The Largest City In Central America

by Veronica Reyes, Jan 30, 2019

Guatemala City


Central America is the ‘slim’ portion of land that connects the North with the South of the American continent. It can be seen as a cultural bridge of big importance for humanity and also for the fauna that for centuries have been migrating from one region to another. In Central America you can find seven different countries which are, somehow connected with traditions and ways of living. Nicaragua is the biggest country, though Guatemala hosts the largest city in Central America with 3 million inhabitants.

Though this was not always the case… Here is a quick summary of how the Capital of Guatemala (also referred to as Guate by locals) was formed to what it is nowadays.


Guatemala’s capital was first built by the Spanish conquerors on the shores of Volcan de Agua (3,700m/12,140), today known as Ciudad Vieja. This first city only lasted 15 years, when a terrible landslide flooded that big portion of that conquered land.

Seeking a safer place, they found another valley not far away from Ciudad Vieja, which today is known as Antigua Guatemala. In 1541 an imposing city started flourishing, it was known as one of the most beautiful cities at that time. The political power and the church influence were ruling the population of Central Guatemala. Big cathedrals and extensive cobblestone streets were constructed and this hard job was done by the Mayan people that lived in the surrounding area of that valley. This second city lasted over 200 years, in 1773 a terrible earthquake destroyed almost the entire city and the inhabitants did not feel safe anymore. Three years later Antigua was abandoned and everyone moved to another the part of the country, which now is known as Guatemala City.

The new city was built based on the looks and feel of Antigua Guatemala. We find the same order and new structures were adapted to fit the original style. As time went by, new ways of thinking converted Guatemala City into a different place. Nowadays, the city offers a little bit of everything. From the Historical Center where you can appreciate the diverse architectonic styles Guatemala’s history has to offer, to a hip zone with an alternative atmosphere where you can visit, relax and enjoy a good Guatemalan cup of coffee.

Insider Tips And Things To Know

Guatemala City is constantly growing and it has become the most trending city in Central America. As every other big city in the world, security is a theme. So here are a few things that you need to know before visiting “Guate”.

Cabs – It is essential that you use only the yellow taxis. These are official cabs registered by a company and are being monitored, in case of any unforeseen situation. The white taxis waiting outside the airport are also safe. These are approved by the International Airport La Aurora (expect to pay more than the normal fee).

Public buses – In 2007 Guatemala City implemented a new and fast bus system: Transmetro. These are green buses that have their own roadway within the city’s main destinations; therefore, the transfer time from one place to another is shorter.

  • If you happen to catch one of these buses during rush hour, please make sure you have all your belongings in front of you. Pick pockets like to take advantage of the overcrowded Transmetro.
  • Avoid the red buses! These buses have different routes and normally will drive you on the outside of the city (very local places).
  • Uber is also offering rides in Guatemala. It is a safe way to travel in the city and will save you a couple of Quetzales (national currency).

Money exchange > your best option to exchange foreign currency is at the banks. They usually offer the best exchange rate. Money withdraw is possible everywhere in Guatemala City. ATM’s are at every gas station, malls and food courts.

Walking in the streets > as in most of the countries, Guatemala also has red zones. Because of the complex distribution of the zones in the city (spiral form), the dangerous zones are not easily reachable. You are okay walking in zone 14, 10, 9, 4, & 1 which is the more centric ones.

  • However always keep your phone in a safe place and avoid wearing expensive accessories.

Taking that in consideration, you are ready to enjoy the real Guatemala!

Guatemala City will amaze you with its people, a big concentration of restaurants, bars, cultural centers and even the hidden nature between the buildings that makes this vibrant city breath.

It is worth to mention that in Guatemala City you will find everything you can think of regarding food. The local gastronomy is a must-try during your stay in Guatemala, find from very traditional local dishes, to a contemporary mix of gourmet and local recipes that will inspire your senses! Guatemala City also hosts pretty good Steak Houses where you get quality meat accompanied by traditional sides like guacamole, salsa and tortillas. All type of international food, craft beers, handmade and confectionery can be found in the multicultural capital of Guatemala.