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- 04 Mar 2021, 3 nights
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Full of colonial buildings, technicolour street art and lively markets, Guatemala City is a window into a country in transition. The museums of Guatemala's capital city display Mayan culture with pride, while the downtown area has seen a flood of new businesses and fresh ideas. Guatemala City doesn't feature on every traveller's list, so you'll find the handcrafts are generally lower priced than other parts of the country.
Hostels in Guatemala City are mostly in Zones One and Four, so very central. Yet you can still stretch out in tropical gardens, take a dip in an outdoor pool or share beers with new friends on a rooftop terrace. For a slightly unusual experience, choose a capsule hostel with individual 'pod' beds. In some Guatemala City hostels you'll have a free breakfast and most have a communal kitchen. One hostel runs a free walking tour too.
Guatemala City is divided into Zonas (zones), spiralling out from the centre. Zona One (downtown) is lively 24 hours a day. There's great shopping on the pedestrianised Calle 6a and plenty of Spanish-style architecture on Plaza Mayor. South is Zona Four, an off-beat neighbourhood full of coffee shops and bars. Cuatro Grados Norte is considered the gastronomic centre of the city, so come here to taste the unique blend of Mayan and Spanish flavours. For nightlife, head to Zona Nine, Guatemala's most up-market neighbourhood, nicknamed Zona Viva for its after-dark alter ego.
One of the city's more unusual sites is a huge 3D map of the country (Mapa en Relieve) in Parque Minerva, where you can view Guatemala's varied geography. For culture, take your pick of museums showcasing Mayan crafts. The National Theatre, also known as the Miguel Ángel Asturias Cultural Centre, is the place to see modern Guatemalan arts at their best. Five art spaces built to mimic the surrounding volcanoes feature dance, drama and music. You can also take a tour of Cervecería Centroamericana, where Guatemalan beer has been brewed since 1886.
La Aurora International Airport is a major airport with flights coming from Europe and America. To reach the city centre you'll need to take a taxi. If you're continuing further into South America, Guatemala City is well connected by bus to the rest of the country, Mexico, Belize and beyond. Buses depart from different parts of the city depending on the destination, so it's worth checking before heading out. For getting between Zonas, avoid the red city buses and use the fast, safe TransMetro system (green buses) instead.