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Museums and Galleries in Antigua Guatemala

The Art in Antigua Guatemala is embedded in every street and corner of the city. If you look around, everything is a collection of colonial buildings linked by cobbled streets that invite every visitor to enjoy of a beautiful and creative landscape everywhere.  The Antigua Guatemala museums and art galleries offer throughout the year, art exhibitions and various activities  presenting the different eras in the history of art. In this article you will find several places you can visit in this beautiful city, if you are an art lover or want to learn more about the topic you will definitely enjoy it.

The Art in Antigua Guatemala is embedded in every street and corner of the city. If you look around, everything is a collection of colonial buildings linked by cobbled streets that invite every visitor to enjoy of a beautiful and creative landscape everywhere.  The Antigua Guatemala museums and art galleries offer throughout the year, art exhibitions and various activities  presenting the different eras in the history of art. In this article you will find several places you can visit in this beautiful city, if you are an art lover or want to learn more about the topic you will definitely enjoy it.

Patricia Solé, Former Vice-President of the Museums Association of Guatemala, says that most of the museums in Antigua Guatemala, reflect very well the Guatemalan culture because this is a very historic place and is consider the third capital of Guatemala, where is kept much of its heritage. Some of the best museums and cultural centers you can find here are the Museum of Native Costumes, the Antique Book Museum, The University of San Carlos Colonial Art Museum, and the Cultural Centers of La Azotea and El Sitio.


El Sitio is a cultural center that works towards cultural diversity and sustainable human development. Enrique Matheu, and Scott MacLauchlan, founders of El Sitio, formed the center to promote artistic, cultural, and social development in Guatemala. Patricia Solé says that art exhibitions in El Sitio are presented to the public throughout the year since they are seasonal.

If we walk along the path, Oscar Ramos, Administrative and Financial Manager of the Coffee Museum in Antigua Guatemala located in La Azotea Cultural Center, invites us to take a pleasant walk through La Azotea Cultural Center, located on the outskirts of Antigua Guatemala, approximately five minutes from the central park, by car, shuttle or bus. It is a magical and colorful place where you can have great time learning about Guatemalan culture. We went to Ramos,  and he gave us a brief  explanation about the different museums:

  • The Coffee Museum, set in a coffee mill, illustrates the history, processing, marketing and brewing of coffee. At the end of your visit and after going for a walk through the working plantation, you can taste the delicious brew made from beans grown there.
  • In The Casa K’ojom Mayan Music Museum, you can enjoy watching a collection of Mayan musical instruments, artifacts, customs, and paintings from Pre-Columbian times to the present.
  • At the Rincón Sacatepéquez Museum you can admire the textiles and customs of people that lives in the villages of Antigua Guatemala. At the end of your visit, you can buy native Antigua Guatemala handicrafts, musical instruments, and music and video recordings.

Other famous and very interesting places you should visit are:​

  • The Santo Domingo Museum at the Convent – Hotel Casa Santo Domingo: is an ancient convent turned into an important museum and hotel in Antigua Guatemala. Patricia Solé, says that one of the art galleries that receive more visitors during the year is this one in Santo Domingo Hotel, dedicated to Marco Augusto Quiroa, a great Guatemalan writer and painter. This permanent art exhibition has art works by other Guatemalan and international artists.
  • Colonial Art Museum in University of San Carlos: According to Solé, this museum has suffered from several transformations over the past years in order to become better. It has received large donations to be fixed because it is visited by many tourists. It preserves great architectural beauty and is located in front of the Cathedral’s ruins, on the building that once sheltered the University of San Carlos of Borromeo. Its rich architecture consists of a series of rooms disposed around a main court with four corridors. This Antigua Guatemala museum withholds a wide art collection from the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, and an exhibition of around 133 works, among sculptures, paintings, and furniture.
  • Museum of the Ancient Book in Antigua Guatemala: If you like the history of books, how they started and how they have change through the years, this is the perfect place.  It is located in front of the Central Park, on the spot where the First Printing-house of the Kingdom of Guatemala was located (1660). This museum is considered one of a kind in Latin America and has three exhibition rooms: the “Introduction of the Press in Guatemala”, “Techniques: xylography and lithography”, and “The Speckled Paper Room”.  Its collection is calculated in 2500 documents, many of them donated by families who lived in Antigua Guatemala.
  • The Jade Museum in Antigua Guatemala: Jade was a rare and valued material in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica cultures, and the only source from which they could obtain jade was in Guatemala. Jade was largely an elite good, usually shaped into symbolic figurines. This Museum opened its doors since 1974 in Antigua Guatemala to show unique collectible pieces, as well as Mayan Art replicas created by expert craftsmen.
  • La Compañía de Jesús is a cultural center in Antigua Guatemala of the Spanish Cooperation, who has very good art exhibitions, also the ruins of Capuchina’s convent who have had exhibitions of Rembrandt art, adds Solé.

Art Galleries

In addition to museums, there are also art galleries, essential pieces of Antigua’s lifestyle. There you can find local art, mostly mayan paintings with tradicional style, you can find mixed art like mayan with modern art or you can find some contemporary designs in sculpture and painting. Some arte galleries in Antigua Guatemala present permanent exhibits and some only schedule periods for each artist. Antigua Guatemala is an artistic foundation of art. Some of the most visited ast galleries in this place are:


La Antigua Art Gallery, counts with large spaces dedicated to art exhibitions and a colorful garden, typical from the Colonial style houses where you can appreciate beautiful sculptures for outdoors. Julio Morán, from La Antigua Art Gallery, says that the gallery is specifically dedicated to the realization of exhibitions of art, especially painting and sculpture.

La Antigua Guatemala is a Cultural Heritage of Humanity, that is the reason why the interest and participation of the tourist is notorious. “You can see an extensive and exclusive collection of works of art of renowned masters and artists. 80% is Guatemalan art, and the remaining 20% is from the United States, Canadian, Central and South America, European, and South African artists.

In the Wer Art Gallery, you can enjoy the exhibitions of Guatemala and America’s art. Patricia Solé, former member of the Museums Association of Guatemala, comments that Wer Gallery has many art works from Guatemalan famous painters and recommends us to go take a look.

Other nice and important art galleries you can visit are: Centro de Arte Popular, Centro de Formación CIF, Panza Verde, María Eskenasy Fine Art, Estudio Cerámico, Central America Art Gallery, La Rosa de Cristal, Rocío Quiroa, and Alliance Française art gallery from La Antigua Guatemala.

Charlotte Rumel, Director of the Alliance Francaise from La Antigua Guatemala, says that the Alliance Française organizes international cultural activities and activities of local themes, such as paintings exhibitions, French music concerts or any other type of music, children and adults shows (puppets, street theater, theater), and fireworks shows. The gallery consists of classroom and courtyards where you can participate of the different activities…. SO ENJOY ANTIGUA’S HALL OF ART!!!


Colorful local costumes in Antigua Guatemala

Antigua Guatemala is known for the culture that everything around the city reflects: the old buildings, the churches, the restaurant in Antigua Guatemala with small balconies with flowers, the central plaza with the municipal buildings, etc. But the most colorful and beautiful decoration of the city is the people wearing those amazing clothes with so many details, that you can spend many time admiring them and making up a story of every figure in the costume…. I am talking about the native Antigua Guatemala local costumes.

If you take a walk , you will see locals  wearing different types of costumes,  the traditional ones have evolved through the years and each town has its own. One of the museums that you can visit in order to learn more about the attractive Antigua Guatemala local costumes, is the Museum of the Indian Costume – the house of fabrics (Museo del traje indígena). This museum in Antigua Guatemala is located very close to the ruins of San Jerónimo´s convent and it is a great choice for you to visit and take a souvenir of Antigua Guatemala, while you learn about the Indian costumes. I am sure you will enjoy this visit because the tour inside  this Antigua Guatemala museum has different sections where exhibitions of native local costumes take place, with manikins that show an every-day-scene of the  local families. This way, you learn about the different costumes for each members of a family: the father, the mother and the children. In each scene the museum offers you a detailed description of the region of every costume, its meaning and the language of the people that wears them.

It is located in Alameda Santa Lucía, 1st street of Antigua Guatemala and it is open from Monday to Sunday, from 9am to 5pm, to all the excited tourists that are willing to know more about the amazing local costumes that we want to share with you.

Patricia Solé, Former Vice President of the Museums Association of Guatemala, tells us about the museum of Indian Costumes: “In the museum we can enjoy the history of different costumes in Guatemala through the years and in different regions. We can observe how the textile materials have evolved, from natural to synthetic fabrics”.

A long time ago, for the color of the fabrics, people used animal’s dye that was removed from the cochinilla and other insects, and now the dyes are made by chemicals. All this fabrics started to be made of synthetic fabrics and chemical tints because of the lack of cotton and insects that produce these natural materials. Solé says that because of this, huipiles are not opaque anymore, as the used to be. Unlike they have bright colors and have become fashionable outfits, with new pieces like the colorful and pretty aprons.

She invites us to go  to this Antigua Guatemala museum, visiting the different saloons where a wide variety of fabrics and textiles are shown; from shirts, pants, scarves, table mats, and decorative pieces, to fabrics with original designs that are made from threads and a weaver.

María René de Aguilar, General Director of the Ixchel Museum of Indian Costume, comments that what what attracts tourist the most about the traditional Antigua Guatemala costumes are the colors, the art of embroidery, and the symbols that represent each figure depending  the local’s hometown: “Each town is identified with its own suit. They are similar from one another, but with certain details or pieces that differ from each other”, De Aguilar says.


Stig Marstein, a tourist from Norway that lived in Antigua Guatemala for seven weeks, says that what he likes about this costumes is that they are very colorful and 100% handmade, and also that they come in so many variations: “It is interesting and fascinating that people can take up to six months to make a piece of the costume, because the clothes have many symbols, pictures or images that represent the owner’s home place”, he says.

The costumes are changing over time and most of them have evolved since the nineteenth century until now, but they are still as colorful and nice as before. De Aguilar agrees with our other sources that say that what attracts the visitor the most  is the color, the small details, and the bliss of the Guatemalans for having  this kind of costumes as part of our culture in Antigua Guatemala and in all Guatemala.

Glendy Lissette Gómez, a woman that has been working in the crafts market for three years, invites all the tourists that visit Antigua Guatemala, to go to the market, located in front of the Cathedral, in the other side of the central park: “We invite you to see our beautiful costumes, 100% handmade. You can admire all the embroidery, with so many details, that makes the suit very special and of top quality”.

After reading this article, you may be interested in buying one of the traditional costumes from Antigua Guatemala. The daily outfit consisting of a blouse, skirt (named corte),and a belt; and the ceremonial outfit consisting of a longer blouse, skirt (corte), a belt, and a headpiece, can cost around Q3,000 to Q6,000 (US$350-$750), but you can find some beautiful ones cheaper and simpler.

Solé explains that each costume tells a story. The weaver makes the costume story and knows exactly the meaning of each symbol in it: birds, flowers, leaves, human figures … each object sends a message. In the museum of Indian Costume in Antigua Guatemala, all the costumes  have an interesting story andare part of a collection. Youcan rent them for exhibitions but they are not for sale.


But if you want to get some for you own, you can buy these magical costumes in the craft marketvisible from the Alameda of Santa Lucía, near the monument to Rafael Landívar where they sell the different pieces from the different regions; and also in shopping stores in Antigua Guatemala. What are you waiting for!


Churches and Convents of Antigua Guatemala

Visiting Antigua Guatemala is like stepping into a time-machine that takes you back over 300 years. This city is decorated with remarkable old buildings. It is curious to find so many religious buildings between short distances from one another, but there is a difference in each building. Antigua Guatemala has a variety of them.

Antigua Guatemala used to be the main city of Central America. It is possibly the most important touristic center in Guatemala. It was founded by the Spanish in the sixteenth century and served as the capital city of Central America for over two centuries. That is why the region’s architecture has a European style from the colonial times. You definitely don’t want to miss the amazing churches in Antigua Guatemala. Many of them had been damaged because of the seismic activity of the region that was regularly rocked by earthquakes because it is located between three volcanoes: Agua, Fuego, and Acatenango. 

The chapels are small temples designed especially to the meetings of the members of an order or congregation, not for public access. The oratorios are more private, used to have a special place to pray and celebrate mass, always with the permission of the Catholic Church. A parish is a church for a specific group in a geographical area, where the sacraments are administered. And the last term we will define is Cathedral: this is the main church that brings together administrative functions for the parishes and churches in Antigua Guatemala.


Between Churches and Convents

Some of the well-known convents and churches in Antigua Guatemala you should visit and explore, are:


Santo Domingo Convent

Santo Domingo was the first convent of the city. Its edification was in 1529 by Fray Domingo de Betanzos. In 1550 the professorship of Theology was establish in this place.


San Francisco Convent

It was the second convent. Its story began in 1530, and in 1540 the convent was already well-known by everyone in town. In the second half of the twentieth century it is given the authority to become the Archdiocesan Shrine of Hermano Pedro.


Nuestra Señora de Belén Convent​

It was founded by Pedro of San José de Betancurt in 1653. The place was small and very humble, used to attend sick homeless people. The founder was devoted especially to indoctrinate young people and years after, he built a church. This was the beginning of the Order of Betlemitas.


Nuestra Señora de la Merced Convent-Church​

This was the third convent, from the congregation named the mercedarios. They began to establish monasteries throughout the Kingdom of Guatemala. Inside this convent-church is preserved an image of Jesus Christ with the Cross, which is considered one of the most beautiful images in the country and attracts a large numbers of churchgoers every year.


Church and Convent of la Compañía de Jesús​

It was built in 1561, but his formal temple opened in 1626. Inside the church, important cultural events such as exhibitions of painting, sculpture and photography, take place. It has become a part of the itinerary of many visitors of Antigua Guatemala.


San Juan de Dios Convent​

It was founded in 1636 by religious who attended hospitals to treat, at separate locations, Spanish patients, mulattos, Indians and other members of the church.


House of the Congregation of the Oratory of San Felipe de Neri

It was founded in the chapel of Vera Cruz. This temple was named San Miguel, where was founded the School of Christ years after.


Church and convent of Las Capuchinas​

It is located in 2nd Avenue North and 2nd East Street, and it is open from 9 am to 5 pm very day of the week. It was abandoned after being destroyed in the earthquake of 1773. It restoration began in 1943 and it is still under repair today. The convent’s foundation dates to 1726, an art work from architect Diego de Porres. There are beautiful fountains and courtyards flanked by sturdy stone pillars with arches and bougainvilleas flowers around, that are the center of attention of many tourists and photographers. It is certainly the most elegant of the convents of Antigua Guatemala.


Church and convent La Recolección​

located on La Recolección Avenue, this large church built between 1701 and 1715 was very damaged in 1717 in the same year it was inaugurated. The earthquake of 1773 finished with the construction and it has lain in ruins ever since. Before it was destroyed, the construction was very big, and it’s sacristy exceeded the size of any other church in Antigua Guatemala.

Antigua Guatemala has more than 30 monastic orders, and built stunning monasteries, convents and cathedrals in the town. These buildings make Antigua Guatemala one of the world’s best conserved colonial cities. The churches and ruins of Antigua Guatemala you will have the opportunity to visit are magical and captivating art works that makes you feel time might have stopped some 300 years ago. From its colonial architecture to its beautiful surroundings, when visiting Antigua Guatemala churches and convents, you will experience the splendors of ancient times.

Angel Arturo Miranda, member of the Cathedral Reconstruction Patronage of Antigua, says that he and group of people from Antigua Guatemala decided to form the patronage because of the constant destructions that the churches in Antigua Guatemala suffered after the earthquakes occurred in the place: “Since 1985, the Cathedral of Antigua Guatemala was in a very poor condition, like every other building. That is why we created the patronage to take care of this historic building. Since that time, the cathedral is in a very good condition and people come to Mass every week. We changed the floor, the walls are painted, it has electricity, sculptures are painted with 18 ct, among other improvements we have made”, he added.

And for the visitors, Wilfredo Moreira, Supervisor of the Tourism Police, says that ruins, convents, and churches in Antigua Guatemala are constantlymonitored by the police and the security agents that prevent robberies of the art works. Moreira also comments: “If tourists are going to visit a ruin or a church, they can asks us to go with them in the tour, and we can arrange the activity”.

If you enjoy going back in time and feel the ancient cultures inside your veins, you have to visit this city. An amazing place to learn the history of Guatemala, and the great architecture that this place can show you with its churches and monasteries, without forgetting the beautiful cathedral located at one side of the central park of Antigua Guatemala.

After reading this article, I hope you feel like visiting the antique art works located in Antigua Guatemala and enjoy an unforgettable stroll between churches and convents…