Wellington Travel Guide
Guatemala City, formally La Nueva Guatemala de la Asuncion and informally "Guate" or simply el capital, is the capital of Guatemala and the largest metropolis in all of Central America. It is a city that can fairly be described as one of contrast, with its boosters and its detractors, where modern skyscrapers, the domain of the city's business elite, are juxtaposed with shantytowns crowded with migrant workers who cling to a threadbare existence. And while it may not be the prettiest city from a purely tourist perspective, it is certainly one with cultural aspirations, manifested in its incredible museums and other cultural venues and a sophisticated restaurant and bar scene to boot, and where a majority of Guatemala's writers, artists and intellectuals make their home. Ultimately, whether one embraces or dismisses the city, there's no denying its importance as the hub of the nation, possibly of Central America, on which all transportation routes from around Guatemala converge, and through which all visitors to Guatemala must pass.
Guatemala is situated in the Valle de la Ermita, a mountain valley in the south-central part of Guatemala.
Guatemala City is carved up into zonas, 22 of them, each with its north-south avenidas and east-west calles, the work of Guatemalan urban engineer Raúl Aguilar Batres. Zonas 1, 4, 10 and 13 are the ones with the greatest tourist interest, where most of the city's sights are concentrated. Zona 1, in the center of the city, is the Centro Histórico, or Historic Center, where the top draws are the National Palace of Culture and Metropolitan Cathedral, both fronting on the Main square, and Plaza de la Constitución. Zona 4 has in it the revamped pedestrian zone and cultural district, Cuatro Grados Norte, which includes Centro Cultural Miguel Ángel Asturias (Teatro Nacional). In Zona 10, the main attraction is the Zona Viva entertainment district, filled with the city's most expensive hotels, shops, restaurants, bars and nightclubs; plus it has in it the financial district. While Zona 13 has a host of museums and monuments, as well as the zoo and the Mercado de Artesanías (Arts and Handicrafts Market).
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