Despite the fact that tourist guidebooks give some facts about Antigua Guatemala, it is nonetheless impossible not to be astonished and moved when setting foot on the cobbled streets of this colonial city, which the UNESCO declared a Mankind’s Heritage.
Once the 4X4 has pulled up, we start walking the cobbled paths that dominate the scenery. We open our eyes wide to discover the classical constructions; most of them share the same architectural style, thus shaping and giving color to the place.
At first sight it is evident that the buildings are no more than two stories’ high, and the visitor notices that the design of the houses respect aesthetic standards. The colorful facades look like a kaleidoscope that changes its tonalities according to the time of the day: in the morning, at dusk, or even according to the way the sun shines on these centenarian walls. The wood and iron doors and the barred windows are other remarkable typical features.
A way of enhancing the attractiveness of this tour is to peep through a window and have a glance at the interior of the houses around the central yard with plenty of plants and various types of flowers. This yard communicates with the other rooms by means of the wide corridors. Women used to lean out of the corner balconies to keep track of whatever happened in the neighborhood.
From the Carriages Street (Calle de Los Carros) going westwards, the first thing we come across is the Santo Domingo Convent and Church, one of the largest and richest in Guatemala. It has been converted into a resort with a five-star hotel and a beautiful museum that holds archaeological remnants of utmost historical relevance.
No matter the visitor’s reason for visiting Antigua, there are few that leave the town without heaving a sigh of regret. Its picturesque streets, richly textured ruins and friendly residents work their way into the heart of any visitor and remain there for quite a while.
Today’s Antigua is a cosmopolitan town that somehow manages to conserve its small-town ambiance. Its streets are quiet enough for artists to set up their easels and attempt to paint or sketch their perspective of a particular church on paper.
Another facet to this town is the educational scene that plays itself out. Aside from a wealth of Spanish schools, the town boasts a fine library and research institute for visiting archaeologists. Here scholars may travel back in time and read about the many churches, convents and homes that once bustled with colonial activity. Visitors will also find the town to be a cultural center. A biennial arts festival is hosted here and showcases ballet, opera, symphony orchestras and theater.
In recent years, a host of restaurants and hotels have opened their doors on these quiet streets. While they all hold to the small-town atmosphere, they welcome an international crowd of both vacation and business travelers.
From typical Guatemalan cuisine to Italian dishes, restaurants cater to their guests with first-class service and hospitality. Many of these are located in renovated buildings complete with indoor patios and fountains. Whether you’re there to enjoy a good meal or a cocktail, the ambiance is comfortable and pleasant.