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Antigua, Guatemala with Kids

Surely one of the loveliest towns in all of Central America, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Antigua is not to be missed on any Guatemalan adventure.

Built hundreds of years ago between three active volcanos (including the continents and possibly the worlds most active volcano, Volcan de Fuego!) it is the former capital under Spanish rule. This enchanting town feels very different to anything we’ve done so far as it’s filled with remains of its colonial past – colourful homes, cobblestone streets and dozens of churches, monasteries and convents. A huge part of its charm is that it was half destroyed by THREE earthquakes in the 1700s and after being rebuilt and knocked down so many times they gave up and left half of it as ruins.

We designed a self-guided walking tour for one day in the town which I share with you now. This is followed by a few other great things to do with kids that we opted out of this time. There is a lot to do!

Antigua Walking Tour

Start: Cerro de la Cruz 1. Iglesia de la Merced 2. Calle del Arco/Santa Catalina Arch 3. Parque Central/Cathedral ruins 4. Convento Santa Clara 5. Santuario San Francisco el Grande 6. McDonald’s Stop: Hotel Posada Don Valentino

Cerro de le Cruz

We started our exploration by getting an Uber (yes, they have Uber) up to Cerro de la Cruz (Hill of the Cross) for around $2. Hiking up the paved walk way will afford you one of the best views of the sprawling town below with the outrageous Volcán de Agua, towering over the landscape. The walk up takes little legs around 20-30 minutes and at the top, it flattens out for some great photos of the cross in front of the landscape below (sadly the cross was actually off limits to us for renovations when we arrived!).

Iglesia de la Merced

This church is one of the few original buildings remaining standing and relatively undamaged after all those earthquakes of the 1700s, by design, due to its wider arches and columns and low height.

Tip: No shorts are allowed inside the building, which was unfortunate as 4 out of 5 of us were dressed in shorts! I was allowed in (in a knee length dress which seemed odd!) but I would say its not that remarkable inside to be honest, they didn’t miss much.

Calle del Arco/Santa Catalina Arch

Our walking tour brought us out near the Santa Catalina Arch towering overhead, just begging for some family snaps in the street. Some street artists were selling some beautiful pictures nearby, I was desperate to get some but too worried about getting them back in one piece.

Parque Central/Cathedral San Jose Ruins

El Parque Central, or Plaza Mayor, in Antigua Guatemala, is surrounded by the cathedral and other historic buildings, with the beautiful Agua volcano in the background. This beautiful town square is a gathering place for locals and visitors alike. Its surrounded by verandas with wooden or stone archways making for lots of shade (and nice photos too!).

We really enjoyed sitting on a bench near the beautiful fountain, la Fuente de las Sirenas, and people-watching while enjoying ice cream from one of the many hand drawn carts dotted around. We also bought some seed to feed the pigeons which our 3-year-old loved! I will say that this was one of the only areas on our entire 9 week Central American adventure where the street vendors were a bit too much. While their handmade crafts were beautiful, they didn’t seem to accept the polite “no gracias” or “No lo siento”, so be prepared for that. If we had more time we would have eaten at Cafe Condesa for some of their amazing homemade pies.

We then stopped into the Cathedral San Jose for a brief minute, once the largest cathedral in Central America. The real highlight of the area is the ruins at the rear of the cathedral. Originally from the 1500s, those pesky earthquakes destroyed the majority of the building in 1773. The two towers at the front remained in tact, and some of the rear has been partially rebuilt. The huge perfectly circular holes in the ceiling where grand designs used to be leaves the building with an eerie out of this world feel. We were the only people there when we visited around 10am and I found it utterly amazing, the kids really enjoyed it too – particularly heading down to the underground chambers and jumping out at me! There is a small fee of a few dollars to access the rear ruined parts, we were done in around 20 minutes.

Convento Santa Clara

Next we visited my favourite ruins of the day, Convento Santa Clara, part of the Santo Domingo Church and Monastery complex, dating back to 1538. If you only want to drag your kids to one ruined covenant I’d recommend this one. Busier than Cathedral San Jose, but more variety. For Q40 (around $5 at the time of writing) there is a beautiful courtyard, nice gardens and some renovated vaults - The facade of the old chapel is amazingly beautiful. There were a few crumbling bits that the kids were able to climb and scramble up which the enjoyed. Keeping things fast paced to get out before the kids got bored we stayed around 45 minutes. The place is being partially reconstructed so some areas do have scaffolding and men are working as you're walking around the ruins (July 2022).

Santuario San Francisco el Grande

This one offered something slightly different. The courtyard ruins were nice enough, similar to the others, but the draw here is the dedication to Peter of Saint Joseph de Betancur (Hermano Pedro (Brother Peter) who is enshrined within. He is the first saint of Guatemala and Tenerife, beatified in 1980 and canonized in 2002 by Pope John Paul II. Within this church there is a museum dedicated to his work, featuring a huge collection of photos of those who have pilgrimaged here, received miracles and been blessed as well as lots of his artifacts and information about his life and death.


When I was doing my usual “Cheap Eats Antigua” type research, McDonalds came up – while we don’t usually attend such places when there is so much great and cheap local food about, and certainly not as a specific stop on a tour, this one came with trip advisor and google reviews such as “The most beautiful McDonalds in the world” and “not to be missed” so we thought we would check it out! It didn’t disappoint! The building itself is quaint but the really draw is the terrace/courtyard. Tucking into your cheeseburger in the presence of the looming volcano, rainforest mountains and blue skies is just incredible. It’s really quite peaceful too.

Thus concluded our walking tour – at the pace set by our children, we set off at 9am and returned back at 2pm.

Other things to do in Antigua

We were I Antigua for 2.5 days. The first day we spent on our walking tour. The second was slightly more mad….

Hike a Volcano

Guatemala might as well be called volcano country as they dominate so much of the landscape (there are 37 in total!). Hiking this particular volcano was a must for our itinerary, and we explain in more detail here. Pacaya is the easiest and takes an hour or two to get to the top most point tourists are allowed (its impenetrable higher up due to the razor sharp lava fields above).

Volcan Acatenango is an overnight hike; with an elevation of 3976 meters it is the third highest volcano in Central America. It is often named the most beautiful and offers stunning views of the constantly active Volcan de Fuego. Sadly we had been told a few times that this really wouldn’t be suitable for the youngest two of our children. But no matter – Pacaya gave us what we wanted with a few added bonuses!


We had read many amazing reviews of the chocomuseo – they have several branches throughout Central America, offering a “bean-to-bar” workshop where the whole family can get stuck in for a hands-on tour where you learn about the history of the cacao, actually grind your own cacao into some delicious chocolate caliente, and then make your own chocolates to take home. We had already done a lot of chocolate related activities in Belize (for less money), and we’d also seen that this same workshop is cheaper through the Nicaraguan branch. If you’re exploring several countries, take a look at the prices on their website here.

Santo Domingo Del Cerro

Located at the top of a hill on the city’s edge, Santo Domingo del Cerro is a great place to spend part of the day. With a restaurant, sculpture garden, art galleries, zip lines, and a playground for the kids, it also boasts one of the best views of the entire city and the volcanos. Its free to enter the sculpture garden, art galleries, aviary, and playground. If you or the kids want to enjoy the zip line, there are a couple of options, and prices start at $35. The grounds are filled with colourful, whimsical sculptures and murals from some of the most renowned Guatemalan artists.

Where to Sleep and Eat

We stayed at Hotel Posada Don Valentino for our budget stay and found it really nice. Well located and lovely breakfast. The room was a bit small (considering we’re always after a bit of space to put the babys pop up cot/tent) but it had a nice ambiance. We didn’t find many hotels with AC but this is because the temperature reduces so much at the elevation of around 5,000 ft (1,545m) it was a comfortable 25 degrees during our stay in July 2022.

We ate at a few places (see McDonalds above!) but the stand out for me was the local Taco joint right opposite our hotel Valentino. Try the Gringas with pineapple and pork – unreal and super cheap! Kids loved it too, and the staff handmade some beautiful little humming toys for them while we ate! Amazing!

Antigua with Kids Summary

If you’re lucky enough to have kids that don’t moan too much about walking and spending some time doing more adult/cultural stuff, or if you can bribe them with a McDonalds, then this town is for you! Its so incredibly beautiful with the volcanos surrounding on all sides, the colourful buildings, the vibrant dress of the locals, the eerie feel of the ruins and the quaint cobbled streets – a must for any Central American itinerary!

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