built in 1842 to protect the city. Of course, at that time, the city was a lot smaller.

After that, it was abandoned, then used as a jail, and a military school. Nowadays, is a military museum next to a theater. This should be one of the places to visit in Guatemala if you want to have a unique story to tell later on!

5. Discover Ciudad Cayala

This will be something that is different from everything else you’ll see in Guatamala City and should be added in your Places to Visit in Guatemala List.

Imagine a small city inside of another city, built as a mall with stores and restaurants, but also with apartments. That is what this place is. It is actually the place where wealthy people live, but it is open to anyone who wants to visit. But what makes this place so interesting is the architecture and sculptures that are totally different from everything else you’ll see in Guatemala.

6. Buy Souvenirs at Mercado Central

From posh to the somehow charming chaos of Guatemala people culture, the Mercado Central. It is not the biggest Mercado in the country, but it is HUGE! Artisans, farmers, food, textiles, butchers, toys, grains, you name it.

People from all around the country gather there to sell their products. Well, shopping is always a plus in the list of your things to do in Guatemala city right? A word of warning, though, you will need to put your bargaining abilities to the test here.

7. Go to the Archeological Site, Kaminaljuyu

Guatamala City is the land of the Maya so maybe by now, you have heard of the ancient city of Tikal. It is an archeological site in the middle of the city. Kaminaljuyu goes hundreds of years before Tikal and if you are lucky, you can see a real Mayan ceremony while you visit.

8. Walk Past Iglesia de la Yurrita

This is not a place in Guatemala City where you can spend much time, but it is a stunning building inside and out. Unfortunately, it is not open to the public so you can only see it from outside or if you are lucky, you can catch a special event such as a wedding happening.

It is a chapel with a mix of Roman, neoclassic, baroque, and neo gothic architecture. So, maybe the best time to visit Guatemala if you consider going here is when you know when the future event will be held there.

9. Go Back in Time at Museo del Ferrocarril

Once upon a time, there was a train that connected the main Guatemala people ports in the south, the Caribbean, and Guatamala City. In the beginning, it worked only to transport goods from the ports. Later on, it was also used for travelers.

Unfortunately, problems with the United Fruit Company happened in the late 1950s, so cars and roads became more popular, causing the trains to stop working. Nowadays, you can see all the old machines in this museum.

10. Eat at 4 Grados Norte

4 Grados Norte has become one of the best places to visit in Guatemala recommended by Guatemala people. Here, you can eat different kinds of food, party or relax with a good coffee.

You will also find offices. If you want to visit this place, the safest way is by arriving on the transmetro from La Sexta Avenida in Zone 1. DON’T USE THE OTHER LINES OF TRANSMETRO because they’ll take you through the most unsafe parts of the city. You can also call an Uber.

Guatemala City Travel Guide | Museo del Ferrocarril
Museo del Ferrocarril

Food in guatemala City

In Guatemala City, there is food for everybody. Thing is, you have to really look for it.

This is the restaurant of Vista Quince hotel. The restaurant is located at the top of the not-so-tall building, but there aren’t many tall buildings in Guatamala City anyways. 

Here, you can enjoy a delicious meal and cocktail.

The best time to visit Guatemala if you want to try Restaurante Giratorio is in the late afternoon. At that time, you could enjoy the views of the city, volcanoes, and the sunset.

A fusion in Guatemala with a touch of molecular food here and there, this restaurant has plenty of options to let your senses go wild!

Shucos del Liceo de Guatemala

If you are looking for a less fancy place and taste one of the signature foods that every person in Guatemala City will know (even if they try to deny it), you have to taste Los shucos del Liceo. The word “shuco” actually means dirty, but don’t let this discourage you because you are in for a local treat! If you are wondering what they are, they are big toasted bread, kind of like tortas but very different, with avocado, cabbage, chimichurri sauce, ketchup mayonnaise, mustard, and you can choose if you want it with sausage, chorizo, beef, longaniza, etc.

Guatemala City Travel Guide | Shucos Guatemaltecos

Donde Joselito Steakhouse

If you don’t eat meat, keep scrolling because this place is ALL ABOUT MEAT! You can probably guess that by the name of the place.

Restaurante El Portal

Better known as El Portalito, this is one of the oldest restaurants in the whole country that has been open since 1932. Once you step in, it is like a journey to the past. Not only the owners have managed to keep the architecture almost intact, but also you will be able to taste old bar foods that have almost disappeared and tap beer. It reminds me of a Guatemalan-style pub.

Vegetarian and Vegan friendly Restaurants in Guatemala City

Vegan and vegetarian restaurants are not yet too popular in Guatemala City as they are in Antigua or Lake Atitlan, but there are a few I can name:

Rey Sol

A nice place to eat a whole meal or grab a snack at their bakery.

Lavka Guatemala

This is the place where a vegan can be let loose without any kind of remorse.

Guatemala City Money Saving Tips

Buy souvenirs at Mercado central. Most of the time, hotels will have the same products at much higher prices. 

Look for accommodation or restaurants with a buffet when you visit Guatemala Cities. The best time to visit Guatemala if you want a buffet restaurant would be on weekends. Some restaurants will have buffets on weekends since those are the days the families go out to eat.

If you stay longer than one month, buy a no-contract plan instead of a pre-paid sim card. I also recommend you to buy e-sim. If you stay less than one month, you can buy a pre-paid sim card since you’ll need it for Uber or Google Maps.

There are only two phone companies, Tigo and Claro. Tigo is a bit more expensive, but it has better phone service. On the other hand, if you continue your travels to other central American countries, you can use your Claro sim card in some other countries. Always make sure to do your research.

Take Some Spanish Classes 

If you want to save money during your trip in Guatemala cities then one sure-fire way to do so is to take some Spanish classes. It’s available in many Guatemala cities. Amazing how things magically become cheaper when you speak to the person selling those things in their language. From getting the right fare from the taxi driver to haggling at the market, think of the money spent on learning Spanish as an investment. Read this to learn more about my experience of learning Spanish in Guatemala. You can also now take a basic travel Spanish course completely online with Heart of Travel. This way you will already have a decent foundation before you arrive. Click here to learn more.

Guatemala City Travel Guide | Guatemalan doll | Guatemalan textiles

Guatemala City Packing Advice

Pack discrete clothing. This applies to both men and women. By discrete I mean t-shirts, jeans, jumpers, hats, sneakers, and maybe tank tops. Shorts, dresses, mini skirts, or anything in between are not advisable unless you are chilling at your hotel or moving in a car to a restaurant or attraction.

There are only two seasons when you talk about Guatemala cities weather, sun and rain. During the rainy months from April to October, make sure to pack a good hair mask, and a raincoat or umbrella and prepare for some serious rain that can cause flooding on the streets.

During the sunny months, during the day it will be nice and warm, usually not more than 28 C, but it will get colder at night. The colder months are from November to February. Make sure to pack nice sweaters and maybe a hat since the temperature can drop to 9 C every now and then.

Lastly, don’t wear flip-flops. The floor is almost always filthy if you are planning to walk.

Quick Tip: View my full Guatemala packing guide here including a downloadable checklist. And check out my Guatemala Essentials shopping list here.

Where to Stay in Guatemala City

There are plenty of options in Guatemala City, you just need to find out in which zone you prefer to stay.

Most people stay in Guatemala City for only one or two nights and then move to Antigua, Lake Atitlan, Flores, etc. If this is you, I recommend staying close to the Airport in zone 13 and 10.

On the other hand, if you are planning to stay longer to explore, you can stay in zone 1 close to the Centro Civico, in zone 4 close to 4 Grados Norte, or if you want to push it farther, you can stay in Ciudad Cayala. The last option is farther away, so you’ll probably need to rent a car, use Uber or hire private transportation.

I have also written a whole post about where to stay in Guatemala City.

Luxury Hotels

Hilton Guatemala City, Guatemala

Westin Camino Real, Guatemala

Mid-Range Hotels

Radisson Hotel & Suites Guatemala City

Hyatt Centric Guatemala City

Per Zone

Close to the Airport

Mariana’s Petit Hotel

Hostal Villa Toscana

Zone 1

Habitación cómoda y céntrica

Casa Carmel Bed & Breakfast

Zone 4

Tequila Sunrise Hostel

Good Hotel Guatemala City

Zone 16

AC Hotels by Marriott Guatemala City


Naths Apartment

Other Nice Hotels

Life Builders

Hotel Vista Quince

Hotel San Carlos

A green bus is driving down the streets of Guatemala City.

Map of Accommodation Guatemala City

How to Get to Guatemala City (and how to get around)

If you are flying, you will arrive at La Aurora Airport, which is fairly close to everything since it is in the middle of the city. Don’t let this fool you though, the traffic can make a short ride into hours in a car. Make sure to always have transportation booked from the airport to your accommodation. 

You can also get to Guatemala City by land if you are getting there from El Salvador, for example. 

When you enter a Central American country, you will be granted 90 days to travel around Central America. If those 90 days run out, you have to either get out of Central American countries and re-enter or get a visa at Migration. Most travelers take a short vacation in Mexico and then return to save themselves the paperwork.

The best ways to get around in Guatemala City are Uber and the Transmetro. Transmetro are the city buses. There are other city buses, but I strongly advise you not to use them since they are unsafe.

PRO TIP: you’ll always need to keep changing because the Transmetro fare is Q1 per normal journey and Q2 for express journeys. Unfortunately, no contactless works with them. If you see people with Transmetro cards, those are only for citizens. 

Taxis, I also don’t recommend unless you have the contact of a reliable person.

If you are feeling like going full in vacation mode and don’t want to think about public transportation or Uber, you can hire private transportation. My friends at GuateGo offer both shared shuttles or you can contact them if you want to plan a full itinerary with them.

Coworking in Guatemala City

  1. Your accommodation place – Most hotels, hostels and AirB&Bs have wifi available.
  2. Regus – There are two of these places, you can check out more information at their website

Guatemala City Safety Advice

Always keep change in your pockets! in ZONE 1, if someone asks you for money, give them 1Q and keep walking. This happens a lot, not only with tourists, but with all people in general.

Always keep change in your pockets during your trip in Guatamala City. If someone asks you for money on the streets, it could be tempting for them to take your whole wallet and run if you first open your bag, open your wallet, and search for change. It’s better to have change in your pockets and keep walking. Also, you’ll need change for the Transmetro.

Transmetro is the safest means of public transportation in Guatemala. Don’t even think about using other types of public transportation. To help you make your way through Transmetro, here are the lines available, and which ones I advise are safe and which ones that aren’t.

  • Green – safe
  • Purple – it’s okay. Just don’t wear sunglasses and hang a camera on your neck screaming you are a tourist
  • Orange – this one is okay, but avoid rush hours as much as possible because there are pick pockets
  • Yellow – avoid when possible. If you can make your way through other line or maybe taking an Uber, avoid this one
  • Sky blue – DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT THIS ONE! This line goes through the most dangerous parts of the city. Believe me, you don’t want to go through those even driving your own car.
  • Avoid rush hours from 6am to 9am and 3:30 to 9pm during your Guatemala City trip. The best time to visit Guatemala safely would be outside those hours. The burglars go out especially at these times.

When using an ATM, make sure to use one inside a mall or a bank. DON’T use one out on the street because you’ll most likely end up with a cloned card.

Don’t carry valuables with you out on the streets like phones, jewelry, expensive glasses, etc, unless it is a safe place like Cayalá or 4 Grados Norte. If you want to do some vlogging, it is okay in the places I mentioned before, just be precautious. Believe me, if you encounter sketchy people, you’ll know if it’s okay or not.

If you are planning to walk around, it is best if you do it in groups.

The Best Time To Visit Guatemala City

All year round is good, but it is particularly special for the Holy Week and Christmas time, though the traffic is INSANE during that time. If you visit during these times, it could be best to rent a car and learn your way through the city.

Guatemala City Travel Guide planning

🧳 Any recommendations on what I should pack for Guatemala City?

Yes! I have created a whole packing guide to Guatemala City which you can read here and you can also check out my packing list for Guatemala City on Amazon here.

🚗 Where can I book bus or private transportation while I’m in Guatemala City?

I strongly recommend using GottoGo. You can book almost all transport in the major tourist destinations through them online. They don’t just cover buses they also cover shuttles, ferries, and private drivers.

🎫 Where can I buy tickets for museums, attractions, and tours in Guatemala City?

I recommend either Viator or GetYour Guide. They have a lot of options!

👩‍⚕️ What is the best insurance to have while traveling?

I recommend using Heymondo for a great value policy. The app also offers you 24/7 Dr Chat. For Digital Nomads check out SafetyWing digital nomad insurance.

I have also written a blog post covering all my recommended travel insurance here

✈️ Any flight recommendations?

WayAWay offers you cheap flights with cashback. You can use this code CLAIRE22 to get 10% off. Otherwise Skyscanner or Expedia are my go-to flight searching platforms.

📱What do you use for internet connection while traveling?

I’m a big fan of personal WiFi devices and they have saved my ass so many times when traveling. I wrote a full review of the top travel WiFi devices you can read here. I personally use GlocalMe as I can either pop in a physical sim card or use their local carrier.

With regards to my phone connection, I use e-sims while traveling, so rather than having to swap out my regular sim card I can download the app and buy a virtual sim card. I recommend using eitherAirhub or Alosim. Both have great coverage of multiple countries and are very easy to use.

🛏️ What is the best platform to use for booking accommodation?

The 3 best platforms that I normally use are,, and Expedia They offer great deals and multiple options. I always check all three to be sure of the best deals.

🛅 Do you have any luggage recommendations for traveling?

I do have a complete list of the best packing and luggage products that I recommend, you can check the list here. I’m currently traveling with this suitcase and this backpack


guatemala city travel guide

What to Read in Guatemala

I couldn’t not include this Lonely Planet Guide to Guatemala in the reading list. 

I’m not always a fan of these kind of travel guides as they are oftern out of date. I learned this more than once the hard way! But they do serve a purpose and it’s always nice to have one actual book that you can use to plan before your trip as well as having something to read when the battery dies on your kindle

Although you can also get most of these Lonely Planet Guidebooks free as part of a kindle unlimited subscription.

Rigoberta Menchú is quite possibly the most internationally well known Guatemalan.  She is a indigenous feminist and human rights activist who won a Nobel Peace Prize.

Her book I, Rigoberta Menchú is now a global bestseller and she has dedicated her life to fighting for the rights of the Indigenous people in Guatemala both during and after the civil war.

This book is a reflection on her personal experiences during the civil war in Guatemala when her mother, father, and brother were murdered by the Guatemalan military.

If you have an interest in the history of Guatemala then read this book. It’s both heartbreaking and inspiring in equal measures. 

Memoirs from the Living Heart of a Mayan Village

I was given this book to read while I was dog sitting in Lake Atitlan and I can’t even tell you how much I loved it. I knew the Lake well by then so reading this book really brought those places to life for me. 

The book is based on the life of the author Martin Prechtel who somehow found himself on an incredible journey from New Mexico in the USA to a small Mayan Village in Guatemala where he became a shaman.

Read this book. You won’t regret it!

Ok so maybe A Short History of Guatemala isn’t the most riveting read. But it really is interesting, especially for all of you history buffs out there. 

It’s easy to read and gives you a good overview on the good, the bad, and the ugly of Guatemalas history. 

The book mostly focuses on the ninetieth and twentieth centuries. It is a little dates now, but it still does the job!

Check out My travel books

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