If you’re looking for a chilled out Central American vibe, Antigua – a Guatemalan city famous for it’s Spanish Baroque architecture (and for good reason) – will have you hooked upon arrival. Whether you feel jaded from a long haul flight or you have just finished a lengthy overland journey, here you can take pleasant walks, inspired photographs, and most of all – relax.
Arriving in this UNESCO world heritage site – after a grand total of 36 hours in the air – meant that I was undeniably jet lagged, and in desperate need to remember what it was like to feel human again. Spending some time socialising and taking it easy in a variety of cafes, restaurants, and spas was a great way to experience this unique city (and beat the jet lag!). For most people, your travel budget won’t be broken by Guatemalan prices, so anyone can feel free to enjoy the quirks that Antigua has to offer.
This is my favourite restaurant in Antigua. Not only are the walls plastered with paintings of Frida Kahlo – the famous Mexican artist – but the Guava margaritas and fresh, warm tortilla chips with guacamole are delicious. Even if you are just popping in for lunch you’ll be sure to fall in love with Frida’s. However, with its extensive Mexican food choices and formidablecocktail menu, I recommend coming to dine here for your evening meal too. You can never have too much Fridas.
Los Tres Tiempos
The courtyard, roof terrace, colourful Guatemalan textile chairs, and tortilla chips are all winners here. The name itself – Los Tres Tiempos – is a reference to the three times a day which tortillas are traditionally made and sold at totillarias. The name of the restaurant, indigenous textiles used for the interior furniture, and the wide selection of Central American dishes on the menu mean this is a restaurant that remains true to its roots.
A cosy small Italian restaurant that sells larger than life pizzas; this is a great spot to fill your tummy with delicious Italian food. Whether pasta, pizza, wine, or beer: if you’re after an Italian experience in Antigua, this is the place to head.
This place is a haven – with a plethora of treatments on offer, you can just walk in and get treated like Mayan Royalty. I kept it simple and opted for the full body Mayan massage which was unbelievably relaxing and, at just USD$20.00 for one hour, was excellent value for money. Even if you’re just waiting for friends you can enjoy people watching and the smell of fresh tortillas. I’m feeling pretty relaxed just thinking about it.
With smoothie makers actually built into the bar, a gigantic glass jar water urn, fresh made empanadas, roof terrace, stunning photographs of locals adorning the walls, and spoons recycled into hooks on the back of the toilet doors, ‘quirky’ is definitely the order of the day at this cafeteria. The coffee and smoothies are pretty awesome too.
Café No Se
AWESOME BAR ALERT! This place remained a firm favourite for the three nights we were in Antigua, and each experience was different. From knocking back Tequila shots, to sipping on Mezcal or a bottle of Gallo beer – the experience was always completed with complimentary ‘poporopo’ (popcorn). What really sets Café No Se apart from others in the area is the small Mezcal bar, entered through a tiny door in the wall leading through to a snug candlelit area. The atmosphere is unbeatable for an evening tipple!
Not only does this one small café create arguably the best breakfast in the city, they also sell cronuts and their own chocolate – both made fresh on site. You can pick up a selection of little macaroons from the counter, try some ‘sexy orange’ chocolate (among many other flavours), a fresh juice with a shot of wheatgrass on the side, admire the colourful table cloths made from local woven textiles, or just drink a dam good cup of Guatemalan coffee in the courtyard. Bliss.
Photo courtesy of Pedro Szekely, Flickr