Guatemala Travel Planner - (Page 10)

An Appetite for the Arts Situated on a plateau, surrounded by lush green hills and the volcanoes of the Sierra Madre, Guatemala City was founded as the nation's capital after the original Spanish colonial capital at La Antigua was leveled by earthquakes back in 1771. Though once a sleepy town known only for its climate and scenery, "Guate," as the locals call her, is today a cosmopolitan capital full of fine museums and historic churches, excellent hotels and restaurants, modern shopping centers and traditional markets. The capital is divided into 21 zones, and two of its most commanding buildings are in downtown Zone 1, bordering the broad grassy plaza of Parque Central: the Neoclassic National Palace, whose interiors are decorated with painted murals that tell the story of Guatemala's history, and the Catedral Metropolitana, one of the few colonial structures left in the city. Actually, the main commercial artery, Sexta Avenida, which was lined with glamorous department stores, cinemas and cafes during its heyday, has made a comeback from a decline in the mid-1980s, and is now pedestrianized and a delight to stroll along, drawing locals and visitors to hip bars, cafes and restaurants. Behind the cathedral is the Mercado Central, housed in a modern building, where the shrewd bargainer will find well-priced textiles and crafts from all over 10 the country. Also in Zone 1 is the National Theater, a strikingly modernistic, blueand-white building, home to the national symphony, the chamber orchestra and two ballet companies-one classic, the other mixing folkloric and modern. Northeast of the market are two of the city's most impressive churches: the baroque La Merced, housing a beautiful collection of religious artifacts retrieved from Antigua; and the hilltop La Ermita del Carmen, with its ornate gold and mahogany altar. Two additional churches to enjoy are the Baroque San Francisco Church, famous for its woodcarvings, and the pretty San Miguel de Capuchinas. Zone 10 is home to two of Central America's most intriguing and beautifully designed museums, sitting next to each other on the grounds of Francisco Marroquin University. There's the Ixchel Museum, which houses a superb collection of textiles and costumes that salute the traditions of the Guatemala weavers' craft; on display are thousands of examples of handmade textiles and clothing from around the country, as well as ceremonial costumes, all tracing the history of dress since 1000 BC. The neighboring Popul Vuh Museum is devoted to artifacts that cover Guatemalan civilization from the pre-Classic periods (2000 BC-AD 250) to the colonial era. On display are stelae, carved wooden lintels, ceremonial masks, jade and pottery. Head out to Zona 13 to find the Museum of Archaeology & Ethnography, which houses the country's largest collection of ancient Maya artifacts, and exhibits a large-scale model of Tikal, as well as a room with beautiful jade necklaces and masks. The ethnology section has displays on the languages, costumes, dances, masks and homes of Guatemala's indigenous people. And when out in this part of town, and particularly if accompanied by children, drop into the well-maintained La Aurora Zoo, whose animals are divided into three main geographical zones: the Africa section hosts hippos, lions and giraffes; the Asia area, Bengal tigers and Indian elephants; and in the Americas section, it's tapirs, monkeys and virtually all of the continent's big cats. Zone 10 (a.k.a. Zona Viva) is an upscale neighborhood where dozens of old mansions have been converted into fine restaurants; nightclubs swinging to both rock and marimba rhythms; boutiques full of fashions and accessories drawing on native excellence in weaving and jewelry making; and art galleries showcasing works by contemporary native painters and sculptors. Many of the capital's most deluxe hotels are also located in this quarter.

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Guatemala Travel Planner

A Colonial Heritage
The Living Maya of the Highlands
El Mundo Maya
Call of the Wild
An Appetite for the Arts
Land of Active Adventures
Tasting Guatemala
Festivals Galore
Marvelous Markets
Marvelous Markets

Guatemala Travel Planner