Antigua Guatemala isn’t short of chic spots, and the five-star Hotel Casa Santo Domingo is arguably the most beautiful of them all. From its origins as a convent to its present-day role as a hotel, museum and sightseeing attraction, this is a building that has been through a lot. Here’s a brief history of this most stylish of icons.
Located in the grounds of the Santo Domingo Monastery, Casa Santo Domingo began life as the mainstay for one of the most important convents in the Americas. Those who lived in this sanctuary followed the order of Santo Domingo de Guzmán, and the monastery acted as a shelter for them. Its origins can be traced back to 1538 when the first Dominicans arrived in Guatemala, and during this time the monastery was a grand, two-towered, ten-belled building filled with riches and relics.
Unfortunately, the monastery was partially destroyed in the 1773 Santa Marta earthquake, and what still stands has become a monument preserving the baroque architecture and treasures of the period. The ancient walls, brick archways and tile corridors convey the history of the original Casa Santo Domingo, and today part of the ruins have been turned into Antigua’s only five-star hotel, which opened in 1989.
Along with its reputation as one of the most unique and historic hotels in Guatemala, Hotel Casa Santo Domingo is known for having a deep respect and pride for its past. The utmost care was taken when renovating, and today the manicured gardens are home to the restored convent, which provides hotel rooms for guests. The artistic masterpieces, statues and crypts that make this place so exceptional have all been preserved, and many are on display at the hotel’s multiple museums.
Whether they’re staying at the hotel or not, many visitors to Antigua make a trip to Casa Santo Domingo a priority due to its museums, which are some of the best in the city. You can walk along the Museums Promenade, a cultural route created so guests can easily visit the museums in both the church of Santo Domingo and Santo Tomás de Aquino College. There’s a colonial museum, archeology museum, museum of pre-Columbian art and modern glass, silver museum, and pharmacy museum, all of which tell a story about the site’s absorbing past.
If that wasn’t enough, Casa Santo Domingo also has beautiful landscaped gardens, a chocolate factory, a candle factory, and a popular bar and restaurant. Whatever you’re doing, it’s impossible to forget how special this landmark is because reminders of its history are everywhere: stroll through the gardens and you’ll pass crumbling tombs and old fountains; dine at the restaurant and sit between old monastery archways; and walk down pathways to find ancient Mayan heads dug up during the excavation of the monastery.
If you only have a short time in Antigua, be sure to visit Casa Santo Domingo, as it can take you on a journey through Antigua’s past like no other landmark in the city.