The interior of the cathedral built in the form of a Latin cross with five naves and two main shrines, contains many works of colonial art which were transported from the ancient capital of Santiago de los Caballeros (Antigua) after the city was destroyed by an earthquake . Along the central nave are fourteen paintings of Mexican artist Pedro Ramirez (seventeenth century), and some beautiful statues of Saints, like the ones of Saint Fernando King of Spain and San Louis King of France.
I love the work of Efrain Recinos a muralist, sculptor, engineer and architect, who among many other buildings designed the National Theatre in Guatemala City, so i specially liked this relief depicting a woman located in front of the National Library.
Located in a large rationalist building in the central city park, the library has been moved several times at different locations due to earthquakes. It was finally located in this place in September 1957, it is worth the visit just to see the abstract concrete reliefs on the facade work of Guatemalan Artist Efraín Recinos. The building contains 150,000 volumes of books and newspapers.
North of the Cathedral is the Archbishop's Palace, built between 1706 and 1711, which retains only the entrance gate and the stone frames of the doors of the west front with their coats of arms. Originally the building had two levels and a gallery that overlooked the square. It is an interesting visit, but you have to ask permission to enter.
This school was founded in 1781 by Archbishop Cayeteano Francos y Monroy, five years after the transfer of the former capital of Santiago de los Caballeros (Antigua) to the valley de la Ermita, Is a beautiful colonial building located next to the Metropolitan Cathedral and currently works as a school. It is interesting to visit because it is part of the complex that includes the cathedral and the archbishop
This building built in 1793 using the same style of the constructions of Antigua is maybe the oldest private house in the city. It has a magnificent entrance portico, and actually is home of a private school. The brigadier Gabino Gainza one of the leaders of the independence from Spain lived here when it was negociated.
The Civic Center was designed in the early 50's, located between Zones 1 and 4, houses several government offices: Town hall, Public finance ministry, the Courthouse, and the Bank of Guatemala. Several of these buildings are decorated with magnificent murals of famous Guatemalan artists. Here are some details of a mural designed by Roberto Gonzalez Goiry sculpted in concrete located in the Social Security building.
Built in 1813 this Neo classical style church and convent houses most of the Baroque altars brought from the original church in Antigua Guatemala. During the governement of Justo Rufino Barrios some church properties (like this one) were nationalized, and the convent became the headquarters of the National Police. In 1999 the property was returned to the church and restored. It´s now home to the Museum de la Merced, a four room museum with paintings and sculptures dated from the 17th to the 19th century. The organ has been called the most beautiful in the whole country (was played in the 1813 church inaguration). A must see in the city.
The Museo Ixchel has a remarkable collection of Guatemalan textiles. Besides the beauty and variety of these textiles, the exhibits should be of special interest to those who are attracted to the stuff that is offered to tourists in places like Antigua, around Lake Atitlan and Xela. At least, before you buy, you will have seen what "the real thing" looks like, and how it has evolved over time, and you will have seen pictures and samples of the designs traditionally associated with each different part of the country. The museum also has a good store. One of its functions is to promote textile arts as a live tradition, so whatever you buy there goes to assist the people who make it.
For more details of their exhibits and collections, look at http://www.museoixchel.org/ Call 502/2331-3622 to make sure the museum is open when you want to go.
Next to the Ixchel Museum is the Popol Vuh, a very good archaelogical museum.
There is a large zoo in the vicinity of the airport. Here, in a very pleasant atmosphere (for the visitors I am not sure about the animals) one can see exotic animals in their practically natural environment. I was after something very specific though. I had heard many stories in both Mexico and Guatemala about the Quetzal. This special bird was on of the two-faced God and curse of Mexico's, Quetzalcoatl and it has been depicted on many occasions all over the country. In Guatemala Quetzal is no less popular (let's leave these Spanish divisions, it is all about the Maya) everyday life is unthinkable without him. He is on the banknotes and circulates day and night between countless hands.
Unfortunately there was no Quetzal in the zoo. Probably they decided that it is too common to be of interest. Instead, I got to glimpse at TUCAN and he enchanted me. What a beak, especially compared to the body. This adoration lasted quite a bit, namely till I saw its brother from Brazil. No wonder the spell of the Guatemalan bird was broken - it was 5 times bigger and beak, oh, the beak!
Look at my Foz
On the west side of the Parque Central is the ultramodern Biblioteca Nacional contrasting the colonial architecture of the Palace and Cathedral on the other side of the plaza. The library is built on the former site of the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales.
This old french style shopping arcade was built in 1926 and is close to the Main Plaza. It´s full of jewelry shops, old libraries and the oldest bar in the city "El Portalito" a bohemian bar with live marimba (it is said that among the most famous clients of the place, were the Che Guevara, Fidel Castro and Pablo Neruda).
This beautiful racionalist building housed the biggest coffe export company in the earliest years of the XX century, then was expropiated to the german family that owned it after the second world war. In 1946 was the headquarters of the Banco de Guatemala. Now is the Comptroller's Office.
This building was built between 1937 and 1940 under Jorge Ubicos´s regime. The arch over the 12th street is one of the landmarks of the old city and was inspired in the Arch of Santa Catalina in Antigua. Used to be the Post Office Directorate but now is a cultural center.
The lower level is a place to see Guatemala´s fruits and vegetables, and a perfect place to understand the way of life of hundreds of vendors which left their homes in the highlands looking for a better life in the big city.