Iglesia Merced

Top choice in Antigua

At the northern end of 5a Av is La Merced – a striking yellow building trimmed with white plaster filigree. Its facade is one of the most beautiful in Guatemala The squat, thick-walled structure was built to withstand earthquakes, and three centuries after its construction it remains in good shape. Only the church is still in use; a candlelit procession, accompanied by bell ringing and firecrackers, starts and ends here on the last Thursday evening of each month.

Inside the monastery ruins is a fountain 27m in diameter, said to be the largest in Hispanic America. It's in the shape of a water lily (traditionally a symbol of power for the Maya), and lily motifs also appear on the church's entrance arch. Go upstairs for a bird's-eye view of the fountain and the town.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Antigua attractions

1. Arco de Santa Catalina


The Arco de Santa Catalina is Antigua's most iconic monument, and an early-morning or late-afternoon photo opportunity framing Volcán Agua through its…

2. Convento de Santa Teresa


Until recently the city prison, this edifice was initially built as a convent for the Carmelite order from Lima, Peru. Much of the interior was shattered…

3. La Antigua Galería de Arte

0.19 MILES

Displaying works by more than 70 Guatemalan artists in the halls and patio of a colonial mansion, Antigua's premier art gallery merits an extended visit…

4. Iglesia El Carmen

0.22 MILES

The church is not open to the public, but the partially destroyed facade with its multiple carved columns is a marvel. What we see today is what's left of…

5. Convento de Capuchinas

0.23 MILES

Inaugurated in 1736 by nuns from Madrid, the convent of Las Capuchinas was seriously damaged by the 1773 earthquake and thereafter abandoned. Thanks to…

7. Colegio de San Jerónimo

0.24 MILES

Completed in 1757, the Colegio de San Jerónimo was used as a school by friars of the Merced order, but because it did not have royal authorization, it was…

8. Museo del Libro Antiguo

0.27 MILES

The fascinating Museo del Libro Antiguo showcases the greatest hits of the early days of Guatemalan printing, plus a replica of Guatemala's first printing…