Guatemala City Tourist Attractions and Sightseeing
(Guatemala City, Central Highlands, Guatemala)
Guatemala City has several worthwhile tourist attractions to check out. These include an impressive zoo (the Parque Zoologico La Aurora) and a fine central plaza (the Parque Central), which is always busy and surrounded by interest, suiting avid sightseers and keen photographers.
First and foremost, to escape the smog and heat on a hot summer's day, tourists should head for the Botanical Gardens (Jardin Botanico). They are cooling, away from bustle, and have plants from across the region. Also worth a look in Guatemala City is the Mapa en Relieve, a huge 3D map attraction which details the loftiness of the country as it appeared roughly a century ago.
Guided Tours / Tour Operators
Address: Guatemala City, Guatemala, GT
The most obvious attractions in the city are situated within Zona 1, which forms the historic centre. Further sights lie in both Zona 10 and Zona 13, where a cluster of museums awaits. Those here on a Sunday are strongly advised to join the free TransMetro SubiBaja city tour, where buses travel around the city three times an hour, stopping at the following places of interest. Volunteer guides provide commentary as you drive around and you are able to depart at any of the stops, simply catching the next bus that comes along if you wish to continue the tour. The main stops include the:
- Parque Central - a spacious plaza surrounded by many grand buildings and cafes
- Centro Civico - part of Zona 4, where a number of prominent 1950s and 1960s buildings stand, such as the Supreme Court (Corte Suprema de Justicia)
- La Aurora Zoo - packed with exotic creatures and highly suitable for families
- Zona Viva - a lively area of Zona 10, with a vibrant atmosphere and enviable nightlife
- Pasos y Pedales - a true Sunday highlight, when the Avenida de las Americas and the adjoining Avenida la Reforma are closed to traffic, being filled with street entertainment and street vendors
- Cuatro Grados Norte - a pedestrianised promenade ideal for an afternoon stroll, lined with a good selection of eateries and bars
- Mapa en Relieve - an open-air country map clearly showing the mountainous terrain
There are a handful of official tour operators based in the city, offering morning excursions and guided tours lasting an entire day, taking in sights such as the Catedral Metropolitana, the Palacio Nacional de la Cultura and the top museums. These are ideal if you are short of time and need a little help organising your sightseeing.
Open hours: hours vary according to tour
Admission: charge for some tours
La Aurora Zoo (Parque Zoologico La Aurora)
Address: Boulevard Juan Pablo II / Calle 5a, Zona 13, Guatemala City, Guatemala, GT
Tel: +502 2475 0894
Although not the most impressive zoo in the America's, Aurora Zoo certainly has the best collection of animals in the Central America region and was founded in the mid-1920s. It resides in southerly Zona 13, close to La Aurora International Airport, and covers approximately 16 acres / 6 hectares, being well-kept and coming with a decent range of creatures. There are several different sections, including the Tropics, the African Savannah and Asia, along with a petting zoo with some friendly farmyard animals. Popular creatures here include brown bears, crocodiles, elephants, giraffes, hippos, leopards, lions, tigers, water buffalos and zebras.
Open hours: Tuesday to Sunday - 09:00 to 17:00
Admission: charge, discounts available for children under 12 years old, children two years old and under are free
Relief Map (Mapa en Relieve)
Address: Avenida Simeón Canas Final, Parque Minerva, Zona 2, Guatemala City, Guatemala, GT
Tel: +502 2254 1114
This slightly tacky yet appealing Zona 2 attraction depicts the topography of the country and is located alongside the Parque Hipodromo. The Relief Map is sited within Minerva Park (Parque Minerva) and is simply huge, meaning that it is best seen from on high - that is, from the observation tower. Built way back in the early 1900s and completely restored to its former glory in 1999, the three-dimensional Mapa en Relieve depicts the entire country at that time, complete with volcanoes and a profusion of labels, and is shown at a scale of 1:10,000.
Open hours: daily - 09:00 to 17:00
Botanical Gardens (Jardin Botanico)
Address: Universidad de San Carlos, Calle Mariscal Cruz 1-56, Zona 10, Guatemala City, Guatemala, GT
Tel: +502 2334 6064
These pretty Botanical Gardens are to be found in Zona 10 and make a good escape from the hot city. They were the first botanical gardens to be set up in Central America and feature a large collection of indigenous and exotic plants. The grounds are a part of the Universidad de San Carlos and come with over 1,400 varieties of plants. Many people exploring the gardens choose to combine a visit with the university's Natural History Museum
, since it is right next door and also included in the price of admission.
Open hours: Monday to Friday - 08:30 to 15:30, Saturday - 08:00 to 12:00
Central Park (Parque Central)
Address: Calle 6a / Calle 8a, Zona 1, Guatemala City, Guatemala, GT
Guatemala City's Central Park forms the very heart of the city, where it is also known as the Plaza Mayor and officially as the Plaza de la Constitucion. As with many of the country's public squares, this plaza was designed as a focal point for military displays and important local ceremonies. There are lots of sights around the park and this makes a good starting point for a tour of the capital. The plaza has been laid out in a typically Guatemala fashion and is flanked by many impressive buildings and attractions, such as the Catedral Metropolitana
(east), the Palacio Nacional de la Cultura (north) and the Parque Centenario (west). The Parque Central is a bustling place by day and there are plenty of ice-cream vendors to hand on sunny days.
Open hours: daily - 24 hours
Mateo Flores National Stadium (Estadio Nacional Mateo Flores)
Address: Avenida 10a, Zona 5, Guatemala City, Guatemala, GT
The Mateo Flores National Stadium is a large multi-purpose stadium, which currently ranks as the biggest in the entire country. This stadium was completed in 1950, when it successfully hosted the Central American and Caribbean Games, and is today mainly used for football, with the grass-pitch being encircled by a track occasionally used for athletics events. Currently the overall capacity is set at 30,000 people - this number was reduced from 47,500 spectators in 2000, following a crowded FIFA World Cup qualifying soccer match, when congested crowds surged forwards and a number of people sadly lost their lives. The Estadio Mateo Flores is named after renowned Guatemalan long-distance runner Mateo Flores (Doroteo Guamuch Flores), who competed in many international events and famously won the 1952 Boston Marathon.
Open hours: hours vary according to event