Guatemala City is the capital of Guatemala and carries the official name of Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción. It is the seat of the government of the Republic of Guatemala and also of the Central American Parliament. Guatemala City is located in the central south of the country. The city together with its suburbs counts for the biggest agglomeration in Central America. Nevertheless, Guatemala City is also known for its many green areas and is surrounded by six volcanoes.
The modern city and its constructions are encircling the the ancient Mayan town Kaminaljuyú. In the 20th century the city grew around, and sometimes even over, the ruins. Today Kaminaljuyú is a protected archeological park inside Guatemala City. The city was founded in 1620 and was a small town during the Spanish colonization. In 1775, it was declared as the new capital of Guatemala, as the old capital – Antigua de Guatemala – was destroyed by an earthquake. The architecture of the city is shaped by the neo-classical style from the 19th century. It was not until the revolution in 1944 that the urban development begun and more modern and high rise buildings were constructed.
Guatemala City is divided into different zones. The most interesting zones for tourists are the zones 1 and 2, which can be seen as the old town of the city with mostly neo-classical buildings from the 19th century. Further zones interesting for tourists are the zones 9 and 10, which are the new center of Guatemala city with modern architecture, skyscrapers and shopping malls. Many museums and the artisan market can be found in zone 13 and the archeological park Kaminaljuyú is situated in zone 7.
The historic center of Guatemala City extends through the zones 1, 2 and 3. It is frequented by backpackers for its budget hostels and cheap restaurants. Here you can find important buildings and churches in neo-classical, baroque, eclectic and Art Nouveau styles. Standing on the Plaza Constitucional , you will be impressed by the historical buildings, like the Spanish baroque and renaissance style Palacio Nacional de la Cultura and the cathedral of Guatemala City. Close by are also the central market and the shopping street ‘Sexta Avenida’. You will find the stunning Mapa en Relieve, a relief map of Guatemala in zone 2. Walking towards zone 4, you will reach the Civic Center (Centro Civico) with the town hall, the Banco de Guatemala and the Social Security building with mural paintings of the Guatemalan artist Carlos Mérida.
Zone 10 is also called ‘Zona Viva’ for its many bars and restaurants. Here you will find more modern and high rise buildings. If you are up for some western-style shopping, you can immerse yourself in the huge Oakland shopping mall. Also the museums about Mayan Textiles Ixchel and the Museum Popol Vuh are located in zone 10. Zone 9 is seen as the new city center and financial district, with modern constructions and many bank buildings. In contrast to the historic center, the streets are broad and wide in the newer zones. On Sundays you can enjoy the typical ‘Paseo y Pedales’ on the Avenida de las Américas, when the whole streets gets blocked and is only open for pedestrians, bikers, inline skaters and jugglers.
You can reach Guatemala City by airplane, the city airport is called La Aurora. Many public buses and shuttles arrive from almost any town and city at one of Guatemala City's bus stations.