An Expat's Guide to Eating & Drinking in Antigua Guatemala

The internet is littered with opinions on where you should eat in Antigua Guatemala written by well intentioned bloggers, foodies, and backpackers from around the world. Still with more than 100 bars, restaurants, and cafes to choose from it can be difficult to sort through all of the information online to find places you will truly love during your stay. That’s why I compiled this list for my clients and their guests to take advantage of. And to be completely honest, it wasn’t easy to make the decision to publish a list of my favorite places to eat, drink, and hang out because many expats often enjoy escaping to some of the lesser known dives to escape the crowds. So to my friends living here in Antigua—sorry about this one guys.

First of all, I feel it’s important to note that this list is not a complete list of places Antigua has to offer. There are several amazing restaurants and bars that I didn’t include in this list simply because I don’t fancy them. For a list of more touristy (Santo Domingo, El Cafe Viejo, etc.), you can read up on other influencer blogs and articles on the web. I also wanted to note that this list has not been influenced by anything other than my own experience as an expat living in Antigua Guatemala. I haven’t received any payment or discounted services from the places listed below in exchange for inclusion in this blog. I should also mention that a few of the places listed below have hired me for photography services in the past apart from this article.

These are the places I take my family and friends when they visit from the U.S.. They are the spaces I chose to go to during the week when I want to enjoy a nice meal or a night out on the town. Several of these places are off the beaten path; hidden gems that locals and expats alike flock to to escape tourists and backpackers traveling to Antigua Guatemala. 

This list is very much influenced by the memories and experiences I have made with close friends while eating and drinking in the places on this list. Atmosphere is so important to me, and so the places on this list are as much spaces to rest your feet after a long day of walking on cobblestone as they are a place to get killer pizza and and world class mezcal. Because I value the overall experience when visiting a place so highly, there are several restaurants and cafes that I have excluded because I had a bad experience with the service, food, or atmosphere once. I’ve also chosen not to include some of the more well known and easy to find places that I think you will probably get to on your own.

(Disclaimer: though I am a professional photographer, I have opted to use only casual iPhone photos that I have taken in daily life over the course of the last six months for this blog in the spirit of keeping it simple and non-commercial)


WHERE To EAT


Welten.

Topping the list of places to eat in Antigua Guatemala is Welten. Welten is great for date nights or intimate dinners with close friends and relatives. It is the most formal place on this list and comes at a higher price than I’m used to paying for a typical dinner in Antigua. That’s because it’s not any typical restaurant, and for this reason I usually only go here once a month for special occasions.

  A quick glass of red next to the rose petal covered pool at Welten.

A quick glass of red next to the rose petal covered pool at Welten.

This restaurant is, in my opinion, the best restaurant in Antigua Guatemala and one of the top five restaurants in Guatemala. Let me be clear: it isn’t the food, necessarily, that makes this my favorite place. Rather, it is a combination of the atmosphere, service, and quality that makes Welten what it is. We always have the same elderly Guatemalan serve us every time we visit. I love that they offer a variety of excellently prepared food—from typical Guatemalan dishes to excellent pastas and more. This candlelit, open air space is amazing in every way. Make sure to get a couples booth in the back by the rose petal covered pool for the ultimate romantic experience. 

Location: 4a Calle Poniente (east of Parque Central)

El Cazador Italiano.

El Cazador is probably some of the best Italian food you can find outside of Italy and New York City. Seriously, its that good. It’s not quite as formal or romantic as Welten, and for this reason I take every friend who comes to visit me here. Every. Single. One. And I’ve never had a bad experience. El Cazador also comes at a more accessible price point if you’re not looking to spend big for lunch or dinner in some of Antigua’s more exclusive dining spaces.

I love the pasta here. They follow family recipes and offer an extensive wine menu that pares well with their food offerings. Cazador also has a way to accommodate medium size groups, which makes it a must when I have groups of friends visiting. I highly suggest you try the Gnocchi and pair it with one of the restaurants Italian wines. You won’t regret it!

Location: 3a Avenida Norte (behind La Cathedral)

La Pasta Nostra.

Want excellent Italian food without the crazy price tag of El Cazador? La Pasta Nostra is exactly what you’re searching for. This restaurant is owned by two north Italian brothers who hand make all of the pasta in their tiny kitchen. While the handmade zucchini mix is what they’re known for, I usually elect for their gluten free spaghetti noodles prepared like Carbonara. The owners of this tucked away pasta house are friendly, welcoming Italians who seriously know how to make good pasta. La Pasta Nostra is a definite weekly staple in my life in Antigua. 

Location: 6a Calle Poniente (west of Parque Central)

Zoola Hostel.

  Rooftop jacuzzi at Zoola Hostel.

Rooftop jacuzzi at Zoola Hostel.

Full disclosure, Philip and Yaniv (part owners) are like family to me, and Zoola feels like a small tucked away home. Zoola is Hebrew for ‘smoke room’ and this place definitely carries a relaxed vibe. In addition to being one of the most coveted youth hostels in Antigua Guatemala, Zoola has an award winning kitchen for their staple Middle-Eastern food. The tables in the main room are shin-high and guests sit on pillows thrown on the original stone floor, making Zoola a unique experience for those unfamiliar with Eastern culture.

On Friday nights, Zoola hosts a shabbat dinner open to the community. Hip Guatemalan waiters fluent in Spanish, Hebrew, and English in addition to their local Mayan dialect, bring out salads, baba ganoush, hummus, pita, large cut fries, pasta, schnitzel  and a vegetarian or chicken main dish to hungry young travelers from their chefs in the kitchen. Still hungry? Head up stairs for a free shot and their (in)famous “Hola Reina” desert. This is all included for about $12 USD. 

During the day, Zoola also offers a killer happy hour that draws locals and international travelers alike. You can find the best day chill spot in the bar next their rooftop hot tub with views of all three volcanos and the dome of San Jose El Viejo. It’s seriously the place to be.

Location: 7a Calle Poniente (west of Parque Central)

  Part of the garden in Cafe Stela.

Part of the garden in Cafe Stela.

Cafe Stela.

Cafe Stela is the newest part of the Stela brand. Known for her artisan, modern clothing line Stela 9 and award winning boutique Casa Stela, LA designer Jess Bercovici creates quality experiences for creatives traveling to Antigua Guatemala. The cafe shares its courtyard with the Stela storefront and Airbnb, yet manages not to feel like an afterthought. Cafe Stela provides a solid brunch staple for the town. The food is both healthy and delicious, and my favorite part is their all day breakfast—a rarity in Guatemala—that doesn’t put a huge dent in my wallet. Best for curing that pesky hangover after(before) the wedding or a brunch date with someone special.

Location: 1a Avenida Sur (east of Parque Tanque)

Toko Baru.

I really hesitate to put this place on my list because it’s the most underrated food in Antigua and I already have to wait in line to get a table on the weekend. Still, think of this as me letting you in on a little well-known secret in my life. Toko Baru is a cash only hole-in-the-wall with an attitude, and offers some of the most delicious Indian/Asian/Middle-Eastern fusion food around. Their white sauce is seriously addictive. My favorite thing to order is their seafood curry with a side of crispy fries—to dip in the white sauce, of course! The best part about this place? It’s CHEAP. Toko Baru is a local favorite amongst expats, and I find myself there at least once or twice a week.

Location: 1a Avenida Sur (east of Parque Tanque)

Samsara.

Even though it’s one of the more well known spaces on the list, I can’t not include Samsara in a list of my favorite places in Antigua Guatemala. It’s the perfect place to eat a delicious brunch. Samsara’s kitchen serves up a tasty variety of vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, and super food options. Not into the health kick? Don’t worry. Go anyway and try their banana rice pancakes—you can thank me later. Also, their super smoothies are perfect for recovering in the morning after a night of drinking in some of Antigua’s best clubs and bars (but more on that later).

Location: 6a Calle Poniente (west of Parque Central)

Caoba Farms.

After shutting down for a brief period in 2017, Caoba farms is back and open for business. This incredible spot is tucked away in the south of Antigua, far away from the bustling cobble stone streets. It’s a huge organic farm that takes advantage of Antigua’s volcanic soil to serve up some of the most delicious veggies you’ll ever eat. I find myself ordering their salads and sandwiches, all which come with a healthy portion of farm fresh vegetables. It’s also a great space to bring friends as it hosts a pretty expansive outdoor eating area.

  The two pizza & wine special at Caoba Farms.

The two pizza & wine special at Caoba Farms.

Caoba Farms also offers an incredible farmer’s market on the weekends in addition to their farm-to-table restaurant. You can find me there with my closest friends on Sunday mornings after a long wedding enjoying live music and my favorite gluten-free pizza topped with buffalo cheese.

Location: 5a Avenida Sur (south of San Jose el Viejo)

Angie Angie.

Speaking of pizza, Angie Angie is in the running for best overall pizza joint in town. I love spending week nights here in the garden eating wood fire pizza fresh from the huge oven located in the front of the restaurant. The live music at Angie Angie is often tasteful and worth going to see even if pizza isn’t your thing. An added bonus is that this cafe is littered with local art. The space is big enough to accommodate large groups (with reservation). The only down side is that you will likely leave smelling like campfire, but trust me, it’s worth it. Expect to wait in line if you don’t have a reservation and want to come on a weekend. It’s that good.

Location: 1a Avenida Sur (east of Parque Tanque)

La Esquina.

La Esquina is the newest addition to Antigua Guatemala’s foodie scene. Modeled after their location in Zone 4 in the capitol and following the style of well-known 1,001 Noches in Guatemala City, La Esquina offers something for everyone. 

The way it works: show up, get an Esquina card, and choose from one of the multiple restaurants and bars located inside the two-story space all serving fresh and unique flavors. There’s a pastry shop, taco place, health food, Guatemalan fare, pizza place, etc. Just swipe the card you’ve given at any of the iPad registers and pay at the end. It’s perfect for lunch with a group of friends who can’t quite agree on what to eat.

Location: 6a Avenida Norte (near La Merced)

Canela. 

  Fresh baked bread and fresh Guatemalan coffee to start the day off.

Fresh baked bread and fresh Guatemalan coffee to start the day off.

Looking for a quiet place to grab a simple breakfast? Canela offers daily fresh baked pastries and piping hot coffee. It’s a simple, no-frills restaurant that is usually pretty empty. This is where I buy all of my bread in Antigua, but it’s also nice to just go for a coffee and delicious freshly made croissant at one of the few tables they have beside the bakery. Canela is definitely more of a place for locals and expats, but it can be nice to stop in if you have a free morning and are craving freshly baked pastries. I’m a huge fan.

Location: 1a Avenida Norte (east of Capuchinas)


Cafe Por Qué No?

Still with me? Good. If you don’t go to any place on this list, please go to Cafe Por Qué No? It’s an incredibly unique, cozy space frequented by Antigua’s artist population. While I’m a huge fan of their pizza, you may want to try one of their other offerings on the menu. Their small kitchen is serving up some insanely good options: steak smothered in peppercorn sauce, chicken cooked in wine sauce, shrimp pomodoro, and more. Apart from the atmosphere, I love that the chef chooses to focus on perfecting a small menu rather than trying to master every food type. And don’t worry, it’s vegetarian friendly as well!

On any given night you will be surrounded by painters, designers, photographers (hehe), etc. We all LOVE this place, and for very good reason. The food is delicious, the service is amazing, and the atmosphere is unlike any other. It’s a must see.

Location: 2a Avenida Sur (south of Parque Tanque)


WHERE To DRINK


  My friend Kelly tryin her first Guatemalan rum at Casa del Ron.

My friend Kelly tryin her first Guatemalan rum at Casa del Ron.

Okay so I’m a bit of a rum aficionado, which is why I love this place so much. If you want to experience world-class, Guatemalan rums not offered in the bars, this is your best option. Casa del Ron provides a more upscale, exclusive environment, but you will still pay less for a drink of these coveted rums than you would in New York or LA. Put on your good shoes and get ready to taste some of the most delicious juice in the world.

Location: 4a Calle Poniente (east of Parque Central)

El Bario.

Much like La Esquina (listed above) this bar has something for everyone. El Barrio is a space hosting multiple unique bars, street food, and a tattoo parlor all connected by an open air courtyard and terrace. It’s the ultimate place to start your night with a group of friends who all enjoy different drinks. I love Rama for their G&T’s and often get lost in the seeming endless assortment of bourbon you can find in The Whisky Den. I’m usually playing pool with friends in Bulls Eye or sitting on the roof-top terrace which offers partial views of Parque Central.

Location: 4a Calle Poniente (near Parque Central)

  A view from the DJ booth in Vibras.

A view from the DJ booth in Vibras.

  The indoor VIP section at Vibras.

The indoor VIP section at Vibras.

Las Vibras.

Las Vibras is where nearly everyone ends their Friday and Saturday night in Antigua. Even though it’s a multilevel night club with two VIP sections and an outdoor terrace, there are often long lines stretching down the block of people waiting in line to get in. Vibras hosts excellent DJs (by Guatemalan standards) from around the world and is one of the two most exclusive clubs in Guatemala (PLUS in the capitol being the most exclusive). 

My favorite part about Las Vibras is that even though it can be tough to get inside, once you get in you’re greeted by super friendly staff and owners (Angela, Emmie, Andrew, Maira, Jose, Dereck, Dustin—love you guys!). The club hosts locals from the city and tourists together on the same dance floor, which isn’t always the case in Latin America, and offers a second floor and outdoor space to smoke as well. I don’t get to go to Vibras often as I’m normally shooting weddings on the weekends, but I highly suggest it to anyone visiting and looking for a party. But, make sure to come early as local law mandates that bars close at midnight.If you want to make reservations for your wedding party, talk to Maria. She handles reservations of the VIP sections and tables for guests of Las Vibras. And if you can’t get a reservation, no worries, there are plenty of other dance bars in Antigua.

Location: 5a Avenida Norte (near the Arch)

  Placencia: one of Uwe’s favorite puros.

Placencia: one of Uwe’s favorite puros.

Antigua Tobacco Co.

The Canadian owners of this import cigar shop are hiding something: a tiny whisky and wine bar located behind the shop. Okay so it’s not really that big of a secret, but when I first walked in looking for my favorite Cuban I was surprised to find a classy bar in the back serving some of my favorite drinks. 

In addition to this tucked away, smoke friendly bar, The Antigua Tobacco Co. hosts one of the largest tobacco collections I have seen in Central America. You can find the finest Nicaraguan and Cuban cigars here as well as many other blends from around the world.

Antigua Tobacco Co. has quickly become one of my favorite places to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon. I love enjoying one of the house brand Maduros and a solid pour of Zacapa in the back room. The owners Uwe and Lyne are great for a chat as they are frequent customers of their own shop in their retirement. I encourage you to go by and enjoy a straight up drink in a classy environment.

Location: 3a Calle Poniente (west of Parque Central) 


Snug.

Snug is the watering hole for locals and expats living in Antigua Guatemala. Located across the street from some of Antigua’s more well known bars and dance clubs, Snug is small and unassuming. That doesn’t mean that it’s boring though. Far from it. Here is where you will find old musicians who have been around town for decades drunkenly strumming their guitars to old tunes long forgotten by my generation. Bar food is supplied by the kitchen next door to patrons who have drank up an appetite. Stay long enough here and you might just find yourself in an after-hours drinking party. While the local police shut down some of the larger parties across the street, the merry owner of Snug dances on the bar top spilling his favorite local beer. It’s a sight to be seen.

Location: 6a Calle Poniente (west of Parque Central)

  The garden of Palacio de Dona Leonor behind the tea room.

The garden of Palacio de Dona Leonor behind the tea room.

  Bird’s eye view of this incredible garden.

Bird’s eye view of this incredible garden.

The Tea Room.

Okay so I don’t only drink in bars, I also fancy cafes and tea rooms tucked inside of luxury hotels. My favorite part about The Tea Room (not it’s actual name) is the atmosphere. Don’t get me wrong, the tea is incredible and they offer delicious food, but this room gives me a break from the rustic feeling of the places I frequent in Antigua and offers a more refined experience. My first time in this place, I felt as if I had accidentally stumbled into an upscale pub in Central London. It’s clean, well decorated, and has great internet. It’s my favorite spot in Antigua to hold meetings or get some work done—undisturbed.

Location: 4a Calle Poniente (inside of Palacio de Dona Leonor)

Fat Cat.

  The coveted window seat at Fat Cat.

The coveted window seat at Fat Cat.

You can’t visit Antigua Guatemala and not try some of the locally grown coffee. The altitude, climate, and volcanic soil make Antigua a prime place to grow and roast coffee. It’s the best! Better than Colombia, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, etc. (anyone who says otherwise is lying). And while there is an ongoing debate around where you can enjoy the best coffee in Antigua, my personal preference is Fat Cat. These guys are roasting geniuses. I buy their coffee by the bag and always stop in for an espresso. Come early though, as the shop is fairly small and the coveted window seat fills up fast.

Aside from being some of the best coffee in town, Fat Cat offers flexible hours and an accessible location. Many of the other coffee shops that I enjoy don’t open until 8:00am or 9:00am, but Fat Cat opens it’s doors bright and early at 7:30am making it the go to place for my morning caffeine fix. I seriously can’t say enough about it.

Location: 4a Calle Poniente (east of Parque Central)

Amanecer.

When I first got to Guatemala, all of my friends kept telling me that I had to check out the smoothie place. Normally when a lot of people talk about a place, I avoid it as being over hyped and too mainstream. This just isn’t the case with Amanecer and I regret waiting so long to try it out. Their smoothies are incredible, and they have a blend for almost every situation (post gym, hangovers, immune boosters, digestion, etc.). I go through my loyalty card to this place nearly every two weeks. It’s a great place to spend breakfast, lunch, or simply a few moments of your day enjoying a smoothie.

Location: 6a Avenida Sur (south of Parque Central)

Bella Vista COffee.

  A Chemex is the perfect drink to enjoy the view at Buena Vista.

A Chemex is the perfect drink to enjoy the view at Buena Vista.

While I’m on my coffee kick, I have to mention Bella Vista Coffee. Though the coffee is inferior to that of Fat Cat (in my opinion), the views from the top floor make it worth it. From Bella Vista you can see volcanoes, ruins, and local life playing out below. But be advised, the journey to the top floor isn’t a short one.

Location: 6a Avenida Sur (near Parque Central)

San Simon. 

My first San Simon experience was at the end of night of bar hopping in Panajachel on Lake Atitlan. Named after Guatemala’s patron saint, there are three locations throughout the country. Walking down the street on a weeknight you could walk right past the entrance to this no frills mixologist paradise. San Simon is very unassuming and only has seating for four to five people inside the bar. The first thing that sticks out is that EVERYTHING is covered in graffiti of past and present backpackers. The walls, the ceiling, the bar, the bar stools, everything. 

Walk up to the bar and you will be asked about your favorite alcohol and a few other questions relating to your palette. Then ask for a sharpie and draw away as the bartender makes you a custom drink from the assortment of fresh juices behind the bar. There is no drink menu and juices change weekly so stop in and enjoy a custom made drink just for you. 

  Double espresso inside of the new Artista de Cafe.

Double espresso inside of the new Artista de Cafe.

If the line is too long don’t worry! Just step inside the bar next door for a shot of Guatemala’s version of Mezcal served out of unmarked bottles while you wait.  

Location: 4a Calle Poniente (east of Parque Central)

Artista de Cafe.

In front of San Simon, there is a brand new coffee shop that you seriously have to check out. It’s beautifully designed with delicious coffee and incredibly kind baristas. It’s one of my new favorite places to have meetings with my photo team because of the environment and quality of coffee. Sometimes I look around the coffee shop and can’t tell if I'm in Antigua Guatemala or Silver Lake. Yeah, it’s that cool.

Location: 4a Calle Poniente (east of Parque Central)

Cafe No Se.

I’m here every other day. Seriously. Mezcal isn’t my favorite drink in the world, but the guy’s at Illegal Mezcal do things right. The space is a dark, candle lit speak easy. Just the kind of place that I can’t stay away from. I love sitting in the small room in the back where I trade travel stories with Freddie at the bar (don’t forget to tip!).

In addition to their world renowned drinks, Cafe No Se hosts a well-known bookstore in the front by the name of Dyslexia (buy a book get a free beer), hosts a tribute to the patron saint San Simon in the far back room (it’s creepy), and serves up some of the best fries I’ve ever had—anywhere.  Cafe No Se is seriously a must see in Antigua Guatemala. On any given night you will see famed artists and backpackers drinking together, sharing stories, and enjoying some of the best Mezcal in the world.  

Location: 1a Avenida Sur (east of Parque Tanque)

  The entrance to Dyslexia Book Store.

The entrance to Dyslexia Book Store.

  Here, bottles of Illegal Mezcal serve as bookends.

Here, bottles of Illegal Mezcal serve as bookends.

  Reading by candelight in the back of Cafe No Se.

Reading by candelight in the back of Cafe No Se.


IN SHORT


There are hundreds of quality bars and restaurants crammed into Antigua Guatemala. These are only a few of my favorites and in the interest of time, I excluded many other well known and easy to find bars, restaurants, and cafes. Some of these places include: Cafe Sky (phenomenal sunset views from the rooftop), RAMEN PLACE (at the time of writing this, it’s only been open for a week), Cafe Escalonia (a garden cafe around the corner from my house), and Santa Clara Bakery (great for typical Guatemalan food). If you find yourself overwhelmed by a list of over 20 places to see in your short stay, make an effort to see the following five: Cafe No Se, Cafe Por Que No?, Antigua Tobacco Co., Zoola, and Welten. These are the lifeblood of Antigua foodies and will give you a pleasant, varied experience on your stay in Antigua Guatemala. These are the places that make Antigua feel a little more like home to me.

About the Author.

  Joseph on a lancha heading to a wedding on Lake Atitlan.

Joseph on a lancha heading to a wedding on Lake Atitlan.

Joseph Nance is a destination wedding photographer living and working in Antigua Guatemala. He enjoys the nostalgic feeling of sitting in dimly lit bars while reading a good novel while he is not on location photographing. Joseph visited Antigua for the first time in January of 2017 and fell in love with the quaint colonial town littered with interesting bars and cafes. So much so that he relocated to Antigua from the surf town Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica in the beginning of 2018. On a typical week, Joseph enjoys spending his time with friends and fellow creatives, listening to live music in different venues in Antigua, and photographing local life in town. In addition to photographing weddings, Joseph works with brands and organizations throughout the world on a corporate level to create campaigns and photoshoots that promote everything from clothing lines to alcohols and everything in between. When he isn’t working, the photographer finds himself exploring corners of Guatemala and Latin America off the beaten path for personal projects that he completes using analog photography.