The Rainbow Café first opened in 1992 and since then has become one of the most popular spots for travellers passing through Antigua. Part café, part bookstore, Rainbow Café also hosts regular NGO lectures, usually about tackling the different social issues facing Guatemala and Central America. It also hosts an open-mic night on Wednesdays and has live music every night.
The bookshop itself is a lovely place: appealingly old-fashioned, it’s also very quiet, making it ideal for browsing, reading or working. There’s a good selection of new and second-hand books, mainly popular titles in English, but there are also some Spanish-language ones and several new guidebooks. Spend over 30 quetzal on books and you’ll receive a free hot drink.
Located on Antigua’s 5th Avenida, home of the yellow Santa Catalina Arch, is Nim P’ot, a huge hall that’s a cooperative for artisans. It has an extensive selection of Mayan textiles and clothes, traditional masks, wood carvings, kites, paintings and refrigerator magnets, but way at the back is a substantial collection of used books.
From old paperback bestsellers, crime mysteries, classics, thrillers and chick-lit, Nim P’ot isn’t picky when it comes to the books it sells. If you’re more into non-fiction than novels, there’s a decent selection of poetry, religion, self-help, travel guides and history books too.
Located to the west of the main plaza, La Casa del Conde stocks only new books and is pricier than the other bookstores in Antigua. However, it has an outstanding selection of non-fiction, including books on Central American history and politics, travel and nature guides in English, and extensive literature and fiction in Spanish. You can also find some beautiful coffee-table style photo books on Antigua, which make excellent souvenirs – if your suitcase can stand the extra weight.
La Casa del Conde is also one of the few places in Antigua that stocks a wide range of language books, including Spanish-English dictionaries and grammar guides. These types of publications often prove elusive in the otherwise excellent secondhand bookstores in the city.