As far as art goes, Antigua is Central America’s Mecca.
In Central America, all travelers’ roads seem to lead to Antigua, Guatemala. Spain’s former regional capital, Antigua has vibrant nightlife, colonial architecture and historic ruins. To top it off, three volcanoes—Agua, Fuego and Acotenango—surround the city like a looming giant.
The city itself is a work of art. Because Antigua was abandoned after a 1773 earthquake, it is arguably the best-preserved colonial city in the world. Visitors will enjoy the diverse art scene, from installations and small galleries to artists selling their wares on street corners.
This list of Antigua’s top art attractions covers the heavy hitters, as well as a few off-the-radar finds.
#6. Street Art in Antigua’s Market
Street art is relatively scarce in Antigua, owing to the fact that it is illegal to paint murals on colonial facades. But there is one place to glimpse a staggeringly beautiful, and well-rendered mural. Behind Antigua’s market there is a wall bordering a soccer field where one finds a mural of a woman’s face painted by Colombian artist Stinkfish.
The artist mixed hand freestyle and stencils to complete the work. The mural features wisps of colors erupting from the woman’s hair that are evocative of the plumage of the national bird, the Quetzal. The market should be on every traveler’s itinerary; when you visit, stop off to see the beautiful mural behind it.
#5. La Antigua Galería de Arte on 4ta Calle Oriente #15
A glowing reader comment on the New York Times website sums up the appeal of La Antigua Galeria:
“This is one of the best art galleries in the world, period. Not only is the building itself unique and comfortable, but the art is often one-of-a-kind interpreting the life and spirituality of the region.”
Indeed, the gallery is set around a central courtyard and features the work of modern-day masters from Latin America, North America and Europe. La Antigua Galeria de Arte has its own permanent collection but frequently changes its lineup.
#4. Cooperación Española on 6a Avenida Norte
La Cooperación Española is a one-stop shop for art, music, film and literature, and even boasts an in-depth research facility. Located in the former Spanish embassy—one of the best-preserved colonial buildings in the city—it opens at 9am daily and frequently hosts events, workshops and art openings.
During the dry season, La Cooperación has a weekly film screening in their beautiful garden. During the day, the garden’s coffee shop is a quiet place to enjoy a signature chai and a book. Every month the gallery features the work of a different artist from the Spanish-speaking world. For those wanting to truly dive into the rich culture and history of Guatelama, it also has one of the best research libraries in the country.
#3. AyRobot Comics on 6a Avenida Norte #12
This quaint comic shop and gallery boasts a surprising collection of original art and vintage comic books from across Latin America.
AyRobot’s diverse array of art and printed materials highlights Antigua’s role as a cultural and artistic crossroads where both the obscure and the mainstream are reinterpreted for the modern reader and art lover. The shop offers unique gifts and books at affordable prices.
#2. Colonial Museum on 5a Calle Oriente #5
Just across the street from the Parque Central, this museum displays a vast collection of furniture, paintings and sculptures from the colonial era. The museum itself is located in a historic building: the original site of the country’s first University, La Universidad de San Carlos.
#1. La Azotea Coffee Museum and Cultural Center
Millions of people who have never visited Guatemala are already familiar with the taste of its coffee beans. Some of the best coffee in the world is produced in Guatemala’s highlands.
La Azotea is a museum and cultural center located on the large grounds of an active coffee mill on Calle del Cemeterio in Jocotenango. Visitors learn the history of coffee production and pick up a few processing tips. In the lush gardens, you can enjoy a cuppa grown and processed right on the premises! There are also rooms displaying various Mayan cloths and musical instruments from around the country.
About the Writer
Luke Maguire Armstrong is an author, musician and travel writer who has spent the last six years working in human rights and development from Guatemala to Kenya to The Bronx. His humanitarian work was featured on ABC news 20/20 with Christiane Amanpour and in The Huffington Post, among other media.
Luke is a speaker and author of four books, including “How We Are Human” and “iPoems For the Dolphins to Click Home About.” He is founder and editor of the art, humor, culture site Rabble Rouse The World. Follow him @LukeSpartacus and he will sing you songs.