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Guatemala City has long been overlooked in favour of the colonial city of Antigua, or the natural delights of Lake Atitlan, but the Guatemalan capital is fast becoming a top destination in its own right. Here are the top reasons why you should visit.
Guatemala City has seen a flowering of creative projects of every stripe in the past decade or so. With galleries such as the 9.99 and La Erre providing spaces for exhibitions, and projects such as NuMu taking Guatemalan creativity to an international audience, there is a sense that cultural life is blooming.
As a country Guatemala is known for exporting high-quality coffee beans that are sold around the world. However, it is only recently that the domestic market has developed and allowed Guatemalans to drink the black gold that their country produces. Check out Rojo Cerezo and Paradigma Café to sample some of the best coffee on offer.
Alongside art and design, the music scene adds another dimension to cultural life. From punk to house music, there are regular events that showcase the best emerging musicians from the capital. With little done to support artists for years, there is a lot of untapped talent waiting to be discovered.
Thanks to its long and complicated history, Guatemala is home to a selection of fascinating museums. Take a look at Museo Popol Vuh to find out about the Mayan belief system, or head to the Ixchel Museum of Indigenous Textiles and Clothing to learn about the stories behind the fabrics that many Mayan communities still use today.
Guatemala isn’t known as a culinary destination but perhaps it should be. There are plenty of traditional dishes such as “pepian” and “kak’ik” to try, and contemporary fusion restaurants such as Mercado 24 serve delicious food made from local ingredients.
As if the history of the Mayan culture isn’t interesting enough, more recent events in Guatemala make it an amazing place to visit. The country suffered a 36-year-long civil war that only ended in 1996, and political instability has reigned ever since. For those with an interest in history or politics, there is plenty to learn about.
Guatemala City is home to 3.3 million people in the metropolitan area, making it the largest urban area in Central America. There are plenty of areas that you won’t want or need to visit, but the scale of the place makes it feel different to the more parochial capitals like San Salvador.
For years the city has been famous for its crime rates, and they remain high compared to North American or European cities. However the vast majority of crimes are committed against locals, with tourists rarely affected. Areas that see a lot of tourist traffic also tend to be safer than average, but you should keep your wits about you.
Thanks to the fall of the previous government due to popular protests in 2015, there is a sense that Guatemala could be on the verge of great change. Controversy now dogs current president Jimmy Morales, and activists are working to change the political situation. All of this upheaval contributes to a sense that a new dawn could soon arrive in Guatemala, and there is a great energy around the capital.