Central Park is a great place to get a quick feel for Antigua or if you get lost head here as it is a great reference point for to reorient yourself. Come here to relax, buy an ice cream off a local vendor or get your shoes shined by one of the local kids.
One thing I do like about the local kids here is that they understand the word no and will ask you once or twice to use their services and leave you alone after that unlike other parts of the world where I have been pestered to the point of being a jerk to them.
As in most Latin Americana cities, the central square or Parque Central is truly the heart of the city. In some (Guatemala City, for example), park may seem an odd name as you contemplate a wide expanse of paving stones, but here in Antigua it is a green oasis, with plenty of shady benches where both tourists and locals like to rest and watch the world go by. So why not grab a coffee from one of the nearby coffee shops, or maybe an ice cream (Marco Polo at the bottom of 5a Avenida Norte is very good), and join them?
Over there is a juggler trying to impress the tourists and earn a few Quetzales for his act. And on that bench, three local women, out to sell scarves and other handicrafts, have paused in their assiduous selling to gossip for a while. A couple of nuns stroll past, from one of the still active convents; shoe-shine boys tout for business; young children run around playing and calling to their friends, and only slightly older ones hassle tourists to buy gum or cigarettes; and everywhere those tourists do as we are doing – relax, take in the scene, and take lots of photographs!
In the centre of the square is the impressive Fountain of the Sirens – a 1936 copy of the 1738 original (lost, like so many of the city’s treasures, in the Santa Marta quake of 1773) – see photo 2. On the east side of the square is the cathedral, gleaming white in the sun, and on the north the arcaded Palacio del Ayuntamiento, which houses the city’s municipal offices and a couple of museums, neither of which we found time to visit (the Museo de Armas de Santiago, with its collection of weapons, paintings and furnishings, and the Museo del Libro Antiguo or Antique Book Museum). Opposite this in the south side is the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, which unfortunately was covered in scaffolding and hidden under netting when we were there, presumably under restoration – it houses the police department and regional government offices. Finally, on the west side facing the cathedral, is the arcaded row of commercial premises (shops, cafés, banks etc) known as the Portal del Comercio.
If you wander around the park, you'll see many tourism police officers (in black uniform). The booth is at the northeast corner of the park. There will be many tour guides, wearing polo shirts, with badges as well. They look official, but they aren't the police. If you would like to have escort up to cerro de la cruz, they'll ask you for $20-30. Walk away, and go talk to the tourism police instead, because the police are supposed to escort tourist to the cross for free. Or better yet, it's a very short walk, up 4a ave, make a right turn at the end of the road, for couple blocks, you'll make a left turn into a nice residential neighborhood, and after 2 blocks or so, there's a road leading uphill, with a sign showing you the way up to the top. It's definitely the best view of Antigua and Volcan Aqua to the south.
There are plenty of police in sights during day time, so i felt very safe walking around.
Parque Central is the heart of Antigua and house the main cathedral and the colonial governemnt buildings. It is also the center of the tourist district and the side streets leading off the palza are full of restaurants and shops.
The center of Antigua is marked by this central plaza with its large fountain (a reproduction of the orginal which was constructed in 1738), leafy landscaping, and benches on which one can sit and watch the pulse of life, Antiguans and tourists alike, pound away. Surrounded by the cathedral, municipal building (Ayuntameinto), and the Palacio del Capitanes, the Parque Central is a definite place of interest. Grab an ice cream (helado) or a coffee (café) and take a seat on one of the park benches to take it all in.
The Parque Central is the heart of the city. Like in almost every Central American city it is exactly the size of one block, and like always the Central Cathedral has a prominent place at this square. The Central Park is a green space with tall trees, that provide a lot of shade, many benches that are often accupied, especially when you're here in the weekend, and many local people who hang around here with their children or with the goods they try to sell.
Around the large central fountain, that was built in 1738, it is very nice to relax on a sunny day. When your shoes are dirty you can have them cleaned by the many young boys that offer their services, when you feel like a chariot you can find them here, and when you just want to drink a cold drink you can find them on every corner of the square in one of the little stalls or in the many shops in one of the arcades surrounding the Parque Central.
And besides this huge dose of local culture, you can also enjoy the many beautiful building that surround the park. On every side you will see another great construction, of which the Cathedral at the eastside and the Palacio de los Capitanes at the southside are the most gorgeous ones.
The Parque Central is a busy main square surrounded by colonial buildings. It is a handsome plaza, but there are no good places to sit down, making it a bit hectic. Traffic around the square is heavy (my empty photos were taken at dawn). Also, while the landscaping is attractive, it blocks the view of the Catedral.
THIS PLACE ISN'T THAT BIG BUT IT'S A NICE AND CLEAN AND A PLEASANT PLACE TO SIT IN WITH VIEWS OF COLONIAL BUILDINGS AND A LOVELY FOUNTAIN IN THE MIDDLE.
PLENTY OF BENCHES AROUND PLUS THERE'S BINS PROVIDED WHERE YOU CAN THROW YOUR LITTER IN.
THE people watching center of Antigua is the Parque Central....students, vendors, shoeshine boys, tourists, lovers, musicians....everyone can be seen circling the center fountain with its risque mermaid!
The buildings surrounding this central plaza include the Cathedral of San Jose, which is beautifully illuminated at night, the Palace of the Captains General and the Ayuntamiento, the City Hall.
Mayan vendors will approach you in the park to buy their wares. I always get something and always regret not buying more! Look for Francesca. Her weaving is beautiful and she is very entertaining to chat with.
The attractive fountain that anchors the central park (and that dates from 1738) is probably one of the most frequently photographed objects in all of Antigua. The park itself is a great place to relax and entertain yourself with some world-class people-watching.
This was my very favorite place. This is where we "people watched" both Antiquenos and tourists alike. We struck up conversations with many young Europeans attending language school in Antigua. Many were then going on afterward to perform volunteer work in other parts of Guatemala. In the middle of the park is a very beautiful fountain which was restored in 1936.
The gathering place for locals and visitors alike, on most days the plaza is lined with villagers selling handicrafts to tourists; on Sunday it’s mobbed and the streets on the east and west sides are closed to traffic. Things are cheapest late Sunday afternoon, when the peddling is winding down. The plaza’s famous fountain was built in 1738. At night, mariachi or marimba bands play in the park.