Guatemala City’s Zona 1

Guatemala City isn’t a popular tourist destination, in large part because of the scourge of violent crime, but there are some things worth seeing in this otherwise crowded and poverty-stricken city.

Catedral Metropolitana on Parque Central in Guatemala City
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Guatemala City, or Guate to the locals, isn’t what you’d call a pretty city. Nor, for that matter, is it an especially safe one. Your first clue of that will be the guards with pump-action shotguns outside every store, followed closely by the prodigious amounts of razor wire strewn over everything.1 It’s a big, sprawling metropolis where population growth has outpaced the city’s ability to deal with it.

Security is a major problem, and poverty is rampant. The city has an official census population of almost 2.5 million, but the actual population is almost certainly millions more—in recent years, there has been a flood of people that haven’t been counted in official data.

So it doesn’t come as much surprise that Guatemala City has an uphill battle ahead of it to attract tourism. Most tourists use the airport–and it’s a surprisingly modern and efficient one at that–and then head straight for the much more inviting Antigua, about 45 minutes away, or Lake Atitlán.

That said, in the center of Guatemala City, in Zona 1, radiating from the Parque Central (Plaza de la Constitucion), there are some impressive churches, markets, and museums worth seeing.

Photos of Zona 1 in Guatemala City

Iglesia San Francisco
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Butcher in Mercado Central in Guatemala City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Iglesia San Francisco procession
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Mercado Central clay figurines store Guatemala City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Palacio Nacional de la Cultura and fountain in Guatemala City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Catedral Metropolitana interior dome in Guatemala City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Fountain & Catedral Metropolitana on Parque Central in Guatemala City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Grains, Spices, & Seeds for sale in Mercado Central Guatemala City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Catedral Metropolitana on Parque Central in Guatemala City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Guatemalan flag on Parque Central in Guatemala City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Calle Real at dusk
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Iglesia San Francisco Ceremony
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Calle Real in downtown Guatemela City at dusk
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Guatemala City skyline silhouette
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Christmas procession on Calle Real at dusk
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Catedral Metropolitana in the setting sun in Guatemala City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Nativity Scene in Mercado Central in Guatemala City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Religious figures for sale in Mercado Central in Guatemala City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Abandoned building in Guatemala City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Mercado Central
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Libreria Proa building in Guatemala City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Colonial architecture in Guatemela City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Rundown Colonial Building in Guatemala City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Catedral Metropolitana interior in Guatemala City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Mercado Central pottery store Guatemala City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Palacio Nacional de la Cultura & fountain
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Catedral Metropolitana statues
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Iglesia San Francisco
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com

What to Know Before you Go

You can find travel advice for safety and security when visiting Guatemala, including Guatemala City specifically, from the State Department and British Foreign Office.

  1. If you need more evidence, check out David Grann, “A Murder Foretold: Unravelling the Ultimate Political Conspiracy,” New Yorker, 4 April 2011. []

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David Coleman / Photographer
by David Coleman

I'm a freelance travel photographer based in Washington DC. Seven continents, up mountains, underwater, and a bunch of places in between. My images have appeared in numerous publications, and you can check out some of my gear reviews and tips here. More »