Declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site Antigua Guatemala is a colonial city filled with history and culture, a place that seems to have stood still. There are so many interesting and fun things to do in Antigua Guatemala but when it comes to finding kid-friendly activities in Antigua this can sometimes be challenging. I was born and raised in Guatemala and as a kid, one of my favorite things to do was traveling to Antigua with my family. Now that we live in the United States we go back to Guatemala with the kids often and we always spend time in Antigua Guatemala so I wanted to share with you all the best things to do in Antigua with kids. All of these activities are family friendly but are also great for adults.
Make chocolates and learn about the Mayan culture
There are few things better than good quality chocolate and The Choco Museum, of which there are two locations in Antigua Guatemala, not only sells artisanal handmade chocolate it also gives you the opportunity to make your own. We took their “bean to bar” chocolate workshop with the kids and my son declared this his favorite experience in Guatemala!
The workshop is super fun and interactive; the kids got to roast, peel and grind cacao beans using a traditional grinding stone. They also learned about the cacao plant and the history of cacao and chocolate. When it came time to make their own chocolate the kids were got to choose from different molds and then added different toppings to their chocolates from nuts and shredded coconut to sprinkles.
During the workshop, which lasts about two hours, you will also get to make hot chocolate the way the Mayans and the Spanish conquistadores did and get to try these very different cacao drinks. At the end of the workshop, we walked out with big smiles on our faces, a bag of handmade chocolate and a wealth of knowledge not only about how chocolate is made but about the Mayan culture and history of Guatemala.
Combine art and thrills at Santo Domingo del Cerro
Located at the top of the of a hill on the edge of the city, Santo Domingo del Cerro is a great place to spend part of the day. With a restaurant, sculpture garden, art galleries, zip lines and a playground for the kids it’s got something for everyone in the families and it boasts one of the best views of the city and the volcanos.
We started off with breakfast at El Tenedor Del Cerro restaurant where enjoyed delicious food while we enjoyed a spectacular view of the volcanoes. The Fuego volcano was active and a smoke cloud raised from its crater as we savored our huevos rancheros, it was fantastic!
After breakfast we walked around the sculpture garden, filled with colorful and whimsical sculptures and murals from some of the most renowned Guatemalan artists. Then we visited the aviary where you will find lots of birds. My 10 year old wanted to try the zip line but he’s afraid of heights so he ended up opting for the safer mini zip line on the playground.
We ended the day learning about Guatemalan art history as we walked through the art galleries.
The best part is that Santo Domingo del Cerro has no entrance fee; the sculpture garden, art galleries, aviary and playground are all free. If you want to enjoy the zip line there are a couple of options and prices start at $35. The restaurant is expensive but well worth it; the food is delicious and the view is like no other. If you are going on a weekend arrive at least an hour before the time you plan to eat as there is often a long wait time and you can’t make reservations, but if you plan ahead and walk through the gardens before your meal it works out perfectly!
Santo Domingo del Cerro is the property of Hotel Casa Santo Domingo and there are free shuttles departing from the hotel every 15 mintes or so, even for non-guests. If you are driving your own car there parking is
Spend the afternoon at the Parque Central
El Parque Central, or Plaza Mayor, in Antigua Guatemala, is surrounded by the cathedral and other historic buildings with the beautiful Agua volcano in the background. This beautiful town square is the gathering place for locals and visitors alike. We love to grab a bench near the beautiful fountain, la Fuente de las Sirenas, and people watch while enjoying ice cream or cotton candy. During the weekends you may find musicians playing the marimba and there are always lots of vendors offering beautiful Guatemalan crafts.
We love to visit the park in the mornings when it’s not too crowded and sometimes we will cross the street to Cafe Condesa, for some of their amazing homemade pies and browse through the books at the Casa del Conde bookstore which has a great variety of Guatemalan books. I always try to grab a book or two for the kids, our favorites are the ones about Mayan legends.
From the park, you can also hop on one of the many horse-drawn carriages and take a tour through the cobblestone streets.
Explore colonial ruins
Antigua Guatemala is filled with beautiful colonial buildings and ruins. The ruins are fun to explore with kids and a great opportunity for everyone in the family to learn about Antigua’s history. Some of my favorite ruins to visit include:
Convent of Santo Domingo: Now part of the Hotel Casa Santo Domingo the convent’s ruins have been beautifully restored. The hotel has different galleries showcasing Guatemalan art and historical pieces. The colonial museum showcases beautiful sculptures and paintings from colonial times while the Archeological Museum gallery exhibits Mayan artifacts from the classic period. There are also galleries that showcase contemporary Guatemalan artist. Hotel Casa Santo Domingo also has some beautiful gardens filled with flowers and there are even some colorful macaws which the kids loved! Entrance is free since the ruins are part of the hotel.
Church and Convent of Capuchinas: Capuchinas has always been one of my favorite ruins in Antigua Guatemala, it’s beautiful courtyards and fountains are filled with bougainvillea flowers and are fun to explore for children and adults alike. They also make for a perfect location for amazing family pictures!
La Recoleccion Church: Severely damaged during the 1717 earthquake, you can’t go inside but to me, the facade is still stunning and it iconic. Take a stroll along the street and check out the intricate work on the facade and take a couple of photos with the Agua volcano in the background.
Ride mules at a coffee plantation
Located just minutes from Antigua Guatemala Finca Filadelfia is a great place to spend the morning or the afternoon. There you can take mule rides, coffee tours, canopy tours and ATV tours.
My kids love horses and they had never ridden a mule so they were excited to do this for the first time. We did the one-hour mule ride, which was the ideal amount of time for the kids; they also have 10 minute and 2-hour rides. During the mule, we learned about the history of this plantation founded in the late 1800’s and about coffee. The one-hour mule ride takes you through the coffee plantation’s main avenue, a cobblestone street, and then you go up
Finca Filadelfia provides free roundtrip transportation from Antigua Guatemala on their Unimog trucks every day. My kids loved the Unimog ride almost as much as the mule ride, but be advised that the Unimogs are hard to get into and out of and are not ideal for people with mobility issues.
Visit a crafts market
Guatemala has some of the most colorful and beautiful handicrafts and textiles in the world and Antigua is a shopper’s paradise filled with boutiques and markets.
We love taking the kids to the craft market next to the Iglesia del Carmen ruins as it’s a lesser known market and not as crowded as the Mercado de Artesanias. They love picking a souvenir to remind them of their visit to Antigua Guatemala. Just walking among the colorful stalls filled with pottery, masks, wooden toys and a myriad of other crafts, souvenirs, and Mayan textiles is a fun experience. I usually take advantage of this opportunity to encourage my kids to practice their Spanish and their haggling skills as they negotiate to get the best price.
Enjoy traditional Guatemalan candy at Doña Maria Gordillo
We all know that kids love candy. When visiting Antigua Guatemala making a stop at Doña Maria Gordillo’s candy store is a must. Filled with traditional candy and decorated with countless handmade ceramic owls and other traditional pottery Doña Maria Gordillo is an Antigua institution that has been around for over one hundred years.
It is said that they guard their secret recipes fearlessly and use the best ingredients. There are other traditional candy stores around the city, many of them more affordable, but none of them even come close to Doña Maria Gordillo’s in terms of the quality and taste. I’ve tried other candy and always keep coming back to Doña Maria Gordillo’s.
Some of my family’s favorite Guatemalan candy include canillitas de leche (sweet milk candy), marzipan shaped as miniature fruits, naranjitas (orange and sugar candy) and coconut candy. I also love the candied figs, the chilacayotes (candied squash) and the tamarind balls.