Guatemala City is the capital of Guatemala, and sees the past and present combine in a fascinating way. You will encounter old churches in one area, and find many modern restaurants, nightclubs, and shopping malls in another part of the city.
Guate, as the locals call it, hides some curiosities such as Mayan ruins and the Mapa en Relieve de Guatemala, a huge map of the region that you have to witness from above. There are also plenty of museums where you can learn about the country's history and culture.
Your trip to Guatemala City would not be complete without trying the delicious street food, discovering traditional Guatemalan fare, and eating at a restaurant featuring a live marimba band. The street markets are an unforgettable experience and the perfect occasion to interact with locals.
Classic architecture abounds, and the city's churches are emblematic of this. Visit the Iglesia Yurrita, the Catedral Metropolitana de Guatemala, the Iglesia de Santo Domingo, or El Calvario.
You can learn about traditional dress and see some amazing paintings at the Museo Ixchel. The National Museum of Modern Art in Zona 13 is worth visiting and so is the Popol Vuh Museum in Zona 10 if you are interested in archaeology.
Head to Zona 7 to see the ruins of Kaminaljuyu, a former Mayan city. Some mounds are visible from the exterior, and you can explore some excavations. Visit the Museo Miraflores in Zona 13 to learn more about the ruins.
The Plaza Central is one of the main attractions of Guatemala City. This is where you will find the Central Market where you can shop for souvenirs and sample street food. Take a stroll on the Plaza Central on Sundays to see live music and art performances.
The Zona Viva is a small area inside of Zona 10 with a high concentration of restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. You can eat dinner at Kacao, where your food will be served by waiters in traditional dress, before dancing the night away at the Secret Garden.
The climate is warm and humid during the summer. You should ideally plan your trip to Guatemala City between November and March for drier and cooler weather. The month of August can be busy because of the Fiesta Patronal de la Virgen de la Asunción, but this is an occasion to see fireworks and parades.
La Aurora International Airport (GUA) is located in the southern portion of the city in Zona 13, about five miles from the center. You can ride a bus to any other area for only Q1. You can take a taxi from the airport to Zona 10 for Q90, while some hotels offer a free shuttle service.
Driving in Guatemala is not easy due to the fact that roads are not well marked. You can follow highway CA-1 if you come from the Mexican border or highway CA-8 if you come from San Salvador. Highway CA-9 connects Guatemala City with Escuintla to the south, and highway CA-19 can be followed to reach Guatemala City if you are coming from the east of the country.
Chicken buses or trambillas are a popular transportation method to get from one city to another. You can take a chicken bus to Guatemala City from any city in Guatemala. The cost of a trip is calculated based on how long the trip is, and you will usually pay Q10 per hour. Many first-class buses will also take you to Guatemala City. You can take the bus from Antigua for only Q8, from Puerto Barrios for Q80, and from Flores for Q80. Intercity and international bus companies include Ticabus and Línea Dorada, and bus stops are scattered throughout the city.
Most hotels are located in Zona 10. Comfort Hostel and Hotel Mansión Imperial are good choices if you are looking for affordable accommodation in this area. If you would rather stay in Zona 1, consider the Hotel Pan American. The Hotel Barceló Guatemala City in Zona 9 is a good choice if you are looking for a more upscale experience.
Zona 1 - this is the Centro Histórico, where most of the attractions are. You can spend an afternoon shopping on the Plaza Central, or tour the Palacio Nacional de la Cultura to see the artwork and murals and learn about the country's history.
Zona 10 - this is a more modern area with hotels, restaurants, bars, and shopping malls. The Zona Viva is where you will find most of the nightclubs and bars.
Zona 13 - this area is worth visiting if you want to catch a soccer game at the Domo Polideportivo de la CDAG or discover South American fauna at the La Aurora Zoo.
There are three different bus systems in Guatemala City, and the fare is only Q1 regardless of where you are going or which system you use. The Transmetro buses are green and there are only two routes. You can ride the Transurbano buses, which are blue and white, if you have a prepaid SIGA card. This is a more convenient option since there are more stops and more routes, including one that will take you from Zona 1 to Zona 10. There are also chicken buses, which are painted red; these will stop anywhere along their route if you ask the driver.
Yellow taxis use meters. There is a minimum price of Q25, and you will typically pay Q8 per mile. You will also find white taxis, which are not formerly registered and do not use a meter. Prices can vary since you will have to negotiate with the driver. Get a driver's contact card and call them again if you can negotiate a good rate with them.
Driving can be difficult in Guatemala City due to lack of road markings and proper signs. If you choose to drive, you can rent a car for Q450 a day at the Hertz, Alamo, or National Car Rental agencies inside of the airport. You can also rent a local driver for around Q300 a day.
The Plaza Central is the best place to shop for souvenirs, crafts, and textiles. Visit the Mercado de Artesanias in Zona 13 if you want more shopping options for traditional textiles and clothes. You will find more modern shopping malls in Zona 10 and 11, including the Oakland Mall, Arkadia Shopping Mall, and La Pradera, where you can buy clothes and accessories.
The Plaza Central is the best place to find fresh food. There's a Walmart near the airport, the Hiper Paiz Supermarket in Zona 1, and the Econo Super in Zona 9. There are many small family-owned grocery and convenience stores everywhere in the city. A quart of milk typically costs Q12, a loaf of bread should cost Q13, and you will have to spend around Q17 for a dozen eggs.
Zona 5 and Zona 1 are the best areas to find street vendors offering shucos, sliced mangoes, and gauchitos. The best restaurant in Zona 1 is San Ángel, because of the view and steak and shrimp. Zona 10 is where you will find most of the restaurants. Casa Chapina is the best place for traditional fare and live marimba music, or head to Hacienda Real for great steaks. A meal at most restaurants should cost Q30 to Q45, a mid-range meal should cost Q50 to Q100, and eating at an upscale restaurant can cost Q200 or more.