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Top Rated Attractions in Antigua

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Catedral de Santiago

The magnificent façade facing the eastern side of the Parque Central is known as the Catedral de Santiago, although it is technically the Parroquia de San José - a parish church. Most of the original construction is now in ruins, due to the earthquakes that have periodically struck Antigua throughout its history. The contemporary Catedral sits within the entrance hall of the 17th century original, while the rest remains as enormous, crumbling arches and columns. It is essential to walk through the Parque Central at night during a visit to Antigua, when you can glimpse the dramatic beauty of the lighted facade.

Arco de Santa Catalina

One of the best-known sights in Antigua is the attractive yellow span of the Arco de Santa Catalina, bridging the appropriately-named Calle del Arco to the north of the Parque Central. It was originally built so that nuns could cross the street invisibly, and today it provides a picturesque frame for La Merced from the south. A clock tower was added during the 19th century reconstruction of the 1694 arch. Bars and shops now line the sidewalks immediately beneath the arch, and the road is closed to motorists on weekends to provide a relaxing pedestrian atmosphere.

Iglesia de San Francisco

As viewers gaze south from the many rooftops and terraces boasting panoramas of Antigua, the spectacular dome crowning the Iglesia de San Francisco stands proudly silhouetted against Volcán Agua. The baroque-style colonial edifice has weathered many earthquakes and visitors today can wander through the ruins and historical museum and imagine the history embedded into these engraved walls. The living culture of this place can be gleaned by attending mass, held three times each day and six times on Sunday, in the vast chapel which was reconstructed in the 1960s. The interior of the church is a blend of elegance and religion, with revered paintings adorning the walls. This is also the site of the Santuario del Santo Hermano Pedro, a Franciscan friar from the late 17th century who continues to represent love for the poor and charity as he did during his life. He was officially sainted in 2002, and as one of the most beloved religious figures in Guatemala, his tomb remains a common destination for pilgrimages.

Santo Pecado

A hidden treasure in the northwest corner of town, Santo Pecado offers great live music, drink specials, salsa dancing, and tasty meals all under one roof. The talented musicians and gracious dueño are fast to befriend you, and after the impassioned, percussive show, these people are sure to know the best late-night parties in town. Monday brings an hour of free salsa dance lessons, followed by a 6-9 p.m. happy hour with two for one drinks (happy hour runs Monday through Saturday). Live music performances overlap nicely with happy hour, running from 8-10 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. The Santo Pecado is closed Wednesday, but otherwise, it would be all too easy to wander this way every evening of the week!

Cerro de la Cruz

Located just north of Antigua, Cerro de la Cruz is a scenic hill offering a pleasant trek which carries innumerable feet up to a splendid view soaring straight over the city to the cloud-wreathed Agua volcano to the south. The hill is named for the enormous cross towering over the viewing area which itself is visible from throughout Antigua. This is not, unfortunately, the place to take solitary strolls; excessive robberies here inspired the creation of Antigua's tourist police, and visitors are counseled to make the climb only with their protection. Happily, this approach has proven extremely successful in reducing crime, and groups walk up to the summit each day, departing from the police station at the western end of the 6a Calle at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. The summit offers a panoramic view of the surrounding vistas.

Rainbow Café

A small bookshop in the entrance of this well-known Antigua establishment stocks a good number of titles, and a gamut of seating arrangements provide the ideal spot to curl up with your new read or discuss it with new friends. To keep you fueled, the menu offers a variety of cuisines (including plenty of vegetarian food), such hummus and falafel, traditional breakfasts, and plentiful drink selections. Happy hour runs from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. every evening, with live music most nights and lectures about local history and environmental initiatives every Tuesday.

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