Depending on which team you talk to, Guatemala City (or Guate because it is also known) is either big, dirty, dangerous and utterly forgettable, or big, dirty, dangerous and fascinating. Either way, there isn't any doubt there's an electricity here unlike elsewhere in Guatemala. It's a place where dilapidated buses belch fumes near to BMWs and Hummers, and where skyscrapers drop shadows on shantytowns.
Guate is busy reinventing itself as being a people-friendly city. Downtown Zona 1, for decades a no-go zone of abandoned buildings and crime hot spots, is in the lead with the pedestrianized 6a Calle attracting bars, cafes and restaurants. Many travelers skip the town altogether, preferring to produce Antigua their base. Still, you might want, or need, to have acquainted with all the capital, since this is the hub of the us, the place to find the best museums and galleries, transport hubs as well as other traveler services.
Palacio Nacional de la Cultura
Historic Building in Guatemala City. On its northern border side of Parque Central is this fact imposing presidential palace, that has been built between 1936 and 1943 through the dictatorial rule of General Jorge Ubico at enormous cost to your lives in the prisoners who had been forced to labor here. It's the third palace to square on the site. Despite its tragic background, architecturally the palace is one of the nation's best constructions, a mélange of multiple earlier styles from Spanish Renaissance to neoclassical. Today, most government offices are actually removed from here, and open like a museum as well as a few ceremonial events. Visits are by guided tour (accessible in English). You go through a labyrinth of gleaming brass, polished wood, carved stone and frescoed arches. Features have an optimistic mural of Guatemalan history by Alberto Gálvez Suárez higher than the main stairway, and also a two-ton gold, bronze and Bohemian-crystal chandelier inside reception hall. The banqueting hall sports stained-glass panels depicting – with delicious irony – the virtues of proper government. From here the best guide will probably require out into the presidential balcony, to imagine a banana-republic dictator reviewing your troops. In the western courtyard, the Patio de la Paz, a monument depicting two hands, stands where Guatemala's Peace Accords were signed in 1996; daily at 11am the rose held with the hands is changed by way of a military guard along with the one in the previous day is tossed girl among the spectators.
Museum in Guatemala City. This excellent modern museum is inauspiciously jammed between two shopping malls a couple of kilometers on vacation. Downstairs concentrates on objects located at Kaminaljuyú, with fascinating trade-route maps showing the site's importance. Upstairs you will discover displays on textiles and indigenous clothing, separated by region, from about the country. Signs will be in Spanish and (usually) English. Out back is often a pleasant grassy area with paths and seating – an excellent place to please take a breather.
To get here, catch any bus through the center about to Centro Comercial Tikal Futura. The museum is 250m in the future between it and also the Miraflores mall.
Museo Nacional de Arqueología y Etnología
Museum in Guatemala City. This museum contains the country's biggest variety of ancient Maya artifacts, but explanatory details are very sparse. There's a great useful monumental stone sculpture, including Classic-period stelae from Tikal, Uaxactún and Piedras Negras; an outstanding throne from Piedras Negras; and animal representations from Preclassic Kaminaljuyú. Also listed below are rare wooden lintels from temples at Tikal and El Zotz, as well as a room with beautiful jade necklaces and masks. Don't miss the large-scale kind of Tikal. The ethnology section has displays about the languages, costumes, dances, masks and homes of Guatemala's indigenous peoples.
Museum in Guatemala City. This museum is termed for the Maya goddess from the moon, women, reproduction and textiles. Photographs and exhibits of indigenous costumes along with crafts show the incredible richness of traditional arts in Guatemala's highland towns. Guided tours are obtainable in English (with prior reservation) or Spanish.
Museo Popol Vuh
Museum in Guatemala City. Inside Museo Popol Vuh you will find well-displayed pre-Hispanic figurines, incense burners and burial urns, plus carved wooden masks and traditional textiles filling several rooms with this museum. Other rooms hold colonial paintings and gilded wood and silver artifacts. A faithful copy with the Dresden Codex, one in the precious 'painted books' from the Maya, is among the most fascinating pieces.
Museo del Ferrocarril
Museum in Guatemala City. This is one of town's more intriguing museums, with plenty of photos and interesting memorabilia from your train times of old. Documented listed here are the glory days from the troubled Guatemalan rail system, in conjunction with some quirky artifacts, including hand-drawn diagrams of derailments and also a kitchen put in place with items utilized in dining cars. You can climb around within the passenger carriages, yet not the locomotives. There's even a place displaying the administrative office, replete with bored-looking bureaucrat.
La Aurora Zoo
Zoo in Guatemala City. This is just not badly kept as much as zoos within this part in the world go, and also the lovely, parklike grounds alone are worth the admission fee.
Walking in Guatemala City
If you're here over a Sunday, have a look at a wonderful municipal initiative that sees the Av de las Americas in Zona 10, as well as its continuation, Av La Reforma in Zona 13, blocked away and off to traffic for 3km and taken over by jugglers, clowns, in-line skaters, dog walkers, food vendors, tai chi classes, skate parks and playgrounds for youngsters. It's a great location to go for a walk (or you are able to hire bikes or in-line skates about the street) and take a look at a very relaxed, sociable side of the location that otherwise has never been seen.
Plaza in Guatemala City. Guatemala City's central plaza is a wonderful starting point by which to begin your vacation to other Zona 1 sights. Parque Central and also the adjoining Parque Centenario will never be empty during sunlight hours, with shoeshine boys, ice-cream vendors and frequently open-air political meetings adding for the general bustle.
Market in Guatemala City. Until the quake of 1976, Mercado Central, behind the cathedral, was where locals shopped for food as well as other necessities. Reconstructed following the earthquake, it now deals in colorful Guatemalan handicrafts like textiles, carved wood, metalwork, pottery, leather goods and basketry. It's a pretty good destination to shop for these kind of things, with inexpensive price points.