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Nestled in the mountains, Guatemala City is a bustling urban centre that is an intriguing destination. Guatemala’s capital is rich with historic sites and close to amazing natural areas such the four volcanoes that pierce its skyline. One of its interesting features is the diversity of its inhabitants. Visitors are fascinated by the linguistic richness here; 21 different Mayan dialects may be heard on the streets and in the markets. Thanks to the improved transport system, the historic centre is within easy reach of Guatemala City hotels for the convenience of travellers and the city’s inhabitants alike. Modern metro stations link up with public buses that travel on dedicated lanes. Fare is one quetzal, about 12 cents. Taxis are generally available too, but microbuses are by far the easiest way of getting around the metropolitan area and beyond. The best hotels in Guatemala City can arrange transport on a private microbus with hotel pick-up and drop-off, allowing for carefree sightseeing.

Historical sites in Guatemala City

An exploration of the fascinating historic city centre begins with Metropolitana cathedral, an imposing neoclassical cathedral that has withstood a number of earthquakes. The structure itself is simple compared with the ornately decorated altars. The 12 pillars at the entrance bear the names of those who disappeared in the country’s 36-year civil war, which lasted between 1960 and 1996. Next door is the Palacio Nacional de la Cultura, once government offices and now a museum. Completed in 1943, the imposing building is a blend of earlier architectural styles from Spanish colonial to neoclassical. A two-ton crystal and gold chandelier hangs from the ceiling of the reception hall and a mural by Alberto Gálvez Suárez depicting Guatemalan history adorns the main stairway. After contemplating the country’s troubled history, visitors can come back to the present with a stroll along the newly developed Sixth Street pedestrian way, and find charming local handicrafts such as pottery, textiles, leather goods and baskets at the Central Market.

Mayan history

The city is home to several Mayan sites. One of the best is Museo Ixchel del Traje Indigena, close to the best hotels in Guatemala City. It has colourful examples of indigenous textiles and clothing on view, many in images showing scenes of everyday life. Mannequins dressed in the brilliant colours and intricate textures of traditional clothing make the textiles come to life in absorbing displays. Another glimpse into Mayan heritage lies farther afield in the city’s suburbs. At Parque Arqueológico Kaminaljuyú, sightseers can explore the remnants of a vast ancient city. Most of the ruins are now covered by urban development, which says a lot about the complex history of Guatemala City.