In 2021, I lived in Guatemala City for almost the entire year and I spent a lot of time in nearby Antigua. For those who don’t know Antigua, it has been rated by some travel sites, including Travel & Leisure, as the #1 city to visit in Latin America in 2021. It’s hard to imagine a better place than this!
Antigua is an old Spanish colonial city that dates back to the 1500s. However, in 1773, after a massive volcanic eruption, earthquake, and flood, the Spanish forced all residents to abandon the city. They moved the capital of this region to about fifty miles away, where Guatemala City is located today. Antigua was left in ruins for more than a century. However, some began returning to Antigua in the late 19th and early 20th century, and many of the buildings, homes, and churches began to be restored and revitalized. It might be why so many expats from the United States, Canada, and Europe make their home here today alongside the locals.
Today, there is a great respect for the historic buildings and it is such a neat place with a mix of modern amenities (and of course cars and motorcycles traversing the cobblestone streets). But for most, after arriving in Antigua by Uber, taxi, or shuttle, you can walk around just about the entire place. It is very safe, day or night. There are also so many great places to eat. I keep finding more on every visit back. So, this list below is not exhaustive. And I don’t mean to leave other places out that I’m sure are also great, but I simply may not have visited. This is simply a compilation of ten places that you should find really great on your first (or next) visit to Antigua.
- Restaurante Welten: We took our travel group here on the inaugural Fearless Journeys group trip. The food and service was incredible. They also poured some amazing cocktails for us too. We sat outside by the pool and the ambiance was lovely. On another night, some friends and I sat at an indoor table and the decor is just great. You also might get serenaded by a musician, like we did (be prepared to make a song request and tip!) Most of the food on the menu is just fantastic, but what really stood out here was the service, especially when we had the larger group. There is probably a reason this place has been in business since 1983.
- Como Como: This is a Belgian-style restaurant owned by a lovely woman from Belgium. Again, the food is incredible. The service can sometimes be slow, but in a European sort of way. The ambiance of sitting out in the courtyard is great and every course you order is sure to be fantastic. The beef stew really surprised me on my first visit here as did the chocolate mousse! What’s also interesting is I have had many friends who visited Guatemala well ahead of me that always recommend this place, not knowing I have been there quite a few times.
- Caoba Farms: This is my go-to place in Antigua. It’s not open every day (I believe they are closed on Mondays and sometimes on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, depending on the time of year). It’s also not open for dinner. I go here for lunch every time I’m in Antigua. The food is great, the service is incredible, but it’s mostly the unique atmosphere you come here for. You eat in a garden setting and it is literally a farm-to-table restaurant, as the farm is located just behind the restaurant and you can walk around parts of the farm and nursery. On the weekends, it is hopping with a live band as well as vendors that come and set up in a mini-farmers market style. There is also a nice market on property to take home some food items, which always make great gifts. The Fearless Journeys group trip came here and dined with the owner, Alex. A very friendly place run by great people. While the buffalo burger is a crowd favorite (and one of my go-to orders here), I’ve also had many other tiems including a Mediterranean plate as well as some delicious lamb. The sides include amazing garden vegetables, potatoes, and more! About 75% of the food served here is grown right here at Caoba Farms.
- Bistrot Cinq: This is a French-style restaurant (hence the name). It has one of the best burgers I’ve had in Guatemala and one of my friends claimed that he ate the best calamari there he’s ever eaten. At night, it can be a little dark, but not as dark as they used to make the restaurant. It’s a great atmosphere. You can sit at a table or bar. It’s a fairly small (yet cozy) place, in the heart of Antigua. So if you’re there on a busy weekend, you may want to get there early or contact them ahead of time to make a reservation.
- Hector’s Bistro: I really liked this place. The food was great, but also a bit on the pricey side for Antigua. However, if you want a nice meal, this is the place. It has a very large interior courtyard and even a bar as well as a little “library” where they told me you are welcome to sit and enjoy some cocktails. I feel like it could be a nice place to also enjoy during the day, but I have only been here in the evening. They also have plenty of room for big groups.
- Caffe Mediterraneo: This is a very small Italian place, but I’ve never seen it too busy. However, it may be because it’s a little more on the pricey side for Antigua. I have been here for both lunch and dinner. The food menu is limited and changes daily and is written on a board above the kitchen that overlooks the restaurant. The owner has been there every time I have eaten there and he speaks great English. If you appear to be an English speaker, he’ll probably be the one to come over and give you a run down of the menu. The food is really top notch, including pasta, salads, desert, and wine.
- Epicure: This has become one of my favorite lunch spots. I also do not think they are open for dinner. They may have the best pizza in Guatemala. You can get the pizza with two meats and three other toppings (vegetables and things like garlic). It’s perfectly filling if you have an appetite. It's also very moderately priced. They also have many other things on the menu, including Italian dishes, but I almost always go for the pizza. There is a nice quiet and beautiful interior courtyard. To get there, you also pass through their bakery and food market, where you can pick up coffee, pastries, and other items. Nice place to find some gifts (especially coffee!) I’ve also popped in here a time or two for simply a coffee or espresso.
- Skal Viking Bar & Restaurant: I have enjoyed some sandwiches here as well as a great meatloaf plate (both times for lunch!) in a place which is part of an interior courtyard with other restaurants to eat at. Almost think of it like a “food court” – so if others in your party don’t want to eat the food from Skal (but why wouldn't they?), they may find something else. You can sit together in the courtyard. It’s also not a bad place to sit and get some work done while enjoying sandwiches, coffee, or beer. While it has the “Viking” brand, I believe the owner is Canadian and it attracts plenty of expats and digital nomads.
- Tartines: This place had good food (mostly French style) but the best part was the view. Depending on the time of year, you might be able to catch a nice sunset if you’re able to get a table on the top deck. It’s a very small place and they recommend you contact them ahead of time for reservations. It is situated just off the central plaza in Antigua.
- SNUG Antigua: An Irish dive bar and restaurant. They have good pub food here and usually Guinness on tap. They also have a rooftop which is open to smokers, so it was nice to come here, get some food and smoke a cigar afterwards (you have to bring your own smokes of course!) In the evening, I’ve heard they sometimes have live music or at least some tunes on the speakers, but I’ve only been there for lunch. I’ve also heard from some locals that they have a pretty good brunch menu as well. And it’s an Irish bar, so you’ll likely meet some interesting people!