I’m quite certain that by now, you dear reader have already spent quite some time pondering about whether is it worth to visit Guatemala City, and I can’t blame you. This capital city does not have a superb reputation and after some research you’ve probably learned that there really isn’t too much to see and do either. But it is the country’s capital city, and there has to be something worth checking out, right?
Honestly, there is, but not much perhaps enough to keep you busy a morning or an afternoon but not much more, and it’s because of this that you probably want to find a hotel that is close to the few attractions there, saving you money on taxi rides along the way. Among the very few options there are there is only one I would consider and recommend, the Panamerican Hotel on 6th Avenue.
The Panamerican Hotel
Originally a small pension destroyed by an earthquake in 1917 and 1918 the current building was built in 1920 as an Astoria Hotel and was not only the first hotel in Guatemala but by the 1960’s it was also the place to be. With 60 rooms it was where presidents had lunch, and diplomats, government officials and foreign visitors gathered to discuss matters of national interest or simply enjoy a good cup of coffee in a high end environment. With time the hotel changed it’s name to the Panamerican Hotel, because of its partnership with the famous airline, as it was here that all pilots and cabin crew would stay in.
It must be said that much of this greatness has pretty much vanished nowadays, as the building is in need of some maintenance and renovation. Yet despite the initial impression the exterior of the hotel may give once you’ve walked into the building and towards the lobby you will immediately admit that it does have charm, history, and is not only a place to sleep in but to visit as well.
Rooms, Restaurant and Staff
The interior of the hotel exudes a colonial architecture difficult to beat. Smack in the middle of the building is the hotel’s restaurant which I highly recommend. The food is excellent, prices are very fair and the service is simply great. It is also one of the few restaurants where you’ll be able to sample national dishes, as for some reason a traditional food is almost disappearing, I wonder why. You’ll probably notice that many people actually come to the hotel just to enjoy the food, at lunch, dinner, or specially breakfast.
The hotel also offers a wonderful collection of antique telephones dating from 1940s, as well as a bar where to enjoy some drinks.
All the rooms have pretty much the same layout, though I would recommend you stay away from those facing Sexta Avenida simply because of the noise,unless you are here during Easter in which case you’ll want to book one of these to admire the processions right from your balcony.
As for the rooms themselves, they are simple but clean. They all have a queen size bed with a working table, an LCD TV, a chair, free Wi-Fi (not very good) plus an en-suite bathroom. Nothing fancy, but enough if you simply want a place to sleep in without any luxury or details.
The hotel is proud of its staff, and rightfully so. Everyone was very pleasant and helpful at all times, and management makes sure things stay this way. Consider Doña Aurora Reyes, who has worked in the restaurant for 45 years, Don Alejandro Herrera, head of maintenance for 40 years, or Jose Ventura, the Reception Manager for 39 years with whom I chatted with the day I left. Each has wonderful stories to tell about Hotel Pan American and its legendary guest list of politicians, athletes and celebrities.
It is hear that the hotel really beats any other hotel, hands down. Sure, there are better hotels not too far, but you’ll need a taxi to visit the city’s attractions, most of which are at the Plaza Mayor, which is less than a three minute walk from the Panamerican Hotel. It is there that you’ll find the Palacio Nacional de Cultura, the Catedral Santiago de Guatemala, the Centro Cultural Miguel Angel Asturias, and the Mercado Central just a block behind the cathedral.
Sure, there are better hotels in the city. Not many, but you can find more luxury, better and bigger rooms, and modern architecture. Yet none of them have the same location as the Panamerican, or even close. When you stay at the Panamerican you’s not only staying at a hotel, but spending time at one of the most important historical buildings in the city, and you’re within walking distance of what there is to see. The restaurant of course is a must, and while the rooms are not luxurious they are certainly comfortable enough to spend a night an relax. If you value location, service and learning about local history during your travels then the Panamerican Hotel will exceed your needs. If however all you care about is staying at a fancy room then I would recommend you look elsewhere.
My stay at the Panamerican Hotel was complimentary, however all thoughts and opinions in this post are, like always, my own.