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What to do in Guatemala City in one day

So, you only have one day in Guatemala City? There is plenty to do in 24 hours, but we warn you – you might be longing to spend more time in Guatemala’s capital!

Did you know..

…that Antigua Guatemala was the original capital of Guatemala? It was only after the destructive earthquakes of the 1770’s that the country’s capital shifted to what is now Guatemala City, as the damage was so bad it was deemed impossible to rebuild.

Today, the capital is home to around one million people and is Guatemala’s largest city, not to mention the most populous urban area in Central America.

What should I do in Guatemala City in one day?

As the capital, there’s a lot of history and culture to soak in and there’s plenty to keep you busy. Here are some of the highlights that you should see if you only have one day in Guatemala City.

Start your day in the Parque Central

Every major city has its central park or square, and they usually make great starting points for day tours, not to mention offering great sightseeing opportunities of their own; Guatemala City is no different.

Parque Central is a beautiful square containing a stunning fountain as its central point. The square is a common meeting place for locals and tourists, and it’s no surprise when you see the place. It is surrounded by historically and culturally significant buildings, including the National Palace and the city’s main Cathedral.

It makes for a great place to start your day, and as the central point of the city, everything is within easy reach from here.

Grab a bargain at Central Market

Mercado Central is a massive market spread across three floors. What’s quite interesting about the market is that all three floors are underground, and it is hidden away behind the city’s spectacular cathedral. It feels almost like a secret, but you’ll want to check it out.

From fruits and vegetables, clothes and accessories to souvenirs and handmade trinkets, there are plenty of goods to get your hands on at excellent prices.

It’s easy to spend a few hours here and bartering is expected, so don’t be afraid to have some fun and grab yourself some gifts to take back home!

Ogle in awe at the impressive Mapa en Relieve

Constructed more than 100 years ago, the Mapa en Relieve is the capital’s massive open air map of Guatemala, displaying the country on a scale of 1:10,000 horizontally, and 1:2,000 vertically. The map covers around 1,800 square metres and it is really quite bizarre – such an unusual attraction that we recommend adding it to your Guatemala City itinerary.

Given that the map was built in 1904, it is seriously impressive that it includes all the country’s major roads and highways, rivers and lakes, mountains and volcanoes – that’s a long, long time before we had Google Satellite at our fingertips!

The exaggerated vertical scale makes the mountains appear vastly taller than they actually are, but regardless, this piece of art is worth seeing. The on-site observation tower gives a great view of the whole map, where you can appreciate the impressive design.

Take a culture trip to the National Museum of Ethnology and Archeology

For your daily dose of culture and history this museum focuses on preserving the archaeological and ethnological artifacts of Guatemala’s past, alongside research into the country’s rich cultural heritage.

There are more than 20,000 pieces of ancient artifacts including Mayan artwork, textiles and pottery, as well as findings from the very first settlers, housed in this impressive National Museum. It takes you on a journey of discovery through Guatemala’s human history, including ruins from archeological sites that show how the people of the past lived. The collection is ever-growing, and it’s well worth checking out during your stay in Guatemala City.

Finish the day with something tasty and a tipple or two

Guatemala City is known for its vibrant, buzzing nightlife and there are plenty of amazing bars and restaurants in town so you won’t go hungry (or thirsty). 

Downtown is filled with popular drinking and dining spots and the city is filled with wonderful food markets. Local vendors set up their stalls and cook delicious street food for bargain prices, and while you might be craving dining in a restaurant setting we would highly recommend eating with the locals at one of the many markets in town.

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