Introduction

There is something magically seductive about Spanish colonial towns, and Antigua can be considered one of the greatest. It is among the world’s best conserved colonial cities, and you are guaranteed to fall in love with its many plazas, coble stone streets, antique and artisan shops, Indian markets, museums, secluded coffee shops, open terraces, romantic charm hotels, nearby villages and its great variety of people of Mayan and Spanish decent.

It is also houses one of the greatest selection of Spanish schools, attracting student from all over the world. The city was once the third most important Spanish colony in the Americas, housing more than 30 monastic orders, stunning monasteries, convents and cathedrals from the Spanish colonial days. The city also boast a great selection of museums, art galleries and shopping centers to nightlife and a great launching pad for extreme adventure and sports such as volcano hikes, mountain biking, deep sea fishing, horse back riding, and much more. Its setting is breathtaking, nestled between three dramatic volcanoes: Agua, Fuego and Acatenango, and a year round marvelous temperature hovering in the mid 70’s, hence, deservedly being dubbed “the land of eternal spring.”

Located in the main square of Antigua’s old town. Baroque colonial architecture style.

Palace of the Captains General

Adjacent to the Central Plaza, “El Palacio de los Capitanes Generales”, as it is called in Spanish, faces the entire south side of the “Plaza Major” or Main Plaza. This two-story building has a double-arched façade, and dates back from 1558. From 1550 to 1773 the entire provice, which started in the Chiapas region decending all the way down to Costa Rica, was governerd from here. During this time, the palace also housed the King’s representative. Today, it houses the Antigua’s Police force, the governments Department of the Interior and INGUAT’s tourism offices.

Parque Central (Plaza Mayor) and Ayuntamiento Palace (City Hall) – Antigua, Guatemala

Town Hall Palace

This construction conserves its original form since 1743, when it served as the seat of the town council. Its impressive two-story façade has a solid stone double archway and an eastern wall covered in carved stone, one of the few that still remain. Because of its solid construction, it was used as a prison during colonial times. Today, it houses the offices of the municipal authorities and the antique book museum.

A colonial style church in Antigua, Guatemala

Archbishop’s Palace

Located north of the Cathedral, its construction dates from the early 18th century. The splendid architectural quality of the edifice can be admired in its remaining cloisters, its huge door, and the solid stone doorways on its western façade.

Cross in front of La Merced in Antigua

La Merced Church and Convent

The façade of this church is, without a doubt, the best example of the baroque style that predominated in Antigua’s constructions. The delicate ornamental plasterwork, a relief technique made from plaster depicting botanical motifs, is a sample of the architectural quality attained in this city. The spectacular fountain at the center of the convent, one of the largest that still remain, was constructed during the 18th century and was partially restored in 1944. The image of Jesus of Nazareth within the church is still venerated, a splendid example of colonial imagery.

San Francisco Church – Antigua, Guatemala

San Francisco El Grande Church

This church dates from 1579. It is surrounded by a wall featuring battlements; its west side is notable for its beautiful pillowed Salomonic columns. The interior, which is accessed through a side door, contains beautiful baroque altar pieces of mixed lines, all laminated in gold. It also has a chapel that contains the remains of the Santo Hermano Pedro de San José de Betancur, who has a large following among Guatemalan, Mexican, and Central American Catholics. The interior of the church houses a museum dedicated to this saint, wherein relics, clothes, and other personal objects are on display.

Inner yard of nunnery Santa Clara in Antigua Guatemala

Santa Clara Convent

The Santa Clara convent was built in the early 18th century, as a refuge for the Clarisa nuns. A double arch surrounds the cloister area and built to allow safe passage of the nuns from one side to another, in order not to be seen. The temple’s façade, which was constructed to not to allow viewing to from or to the outside world as the nuns never left the building, is richly decorated in stucco.

Ruins of La Recoleccion, Church of Antigua Guatemala

La Recolección Church

Its thick walls speak of the grandeur attained by the Order of the Recoletos. In spite of the natural disasters and the depredation it has suffered, the architectural complex offers an interesting perspective on the convent life of the era.

Capuchinas convent in La Antigua Guatemala

Capuchinas Convent

Constructed in 1736, it was the last feminine convent of the city. Its true name is Convent of Our Lady of the Pillar of Zaragoza. Diego de Porres, chief architect of Antigua Guatemala, designed the building. A circular patio displays a series of arcades containing 18 cloisters; this architectural complex is known as Torre del Retiro, or The Meditation Tower. Additionally, a second patio belonging to the main structure contains a central fountain surrounded by Tuscan style columns that form an arcade.

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