Antigua Introduction Walk (Self Guided), Antigua

Surrounded by volcanoes, the city of Antigua is a small yet very picturesque example of Spanish colonial architecture. Full of historic and religious sights, its most notable landmark is arguably the baroque-style La Merced Church which, once a year, becomes a pilgrimage destination for the famous Holy Week tradition or 'Semana Santa'. Follow this self-guided walking tour to explore this and other popular attractions of Antigua.
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Antigua Introduction Walk Map

Guide Name: Antigua Introduction Walk
Guide Location: Guatemala » Antigua (See other walking tours in Antigua)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.1 Km or 1.9 Miles
Author: Nick
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Arch of Santa Catalina
  • La Merced Church
  • Antigua's Local Market
  • Rafael Landival Monument
  • Parque Central (The Central Plaza)
  • Cathedral of Saint Joseph
  • Union Water Tank
  • San Francisco Cathedral
  • Convent of the Capuchins
1
Arch of Santa Catalina

1) Arch of Santa Catalina (must see)

The Santa Catalina Arch is the most iconic landmark in Antigua Guatemala. Built in 1694 and located on 5th Avenue North, it originally connected the Santa Catalina Convent to a school on the other side of the street. At the time the cloistered nuns lived in the Santa Catalina Convent while they taught at the school during the day.

However there was a dilemma. The cloistered nons had to avoid all contact with the outside world so they could not simply walk across a busy street to reach the school. To solve the problem, an arch above the street was built to connect the convent and the school. Within the arch there is a hidden passageway enabling the nuns to cross the street without being seen in public. It was an ingenious idea that worked perfectly! The arch has suffered damage over the years, especially during the catastrophic earthquake of 1773. But miraculously, it has survived and it is now a symbol of the city’s resilience.

A clock on top was added in the era of the Central American Federation in the 1830s and it needs to be wound every three days.

Today, the Santa Catalina Arch is the most famous city monument and easily the most photographed.
2
La Merced Church

2) La Merced Church (must see)

La Merced Church is a fine example of baroque in Antigua. This storied place of worship was built on the site of a monastery established in 1548, but the original building was repeatedly damaged by earthquakes. The current church was built in 1767. The building has a low height designed to withstand the frequent tremors in Guatemala. The baroque style building has a beautiful facade with ornamental elements set in relief and a striking yellow color of the main walls complemented by white plaster scultures.

After more than three centuries, the building is still standing and remains in good share. Today the church is popular with locals and tourists alike. La Merced Church is open to the public daily from 9 am to 6 pm.
Sight description based on wikipedia
3
Antigua's Local Market

3) Antigua's Local Market (must see)

Antigua's Local Market, located on the West side of the city, is separated into two sections – a local market on the north side and a tourist market on the south side. The market is rather large and here you can find local products - blankets, purses, clothing, wallets, scarves, shoes, souvenirs - in hundreds of individual stalls arranged in a somewhat organized maze.

The local market is the right place for those who are searching for crafts, gifts, and local accessories. It is acceptable to bargain for a better price than the first one quoted.
4
Rafael Landival Monument

4) Rafael Landival Monument

Located on the Alameda Walk, south of the city, the Rafael Landival Monument stands as the funeral memorial for the famous Jesuit poet and priest. Rafael Landivar was born in Antigua and is acclaimed internationally for his work "Rusticatio Mexicana."

Rafael Landívar was born in October 27, 1731, became a Jesuit in 1750, and taught philosophy and theology in Guatemala. Later he was banished from the Spanish colonies and went to exile in Italy, eventually died and buried in Bologna, Italy. While in Italy, he wrote the five-volume Latin poem, Rusticatio Mexicana, in that he vividly described the lakes, volcanoes, and wildlife of Mexico and his native Guatemala. Rafael Landívar is the best known of all the poets from the Americas to write in Latin and is regarded as the national poet of Guatemala. Rafael Landívar's remains was later brought from Bologna to Guatemala, and buried here.
5
Parque Central (The Central Plaza)

5) Parque Central (The Central Plaza) (must see)

Situated in the heart of Antigua, Parque Central is the center of social life for the city's residents. Surrounded by beautiful colonial structures, this large plaza is the gathering place and a meeting spot for locals and visitors alike. It is a great place to go for a leisurely stroll and people watching. There are plenty of benches and trees if you want a rest and observe as there is always something going on.

At the center of the square is a lovely fountain dating to 1936, a re-creation of an earlier version from 1738 destroyed by earthquakes. Around the plaza, you will find several historical buildings such as Cathedral of Saint Joseph and colonial government buildings. There are also museums, a commercial arcade known as the Portal del Comercio, souvenir shops, as well as restaurants and cafes.
6
Cathedral of Saint Joseph

6) Cathedral of Saint Joseph (must see)

Antigua Guatemala Cathedral (Spanish: Cathedral de San José) is a Roman Catholic church in Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala. The original church was built around 1541, but suffered several earthquakes throughout its history, and the first church building was demolished in 1669. The cathedral was rebuilt and consecrated in 1680. By 1743 the cathedral was one of the largest in Central America. However, the devastating 1773 Guatemala earthquake seriously damaged much of the building, though the two towers at the front remained largely intact. The cathedral has been partly rebuilt since the early earthquake.
Sight description based on wikipedia
7
Union Water Tank

7) Union Water Tank

Jose Maria Palomo commanded the inauguration of the Plaza de la Union in 1853. In that era, only the richest had laundries and baths at their homes. The plaza was later re-named to the "Union Water Tank," as it was the public venue for washing and laundry. While at Union Water Tank, tourists will appreciate the lovely park with tall palm trees near the Tank from which you may admire stunning views of the volcano.
8
San Francisco Cathedral

8) San Francisco Cathedral (must see)

San Francsico el Grande is a church in Antigua and one of the most frequented sanctuaries by the local population because of the shrine of Peter of Saint Joseph Betancur.

This chapel was severely damaged in 1565 and during the next ten years donations were collected to build a new sanctuary located two blocks away in 1579. The chapel and cloister were expanded during the 17th century. In 1684 the structure was reinforced and withstood the earthquake of 1691.

The church itself was built by Diego de Porres and inaugurated in 1702. Its facade, with twisted salomonic columns, is typical of the Spanish-American baroque and is similar to that of San José Cathedral. It has sixteen vaulted niches, each but the lowest two containing a saint or a friar. These include the Virgin Mary, San Diego de Alcalá, San Antonio de Padua, San Juan Capistrano, Santa Clara, Santiago, and Santa Isabel from Hungary. At the entrance of the monastery there are some murals, in which there can be seen the images of some Franciscans friars with a skeleton. Its bell and clock towers from the 17th and 19th centuries remain in ruins.
Sight description based on wikipedia
9
Convent of the Capuchins

9) Convent of the Capuchins (must see)

One of the finest examples of an 18th-century convent in Guatemala, the Iglesia y Convento de las Capuchinas was consecrated in 1736; in fact, it was the last convent to be built in the city, and the first one that stopped asking for a donation to the new nuns, allowing then poor ladies to embrace religious life. Daily routine for the nuns was ruled by strict regulations, however, which included, for some, maximum discipline on poverty, penance and fasting (for instance, drinking chocolate was strictly forbidden); also, the requirement that they should survive on the tithing only.

Like the rest of the city, the building complex suffered damage during the 1751 and 1773 earthquakes, respectively, and was abandoned by order of the Captain-General at the time. Today, the monastery's well-preserved cells, gardens, and courtyards are open for public viewing and provide excellent photo-ops. Each twist and turn presents a view your camera will ache to capture! It's also interesting to see how small the cloisters were, and how the nuns lived during colonial times.

Tip:
The only guide is the map in the first room, so study it carefully! Don't miss the round room beneath the Nun's tower: sing quietly and be rewarded – the acoustics are incredible. The 2nd-floor art display is new and very nice, as well.

Walking Tours in Antigua, Guatemala

Create Your Own Walk in Antigua

Create Your Own Walk in Antigua

Creating your own self-guided walk in Antigua is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Parque Central Walking Tour

Parque Central Walking Tour

Parque Central is the center of social life for the residents in Antigua. What makes the park so popular for tourists is the opportunity to visit a good number of famous buildings around the park. Follow this self guided walk to explore the history behind the buildings at the very center of the city.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.3 Km or 0.2 Miles
Antigua Museums

Antigua Museums

With a rich heritage combining Spanish colonialism and Mayan culture, Antigua is a fasinating place to visit in Latin America. Several museums in town are well worth exploring if you to learn more about the history of the country. Follow this self guided tour to visit the best museums in Antigua and get a history lesson along the way.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.5 Km or 0.9 Miles
Antigua Shopping Tour

Antigua Shopping Tour

Shopping is arguably Antigua’s most popular activity. Tourists find themselves spoiled for choice with a terrific collection of souvenirs, textiles, hand-made articles, cigars, and local Jade jewelry. Prices are usually very affordable, so it will be a shame not to hunt for something special to bring home.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.3 Km or 0.8 Miles
Antigua Nightlife

Antigua Nightlife

Antigua features a variety of attractive clubs, fabulous discos, and cozy bars, making it the self-designated "capital of Guatemala's nightlife." The city's nightlife starts at 10 PM and offers a terrific selection of venues to enjoy a great night out.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.6 Km or 0.4 Miles
Ancient Ruins of Antigua

Ancient Ruins of Antigua

It would appear as if the time machine has finally been invented in a place none other than Antigua. The glorious ancient city offers so much history beyond its streets and buildings, fountains and courtyards, that the great ruins are almost impossible to explore in a single day. Luckily, with this self-guided walk, you will get to select from the myriad vestiges set against the impressive...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.5 Km or 2.2 Miles