Antigua Guatemala is a joy to explore, and certainly isn’t short of fun and exciting things to do. But what if you’re a traveler on a budget? While this city is known for its five-star hotels, boutique shops, excellent restaurants and swish bars, it also has a plethora of cheap eats, free activities and inexpensive bars. Here’s the budget traveler’s guide to Antigua Guatemala.
For travelers on a budget, Antigua’s best hostel, El Hostal Bed and Breakfast, is the top pick for a cosy stay. El Hostal offers both private rooms and dorms, all of which are clean, quiet and comfortable. A decent breakfast is included so your budget will stretch a bit further during the day, too. The staff are warm, friendly and extremely knowledgeable, so if you have any questions about tours and activities, be sure to ask.
1a Avenida Sur No. 8, Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala +502 7832 0442
Parque Central is Antigua’s main plaza and the best place for a spot of people watching. Surrounded by a cathedral, fountains, grand colonial buildings and plenty of trees, watching life unfold here is a great way to get a feel for the city. You can spend hours here without it becoming boring, so grab a drink and snack from one of the street vendors and find yourself a bench.
On a fine day, strolling up to Cerro de la Cruz (Hill of the Cross) on the edge of town is a fun and free activity that has the added bonus of some dramatic views. As far as hikes go, this is very manageable: you can reach the top in half an hour, where you’ll enjoy stunning views over Antigua and its three volcanoes. Bring your camera!
Antigua’s exquisitely preserved colonial buildings make it a firm favorite with architecture buffs, but everyone can appreciate the magic of these streets. A tour of Antigua’s most famous landmarks is the best way to understand just how special this city is, and best of all, it costs nothing at all. Make sure you visit San Francisco Church, Casa Santo Domingo, Convento de las Capuchinas and the iconic Santa Catalina Arch.
Eating mainly street food is one of the best money saving hacks, and thankfully in Antigua it’s very easy to do. Save some serious cash and eat like a local by heading to one of the city’s food markets. The food court by the bus station serves up all manner of traditional dishes and snacks, but the best street food in the city can be found at the food market by the yellow La Merced church.
For little more than a dollar, you can fill your belly with empanadas – delicious little savory pastries stuffed with potato and topped with guacamole, tomatoes, onions and cilantro – or tostasdas, a slightly odd but very tasty taco stuffed with noodles and vegetables. Leave rooms for some rellenitos – sweet mashed plantains stuffed with chocolate, refried beans and cinnamon, deep-fried and dusted with sugar.
If you want a sit-down meal, head to Y tu Piña Tambien, a firm favorite with backpackers for its cheap prices and all-day breakfasts. This fun cafe has a wide range of food options that won’t break the budget. The music is loud, the staff are happy and the food is great. It’s especially good as a brunch stop, but you can eat here throughout the day, too.
Café No Se is a dive bar that’s so cool it will convert even those who only love fancy wine bars. Famous for being the first mezcal bar outside of Mexico, this shadowy, candlelit bar is full of artistic characters, quirky decor and thumping live music.
1a Avenida Sur, Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala +502 5501 2680
Get your groove on Guatemalan-style at La Sala. Popular with locals, this rowdy hall pumps out Latin music most nights, and exuberant DJs keep the crowds on their feet… helped along by copious amounts of very cheap booze. Happy hour is from 5pm to 9pm every night.