Things to do in Guatemala City, you can spend the day at the Aurora Zoo, visit one of the great museums such as Popol Vuh, the Ixchel Museum of the Indigenous Costume, or the National Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, or you can view and admire magnificent architectural structures at the National Palace of Culture or the Metropolitan Cathedral.
Surprisingly, Guatemala City is often overlooked by tourists; the vast majority favor the more touristy areas such as Antigua, Lake Atitlan, Tikal, and others. Nevertheless, this city has a lot to offer visitors.
Whether you are in Guatemala City for a few days or more, there is plenty to see and do. Here are a few of the things you can see or do!
Visit Guatemala’s City National Palace of Culture
The National Palace of Culture is located in the Historic Center of Guatemala City. At one point the palace was the headquarters of the Guatemalan president and also the most important building in the country.
Right at the entrance to the Palace, there’s a marker indicating “Kilometer zero,” from which all roads into Guatemala lead out of. Additionally, there is another symbolic star signifying “kilometer zero” inside the palace, right below the reception room. However, the exact or right location for kilometer zero is at the entrance of the palace.
Today this magnificent architectural building, is a museum that sometimes is used for significant acts of the government.
Also, scattered throughout the building are huge murals depicting Guatemala’s history. From Mayan ancestors, through Spanish rule, and all the way to Guatemala’s independence.
If you ever get to spend time in Guatemala City, this iconic building should be in your must-see list.
Spend time at the Aurora Zoo
It has animals from different regions of the world, including Africa, Asia, America, and Oceania. Furthermore, it also has a section of animals from the jungles of Guatemala and an aquarium.
At La Aurora Zoo, there are plenty of places to eat such as Dominos Pizza, Pollo Campero, and many other types of local food. Also, you can bring your own food and eat in the picnic area. There are plenty of tables available to the public.
This zoo is perfect for a family trip, there is plenty of animals to see and activities to do. And, it also features games and activities specific for children.
The Aurora Zoo is a top-notch family destination. The zoo’s grounds are well-kept, and they are a pleasure to walk through them.
Visit the Popol Vuh Museum in Guatemala City
The Popol Vuh Museum is located on the campus of the Universidad Francisco Marroquín in Guatemala City.
This museum holds some of the more significant Mayan art in the world. Moreover, it also contains an extensive collection of pre-Columbian and colonial art of the Maya culture.
Although the Popol Vuh museum is well known for its ceramic art; the museum also has a variety of portable stone sculptures from the Preclassic period. Furthermore, a large section on Maya pottery consists of some of the best preserved Maya bowls and vases in the world.
Additionally, the exhibitions include a colorful display of animals in classical Maya art. Also, in addition to pre-Columbian art, the museum has a vast selection of Spanish colonial architecture.
The museum offers tours to each of its galleries; and also workshops on topics such as archaeological excavation, restoration activities, Mayan pottery, etc.
Furthermore, to educate visitors and the community on Mayan heritage and culture; the museum has presentations, lectures, and courses throughout the year.
Visit the Ixchel Museum of the Indigenous Costume
The Ixchel Museum of the Indigenous Costume exhibits a complete and preserved collection of Guatemalan textiles as well as its history. The name of the museum was inspired by Ixchel, the Mayan goddess of fertility in the pre-Hispanic era.
The Ixchel Museum dates back to 1973 as a private non-profit institution. Furthermore, it was committed to safeguarding the heritage of the country. This is the only institution in Guatemala that is dedicated to collecting and conserving local textiles.
The Ixchel Museum has a vast collection of costumes from the indigenous communities of Guatemala. The collection includes more than 7,500 pieces originating from many towns and villages dating from the end of the 19th Century until today.
The Textile Collection is kept under the right conditions for its conservation. Also, the area where the collection is kept was built under specifications designed to prevent and control deterioration factors such as humidity,
light, natural disasters, and insect infestation.
Add the Ixchel Museum to your must-see list in Guatemala City.
Visit the Metropolitan Cathedral
The Metropolitan Cathedral, this neoclassical structure was completed in 1868 after 86 years of construction. The Cathedral with its stone floors, colonial paintings, grand arches, and bursts of gold at its altars; inspires both simplicity and reverence.
One of the most striking features at this Cathedral is the entrance that is supported by 12 pillars. Each of these pillars is inscribed with the names of Guatemalans who perished or vanished during the civil war. Furthermore, The interior is large and filled with religious icons, carvings, and artworks.
The Cathedral is the main church of Guatemala City and of the Archdiocese of Guatemala. It is located at Central Park in the middle of the city. The Cathedral over its existence has withstood numerous earthquakes, its large structure incorporates baroque and classical elements.
Even though the inside of the cathedral is relatively scarcely decorated, the extraordinary size and structural strength alone are enough to impress visitors.
Visit the National Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology
If you want to immerse yourself in the cultural and historical heritage of Guatemala; the National Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology id the place to do it.
With about 32,000 square feet of exhibition space hosting over 20,000 archaeological artifacts and more than 4,500 ethnological pieces, you can explore the significant Mesoamerican history.
At the museum, you will be able to browse an extensive collection of pre- and post-classical artifacts such as Maya art, textiles, and tools. Furthermore, you will be able to see displays presenting current and past indigenous culture in Guatemala.
At this museum, you will also be able to see an extensive collection of ancient Mayan artifacts found at temples in Tikal such as jewelry, traditional masks, and stone sculptures.
To conclude, the museum also has an excellent ethnography section dedicated to the language, costumes, and dances of the indigenous Maya people.
Visit Guatemala City Botanical Garden
This Botanical Garden was the first in Central America and is the only one in the country.
The Botanical Garden displays more than 1,400 varieties of local and exotic plants, including many endangered species.
The gardens are lovely and magnificent. Additionally, it also provides a welcome break from the fumes, traffic, and disorder of downtown Guatemala City.
Why visit Guatemala City?
Some publications or people might tell you that Guatemala City is unimpressive, messy or even unsafe, leaving you with the idea that it’s a city to avoid at all cost. However, as many people who have spent time at this city have discovered, Guatemala City can’t merely be defined in one sweeping brush of negativity.
Guatemala City is a necessary stop for any visitor who wants to go beyond the well-kept touristy spots and actually get a better sense of what the current culture of Guatemala is.