The imposing Presidential Palace sits on the north side of Parque Central, and you should definitely take a couple of hours to explore the ins and outs of this fascinating building (tours are available). Built between 1936 and 1943 by prisoners on the orders of dictator General Jorge Ubico, today the palace is a museum and cultural center. This palatial building has dozens of interesting quirks; ironically the stately banquet hall, with its intricate stained-glass panels, is meant to signify the virtues of good government.
6A Calle, Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala +502 2239 5000
Guatemala’s stylish Biblioteca Nacional casts an impressively modern shadow in a square that’s otherwise packed with colonial architecture. Built by famous Guatemalan muralist, sculptor, engineer and architect Efrain Recion (who also built Guatemala’s National Theatre), this sleek library houses more than 150,000 books and newspapers, and is also packed with impressive abstract concrete reliefs and façade work. Not just for bookworms!
5 Avenida 7-26, Guatemala +502 2232 2443
Guatemala’s National Theater was built as a military fortress, and this unique building is made up of five different complexes. In honor of Guatemala’s Mayan culture, the theater is shaped like the volcanoes that circle the city, and it has remarkable acoustics and views. Come to explore the building, then stay for a show; from ballets to operas and concerts, they’re unlike anything you’ve seen before.
24 Calle 3-81, Guatemala +502 2208 7777
Guatemala City’s Tower of the Reformer is known for being the capital’s very own Eiffel Tower. Built in 1935 to honor 100 years since former Guatemalan President General Justo Rugino Barrios was born, the Tower pays homage to Barrios’ liberal reforms and quest for social freedom. Located in Zone 9, it might not be as pretty as the real Eiffel Tower, but a running joke among residents is that it’s definitely the next best thing…
7A Avenida, Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala +502 2422 1800