With a wealth of cosy hostels, cheap eats and inexpensive bars, Guatemala City is ideal for the budget traveler. But as it turns out, you don’t even have to spend a cent to see the city at its finest. From admission-free museums to brewery tours, here are the best things to do for free in Guatemala City.
Guatemala City has several excellent museums that charge admission, but the best free museum is Casa Mima, a fascinating cultural centre housed in a 17th-century house. Exploring this museum is like stepping back in time to the 1870s; set up like a functioning home with original furniture, decorations, belongings, antiques and clothing from the period, the Casa Mima house gives you a unique insight into how an upper middle-class Guatemalan family would have lived. Walk through the kitchen, explore the living room and bedrooms, admire period costumes and old photographs, and get involved with the guided visits and cultural activities that take place every day.
Guatemala City, Guatemala +502 2253 6657
The Metropolitan Cathedral is one of Guatemala’s most famous and important buildings, and visiting it is a must for architecture buffs – or those who want to gain an understanding of the capital’s past. In front of the cathedral are 12 pillars inscribed with the names of the thousands of people who died or “disappeared” during the Guatemalan Civil War. Inside this grand neoclassical structure are beautiful stone floors, colonial paintings, resplendent arches, shimmering gold altars and many spectacular religious icons and carvings. Take a free tour of the cathedral and discover what many believe to be the heart of the city.
Tour Cervecería Centroamericana
If you’re a beer fan, Guatemala City has the ultimate free treat for you. Cervecería Centroamericana is the country’s main brewery; it makes Gallo, Guatemala’s flagship beer, which almost every visitor will sip at some point. The company headquarters is in the capital, and fun tours of the brewery are given almost every day (in English and in Spanish). The best part – apart from all the beer – is that the tour is free… and it concludes with free samples of the different beverages, which include Gallo Light, Victoria lager and the dark beer Moza. Understandably, the tours are very popular, so if you want to join be sure to book at least a week in advance.
Visit the Mercado Central
Exploring Guatemala City’s lively market is one of the most enjoyable ways to get a feel for the capital – and it’s totally free. There are countless stalls selling traditional handicrafts and woven garments if you’re looking to pick up some souvenirs, but otherwise just ambling through this bustling maze of underground passages is an exciting way to spend an hour or two. Photography fans will be in their element due to how colorful everything is (hold tight onto your camera, however!), and even if you do get hungry or thirsty, you can fill up for less than a dollar and enjoy a fresh juice for about 20 cents – that’s basically free.
8 Calle, Guatemala +502 2230 1579
Iglesia La Merced
This attractive yellow church is a recreation of the famous La Merced church in Antigua Guatemala. Oddly, it was the headquarters for the Guatemalan police force for a long time, but it’s far more suited to its current use – that of a museum. Built in 1918, this neoclassical church is home to old-plated Baroque altars (that were taken from the original Antigua church), spectacular statues, religious paintings and ornate sculptures, many of which date from the 17th century. With free admission, Iglesia La Merced is a must-visit for history buffs and architecture enthusiasts alike.