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September 26th, 2013 

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 Guatemala City, Guatemala

Guatemala City, A Blend of Old and New

 

 Guatemala City is fast-paced and vibrant, modern as well as cosmopolitan, still able to maintain its traditional customs, and also at times, somewhat chaotic. Guatemala City is the country's capital and with a population of some three million people, it is Central America's largest city. This city sits at an elevation of 4,897 feet above sea level, surrounded by mountains and volcanoes.

 In 1776, Spanish colonists looking for a piece of land to replace the earthquake-damaged capital of Antigua, found an area with three tectonic plates within a valley where the Agua volcano sits. This area was also the home of the pre-Classic Maya city of Kaminaljuy˙ and it is still possible to visit the ruins there. On September 27, 1775, King Charles III of Spain made the capital's move official. And in 1821, the newly erected Guatemala City was the location where Central America declared its independence from Spain.

Guatemala City, Guatemala Guatemala City is divided up into 21 different zones, but it is the four Central zones that tourists should head for. The Old City is Zone 1 in the north, which offers the city's character. It houses the national and presidential palaces, the main plaza and a cathedral. The New City is in the South, within Zones 9 and 10, where you will find many upscale restaurants, bars, hotels and stores. For recreational pursuits just outside the city, you can climb the Agua and Pacaya volcanoes or it's a short trip to Lake Amatitian where there is swimming and water sports.

 Guatemala City has much to offer the tourist, but it also has a reputation for crime. Visitors are advised not to drive a car, but rather to take taxis, which are reasonable. Walking around the city can also be a problem, since it is spread out, with many sites far away from each other. Walking within zones 1, 4, 9, 10 and 13 is considered relatively safe during daylight hours. But at night, you will want to steer clear of getting around on foot, except for the very developed parts of Zone 10, or Zone Viva. Zone 4 has a very hip strip of bars and restaurants that are also safe to visit at night. It's called the Cuatro Grados Norte.
 

 


 Zone 10 is packed with good, safe enjoyment for the tourist. Not only is it the city's financial district, but it is the nation's center for pop culture, shopping and entertainment. Zona Viva, within it houses popular and expensive hotels, eateries, bars, discos and more. It also is the location of many of the foreign embassies.

 Taxis are the vehicles of choice for tourists, since Guatemala's urban buses often carry armed robbers and muggers. There is no shortage of taxis in Guatemala City, and they are not expensive. All of the nation's buses are painted a deep cherry red, which has led the locals to call them "los tomates asesinos," or "the killer tomatoes."

 There are some fascinating places to visit within Guatemala City. The National Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology in La Aurora Park houses a huge collection of exquisite Maya artifacts showing Maya textiles and traditions. The Museo Ixchel del Traje Indigena, within Zone 10 at the Francisco Marroquin University showcases the textiles, clothing and paintings of the Mayan people.

Guatemala City is also home to the country’s largest international Airport, La Aurora International Airport (GUA/MGGT)

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