A Day Well Spent in Antigua, Guatemala
The following is a guest post by Amber Hoffman, world traveler and blogger at With Husband in Tow and Escape the Predictable Life.
It's tempting to spend a day in the UNESCO World Heritage colonial town of Antigua, Guatemala, just wandering around snapping photos of the cobblestone streets and pastel colored architecture. Most people spend one day climbing a local volcano, but, if you are looking for a full day to experience everything the city has to offer, look no further than the list below. Orient yourself around Parque Central and the simple grid system of the map, and set out to enjoy the adorable colonial charm that exudes from Antigua.
Yoga at Maison Panzo Verde
A great way to wake up in the morning. Yoga Antigua offers classes most mornings at 8:30, taught in both English and Spanish, in the cozy art gallery of Mezon Panza Verde (5a Avenida Sur). The name translates to “Green Belly", a nickname for the citizens of Antigua, a town known for avocados. The classes are taught by expats, and mats and props are provided. For a package of 5 classes, the price drops to $5 a class. A perfect way to seek peace and tranquility before the day begins.
Breakfast at Panaderia Santa Clara
After breakfast, walk the few blocks over to 2a Avenida Sur to visit Panaderia Santa Clara. Follow the smell of fresh baked goods, and the small line that leads from the counter through the small store front, and into the street. Great cappuccinos and café con leche accompany warm chocolate croissants and tasty empanadas filled with spicy beef. Cream filled donuts are phenomenal as well.
Wandering through the colonial streets is an inevitable must in a trip to Antigua. Stroll through Parque Central, at the heart of the town. Grab a park bench, overlooking the cathedral, watch children playing around the fountain, and listen to the touts offering horse-drawn carriage rides through town.
Lunch at a Comedor
After a morning exploring the town, enjoy a traditional almuerzo, or lunch platter, at one of the simple comedores. Normally, a plate of food, which includes meat, rice, vegetables, tortillas and a refresco fruit beverage runs between $3-$5 a person. A great steal for such quality home cooked food. Try La Canche, across from the La Merced church on the north end of town. It is an institution. The building looks like a simple tienda, or shop. Don't be dissuaded, just walk behind the counters and follow the scent of fresh chicken soup and tasty plates of the day. The women cook in the back kitchen, and serve food at the large tables, just behind the counters.
Antigua is famous not only for its traditional, bright colored colonial architecture, and the volcanoes that surround the town, but also for its numerous Spanish language schools. Generally, classes last for 5 days and can start any day of the week. One on one lessons at a school such as Spanish Academy Sevilla are as little as $5 an hour. They will tailor your lessons based on your proficiency and interests, including tourist friendly Spanish.
Sunset Over the Volcanoes
Antigua's volcanoes loom over the town, always present. Sometimes they seem to follow you as you wander. Catch a view during dusk, and watch the sun slowly dip behind the volcanic cone. One place to stop is the roof top bar of Café Sky (1a Avenida Sur). A little pricey, but worth the view.
Mexican Food at El Farol
After an afternoon of Spanish classes and a pretty full day, a simple Mexican meal at El Farol on Seconda Avenida is what the doctor ordered. Fantastic tacos for next to nothing, accompanied by cold beer or a refresco fruit beverage. Quesadillas, burritos, nachos, and tortas round out the menu. All served quickly, by friendly staff. The owners spent time living in Mexico, and imported the specialties to Antigua. Best Mexican in town.
Drinks at Por Que No?
Head one block south of El Farol to the tiny corner bar on Seconda Avenida. Por Que No? is the perfect way to finish a perfect day. A local couple, Carlos and Carolina, put thought, effort, and love into their quaint and eccletic bar. Carolina greets new guests as they arrive and makes them feel part of the family. It is a perfect mix of ice cold Gallo beer, wine, and new friends. A hangout for both locals and extraneros, it is a great way to feel engulfed in the culture of travelers, hear tips on Guatemala, and all of Central America, and to feel part of Antigua, even for just a night.