Royal Palace of the Captains General

When the Spaniards moved the seat of government from Cuidad Vieja to Santiago (present day Antigua) in 1543, it was from this building that they ruled over all of Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and parts of Mexico, including Chiapas, Tabasco, and the Yucatan. As the Political and Military headquarters of the Spanish Colonies, the Palace housed royal offices, the royal treasury, working spaces for scribes and administration, barracks for guards and troops, even a stable for 34 horses. Until 1773 when, due to an earthquake, a decision was made to move the capital to Guatemala City.

Guest Reviews:

Brilliant informative art museum which takes you from contemporary through to pre-colonial times and the best part it’s free!!!” -Shomo Shabas

Although the times are distorted on the different sites, I am very happy to have been able to make the visit. There is a lot of explanation about the different eras and you will be able to understand a lot of things. Entrance is free for a quality visit!” -Black Swan

Incredibly beautiful museum with lots of history and important art exhibits. This museum really holds a special place in my heart.” -Mauricio Rechnitzer

Palace of the Captains General Antigua Guatemala
Entrance Fee:
Opening Hours:
Tues-Sun 10am – 7pm
Days Closed:
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The original Palace structure was a two-story wooden building that was assembled and reassembled many times as the needs of the Crown and Captain Generalship expanded.  For such an important building, you would think that the Palace compound would have been built more deliberately, but that was not the case. Some private citizens, including Bishop Francisco Marroquín, even sold their property to accommodate its full expansion along the square.

It was not until after the earthquake of 1751, and more specifically 1761, that a complete reconstruction of the Palace began. The building, with its iconic 54 arches, was completed 3 years later. It would be ornately decorated with portraits of royalty and popes,  lavish furniture, and woodcarvings. From its second story balcony, the Captain General, higher officials, and their families would gather to watch cultural events and ceremonies in the square. And it was from this building, where distinguished guests of the Crown would be greeted.

Then in 1773, another devastating earthquake shook the very foundation of Antigua, causing severe damage to the city. Under constant seismic threat, it was decided that the capital would be moved to present day Guatemala City, farther away from the volcanoes that were thought to be causing the tremors. As a result, the Palace was gutted, even down to the stone columns, which were left behind in piles since they were too heavy to move.

Despite some restoration efforts that took place in 1890, when the front section of the Palace was rebuilt to its original appearance under General Manuel Lisandro Barillas, it wasn’t until after Antigua was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979 that any significant improvements were undertaken by the Guatemalan Tourism Commission and the National Council for the Protection of La Antigua Guatemala. Thanks to their efforts, and many others, you can now visit the Museo Nacional de Arte Guatemalteco housed within the Palace walls, and imagine what took place there.

Please note that many of the entrance fees for landmarks, parks, and museums are subsidized by the government for Guatemalan citizens. You may notice a price difference for foreigners.