Just returned this weekend from a wonderful trip to Antigua. The city totally exceeded my expectations. Here are a couple of tips for you!
-- We stayed at the Hotel Soleil Antigua, located just on the outskirts of the town, but no more than a 10 minute walking distance from Parque Central. One of the biggest fears I had was crime or feeling unsafe. Never once did we feel unsafe in Antigua. We walked everywhere and took a cab back to our hotel at night only because the streets do not always have sidewalks or street lights.
-- We had some of the best food during our trip. Our favorites were Cafe Condesa for breakfast, San Martin for breakfast and fresh pastries and bread, and Calle la Fonda for a great dinner. We also had a great Chinese lunch at Mulan. If you are looking for familiar favorites, Antigua has a Wendy's, McDonald's, Burger King, Domino's, and the most gorgeous Taco Bell in the world.
-- The city is full of colonial charm. One of the highlights was simply walking into churches and courtyards to admire the scenery. We also loved taking a cooking class at La Tortilla, which was fun and enjoyable. I would definitely recommend this to anyone wanting to get a sense of the authentic Antigua. We found a very large supermarket (with a live band!) that offered hundreds of Guatemalan and American foods as well as the local farmer's market.
-- The Parque Central was the cornerstone of the town. It does get a bit annoying with all of the vendors trying to sell everything from scarves to blankets to trinkets to macadamia nuts. A simple "No gracias" sends them on their way. We enjoyed the market stalls that line the park on the weekends.
-- We took two day trips: an afternoon excursion to Volcan Pacaya to roast marshmallows on the side of the volcano and a full-day trek to Lake Atitlan where were took a boat ride to three surrounding villages.