Nestled in the mountains, Guatemala City is a fascinating tourist destination with a lively city centre. Guatemala's capital is rich in historical sites and close to amazing natural areas, such as the four volcanoes that punctuate the skyline. One of its most interesting features is the diversity of its inhabitants. Travellers are fascinated by the linguistic richness of the city, as up to 21 different Mayan dialects can be heard on the streets and in the markets. Thanks to an improved transport system, the historic centre is easily accessible from the hotels in Guatemala City, for the convenience of travellers and residents alike. Modern metro stations connect with public buses that travel on dedicated lanes. The fare is one quetzal, just twelve euro 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 by private microbus with pick-up and drop-off at the hotel, allowing for carefree sightseeing.
An exploration of the fascinating historic centre begins at the Metropolitana Cathedral, an imposing neoclassical building that has survived several earthquakes. The structure itself is simple compared to the richly decorated altars. The 12 pillars at the entrance bear the names of those who disappeared during the country's 36-year civil war, which lasted from 1960 to 1996. Next door is the Palacio Nacional de la Cultura, once government offices and now a museum. Completed in 1943, this impressive building is a blend of architectural styles, from Spanish colonial to neoclassical. A two-tonne crystal and gold chandelier hangs from the ceiling of the reception hall, and a mural by Alberto Gálvez Suárez depicting Guatemala's history adorns the main staircase. After contemplating the country's troubled history, visitors can return to the present with a stroll along the newly developed pedestrian area on Sixth Street, and find charming local handicrafts such as pottery, textiles, leather goods and baskets at the Central Market.
The city is home to several sites related to Mayan culture. One of the best is the Museo Ixchel del Traje Indígena, close to the best hotels in Guatemala City. The museum has many examples of indigenous textiles and clothing on display, and images showing scenes of everyday life. Mannequins dressed in the vibrant colours and intricate textures of traditional clothing make the textiles come to life in captivating exhibits. Another glimpse into Mayan heritage lies further afield in the city’s suburbs. At the Parque Arqueológico Kaminaljuyú, visitors 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.