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Shopping in Guatemala City

You can find almost anything you might possibly want or need in Guatemala City. In addition to many modern shopping malls stocked with the latest fashions and electronics, there are a number of department stores for household appliances and cosmetics. For grocery shopping, the local giant is Paiz, which was recently taken over by WalMart. La Torre is also a well-stocked local grocery chain. U.S.-style warehouse shopping is available at PriceSmart or at a number of local chains. Guatemalans love U.S.-made goods, which is easy to see given their wide availability. For organic grocery shopping and natural foods, head to Orgánica (Diagonal 6 16-23 Zona 10, tel. 2363-1819, 9am-7pm Mon.-Sat., and Km. 15.5 Carretera a El Salvador, Condado Concepción Fase 1 Local #21, tel. 6634-7077, 9am-6pm Mon.-Sat.).

Aerial shot of Guatemala City. Photo © Al Argueta.
Aerial shot of Guatemala City. Photo © Al Argueta.

Handicrafts

You can shop the jam-packed stalls in downtown Guatemala City’s Mercado Central (8a Avenida and 6a Calle, 6am-6pm Mon.-Sat., 9am-noon Sun.) for textiles, típica clothing, and leather goods. A safer and more enjoyable option can be found near the airport and Zona 13 museums at the open-air Mercado de Artesanías (Boulevard Juan Pablo II, 8am-6pm Mon.-Sat., 8am-1pm Sun.), with a fairly wide assortment of handicrafts and tourist souvenirs.

Recommended retailers include Lin Canola (5a Calle 9-60 Zona 1, tel. 2232-0858, 9am-6pm Mon.-Fri.), where the assortment varies from home decorative items to jewelry and everything between. This store is especially recommended if you want to buy Guatemalan fabrics by the yard. Its Zona 10 location, In Nola (18 Calle 21-31 Zona 10, Boulevard Los Próceres, tel. 2367-2424, 8:30am-6:30pm Mon.-Fri. and 8:30am-1:30pm Sat.), is more modern and contains much the same in a better part of town.

Selling fashionable adaptations on traditional designs for the home, Textura (Diagonal 6, 13-63 Zona 10, tel. 2367-2098, 9:30am-7pm Mon.-Fri.., 9:30am-2:30pm Sat.) is especially recommended for its beautiful and colorful hammocks.

Guatemalan <em>huipiles</em> are common handicrafts that are often hung in houses and hotels as decor. Photo © Al Argueta.
Guatemalan huipiles are common handicrafts that are often hung in houses and hotels as decor. Photo © Al Argueta.

Art Galleries

If you want to take in the work of local artists, head to Guatemala’s oldest art gallery, Galería El Túnel (16 Calle 1-01 Zona 10, Plaza Obelisco, tel. 2367-3284), featuring the work of more than 100 artists. Another good art gallery worth checking out is el attico (4a Avenida 15-45 Zona 14, tel. 2368-0853). Fundación Rozas Botrán (16 Calle 4-66 Zona 14, tel. 2366-7064) has rotating painting, sculpture, and photography exhibits in its spacious gallery.

Books

For a great atmosphere for unwinding with a cup of coffee or tea and a large selection of books (though mostly in Spanish), try Sophos (Plaza Fontabella, 4a Ave. 12-59 Zona 10, tel. 2419-7070, 9am-8pm Mon.-Sat., 10am-6pm Sun.). Also with plenty of books in Spanish is Artemis Edinter with several locations including Galerías Miraflores, Pradera Concepción, and Oakland Mall.

A number of bookstores cater to the expat community, stocking a variety of English-language books on their shelves. Vista Hermosa Book Shop (2a Calle 18-50, Vista Hermosa II, Zona 15, tel. 2369-1003, 9am-1pm and 2pm-6pm Mon.-Sat.) has books in English and Spanish and is in a quiet residential sector east of Zona 10.

Outdoor Gear

For anything you may have neglected to bring for your outdoor Guatemala adventures, head to Big Mountain (Centro Comercial Miraflores, 2do nivel, Kiosko K-96, tel. 2474-8547, 9am-8pm Mon.-Sun.), offering a good assortment of hiking, climbing, mountain biking, and camping gear, and name-brand outdoor clothing.

Another option for outdoor gear is The North Face (2nd floor of the Oakland Mall, Diagonal 6, 13-01 Zona 10, tel. 2336-6881, 10am-8pm Mon.-Thurs., 10am-9pm Fri.-Sat., 10am-7pm Sun.). There’s also now a location at the Galerías Miraflores shopping mall.


Related Travel Guide

Sights in Guatemala City’s Zona 10

Zona 10 is home to Guatemala City’s most pleasant commercial district, a beautiful example of 19th century architecture, and two excellent museums–one a definite must-see for anyone with even a passing interest in Mayan culture.

Avenida La Reforma

Running between 1a Calle and 20 Calle, Avenida La Reforma is a classic example of the 19th-century trend, common throughout Latin America’s major capitals, of emulating French architectural and urban design with wide, tree-lined boulevards adorned with statues. This broad thoroughfare separates Zonas 9 and 10 and features some of the city’s better hotels, cafés, and restaurants along its path. The wide, grassy median contains some interesting sculptures and makes a great place for a stroll or bike ride thanks to a new bike path running its entire length. La Reforma culminates at the spacious Parque Obelisco, featuring a large obelisk, a gigantic Guatemalan flag, palm trees, a fountain, and sitting areas.

A statue of Nobel Prize laureate Miguel Ángel Asturias on Avenida La Reforma. Photo © Al Argueta.
A statue of Nobel Prize laureate Miguel Ángel Asturias on Avenida La Reforma. Photo © Al Argueta.

Zona Viva

Within Zona 10, east of Avenida La Reforma all the way to 6a Avenida and running north to south from 10a Calle to 16 Calle, the Zona Viva is Guatemala City’s most pleasant commercial district, with a variety of hip cafés, trendy boutiques, lively bars and nightclubs, excellent restaurants, and expensive hotels. It’s Guatemala City at its best and after long periods in the country’s hinterlands, it can be downright refreshing.

Travel map of Zona Viva, Guatemala City
Zona Viva

Unlike in downtown Guatemala City, you’ll find plenty of trees sheltering the streets from the harsh tropical sun in addition to wide, pedestrian-friendly sidewalks. Zona Viva’s many high-rise buildings harbor banks, offices, the bulk of Guatemala City’s international hotel chain properties, and condominiums. None of these buildings is more than 20 stories high, as the airport’s proximity limits vertical expansion of the adjacent areas, giving the neighborhood a cosmopolitan feel without the claustrophobic concrete-jungle look found in larger international cities. Interspersed between office buildings are the area’s many dining and entertainment options and tucked away into the side streets are some of Guatemala’s nicest residences sheltered behind walls, barbed wire, and bougainvillea.

During the day, Zona Viva’s streets are mostly the haunt of businesspeople because of the area’s prominence as the city’s main financial district. By night, especially on weekends, it becomes the enclave of young folks heading to bars and nightclubs or dinner at a fancy restaurant. If you find yourself needing to spend a night or two in Guatemala City, you might make it a very enjoyable experience by checking into one of the area’s attractive boutique or international chain hotels, eating at one of the recommended local restaurants, and taking in one or several of the nearby museums. The recent addition of a hostel to the area’s accommodations means this is no longer just an option for wealthy travelers. It is also conveniently close to the airport.

Museo Ixchel

Museo Ixchel in Guatemala City.
Museo Ixchel in Guatemala City. Photo © Clau.mrossal (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

The city’s most magnificent museum, Museum Ixchel (6a Calle Final Zona 10, tel. 2361-8081/2, 9am-5pm Mon.-Fri., 9am-1pm Sat., $4 adults, $2 students, $15-80 for guided tours in English) on the grounds of the Francisco Marroquín University, is dedicated to Mayan culture with an emphasis on weaving and traditional costumes. It’s housed in a beautiful brick building built to resemble a Mayan huipil, or handwoven, embroidered blouse. On display are pre-Hispanic objects, photographs, handwoven fabrics, ceremonial costumes, weaving tools, and folk paintings by Guatemalan artist Andrés Curruchich. You’ll find interactive multimedia displays, a café, bookstore, and huipiles for sale in the excellent gift shop. Displays are in English and Spanish. This museum is a must-see for anyone with even a casual interest in Mayan weaving, as it manages to condense the country’s rich weaving heritage spanning a fairly vast geographical range into a single place with excellent displays and an attractive setting.

Museo Popol Vuh

Next door and also on the university campus is the similarly high-caliber Museo Popol Vuh (tel. 2361-2301, 9am-5pm Mon.-Fri., 9am-1pm Sat., $4 adults, $2 students). Started in 1978 with a university donation by private collectors, it has been in its current location since 1997. The museum houses an impressive collection from Guatemala’s archaeological record grouped in different rooms denoted by Preclassic, Classic, Postclassic, and Colonial themes. The highlight is in the Postclassic room with a replica of the Dresden Codex, one of only three Mayan books to survive their postconquest burning by the Spanish (the other two are the Paris Codex and the Madrid Codex).


Related Travel Guide

Guatemala City Golfing

Alta Vista Golf and Tennis Club offers one of Guatemala's most challenging courses. Photo © Al Argueta.
Alta Vista Golf and Tennis Club offers one of Guatemala’s most challenging courses. Photo © Al Argueta.

Fans of golf will find some excellent golf courses in and around the city; those within private country clubs are usually still open to visitors. You can enjoy a round of golf surrounded by the country’s spectacular mountain scenery as you play on narrow, sloping fairways lined with pine trees and a variety of other obstacles. Several of sportfishing outfitters have combined fishing and golf packages. If interested, contact The Great Sailfishing Company (tel. 7934-6220, or 877/763-0851 U.S.) or Sailfish Bay Lodge (tel. 2426-3909 direct or 800/638-7405 U.S. reservations). It’s also possible to arrange a round of golf through the concierges at some of the city’s finer hotels, including the Westin Camino Real and InterContinental. Entry to all of these clubs is by prior authorization only. You’ll need to call ahead or email.

In 2006 and 2007, Guatemala City’s San Isidro Golf Club hosted the NGA/Hooter’s Pro Golf Tour, which has become an annual event between the last week of February and the first week of March. Guatemala is also a major stop along the annual Tour de las Américas in February.

Guatemala City’s exclusive Cayalá area is now home to a driving range, the first of its kind in Central America. Top Tee (Boulevard Austríaco 37-01, Arcadia de Cayalá, Zona 16, tel. 2300-0700) has 38 driving stations, TV lounges for watching sports, and a well-stocked bar.

San Isidro Golf Club

Still officially within the city limits in Zona 16, San Isidro Golf Club (Finca San Isidro, Zona 16, tel. 2419-1200) is the city’s most modern and is in a quiet residential section in its eastern extremes. The 18-hole, par-72 course measures 6,640 yards and offers some truly spectacular views of Guatemala City flanked by Agua, Acatenango, and Fuego Volcanoes. Greens fees are $75, clubs rent for $15, a cart rental costs $20, and caddies are $15. The splendid facilities here include a restaurant overlooking the greens featuring a beautiful dining room with vaulted wooden ceiling, a gym, a squash court, and a swimming pool with lap lanes.

Hacienda Nueva Country Club

The 18-hole, 7,100-yard, par-72 golf course at Hacienda Nueva Country Club (Km. 25, Ruta Nacional 18, Carretera a Mataquescuintla, San José Pinula, tel. 6628-1000, $75 Tues.-Fri., $90 weekends and holidays) is just outside the city near Carretera a El Salvador and set beautifully on the grounds of a 16th-century Jesuit monastery. There’s a small chapel with original artwork where Mass is still held weekly. Facilities include nine tennis courts, two squash courts, tennis and golf pro shops, and a swimming pool that has won international design awards. The clubhouse has three dining areas, including a poolside snack bar, a casual dining room serving international dishes, and La Pérgola, an outdoor steakhouse overlooking the 18th hole. Fees include $15 for caddie service and $25 for cart rental. A limited number of golf clubs are available for rental at $15. There are also a driving range and putting green.

Alta Vista Golf and Tennis Club

The most challenging course can be found just down the road from Hacienda Nueva at Alta Vista Golf and Tennis Club (Km. 27, Ruta Nacional 18, Carretera a Mataquescuintla, San José Pinula, tel. 6661-1414, 7am-8pm Tues.-Sun., $75), where the 18-hole, par-71, slope-122 course is divided into two nine-hole sections. Additional challenges include 74 sand traps and two water traps with a route defined by 1,800 trees of varying species, adding a nice alpine touch to the incredible mountain views. The clubhouse is in a large and attractive three-story, English-style building with an elegant restaurant, a bar with pool table, an indoor swimming pool, three squash courts, and six tennis courts. Golf cart rentals cost $30, clubs are $15, and caddies $15.

Mayan Golf Course

South of the city in the neighboring district of Villa Nueva, Mayan Golf Course (Finca El Zarzal, Villa Nueva, tel. 6685-5800, $75) is Guatemala City’s oldest, dating to 1918. The facilities here feel somewhat dated but have been well maintained. The 18-hole, par-72 golf course has exquisite views of Lake Amatitlán and Pacaya Volcano along its 7,092-yard length. Rental clubs and golf carts are available, and there is a café with a terrace overlooking the course. Additional sporting facilities include a bowling alley, tennis courts, a soccer field, volleyball court, and swimming pool.


Related Travel Guide

Going to the Cinema in Guatemala City

A stock photo of an 8mm film reel.
Photo © Fernando Gregory/123rf.

Map of Guatemala City
Guatemala City
Guatemala City has a number of excellent movie theaters, with movies sometimes opening on the same day as their U.S. release. The city’s IMAX movie theater can be found at Cines Pradera Concepción (tel. 2329-2550), located at the Pradera Concepción shopping mall along Km. 17.5 of Carretera a El Salvador, where you can have the IMAX theater experience for just $6. Located in one of the city’s most popular shopping malls is Cinépolis Miraflores (Centro Comercial Miraflores, 21 Avenida 4-32 Zona 11, tel. 2470-8367). Cinépolis (a Mexican chain) recently opened a second location in Zona 10’s Oakland Mall (Diagonal 6, 13-01 Zona 10). Five of Oakland Mall’s theaters are VIP lounges, in which you can order a meal and/or drink while you watch a movie.

Not to be outdone, U.S. franchise Cinemark recently opened its first Guatemalan location at Cinemark Eskala Roosevelt (Calzada Roosevelt Km. 13.8 Zona 11, tel. 2250-7084) featuring 3-D movies.

Check the Prensa Libre newspaper or the theaters’ websites for showtimes. Movies at all of these venues generally cost between $4 and $5 and all have stadium seating.


Excerpted from the Fourth Edition of Moon Guatemala.

Nightlife in Guatemala City

A stylish pair of tumblers filled with liquor.
Photo © Didriks, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Guatemala City has a fairly lively nightlife scene with bars, clubs, and music found mostly in the Zona Viva and downtown. There are plenty of places to dance salsa and Latin beats in addition to rock and pop music. Electronica is also a big hit with Guatemalan partygoers. DJ Tiësto performed here in November 2004, February 2007, and March 2011.

Bars

Map of Zona Viva in Guatemala City
Zona Viva

A good mix of bars in the downtown area caters to the city’s bohemian population as well as to international travelers. In Zona 10, the Zona Viva sector centered around 16 Calle is the place to go if you want to hang out with the city’s wealthy elite in the hippest establishments.

Downtown, El Portal (Portal del Comercio, 9a Calle, between 6a and 7a Avenidas, 10 a.m.- 10 p.m. Mon.-Sat.) is said to be the old stomping grounds of none other than Che Guevara, who lived in Guatemala City in the early 1950s. You’ll find a long wooden bar and some wooden tables along with draft beers for about $2. The entrance is at the Portal del Comercio arcade entrance on the south side of the park along 6a Avenida. Nearby Las Cien Puertas (9a Calle between 6a and 7a Avenidas, Pasaje Aycinena, Zona 1, noon-2 a.m. Mon.-Sat.) is the city’s quintessential bohemian hangout set in a restored colonial arcade. Enjoy tasty quesadillas and tacos when you get the munchies. Europa Bar (11 Calle 5-16, Edificio Testa, Local 201, tel. 2253-4929, 8 a.m.-midnight Mon.-Sat.) is a restaurant doubling as a bar that is popular with the expat crowd. CNN and sports are on the cable TV and the restaurant serves decent food, including the all-American staple breakfast of eggs, hash browns, bacon, and toast. The newest of the downtown venues is Reilly’s GuateCity (12 Calle 6-25 Zona 1, reillys.guatecity@gmail.com), a spin-off of the popular Irish pub in Antigua Guatemala.

Zona Viva’s motley assortment of upscale bars is constantly in flux. New places open and close all the time, and it’s hard to keep up with all the changes, even if you live in Guatemala City. A classic expat hangout, the William Shakespeare Pub (13 Calle and 1a Avenida, Torre Santa Clara II, Local 5, Zona 10, tel. 2331-2641, 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Mon.-Sat., 2 p.m.-1 a.m. Sun.) appropriately advertises, “No tragedy, no comedy, just good times.” Cheers (13 Calle 0-40 Zona 10, tel. 2368- 2089, 9 a.m.-1 a.m. Mon.-Sat., 1 p.m.-midnight Sun.) is the city’s best sports bar with scrumptious buffalo wings, frosty beer on tap, dartboards, pool tables, foosball, big-screen TVs, and classic rock on the stereo. Another excellent brew pub, Brass Beer Co. (3a Avenida 12-48, Zona 10, tel. 2332-3329, noon-1 a.m. daily) offers a large selection of microbrews on tap and is one of the few places in Guatemala where you can order a ginormous beer. Rattle N Hum (4a Avenida 16-11 Zona 10, noon-1 a.m. daily) is a fun, Australian-owned place often featuring live music.

La Iguana Azul (12 Calle 3-46 Zona 10, tel. 2331-9866, 6 p.m.-3 a.m. Mon.-Sat.) is a Zona Viva hotspot popular with the younger crowd. The venue is built in contemporary style with steel and glass. Try the bar’s signature drink, the Iguana Azul.

Nightclubs

Like the bars, nightclubs are in constant flux, but here are some options that have been around for a while and don’t look to be going anywhere. In Zona 1, El Gazabo (6a Calle and 3a Avenida, 8 p.m.-1 a.m. Thurs.-Sat.) is a lively venue for dancing and nightlife in downtown Guatemala City. Nearby is Metropole (6a Calle between 3a and 4a Avenidas, 8 p.m.-1 a.m. Thurs.-Sat.) which welcomes a mixed gay-straight crowd.

In Zona 10, Kalhua (15 Calle and 1a Avenida, Zona 10, 8 p.m.-3 a.m. Mon.-Sat., $5 cover) is one of Guatemala City’s most popular clubs with a wealthy clientele and hip atmosphere spread out on four floors. In vogue with hip locals and international jet-setters is NYX (2a Avenida 12-52 Zona 10, 8 p.m.-1 a.m. Thurs.-Sat.).

Live Music

A popular place for live music in a wonderfully bohemian atmosphere is La Bodeguita del Centro (12 Calle 3-55 Zona 1, tel. 2230-2976, 8 p.m.-2 a.m. Tues.-Sat., $4 cover on weekends). Besides live folk, rock, and jazz music, there are poetry readings, forums, and movies some nights. The atmosphere features posters the likes of Bob Marley and Che Guevara, as well as tons of Che-related memorabilia. Food is also served, with tasty chicken sandwiches. Nearby is Blue Town Café Bar (11 Calle 4-51 Zona 1), with live bands and a younger crowd. TrovaJazz (Vía 6 3-55 Zona 4, tel. 2334- 1241) has live jazz Thursday through Saturday evenings. It also serves food and coffee beverages. In Zona 10, check out Sesto Senso (2 Avenida 12-81, tel. 2361-6897) for its hip, lively atmosphere.


Excerpted from the Fourth Edition of Moon Guatemala.

Shopping Malls in Guatemala City

Interior view of a mall with glossy modern architecture.
Galerías La Pradera in Guatemala City. Photo by sikeri licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Guatemala City has some excellent shopping malls carrying the most basic or most exclusive items one could need, in addition to fashionable boutiques and department stores. None of the latter (curiously) seem to result from Guatemalan investment. These include Simán (El Salvador), Carrion (Honduras) and Sears (United States).

The city’s largest shopping mall is Pradera Concepción (Km. 17.5 Carretera a El Salvador, 10 a.m.–7 p.m. Mon.–Thurs. and 10 a.m.–9 p.m. Fri.–Sat.), with a variety of familiar stores and restaurant chains including Sears and T.G.I. Friday’s. It adjoins a smaller, open-air shopping center known as Condado Concepcíon, which features a Starbucks and an Applebee’s in addition to several local chains.

Opened in 2003 and expanded in 2006, the sprawling Galerías Miraflores (21 Avenida 4-32 Zona 11, 10 a.m.–8 p.m. Mon.–Thurs., 10 a.m.–9 p.m. Fri.–Sat., 10 a.m.–7 p.m. Sun.) also harbors some of Guatemala’s most exclusive stores, including a Simán department store, the international Zara boutique, and a L’Occitane store. Across the way is the Parque Comercial Las Majadas shopping center with a Sears, Fetiche perfume store, and a T.G.I. Friday’s.

In Zona 10, east up the hill toward the Carretera a El Salvador, is Galerías La Pradera (20 Calle 25-85 Zona 10, tel. 2367-4136, 10 a.m.–8 p.m. Mon.–Sat. and 10 a.m.–7 p.m. Sun.), an upscale shopping mall remodled in 2010–2011.

Though not as upscale as its Zona Viva location might suggest, Gran Centro Los Próceres (16 Calle 2-00 Zona 10, tel. 2332-8742) nonetheless has some good shops and eateries and is conveniently situated near the major Zona 10 hotels.

Zona 10’s newest and most upscale shopping mall is also Guatemala City’s nicest. Oakland Mall (Diagonal 6, 13-01 Zona 10, 10 a.m.–8 p.m. Mon.–Thurs., 10 a.m.–9 p.m. Fri.–Sat. and 10 a.m.–7 p.m. Sun.) features 170 stores spread across three floors, in addition to several movie theaters. Among its stores and restaurants you’ll find an aquarium, an impressive waterfall producing geometric shapes, and even a carousel imported from Italy. A Starbucks with plenty of outdoor seating fronts the street along its main entrance.

Also in this sector is the very pleasant Plaza Fontabella (4a Ave. 12-59 Zona 10, tel. 6628-8600), built as an outdoor mall in neo-colonial style, where you can enjoy Guatemala’s spring-like climate and a decent selection of stores and restaurants while strolling the cobblestone pedestrian walkways. Guatemala’s first Carolina Herrera designer handbag store opened here in 2011.

In Zona 16, you’ll find another fine example of the recent trend toward construction of outdoor pedestrian malls in warm-weather locales. Paseo Cayalá (Ciudad Cayalá, Zona 16) is housed in a sprawling collection of white-washed Spanish neo-colonial buildings. There are numerous specialty stores in addition to cool restaurants and bars with outdoor patio seating fronting the cobblestone pedestrian thoroughfare. Three universities lie nearby and the shopping district is part of a larger residential complex encompassing homes and student apartments. There are lovely views of the city’s downtown core, off in the distance.


Excerpted from the Fourth Edition of Moon Guatemala.

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