Guatemala City Travel Information

Mother Earth Travel > Guatemala > Guatemala City > History

In 1855, the Conservative Government introduced the first names of streets in Guatemala, based on proper names, for example 'Calle del Calvario, Calle de los Olvidos, Calle de la Merced', etc. The names indicated important things about the buildings located in each street or peculiar characteristics of the streets or sectors. This first system was simple and easy to remember; nevertheless, with the growth of the city, it was necessary to replace the system.

In 1877, the engineer Raúl Aguilar Batres proposed a new system of nomenclature. The proper names were substituted by a numerical system, still used today. The streets from north to south are called 'Avenida' and the ones conducing from west to east are called 'Calle'. They were enumerated and subdivided by the 8th Calle and the 6th Avenida with their respective north, south, west and east parts.

Each house is identified with the number of Avenida or Calle, where it is located and two more numbers, for example, 1 avenue 5-25. The number 5 corresponds to the Calle located on the corner of the Avenida; number 25 is the approximated distances of meters from Calle 5 to the house. That is, that the house is located in Avenida 1, 25 meters from Calle 5. The meters separating the houses from the Calles or Avenidas are approximated because this nomenclature set the odd numbers in the Calles' north side (5-25) and the even numbers in the Calles' south side (5-26). The Municipality of Guatemala establishes the buildings' or houses' nomenclature.

As for the nomenclature of the zones or districts, the central zone (historic center) was taken as a starting point. The zones then expand from this center in a form of a spiral, beginning in the north. This way, the growth of the city has no limits. The zones are divided by the natural geographic divisions or where the main roads are. For example, the Avenida Aguilar Batres separates zones 11 and 12 and the Avenida Reforma divides zones 9 and 10. Each of the zones has its own attraction, a secret to discover; for that reason I'm inviting you to know a little more about the different zones that have the most popular tourist attractions of the capital.

Zone 1:
Is the historic center of the city. In 1775, when 'Guatemala de la Asunción' was founded, the most important governmental and ecclesiastical buildings were constructed here, as well as the houses of the main families of the colonial epoch. The particular houses was characterized by the mudejar architectonic style, with a construction so uniform that the unique difference between houses was the size of the property. The public buildings were constructed with the neoclassic architectonic style; almost all of them had only one floor. Today, the core of zone 1, where the Plaza Major with the most important governmental and ecclesiastical buildings is located, is protected and conserved as Historical Heritage of the country. In the vicinity of this zone, there are lots of shopping centers and shops, such as shoes stores, boutiques, fabric stores and other businesses, where you can buy good merchandise at low prices.

Zone 2:
At first, this zone was founded as an 'indigenous town' that was transferred from Antigua Guatemala (the previous capital of the Kingdom). With the construction of the North Hippodrome, during the Liberal Government, lots of dwellings (belonging to some rich families) were constructed in Avenida del hipódromo. Some of these houses are still standing today, but they belong to private families. After an earthquake in 1971, the famous Relief Map of Guatemalan Republic was constructed. It is the unique map in the whole world that represents a whole country and it is a tourist attraction well worth a visit.

Zone 4:
In 1890, during president Barillas term in office, the Exhibition canton was formed and in its center the Guatemalan Pavilion of the Paris World Exhibition was established. That was the first design for the district, in the form of diagonals, of the routes and vias of zone 4. The Civic Center of the city is located in this zone. Inside this center are the Bank of Guatemala, the Guatemala Tourist Institution, the Supreme Court of Justice, The Municipality of Guatemala and other governmental buildings. These buildings were begun in 1954 and finalized in 1970. They are decorated with murals that are an impressive attraction. In the Cultural Center is the National Theater or Miguel Angel Asturias Theater, constructed in 1978, containing, the Main Theater, the Chamber Theater, the open-air theater, the Salon Dorado, the administration areas and parking facilities. The building is shaped like a jaguar and the buildings to its sides have been built to look like volcanoes, jaguars, etc. In this huge arts center, you can see magnificent theater and musical events.

Zones 9 y 10:
In 1892, the creation of a public garden was decreed and the new 'Boulevard 30 de Junio' was created, today known as the Avenida La Reforma (Reform Avenue). Traveling in this avenue is a very attractive trip because of its gardens and the numerous statues of important personalities and animals. This avenue separates zone 9 and 10, where the best hotels, restaurants, night-clubs and shopping centers are located. Zone 10 is known as the Zona Viva because there, there is a party almost every night.

Zones 13 y 14:
These zones are separated by the well-known Avenida de las Américas which was made known in the Diario de Centroamérica in 1951. At one end of the avenue, a small square was built to celebrate there the first Eucharistic Congress, which took place in the same year. As its name suggests, the avenue is dedicated to the American countries. In each corner, a metallic picture with decoration made of forged iron was installed. Each picture has the shield and the name of an American country. Along here you can see beautiful gardens and an infinity of small squares and statues lining the avenue.

Guatemala City continues to grow, as do its attractions which are conserved in the refuge of its historical, cultural and natural patrimony.