Antigua Museums, Antigua

Antigua Museums (Self Guided), Antigua

A combination of Spanish colonialism and Mayan culture has given rise to a wealth of heritage in Guatemala. The evidence of this is particularly visible in Antigua, a small town yet fascinating place to visit in Latin America. The local museums are well worth exploring for anyone wishing to learn about the country's history in general and some of its aspects in particular.

The Casa Santo Domingo Museum, housed within the ruins of a former monastery, is a gem showcasing an impressive collection of religious artifacts, colonial-era art, and archaeological treasures.

For those interested in the allure of precious stones, the Jade Maya, or Jade Museum, is a go-to place. It holds an extensive array of jade artifacts, including intricate jewelry, sculptures, and historical pieces, shedding light on the significance of jade in Mayan culture.

Casa Popeone, a private museum, displays an eclectic mix of well-preserved items, from vintage cars to antique firearms, giving you a taste of Antigua's opulent past and a unique glimpse into the lifestyle of affluent colonial families.

The Museum of Colonial Art is a haven for those intrigued by colonial art. The exhibits – religious relics, silverwork, and sculptures, – provide a valuable perspective on the fusion of indigenous and European influences during the colonial era.

The Museum of Santiago de los Caballeros delves into the history of the city itself, offering a deeper understanding of its origins and development.

Bookworms will certainly appreciate the Museo del Libro Antiguo, showcasing ancient books and manuscripts – a sheer haven for bibliophiles curious about the written heritage of Antigua.

For a sweet and savory experience, the ChocoMuseo, or Chocolate Museum, is an interactive delight. Here, you can learn about the history of chocolate, its cultivation, and enjoy delicious tastings.

Antigua's museums are windows into the city's history, art, and culture. Each museum has something special to offer, ensuring a unique and unforgettable experience for visitors of all backgrounds. Don't miss out on the opportunity to connect with the rich heritage of Antigua, and immerse yourself in its vibrant culture.
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Antigua Museums Map

Guide Name: Antigua Museums
Guide Location: Guatemala » Antigua (See other walking tours in Antigua)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.5 Km or 0.9 Miles
Author: Nick
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Casa Santo Domingo Museum (Santo Domingo Museum)
  • Jade Maya (Jade Museum)
  • Casa Popeone
  • Museum of Colonial Art
  • Museum of Santiago de los Caballeros
  • Museo del Libro Antiguo (Museum of the Ancient Book)
  • ChocoMuseo (Chocolate Museum)
Casa Santo Domingo Museum (Santo Domingo Museum)

1) Casa Santo Domingo Museum (Santo Domingo Museum) (must see)

The Santo Domingo Museum is on the grounds of a convent dating back to the 16th century. Restoration efforts have made this former convent into a perfect museum space to highlight the artifacts on display. Brick arches and tile corridors help bring the area to life, replicating what the original building may have looked like.

Art that dates back to the ancient Mayan culture, including ceramics, forms an integral part of the collection. In keeping with the building's previous history as a church, the museum's collection includes religious terms. Touring this museum will give you a great appreciation for the area's history.

You can see other interesting items: silver and glassware, pharmacy articles, and archaeological artifacts. Paintings and sculptures that cover all of the site's time periods are part of the displays here. You also have the chance to see well-preserved Colonial furniture here.
Jade Maya (Jade Museum)

2) Jade Maya (Jade Museum)

Jade Museum has displays covering over 3,000 years of history and seven distinct cultures. Part jeweler, part museum, Jade Museum has played a leading role in introducing the world to Guatemala's jadeite trade. This company has been present in Antigua since 1974.

Mary Lou Ridinger, an archaeologist, and her husband Jay are the company's founders. The jade that is sustainably mined is used to craft museum-quality jewelry that showcases pre-Colombian art forms. Starting the jade industry again in this area helped restore a lost art.

The jewelry on display in the showroom encompasses many types, from earrings and necklaces to woven bracelets. Sculptures and carvings crafted from jade are also here, from mask replicas to figurines of wildlife and models of Maya artifacts. Visitors shopping for jewelry or collectibles or wanting to learn more about jade craft will be satisfied with their experience.
Casa Popeone

3) Casa Popeone

Casa Popenoe is a historically significant colonial residence located in Antigua. Built originally in 1632 by Luis de las Infantas Mendoza, a judge for the royal court, this house exemplifies the grandeur of the era intended for the Spanish elite. Despite its construction in the 17th century, there is a conflicting record that attributes the building of the house in 1762 to Venancia López, suggesting modifications or reconstructions over the centuries.

Throughout its history, Casa Popenoe has experienced multiple changes in ownership and purpose. After surviving partial destruction due to an 18th-century earthquake, the house was extensively restored in the early 20th century by Wilson and Dorothy Popenoe, who acquired it in 1929. Their restoration efforts transformed it into a showcase of cultural and historical significance.

Today, Casa Popenoe is no longer a private residence but a public museum managed by Universidad Francisco Marroquín (UFM) since 2007, when the Popenoe family donated it. The house serves as a vibrant testament to both the Spanish-Guatemalan period from the 16th to the early 19th centuries and the broader history of Antigua Guatemala. It houses a rich collection of over 2,300 volumes spanning subjects like botany, agriculture, and the history of Guatemala, along with an array of historical artifacts including furniture, paintings, sculptures, and silverware.

Visitors can also enjoy the meticulously maintained gardens, which are home to sixty-one species of plants, offering a lush, green insight into the botanical interests of the Popenoe family. Casa Popenoe stands today not just as a historical relic but as an educational resource that offers deep insights into the cultural and historical fabric of colonial Central America.
Museum of Colonial Art

4) Museum of Colonial Art

The Museum of Colonial Art in Antigua is a premier institution dedicated to preserving and showcasing art from the Spanish-American colonial period, particularly between the 16th and 18th centuries. Situated in the historic building of the former University of San Carlos, directly opposite the Cathedral in central Antigua, this museum offers a rich visual journey into the past.

Housed in a stunning colonial edifice, the museum boasts a significant collection of about 156 pieces, predominantly from the Baroque period. These artworks include an impressive range of polychrome wood sculptures, paintings, and exquisitely crafted furniture. Noteworthy among the displayed sculptures are pieces like Saint Michael the Archangel, Our Lady of Sorrows, Saint Christopher, and Saint Gabriel, which reflect the deep spiritual and intense emotional expression typical of the era. The sculptures are renowned for their dramatic flair, detailed carvings, and the luxurious use of materials such as jasper and ivory, particularly in elements depicting human features like faces and hands.

The craftsmanship of these pieces demonstrates the highly skilled technique of Estofado, which involves simulating textures of clothing with gold floral motifs, enhancing the visual impact of each piece. The works of prominent artists such as Cristóbal de Villalpando and Thomás de Merlo, including pivotal works like The Passion of Christ, are also highlights of the museum's collection.

In addition to its vast collection, the Museum of Colonial Art also engages visitors through educational activities such as carpentry and furniture restoration workshops. It provides tours in both Spanish and English to cater to its diverse audience, which includes around 300 daily visitors. This museum not only serves as a guardian of Guatemala’s rich colonial artistic heritage but also as an active educational center, promoting understanding and appreciation of the colonial arts among locals and tourists alike.
Museum of Santiago de los Caballeros

5) Museum of Santiago de los Caballeros

The Museum of Santiago de los Caballeros, located in the historic city of Antigua, is a significant cultural institution dedicated to showcasing the rich colonial history and weaponry of the region. Founded in 1956 by David Vela through the Institute of Anthropology and History, the museum was originally housed in the City Hall Palace. After 54 years, it was relocated in 2011 to the Palace of the Captains (Palacio de los Capitanes) by the Ministry of Culture and Sports, reflecting its growing importance and the need for a more fitting venue.

The Palace of the Captains, where the museum is now situated, is a remarkable building known as the “Royal Palace.” Constructed in the 16th century, this edifice features semicircular arches and spans an entire block facing the central park, marking it as one of the largest and most architecturally significant structures from that period.

Upon entering the museum, visitors are greeted in a vestibular room that provides an introduction to the museum’s themes and scope. The exhibitions are designed to immerse visitors in the geographical and historical context of the 16th to 18th centuries in colonial Guatemala. Through a series of displays and information panels, the museum explores various aspects of colonial society, including the influence of the Church, the significance of heraldry in tracing historical events and figures, and the role of artisan guilds in shaping social hierarchies.

A central feature of the museum is its extensive weapons exhibition. This collection not only gives the museum its name but also provides a detailed look at the military aspects of colonial life, showcasing how weaponry evolved and played a crucial role in the historical developments of the era.

The Museum of Santiago de los Caballeros offers a comprehensive and engaging view of the pre-Hispanic and colonial past of Guatemala, making it a must-visit for those interested in the country’s history and cultural heritage.
Museo del Libro Antiguo (Museum of the Ancient Book)

6) Museo del Libro Antiguo (Museum of the Ancient Book)

The Museum of the Ancient Book (Museo del Libro Antiguo) in Antigua offers a unique glimpse into the history and evolution of printing in Guatemala. Established in 1956, this museum resides in a building of historic significance, as it housed the first printing press in Antigua Guatemala. The museum was founded by Rigoberto Azmitia and David Vela, with the initial collections donated by Arturo Taracena and David Vela.

The museum is structured into four exhibition rooms that highlight the development of printing during colonial times. Among its treasures, it houses the first book printed in Guatemala, the "Explicato Apologética" (I Explain Apologetics) by Fray Payo Enríquez de Rivera, produced in 1663 by José de Pineda Ibarra. Another notable exhibit includes a 1753 print, "Arte de la lengua metropolitana del reino cakchiquel o guatemálico" (Art of the metropolitan language of the Guatemalan Kingdom) by Ildefonso Joseph Flores, printed by Sebastián Arévalo. Additionally, the museum showcases a 1714 chronicle from the San Francisco convent's workshop titled "Chronicle of the Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus of Guatemala" by Friar Francisco Vazquez.

The museum also displays an assortment of bibles in various languages, alongside lithographic stones. One highlight is a replica of the first printing press used in Guatemala, acquired in November 1964, with plans provided by UNE. The first exhibition room provides visitors with an introduction to the arrival and impact of the printing press in Guatemala. The museum also presents a collection of colonial university documents known as "Tarja".

Overall, the Museo del Libro Antiguo not only preserves but also celebrates the rich history of bookmaking and printing in Guatemala, making it an invaluable resource for understanding the cultural and historical fabric of the region.
ChocoMuseo (Chocolate Museum)

7) ChocoMuseo (Chocolate Museum) (must see)

The Chocolate Museum in Antigua, Guatemala, offers one of the best ranges of overall experiences for those who love everything chocolate-related. One of the biggest highlights is a free tour where you can learn all about cacao beans and pods, in an experience that is perfect for visitors of all ages.

There are also three workshops visitors can enjoy, including one where you can make chocolate from the bean. You can also enjoy a mini-workshop if you're short on time. Another popular workshop lets you learn how to make the ganache required for shelled bonbons and truffles.

One of the things that stands out about this museum is its open production area. When you take one of these tours and buy from the Chocolate Museum, you're supporting local entrepreneurs. Meeting with the people behind local chocolate production is an excellent way to gain a new appreciation for this indulgent, sweet treat.

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.
Ancient Ruins of Antigua

Ancient Ruins of Antigua

In places like Antigua Guatemala, it feels as if a time machine has already been invented. This glorious ancient town breathes history in all its streets, houses, fountains, and courtyards, but above all the great ruins, which are impossible to miss against the impressive backdrop of Agua Volcano. The latter is responsible for these ruins in the first place, having caused a series of earthquakes...  view more

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

Antigua Introduction Walking Tour

Antigua, Guatemala, which is sometimes known as La Antigua, dates back to 1543. This city was the third capital of the Spanish colony. Surrounded by volcanoes, the city of Antigua is a small yet very picturesque example of Spanish colonial architecture. Jesuit and Franciscan orders have had a presence in this region since the 17th century, contributing to its rich colonial religious life.

The...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.2 Km or 2 Miles