Main square of Guatemala City with the Guatemalan Flag at Night

What to do in Guatemala City? Our Top 5 Picks!

if you are looking for information fast, you can use the table of contents below to find quickly what you are looking for.

Guatemala City is often overlooked by people traveling to Guatemala. From our own experience, we met a lot of foreign tourists visiting this country underneath Mexico, and almost none of them had visited the capital.

Most people prefer to visit places such as Panajachel, Tikal, Antigua, Semuc Champey, or many of the other beautiful places this country has to offer.

However, we have visited Guatemala City two times already, and we love it. My wife might even love being in Guatemala City more than being in places such as Antigua, and Lake Atitlan. She swears it has nothing to do with thrift shopping, but we will get back to that later in this article.

But what do you actually do when visiting Guatemala City? In this blog post, we go over the 5 things to do in Guatemala City. Looking to immediately get to the 5 best things to do in Guatemala City, you can either scroll down a bit or use the table of contents at the beginning of this article.

TLDR: In Guatemala City, you can go shopping, to the zoo, see incredible architecture, have great coffee, and eat at amazing restaurants.

How many days should you spend in Guatemala City?

Yes, I know I said earlier that this city is not as boring as most people describe it. Does this mean that you should spend 2 weeks here? No, absolutely not! Like most city trip destinations, a few days is more than enough. This also goes for Guatemala City. I recommend staying 2 to 5 days in the capital of Guatemala. With 5 being the absolute maximum amount of days you need to stay in this city.

How dangerous is Guatemala City right now?

Guatemala City is often seen as a very dangerous city. This is exactly the reason why a lot of people seem to avoid the capital of Guatemala. We have visited the city for the second time in 6 months, and a lot of things have changed, in a good way. However, there are still some dangers you should be aware of.

Some of the dangers of Guatemala City include robberies, and stabbings as well as other violent crimes. However, these are usually in secluded areas where local gangs have taken control.

Most tourists will never visit these areas, and in the city center itself, it is not as dangerous. Although very consistent and determined beggars and homeless people can be a bit of an issue. This is one of the only cities that I have ever visited, where beggars don’t go away when you tell them “no” politely.

Another danger of Guatemala City is the political situation in the country. The country has a lot of protests, and the bigger manifestations are usually in, or start at the main square of the capital.

However, as you can read in this article, avoiding Guatemala City when you travel to the country would be a shame. If you are planning a trip to Antigua, or Panajachel, don’t avoid the capital like everyone else and see what this beautiful city has to offer.

5 things to do in Guatemala City

Hopefully, by now, we have convinced you with this intro to take the leap and visit Guatemala City. We have said a lot of great things about Guatemala City, but now it is time to find out the reasons why Guatemala City should be visited, and what you can do in the city.

See The Beautiful Architecture

First things first, Guatemala City is an absolutely beautiful city. It has a lot of Spanish Colonial influences, and this can be seen in the architecture of the city. One of its main attractions is the Palacio Nacional de la Cultura, this beautiful building is built on the main square; Plaza de la Constitución.

The palace in Guatemala City at night

This beautiful palace is also a museum that can be visited throughout the week. The information about the tours is very difficult to find online. Actually it is so difficult to find online, that I just now found out, while doing the research and fact-checking for this article, that the building had tours. The best thing to do is just walk to the entrance on the side of the square, and ask there about the tours.

It doesn’t stop there, there are many more beautiful buildings in Guatemala City for you to go sightseeing. Some of the other amazing sights in the center of the city include the church, cathedral, arch, and Avenida La Reforma. Besides, that you are also very close to the famous underground market in Guatemala City, which is next to the square.

The arch in Guatemala City during the evening

Another beautiful part of Guatemala City that has been gaining popularity is Paseo Cayala. This used to be a suburb of Guatemala City but is now considered an actual part of the city. In this part of the city, you can find the business district, commercial properties, and a lot of amazing dining experiences. This part of the city is also near the Oakland Mall, a luxury shopping mall in Guatemala City.

Oakland Mall Entrance

Eat Some Amazing International Food

Although Guatemala itself is known for its national dishes such as Pepián, Elotes Locos, and different types of Tamales, Guatemala City has a lot to offer for people who like to eat different types of food every day.

Whether you are more of a fan of high-end restaurants, or just like to eat at a food stand, Guatemala City has food for everyone. Even I had enough choice between different restaurants, and I am a very picky eater.

Black Risotto in Guatemala City

We ate traditional Spanish and French dishes, steaks, and even kebabs at a kebab stand in the center. There were of course also plenty of different Mexican and Tex-Mex-influenced restaurants, because of the American and Mexican influences this city has.

If you are an even pickier eater than me, there were also plenty of American fast food chains such as Mcdonald’s, Wendy’s, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and many other chains.

Drink Some of the Best Coffee in the World

Normally I drink about 3 to 5 coffees per day, which is already way too much. Especially for someone with anxiety, however, you can just not stop drinking the amazing coffee in this country.

Although the coffee from regions such as Antigua, as well as the surrounding regions of Lake Atitlan might be more famous, this doesn’t mean that the coffee shops in the capital are bad.

There are multiple coffee shops in every street in this city, and the coffee seems to taste better in every coffee shop. Besides, they have a healthy combination of cozy coffee shops and franchise coffee shops throughout the city. But don’t let the franchise coffee shops fool you, as long as you don’t pick Starbucks, but actually one of the Guatemalan ones, the coffee might still be amazing.

Drinking coffee in Guatemala City

Go Thrift Shopping

I had to put this in here. Although I am not a big fan of vintage shopping my wife is. Besides our wedding day, I don’t think I have seen her as happy as when she went thrift shopping in Guatemala City.

Every day we were in the city she went shopping for second-hand clothes and came back with 5 or 6 pieces of clothing.

The whole center of the city is filled with different stores, offering clothing between 20 to 50 Quetzales ($2,50 to $6,50). If you have the patience and an eye for detail you can find 1 or 2 gems in each one of these stores. So, if you love thrift shopping as much as my wife, Guatemala City is definitely the place to be.

See More Than 2500 Animals in the Zoo

When you are completely done with seeing all the things in the city itself and want to explore things to do outside of Guatemala City, you can visit La Aurora Zoo.

La Aurora Zoo is a beautiful zoo with more than 280 species and 2500 animals. The zoo also has a lot of flora and fauna and looks like a beautiful garden. When you visit this zoo, you will notice that its animals are divided by their native continents, making for a truly unique experience.

Elephant at La Aurora Zoo, in Guatemala City

As soon as you land in Guatemala, and get out of the Guatemala City Airport on your way to the center of the city, you will pass this zoo. Although it is not very far away from the center of Guatemala City, make sure to plan in advance. The zoo is closer to the airport than the center, so it can take quite some time to get there, depending on the traffic.

Should You Visit Guatemala City?

I hope this article has convinced you to visit Guatemala City. The capital of Guatemala is a very lively city that has a lot of things to offer. From amazing food, and coffee, to shopping to some sightseeing and incredible architecture. We think it is worth visiting Guatemala City, and we will come back a third time. Our answer is: yes, you should visit Guatemala City as there are plenty of things to do in the city.


How Many People Live in Guatemala City?

In 2018, Guatemala City had a population of 995,993. However, the metropolitan area had a total population of 2,945,080. Currently, there are no clear statistics on the population of the city, but the metropolitan area has grown a bit to 3,160,000 in 2024.

Is Guatemala City Safe For Female Tourists?

Guatemala City is in general safe during the day. There are a lot of police officers in the center of the city, and even a special tourism police force. However, we would strongly advise on going out at night alone, as a female. Most stores and restaurants, close at 9 PM, so there are not that many people on the street anymore.

Is it Safe to Walk in Guatemala City at Night?

It depends on what you call night. It usually gets completely dark around 7 PM. At this time the stores and restaurants are still open, it is not unsafe. However, we advise you to travel in couples or groups, and not alone if possible. When the restaurants and stores in the city center close, we would strongly recommend you stay inside and go outside the next day, also when you are with multiple people.

Is Uber Safe in Guatemala City?

We didn’t have any issues using Uber in Guatemala City, and at no time we felt unsafe. Uber uses security codes in Guatemala City and the rest of Guatemala. Only after you have given the code, and Uber has typed in the code, and it is approved, your trip will start.

Should I Carry Cash in Guatemala City?

A lot of the places in Guatemala City accept cards. My Revolut card worked almost in every restaurant and coffee shop using contactless. Not all of the small shops for drinks, nor the food stands accept cards. It is wise to carry at least a bit of cash with you.

Is Guatemala City Walkable?

The city center of Guatemala City is definitely walkable. There are a lot of car-free zones, and it is just a couple of main streets. However, the city itself is really big in surface area and consists of more than 20 zones. If your Airbnb, hotel, or hostel is in Zone 16, and you are in Zone 1, it is better to take an Uber.

What is the Nicest Part to Stay at in Guatemala City?

It depends on your preferences. Usually, people who visit Guatemala City tend to stay in the following zones:

Zone 1: This is the Historical Center of the city and a great place to stay if you want to do a lot of walking and shopping. It is also cheaper than other areas, but you might want to avoid going outside late at night.

Zone 9: This zone is close to the airport, quiet and safe. This zone is a great value for money and you don’t need to worry when staying here.

Zone 10: This is considered one of the fancy parts of Guatemala City, although more expensive, it is one of the safest places to stay.

Zone 4: Zone 4 is the most upcoming neighborhood. This is the hipster area of Guatemala City, it is not only safe but also filled with cool places to go to.

Zone 16 / Ciudad Cayala: We already alluded to this place at the beginning of the article. This is also a safe place to stay, it has the fashion district as well as the business district of the capital.

It is better to avoid these zones when staying in Guatemala City:

2, 7, 8, 13, 17, 18, 19, 24.

You should avoid staying in the following zones at all costs:

3, 5, 6, 12, and 21

Why is Guatemala City Famous?

Guatemala City is famous because it is the economic hub of Guatemala. However, it is also very famous as it was the scene of the Declaration of Independence of Central America of Spain.

Is Guatemala City Expensive?

Like any other city in the world, you can make a city as expensive as you want. If you go to eat in high-end steak restaurants it might be quite expensive. However, on average you will spend a lot less money on similar quality food, drinks, and stays than in the USA. The cost of living in Guatemala is 81% lower than in the USA.

How Do You Get From Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan?

If you are still not convinced to stay in Guatemala City, and you’d rather go relax at the beautiful Lake Atitlan, there are multiple possibilities for you to go there. You can either go with the famous chicken bus, a normal bus, or an Uber (we spent around $65 for a 3-hour trip). Besides the previous options, you can also ask one of the hostels in Lake Atitlan, such as Selina in Atitlan, to book you a shuttle bus.

How Do You Get From Guatemala City to Antigua?

If you are done exploring Guatemala City and want to go to the beautiful town of Antigua, there are also multiple options to get there. You can also ask hostels such as Selina in Antigua, to book you a shuttle bus. However, we chose to use Uber as it was only a 30-minute to a 1-hour drive and cost between $20 and $40.

This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase through these links, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you.


Aemilius Dost is originally from the Netherlands but moved to Mexico more than two years ago. He started traveling when he was 19 and visited over 20 countries spread over North, and Central America, Europe and Asia. He currently works as a freelance SEO specialist and has worked with companies such as Surfshark, SafetyWing, and BP.

Articles: 209

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *