Guatemala City is huge, chaotic and can seem very overwhelming to new visitors. Forget the naysayers, however, as this city has much more to offer than first meets the eye. Here are the most unique experiences to have in Guatemala City.
Take a food tour
Guatemalan food is seriously underrated, and the most enjoyable way to discover it is by taking a food tour. With Mayan culture combining with Spanish traditions, the food here is eclectic, flavorsome and diverse. As the capital, Guatemala City is one of the best places in the country to learn about the local gastronomy, and a food tour will take you places you would never have known about otherwise. From pupusas to kak’ik to hilachas, the food here will delight even the pickiest of eaters.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Explore Mapa en Relieve
For a relatively small country, Guatemala has an unusually varied landscape. From tropical jungles to active volcanoes, black sand beaches to mysterious lakes, the best way to understand the geography here is to visit Guatemala City’s famous Mapa en Relive. This enormous open-air topographical map is at a staggering 1:10,000 scale, with exaggerated volcanic peaks that appear even more dramatic and precipitous than they are in real life. An impressively accurate 3D replica of Guatemala’s terrain, it becomes all the more impressive when you remember that it was made over 100 years ago, without satellites or modern technology.
Tour Cervecería Centroamericana
Cervecería Centroamericana has brewed most Guatemalan beer since 1886, and most visitors to the country will have tried Gallo, its flagship beer. This brewery manufactures beverages that include Gallo Light, Victoria lager, the dark bock beer Moza, and Malta Gallo malt liquor, and offers fun, informative tours in both Spanish and English. You’ll need to make a reservation (at least a week in advance) but the tour itself is free – and ends with some free samples, too!
Visit the La Bodeguita del Centro
To discover the bohemian beating heart of Guatemala City, head to La Bodeguita del Centro. This creative hangout has live music from Tuesdays to Saturdays, from rock to jazz to classical, and there are plenty of poetry readings, discussions and forums too. The walls are adorned with prints of Che Guevara, Bob Marley, John Lennon and Vincent Van Gogh, and entrance is free every night but Fridays and Saturdays.
Lose yourself in labyrinth-like markets
Guatemala City’s markets are bursting with colorful handicrafts and woven garments, so buying a few items as souvenirs is a must. At the lively Mercado Central, you can explore a seemingly endless maze of underground passages as you browse leather goods, wooden masks, intricate ponchos, hats, tablecloths, wallets and decorative bowls. While the markets here may not be as picturesque as the ones in Antigua or Chichicastenango, they’re more authentic, and the handicrafts are much cheaper. Pick up some souvenirs, either as a treat for yourself or as a unique gift for a loved one.
Buy souvenirs in a historic toy store
Avenue 6 is one of the best shopping districts in Guatemala City, and strolling along here is a must while visiting the capital. While you’re here, check out La Jugetaria, a family-run toy store that’s been here since 1927. Despite their rich history, La Jugetaria is a struggling business; with large taxes to pay, the store is facing competition from illegal vendors selling the same products. Support this honest family business by treating any children in your life to a new doll, book, costume or game.
Drink at Che Guevara’s favorite bar
There aren’t many places in the world where you can enjoy a drink in Che Guevara’s favorite bar. Whether this is a good thing to do or not will depend on your political views, but it’s certainly a unique experience to have. Guevara lived in Guatemala City in the ’50s and was a regular at El Portal near the Plaza Constitutional. With a long wooden bar and antique decor, having a drink here is like stepping into a Hemingway novel. Make sure to try a cervezas mixtas; tap beers mixed together in a glass.
Visit the ‘Eiffel Tower’
Guatemala City obviously doesn’t have a replica of the Eiffel Tower, but a running joke among locals is that Zone 9’s Tower of the Reformer is the next best thing. Built in 1935 to honor 100 years since the birth of former Guatemalan President General Justo Rugino Barrios, the Tower of the Reformer pays tribute to Barrios’ liberal reforms and desire for social freedom.
Ride a chicken bus
Guatemala is famous for its chicken buses, and these photogenic vehicles are the primary means of transportation for most locals. Donated from the U.S., these old school buses are customized in three ways: first they’re shortened, so they can better navigate Guatemala’s winding hills and roads, then a faster engine is put in, and finally they’re painted in a variety of bright colors and patterns. Because of the relatively low literacy rate, the buses are color-coded in relation to their destinations.
Catch a show at the Guatemalan National Theater
Formerly a military fortress, Guatemala’s National Theater is made up of five different complexes and boasts outstanding acoustics and views across the city. Inspired by Mayan culture, the theater takes the shape of the volcanoes that surround it, and plays host to spectacular shows, from ballets to operas and concerts. Check out one of the unique shows here; they’re unlike anything you’ll see elsewhere.
Walk the gritty streets
Part of Guatemala City’s appeal is its authenticity, and simply walking through the streets allows you to see a side of this country you’ll miss if you only visit the tourist towns. The civil war here tore the country apart, poverty is still widespread and the wealth gap remains enormous. Take to the streets to experience the country’s social and political reality like nowhere else in Guatemala – just make sure your route is through one of the safe zones.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.