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 La Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción: Guatemala City

THE CAPITAL CITY OF GUATEMALA

The capital city was transferred in 1776 to the valley of La Ermita, or Valle de La Virgen as it is also known. La Nueva Guatemala of the Asuncion, which is the official name of the city is still located in this Valley. In this new site, the capital went through outstanding changes, mixes and destruction in its architecture, inhabited since the pre-classic Mayan times when the Mayan centre Kaminal Juyu was very strong in the obsidian trade business in the year 600 A.D. and lagoons where spoting all over the valley.

Monumental public buildings, churches and Homes were constructed under the influence of 22 world arquitectonical styles with predominance of the neoclassic style and the Guatemalan colonial style, which respected the grid layout of the streets and plazas. 

A fantastic new museum was built in the Miraflores area dedicated only to this pre classic Maya site of Kaminal Juyu, also the biggest archaeological national museum is literally full of many remains from all over the country, unfortunately many of them are lying in the museum basement in boxes waiting for better days. Many other museums are located in the historic center of the city which is the place you must visit while in the city.  Also to have some night fun or eat the best place is the new cultural district named 4º. Norte which is located bordering south of the historic center is closed mondays.

Currently, this wide spread metropolis with over two million inhabitants presents a picture of contrasts between the colonial and the neoclassic architecture that combined with "modern" US style buildings at the Zona Viva and which, complemented with its museums and historic monuments, offer the visitors a strong travel experience.

For convenience most tours have their starting point in Guatemala City where the main International Aurora Airport connects the country with the rest of the world and internally with the main points of tourist  interest.

Guatemala City, is a very active and cosmopolitan hub and very important in the country experience, to understand Guatemala you MUST experience "La Ciudad", Guate city has every service that any demanding visitor may expect to find in a business or a pleasure trip. Hotel of several categories are available "El Centro" as part of the zone 1 is call is the real live zone of the city, all political- econonomical changes that influence the country take place here, their streets are a mix of beautiful old houses and modern buildings built by the "old families" are full of life and fighting to survive the municipality attacks against the traditional ways of rescue the historical centers in Mesoamerica. The best prices of the country for artesian goods are in the underground central market,

Many other business are located in the so called "business-residential areas" of zone 10, 9 and 14th  and some other commercial areas in zone 11th which allow the visitor to select what will meet his or her needs best. In fact is hard to distinguish the residential from the commercial areas (if there is any), maybe because the lack of parameters and enforcement of the urban regulations.

The city also has the necessary infrastructure to hold very large conventions and business meetings. A wide variety or restaurants offers a diversity of menus and specialties for the enjoyment of the most demanding palate.

Guatemala’s Capital City offers many cultural activities that are hard to find unless you read the news papers cultural sections. The Civic Center concentrates one of the most modern and attractive architectural complexes of the country build from a military fort of San Jose now call the Miguel Angel Asturias Cultural Center, and in it, the National Theater, dance and musical events are held more or less periodically. Art Galleries, scattered throughout the city, exhibit the art of  national and foreign artists.

Although Guatemala City is an international metropolis, its inhabitants preserve traditions that date back to the time of the Colony, many of them religious events that reach their highest splendor with the processions of Easter Week that are larger then the famous ones of Antigua.

Guatemala City is linked to other cities and tourist attractions through a wide network of paved highways and an efficient service of all kind of buses, taxis and car rental companies. There are banking services almost everywhere.

Yes, Guatemala city is an important start point of your journey and a key stone to understand our culture, unfortunately the historical center has being suffering the attack of modernists oriented authorities (including INGUAT, the central Government  and the municipality) so visit  it and enjoy the remaining old buildings and culture before they are gone and help us protect them from official and civil blindness.

CENTRAL PLAZA OR CONSTITUTION PLAZA

It is in the heart of the Historical Center of Guatemala City, if you at Guate city on Sunday this is the place to visit and enjoy the "Muchachas" from distant indian towns wearing their best expensive typical dresses whyle they are looking for a boyfriend or having an "atol de elote and tostadas", buying "cortes" (Mayan Squirts) or just walking around, a  must see experience if you like to observe the Guatemalan textiles at their peak in variety and  luxury . It was remodeled after the 1976 earthquake, the park was preserved but an underground parking lot was built underneath it, The "Plaza Centerario" is next to it and is the place where the Central American independence was proclaimed in 1821 the original colonial government center was located here and was demolished by Jorge Ubico who wanted to build a neo-classic style building (the actual national palace). It is surrounded by other important monuments, The National Palace has now ceased to be a house of government to become the National Palace of Culture and museum (ID need to enter) , the Metropolitan Cathedral and the Trade Arcade where the famous "El Portalito" bar remembers where the CHE GUEVARA , FIDEL CASTRO and other famous guerrilleros and famous people use to have drinks, also the  Bohemian Bar call "las cien puertas" are located. Close by, the "Biblioteca Nacional y Hemeroteca Nacional", the  Library and the General Archive of Central America. Many important political events, revolutions, the peace treaties signature and demonstrations have take place here.

 

NATIONAL PALACE OF CULTURE: 

This is one of the most important achievements of last century Guatemala’s architecture (Specially for the price paid). Its eclectic style is a combination of colonial architecture with French and neo-classic influence. It covers 8,860 square meters and is made of concrete and brick covered by an artificial green stone.  Its construction was ordered in 1939 by President Jorge Ubico to Rafael Perez de Leon. It was completed in 1943. The best expressions of the Guatemalan artist of the forties are seen here, in the murals by Alfredo Galvez Suarez, that tell the history of pre-hispanic Guatemala to the time of the Independence, the stained-glass windows by Julio Urruela-Vasquez and his collaborators Guillermo Grajeda Mena, Dagoberto Vasquez, Robeto Gonzalez-Goyri and decorations by Rodolfo Galeotti Torres and Carlos Rigalt. The National Palace of Culture is open to visitors from 8.00 am to 3.00 pm.

 

METROPOLITAN CATHEDRAL 

It was built between 1782 and 1815 shelters may artistic treasures that were originally in the Cathedral of Antigua Guatemala. The Cathedral has lived through three earthquakes, in 1830,1917 and 1976. Worth seeing are the altars to both sides of the central aisle, that  still preserve many of the images of Saints and relics of the churches in Antigua Guatemala brought here when the cathedral was transferred to Guatemala City. These altars present a clear contrast with the austerity of the rest of the construction. To one side is the Palace of the Archbishop, see of the highest hierarchy where there are currently several church departments located.  

CENTRAL MARKET (best prices and variety IN THE COUNTRY)

The Underground Market was constructed over the old one after the 1976 earthquake destroyed it. All kinds of handicrafts may be found here (carved wood, items in leather and metal, textiles, silverware, ceramic, paints and MANY others). The Market also sells fresh fruit, vegetables, grains and meat and it is a dining place for people who live and work in its surroundings. It is open to the public from 7.00 am to 6.00 pm and Sunday from 6.00 am to 12.00 noon.

RELIEF MAP (Do not miss it)

The Map is in zone 2, at the Hipodromo del Norte, close to the Minerva base ball park. It was built in 1904 under the direction of Francisco Vela imagine to build it now without the help of any satellite pictures or planes, the guy walked during 5 years by mule to get all the topographic data to  build it. Is unique in the world due its 2000 square meters area. The map shows the country (All the country including the stolen Belize) at a 1:1000 scale in 40 by 80 meter complex and includes the topography of Guatemala and its geographic accidents and villages, will give you a good idea why a 30 mile distance in Guatemala is NOT a short drive. It may be seen from two towers that are strategically located. It is made of masonry and concrete and has as special hydraulic system able to simulate the rivers of the country. Public buses 1, 45 and 46 take you from the 5th avenue in zone 1 also the "GUSANOS" the red long buses from Avenida las Americas y Reforma Avenue and from the zone 11. Hours: 9.00 am to 5.00 pm  Admission: $2.00 or walk 2 miles north on 6 ave all the way in zone 1. from the national palace 

 

CHURCHES

Many Catholic churches are located in zone 1 and offer interesting sample of neo-classic architecture. The works of art of the XVI and XIX century may be admired inside. Outstanding for their sculpture and artistic works are: La Merced (a must see), located on 11th avenue and 5th street, of the neoclassic style and home perhaps some of the richest altar-pieces and colonial furniture and other assets. Capuchinas, of baroque style, is famous for its altar-pieces, carved figures and paintings. It is located at 10th avenue and  10th street zone 1. San Francisco is the church where the image of the Virgin of Conception is venerated and commemorated on December 8.  It is an Italian neo-classic building and famous for its main altar and the image of  Christ. Santo Domingo, is a Basilica and is dedicated to the Virgin of the Rosary venerated during the month of October. The church has paintings by famous Zurbaran among its treasures. It is located at number 10-09 of 12th avenue in zone 1. The Cerrito del Carmen Church is considered a historic jewel because it was the first church built in the Ermita Valley, in 1620. Its altar-piece, dedicated to the Virgin of El Carmen, is very famous. The entire hill where the church rises is being refurbished.

 

CIVIC CENTER 

The Civic Center is a set of buildings constructed between the 50’s and 60’s and includes: The Supreme Court of Justice, The Ministry of Public Finance, City Hall, The Social Security, The Bank of Guatemala, The National Mortgage Bank and the Guatemalan Tourism Commission. The Bank of Guatemala house a library and its exterior is decorated with high relief mural by Dagoberto Vasquez describing the history of the Country. Both, City Hall and Social Security buildings are decorated with a mosaic by Carlos Merida.

 

MIGUEL ANGEL ASTURIAS CULTURAL CENTER

This complex was designed by Efrain Recinos, an artist as well as Engineer. It is worth seeing both because of its location from west to east, visitors can admire the city from a singular point  and enjoy its beautiful modernist architecture. The complex has a Grand Theater with 2068 seats, a Chamber Theater and an Open-air Theater, plazas, rehearsal rooms, workshops and conference rooms as well as an old arms museum.  

 

BOTANICAL GARDEN:

The Botanical Garden is located on La Reforma Avenue and has thousands of different local flora species also reptiles and fossils. Most of them are properly identified with their scientific and their common name. This is a nice relaxing visit. Address: Avenida la Reforma 0-63 zona 10 Phone numbers    2331-0904 and 2334-6064
Hours:  monday to saturday from 8.30 am to 15.30 pm.
Entrance fee     Q 10.00

 

POPOL VUH MUSEUM:

If you have an interest in Mayan and Colonial art you should not miss this museum, where you can see a valuable collection of pre-Hispanic art (sculpture in stone, polychrome ceramic, incensories, and burial chambers). In addition, there es a colonial art section and a folklore section the exhibits indigenous clothing and traditional dance masks and ask to project the videos. A visit to the museum is truly a must in Guatemala City. Address: 6ª Calle final Campus Universidad Francisco Marroquin Zona 10 Phone numbers     23612301  23612321  23612311.
Hours: Monday to friday from 9.00am to 5.00 pmSaturday 9.00 am to 1.00pm
Entrance fee  Q 20.00 Adults   Q 6.00 Children

 

IXCHEL MUSEUM OF MAYAN COSTUMES

This museum opened in 1973 as a non-profit private organization (ONG) And its name was inspired in Ixchel, de Mayan goddess of fertility and of weaving in the pre-Hispanic era. The museum has a vast collection of textiles dating back to the end of the last century to our days, which come from approximately 120 communities, most of them in the highlands. The museum keeps two permanent collections of paintings: That of Carmen Pettersen, consisting of 61 water-color paintings illustrating the regional costumes of the Mayas and that of Andres Curruchiche, a Mayan-Kakchiquel artist from Comalapa, with 48 oleos. Address  6ª calle final campus Universidad Francisco Marroquin  Zona 10 Phones 2331-3739   2331-3638  2331-3622 Hours:  Monday to friday from 8.00 am to 5.30 pm. Entrance fee Q 20.00.

 

LA AURORA NATIONAL ZOO 

The Zoo opened its doors to the public in 1925. It is home to a large number of native animals and from other regions in the world. It was recently remodeled and walking trough it is very pleasant. Address: Blvd. Liberacion zona 13 Finca Nacional La Aurora Phone numbers        2475 0894  2472 0507. Hours Tuesday to Sunday from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm. Entrance fee         Q 8.00 adults     Q 3.00 Children

 

ARCHEOLOGY AND ETHNOLOGY MUSEUM (Do not miss it)

This Museum is locate in an area where there are other museums, (Natural History, Modern Art and History museums) in zone 13, at Finca La Aurora. The Archeology and Ethnology Museum exhibits part of the legacy of the Mayan Culture, from objects of jade and obsidian to ceramic, stelae and tombs of royalty. It has many pieces, many of them of a very high value for their quality and age. Address:  Finca Nacional La Aurora, zone 13. Phone number:   472 0489
HoursTuesday to Friday from 9.00 am to 4.00 pm
Saturday and Sunday 9.00 am to 12.00n. and  1.30 to 4.00 pm Entrance feeQ 30.00

 

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF MODERN ART

This museum exhibits contemporary Guatemalan art, particularly Painting and sculpture. In it you can see the work of one of Guatemala’s most famous painters, Carlos Merida. Address            Finca Nacional la Aurora z. 13 Edif # 6. Phone number  472-0467 Hours Tuesday to Friday from 9.00 am to 4.00 pm. Saturday and Sunday 9.00 to 1.00 pm and 2.00, 4.00 pm.
Entrance fee Q 10.00

 

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY

This museum has a rich collection of dissected animals from different regions of the country. It also has an ecological library for children. Address:  6ª calle 7-30 zona 13
Phone number472 0468. Hours Tuesday to Friday from 9 am to 4pm.
Saturday and Sunday 9 am to 1 pm and 2pm to 4.00pm
Entrance fee:  Q 10.00, Sunday the entrance is free.

 

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF HISTORY 

The museum shelters the riches photographic collection of the history of Guatemala. In addition, you will be able to see the invaluable furniture and political documents. If you want to take a look at the history of the city since the independence in 1821, this is the right place to go.
Address: 9th street 9-70 zone 1. Phone number2536149. Hours Tuesday to Friday from 9.00am to 4.00 pm. Entrance fee: Q10

 

KAMINAL JUYU (Go if you can)

This is a Mayan archeological site of the pre classic period and a monument to the idiotic Guatemalans who destroy and keep destroying it building houses and malls in top of the only known first class Mayan center over 1000 meters of altitude  . It is located in zone 7 of Guatemala City, on 23rd Avenue of the Roosevelt Road. Here you will be able to admire sculpture, ceramic and works of engineering and architecture, The city never had a fortification to surround it. During its peak it had a population of 50,000 inhabitants but because our cultural blindness and of the type of material used to build its temples (mud bricks with pomes stones) and other constructions, little remains to be seen today but worth to see before disappears totally . Address Colonia Kaminal Juyu zona 7. Phone number: 2232 5571. Hours Monday to Sunday from 9.00 am to 4.00 pm
Entrance fee  Q 25.00

 

HANDICRAFT MARKET

This market opened to the public in 1974 with the purpose of preserving and promoting traditional handicrafts: Textiles, and accessories, ceramics, natural fibers, jewelry, wood and leather, among other things. Occasionally, marimba and folkloric dance presentations are offered.
Address: Airport Blvd.
Zone 13, Finca Nacional la Aurora. Hours: Monday to Saturday 9.30 am to 6.00 pm.
Sunday 9.3 am to 2.00 pm. Entrance fee: FREE.

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