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Guatemala City

Depending on who you talk to, Guatemala City (or Guate as it's also known) is either big, dirty, dangerous and utterly forgettable, or big, dirty, dangerous and utterly fascinating. Either way, there's no doubt there's an energy here unlike anywhere else in Guatemala. It's a place where dilapidated buses belch fumes next to BMWs and Hummers, and where skyscrapers drop shadows on shantytowns.

Guate is busy reinventing itself as a people-friendly city. Downtown Zona 1, for years a no-go zone of abandoned buildings and crime hot spots, is leading the way with the pedestrianized 6a Calle attracting bars, cafes and restaurants.

Many travelers skip the city altogether, preferring to make Antigua their base. Still, you may want, or need, to get acquainted with the capital, because this is the hub of the country, home to the best museums and galleries, transport hubs and other traveler services.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Guatemala City.