Quick Antigua Q&A tips and info
Safety — We have read about the safety issues — do you have any suggestions? Is it safe to walk out to dinner in the evening? Should we eat dinner in? Places to avoid?
Antigua has its share of pick pockets and robberies. The best suggestion is to take Tuk-Tuks whenever you travel after dark. They cost approx Q15 to go anywhere within Antigua (about $2) and you can hail them anywhere except on the block of the Central Park (the taxis have that monopoly – taxis are safe, too, they just charge more). Tuk-Tuks can be anywhere from 3rd Ave/3rd Calle and 6th Ave / 6th Calle)
The other suggestion is to walk in groups. If a Tuk-tuk doesn’t come and you’re ready to go, wait until you see a small group (3-4) of Guatemalans walking along the street and walk with them. They won’t mind.
During the day, it is pretty safe to walk anywhere in Antigua. But at all times, put your purse strap across your chest, leave passports and other items you know you don’t need in your hotel. Don’t pull out wads of cash and don’t look like a victim !
Antigua is gorgeous at night and there are so many good restaurants to try – be vigilant but not paranoid.
Getting money – Is it safe to use ATM machines? Credit cards? Can they be used without a PIN number?
I strongly suggest you use ATM machines available around the Central Park at a number of banks. The banks have guards at every door toting enormous guns so nobody messes with anybody getting money out of an ATM machine. Make sure you stash your money before leaving the machine area. Always best to put different amount is different pockets. Check with your bank /card company before you leave to understand what extra fees they charge for each international ATM withdrawl.
Grocery stores — We have been told to drink bottled water and not to eat food sold at street markets. Any restrictions at grocery stores? Do we need to be careful of fruits and veggies sold at grocery store?
There is a great grocery store called La Bodegona. It’s crazy and loud and busy but is the best one in town. You can buy everything there, although the fruits and vegetables are better and cheaper at the outdoor food market. The outdoor market is fascinating but I would be extra cautious about getting purses stolen or slashed there.
You can eat at food carts, but when in doubt… stay with a restaurant.
Antigua is not as third world as the rest of Guatemala and the food in restaurants is safe to eat. Ice and drinks in restaurants are made with purified water.
Bottled water can be purchased everywhere. Good to brush your teeth with bottled water as most folks are used to swallowing some when rinsing !
The hotel Aurora in Antigua leaves pitchers of filtered water in the rooms. This is safe to use and drink.
Restaurants in Antigua
Fancy and expensive restaurants:
Meson Panza Verde: South of the central park on 5th Avenida Sud, past 9th Calle. Great food and Cuban music weekly from an original member of the Buena Vista Social Club.
Welten: Expensive but excellent food, special garden setting with tables around a pool filled with rose petals. 4th Calle Oriente, near 2nd Avenida.
Santo Domingo Hotel: Expensive but a lovely setting in the beautiful Santo Domingo Hotel.
Nice restaurants, less expensive but not cheap:
Cafe Mediterraneo: Like it sounds, more Italian than Guatemalan. Great food and good wine too. On 6th Calle, I think.
Tartines Restaurant: Has a spectacular roof-top view of the cathedral next to the central park. Food is great – crepes are delicious. 4th Calle Oriente, just off the park.
Las Palmas: Nice atomosphere and good food. 6th Avenida Norte #14, between 4th and 5th Calle.
Less fancy and less expensive:
La Vineria: A sweet little pizza/pasta place next to our favorite crumbling church, San Jose Viejo. Order a pitcher of the house red wine and enjoy the hospitality.
Cafe Sky: Near San Francisco church, sit upstairs with a great view of the city. Good for drinks and snacks.
Dona Luisa: Attached to the best bakery in town, this place has good breakfast and lunches.
Cafe Condesa: Right on the central park, a series of quaint courtyards. Like Dona Luisa, good for breakfast or lunches but also has excellent cakes. Quite a few tourists frequent this café.
Frida’s: Mexican place north of the square on 5th Avenida near La Merced Church. Lively bar at night.
Escudilla: Good Guatemalan food, and there’s also a small Greek restaurant (called Hela I think?) tucked inside of it. On 4th Avenida, just north of 4th Calle.
Rainbow Cafe: This is the traveler’s hangout, good coffee. Lots of gringos to talk to, attached to a travel agency and good used book store. 7th Avenida Sur.
Pena de Sol Latina: Cute place owned by American couple; often has local dancing and music. On the same street as the grocery store, Bodegona. 5th Calle Poniente
Vivero y Café de la Escalonia: A small nursery that sells plants and has an outdoor café that is so LOVELY, with hanging orchids everywhere. It is very near our house, on 5th Avenida Sur #36, below 9th Calle, just past Panza Verde. Great for easy breakfast and lunch.
Fernandos: Great breakfast place that becomes a vegan restaurant (Naked Veggies) on certain nights of the week! Located on 7th Avenida Norte, just north of 1st Calle about a block.
El Pelicano Dorado: Seafood restaurant serving food from the Atlantic side of Guatemala. Their specialty is seafood stew. Great prices and only locals. It’s on Santa Lucia (heading out of town) near 8th Calle.
FOR KIDS Fast Food
McDonald’s located on 4a Calle Poniente just before the back entrance to the Bodegona – ½ block from the Calzada Santa Lucia.
Pollo Camero – REALLY good chicken and salads !
I – located on the Calzada Santa Lucia at the end of 4th Calle.
II – located on 5a Avenida @4 doors (towards the arch) after Central Park.
Burger King – no play area…. Located on 4a Calle Poniente @ 7 doors down (west) of Central Park.
Some things to do in Antigua
Antigua Gym: 6th Calle Poniente at 7th Avenida Sur. You can join for the day or the week. Machines and classes.
Casa Santo Domingo: Former monastery turned into a fancy hotel. The grounds are worth walking through, including the little museum and mummies in the crypt. The museum is very interesting as well.
*** Ask the concierge or at the front door for their free transport “up the hill” . Their hilltop restaurant (Tenedor del Cerro) and cultural area has a nice view of Antigua. Very reasonable prices for breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Macademia Nut Farm: About a half hour outside of town, you can get there by taxi or by local chicken bus (more fun). Beautiful organic farm setting — you can order breakfast (macademia nut pancakes of course). Run by an old Berkeley hippie and his Guatemalan wife.
Zip-line, Mule Rides, Coffee Plantation, Paint Ball: The Finca Filadelfia is a working coffee plantation that offers tours of the plantation via mule, mountain bike, or walking. There is also a canopy zip-line on the plantation operated by Canopy Tours. It’s a blast and they will pick you up for free at two locations in Antigua. The zip-line is about $50 per adult.
Swim at Hotel Antigua: Popular heated swimming pool just off 5th Avenida Sur at 8th Calle. You can eat lunch around the pool (optional). Cost is cheaper weekdays vs Saturday. Sunday only if you buy their buffet.
Hike to the cross at the top of the hill north of town. (“Cerro de la Cruz”) The view from the cross is beautiful. Easy to take a tuk-tuk or taxi.
Stare at the beautiful volcanoes: Volcano Fuego is almost always spewing smoke, which is fun to see (west). The closest volcano, Agua, is always changing with clouds coming and going (south).
Chocolate Museum: Centrally located museum and chocolate shop. Best to sign up for a chocolate making class (I can offer you a discount) and learn about the history of chocolate and how to prepare it. You make your own chocolate bars and treats to take home !
Sit in Central Park: Read, relax, people watch. Always something new !