11 Best Antigua Ruins: Explore Guatemalas’ Crumbling Past
Antigua Guatemala Ruins are an interesting attraction that makes it a unique place to visit. The ruins of Antigua are the remains of buildings damaged in earthquakes during the 1700’s and are often tucked away from the busy streets as hidden gems in Antigua.
The crumbling ruins are in stark contrast to the colorful colonial buildings that cover most of Antigua’s streets. But I enjoyed seeing the contrast between old and new while walking around Antigua.
Antigua ruins are scattered around town and in this blog post, I will tell you all the best ruins and why to visit them. But first, let’s start with a history of how the ruins came to be.
The city of Antigua was once the capital of the Spanish Colony of Guatemala. This Colony was created in 1542 and covered almost all of modern-day Central America.
So Antigua was a very important city for a long time from the 1500s to the 1700s. Then in 1717, there was a massive earthquake in Antigua.
The 1717 earthquake destroyed over 3,000 buildings and was so destructive that it was immediately suggested to move the city. The citizens of Antigua opposed this idea and the city stayed put.
Unfortunately, in 1751 there was another large earthquake which caused more damage. Up to this point, the residents of Antigua still refused to move but the final nail in the coffin came in 1773.
In 1773 a massive earthquake once again destroyed most of the city. But this time the decision was made to move the city to a safer location. The location chosen was where Guatemala City currently sits today.
An order was made to abandon the city so many of Antigua’s magnificent buildings were left to rot. But the city was never fully abandoned and residents eventually rebuilt around the ruins of the old city.
1. Santa Clara Covent (Best Antigua Ruins)
The Santa Clara Covent📍is, in my opinion, the best Antigua ruins you can visit and a must-do in Antigua. So if you only have time to visit one ruin, go for this one!
The convent was established in 1699 by nuns from Puebla in Mexico. It is a huge complex and covers almost an entire city block.
We loved exploring Santa Clara Covent because it had so many different spots inside and outside to explore. Today this Antigua ruin is a very popular place to have weddings 💒
Entrance: Tickets cost 40 Q (5 USD). There is a small museum on-site and unlike other sites in Antigua, there is quite a lot of information explaining each room.
2. Antigua Cathedral Ruins
The Antigua Cathedral📍has been the site of many cathedrals that have been built and destroyed over the years. The first cathedral was built in 1545.
Today a new cathedral has been built on the main square. But you can still visit the ruins of the old Antigua Cathedral which are right next to it.
There are a few pictures scattered around the ruins that show what the church looked like in its prime. It is very interesting to walk around looking up at the sky and imagining what it looked like when it was first built.
Tip: Entrance to the ruins is 20 Q (2.50 USD). Make sure to look for two staircases that lead to the catacombs in the church. They are quite hot and stuffy and easy to miss but interesting to look at.
3. Casa Santo Domingo Hotel (Hidden Antigua Ruins)
When I heard that visiting the Casa Santo Domingo Hotel📍was a cool thing to do in Antigua I was skeptical. But I am very glad we went as it is an awesome place to walk around.
The hotel is located inside the ruins of the Santo Domingo Covent. The convent was first constructed in 1538 and was used to store many local treasures.
The 1773 earthquake destroyed the convent but much of it has been restored into a fancy hotel. There are still some ruins in the middle of the hotel’s courtyard to look at. The hotel also has two art galleries and multiple museums to visit.
🎟️ Note: Entrance is free! There are also some paid museums if you want a more in-depth look into the history of the building.
😴 Sleep here: If your budget allows you can stay a night here.
4. El Carmen
El Carmen📍was a catholic church that survived the 1773 earthquake relatively intact. However, ironically smaller earthquakes much later on caused a lot more damage.
For many years El Carmen has been one of the most famous Antigua ruins. It was well known for the huge cracks almost splitting the front of the church in half. But recently restoration work was done to ensure that the building did not collapse.
Note: You cannot go inside the church, but looking at it from the street is nice. It is not far from the city center so you can just pass by while walking around.
5. Capuchinas Convent
Capuchinas Convent📍is a large convent that was built in 1736. The convent was the last that was built in Antigua before the earthquake in 1773.
It is one of the most impressive of Antigua’s ruins and has many different rooms and courtyards to explore. It is also very popular to have weddings here because of all the beautiful courtyards and rooms.
Entrance: Tickets cost 40 Q (5 USD) and it is well worth the money. Many of the rooms and courtyards have been beautifully restored and it is a nice place to wander around.
6. Antiguo Colegio de la Compania de Jesus (Free Art Gallery)
Antiguo Colegio de la Compania de Jesus📍is a monastery and college that was established in 1626. It was an important part of life in Antigua but was closed down six years before the great earthquake of 1773.
The complex was in ruins but was rescued by the Spanish government. They helped to turn it into a cultural center that has a variety of exhibitions.
The courtyard of the cultural center has been beautifully restored and when we visited there was an interesting photography exhibit.
Note: The ruins can only be viewed from the street so are free to see. Entrance to the cultural center next to it (red building) is also free and worth a visit.
7. Museo del Hermano Pedro
The Museo del Hermano Pedro📍is located inside a complex that has ruins as well as functioning churches. Even if you do not go into the ruins it is an interesting area to see.
The ruins are once again an old convent that was destroyed by the 1773 earthquake. Antigua was full of convents at the time of the earthquake!
Tip: Entrance to the ruins costs 40 Q (5 USD). The ruins are not as impressive as other ruins on this list. So if you are on a tight budget or have a tight schedule I recommend heading to other ruins before this one.
8. Iglesia San Jose El Viejo
Iglesia San Jose El Viejo📍is an old church located outside the city center. It was also damaged by the 1773 earthquakes and today is used for events such as weddings.
We used to walk past this church many times on the way into town. There often were people in tuxedos and fancy ball gowns walking in here.
You cannot go inside unless there is an event. So it is not worth walking out to see it by itself. But it is on the way to Caoba Farms 📍which you have to visit when in Antigua.
Tip: Go for a walk to Caoba Farms and check out this cool old church on the way.
9. Candelaria Ruins
Note: They are just small ruins of a church next to a basketball court. But they are nice enough to stop and take a photo on the way to Cerro de la Cruz.
10. MUNAG – National Museum of Art (Free!)
MUNAG📍is an amazing free museum that you have to visit in Antigua. It overlooks Antigua’s main square and shows an interesting collection of art.
The ruins out the back have an amazing view of Volcan Agua behind them. On a clear day, it is one of the best views in Antigua!
Tip: Try to visit during the week to avoid queuing for it at the entrance.
11. Ermita San Jermino (Beautiful but too pricey)
Ermita San Jermino📍is a beautiful Antigua ruin that is at the bottom of this list because it is too expensive for what you get.
It costs 40 Q (5 USD) to go in and is essentially one building with a courtyard in the middle. It is beautiful but there are also no signs explaining what any of the building is.
Tip: If your budget is not tight then it is worth coming because it is nice to sit on the grass with locals in the courtyard. But if your budget is tighter give this one a skip and use your money for some other ruins on this list.
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Quick Overview: Ruins to Skip & Must-See
Antigua has a bunch of ruins and it might be hard to choose which one to visit. Especially if you travel on a budget or are short on time. We stayed for 2 months so had plenty of time and hope this guide helped you to choose.
🤩 Ruins you should see:
- Santa Clara Covent: Amazing inside and outside rooms to explore (40Q)
- Antigua Cathedral: Hidden catacombs to explore and very picturesque (20Q)
- Casa Santo Domingo Hotel: Hidden ruins inside a fancy hotel (Free/Paid museums)
- Capuchinas Convent: Popular Antigua ruin for weddings (40Q)
- Antiguo Colegio de la Compania de Jesus: Nice courtyard and galleries (Free)
- MUNAG: Art museum with small ruins in the back and great volcano (Free)
❌ Ruins you could skip:
- Ermita San Jermino: Beautiful but too pricey (40Q)
- Museo del Hermano Pedro: Same price as Santa Clara Convent which is better (40Q)
- Candelaria Ruins: Only worth it on the way to Cerro de la Cruz viewpoint (Free)
- Iglesia San Jose El Viejo: Only worth it on the way to Caoba Farms (Free)
- El Carmen: Only possible to see the facade (Free)
Enjoy Exploring the best Antigua Ruins!
We hope you enjoy exploring all of the best ruins Antigua has to offer. They are a fascinating part of the city’s history and make it truly unique.
Hopefully, our list helps you to enjoy Antigua even more. Make sure to check out our other articles on Antigua below and leave a comment if you have any questions!
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