Sights in Antigua Guatemala

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Buildings with Spanish facades, patios and arcades, reconstructed buildings and ruins that tell an important part of Guatemala's history, have made La Antigua Guatemala one of the country's foremost tourist centers. It has kept its original character, preserved its monuments, and has kept its original architectural form intact, as a consequence of which, in 1979, UNESCO declared it a Common Heritage of Mankind.

A few mansions of the Colonial period have been restored. Casa Popenone, at 5a. Calle Oriente and la. Avenida Sur, is a fine example of an elegant home. Others include the House of the Bells and the House of Lions. They all feature colonial architecture, with an austere outer wall that encircles a patio with gardens and fountains in the center. The rooms are located around this beautiful and one of a kind patio.

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The magnificent Antigua Guatemala sights are worth visiting all year round. The charming city of Antigua, 45 minutes from Guatemala City, is famous for picturesque Spanish-style architecture and great restaurants and hotels. Explore the beautiful ruins of churches and take a walk on centuries-old cobblestone streets and lovely flowered courtyards. You can learn how to speak Spanish in this scenic city with dozens of language schools.

Parque Central

One of the sights worth visiting is the Central Park or Plaza Mayor, which is located in the center of Antigua. The beautiful mermaid shaped fountain built in 1739 serves as a major attraction, while four small fountains stand at the corners of the park. Historical monuments surround the park like the La Catedral Metropolitana on the east side. Visitors love going to the park in the evenings and families spend their time here relaxing and enjoying the music by the marimba bands.

Palacio de los Capitanes

Palacio de los Capitanes, as the name connotes, was the official residence of the Captain General during the Spanish colonial government. It was the center of the Spanish government for over 200 years. Built in 1558, it has undergone various reconstructions because of the damage brought about by earthquakes. The Palacio, with its magnificient stone columns, still houses some government offices and the police. You can visit the historical museum constructed on one part of the palace.

Cathedral de Santiago

The famous Cathedral of Santiago built in 1543 has suffered considerable damage by earthquakes. Tourists flock to this place to see the amazing outer shell remains of the church, which is a reconstruction of the cathedral before it was ruined. You can see inside the arches, broken columns and the collapsed walls of the original structure. The church was the burial ground of dignitaries, which served during the colonial period.

Casa Popenoe

Casa Popenoe is an interesting building, dating back to the 17 th century. It was the Spanish elite during the colonial period that inhabited this grand house. Bought by a certain doctor in the 1930’s, restorations brought back its grand beauty. You can visit the house and experience how the elite lived during that period. Be amazed of the splendor of the house and its several antiques, furniture, paintings and art collections. You can also walk and explore the exterior of the house with its beautiful patios and shaded corridors.

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Casa Popenoe

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A private home that is open to the public on specified hours is the Casa Popenoe, originally constructed in the first half of the 17th century for don Luís de las Infantas y Mendoza, a Spaniard and judge in the Royal Audiencia. This house had fallen into ruins and was lovingly restored by Dr. Wilson Popenoe and his wife Dorothy in the 1930s. The Popenoes furnished the house with period antiques collected over the years. Like many colonial residences, the home is built right up to the sidewalk and presents massive walls to the public. But the interior is graced with flowered more..

type:Palaces
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openingHours:Only guided visits with prior booking

Palace of the Captains-General

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Palace of the Captains General
Palace of the Captains General
photo by: Dave Cunningham

For more than two centuries, the seat of Spanish colonial government was the Palace of the Captains-General. Construction was begun on the original building in 1549 and completed in 1558, but the building has been repeatedly reconstructed and altered following damaging earthquakes. In 1735 the Casa de la Moneda (mint) was inaugurated in this large complex. But most of the structure was destroyed in the 1773 quakes that brought the city to its knees. Today the beautiful two-tiered arched façade has been restored, and the building houses government, city police, and INGUAT more..

type:Palaces
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Plaza de Armas

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In the center of the Plaza de Armas stands this famous fountain. Designed in 1739 by Miguel Porras, one of the city's renowned colonial architects, the Fuente de las Sirenas (Fountain of the Sirens) is one of many gracing Antigua's principal plazas and courtyards. These fountains were more than just ornamental. Although piped water reached important buildings and dwellings in the seventeenth century, fountains served as water supplies for humble dwellings, even into the present century.

The Plaza de Armas Museum is located in the same building as City Hall. It has a more..

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Merced Church

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La Merced Church
La Merced Church
photo by: Allen

The Mercedarian order was established in Guatemala in 1538, and the order had built a church in Antigua by 1546. This church was destroyed by earthquakes in 1565, but subsequently rebuilt, only to be ruined again in the earthquakes of 1717. The present church of La Merced was finished in 1767, just six years before the Santa Marta quakes that led to the abandonment of Antigua as the capital. The façade is one of the most beautiful in Antigua, featuring intricate and ornate patterns in white stucco on a yellow background. The church is also a good example of the "earthquake more..

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Cathedral

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Catedral de Santiago
Catedral de Santiago
photo by: Jeremy Woodhouse

On the east side of the Plaza de Armas stood the great Catedral, inaugurated on Nov. 5, 1680, after eleven years of construction. This huge building replaced an earlier cathedral begun in 1542 and worked on intermittently for many decades. Various notables from the Conquest were buried here: Bernal Diaz del Castillo, conquistador and author of The Discovery and Conquest of Mexico, lived out his latter days in Antigua and was buried in the original cathedral; the remains of the Don Pedro de Alvarado, the conquerer of Guatemala, were brought here in 1568 for re-interment.

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Casa de los Leones

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Named for the sculptured stone lions rampant flanking the main portal, was built before the 1717 earthquakes. As is typical of the better colonial homes, rooms are arranged around patios. Today the Casa de los Leones has been modified to serve as a hotel, La Posada de don Rodrigo, preserving some original colonial furnishings such as the heavy wooden shutters and doors. A characteristic element of colonial architecture is the corner window, which here opens into the bar of the Posada de don Rodrigo.

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El Carmen

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The church of El Carmen, completed in 1728, is the third to occupy this site. The main façade of the church is ornate baroque, and unique in Antigua with its triple pairs of columns set on podia projecting forward from the main wall in place of the niches and saints usually occurring here on Antigua's churches. Adjoining the church in the space now occupied by the red-painted private home were the conventual buildings. It was here that the Capuchin nuns were first housed upon their arrival in Antigua in 1726, prior to the building of Las Capuchinas. Today none of the convent more..

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Capucin Convent

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One of the most fascinating colonial sites in Antigua is Las Capuchinas, the Capuchin Convent, completed in 1736 under the direction of the chief architect of the city, Diego de Porres. Today the convent is partially intact and partially in ruins. The intact portions house a museum and offices for the National Council for the Protection of Antigua Guatemala. The ruined sections include baths for the nuns, and an unusual circular area containing novices cells, each complete with it own privy. Below this circular patio is a mysterious, subterranean chamber that resonates more..

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Santa Clara

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Another very special ruin is that of the convent of Santa Clara founded in 1699 by the arrival of five nuns and one legate from Mexico. The convent's first church was completed in 1705, but destroyed in 1717. The remains standing today are those of a new church and convent started in 1723 and finished in 1734. The ruined nave and altar were constructed over gloomy subterranean vaults that are best explored with a flashlight. A complex of corridors and stairwells gives access to various parts of the shadowy ruin. But the greatest beauty of Santa Clara is its ruined cloister, more..

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