Discover the History

Guatemala City's Historic Hotel Next to the Historic Center

In the early 1900’s Guatemala’s tourism industry began to thrive, and hotels began to take the place of the traditional mesons and pensions that used to welcome guests.

The site of Hotel Pan American was originally called the Pension Amado, which was built in 1914 and demolished by earthquakes in 1917 and 1918. In 1920 construction began on the Hotel Astoria, which opened a year later. The hotel’s designer was renowned architect Rafael Pérez De León, whose other work included the construction and design of the Central Customs Building, the Presidential Palace and the National Palace.

The Hotel Astoria changed management in 1942 and was renamed Hotel Pan American to honor the Pan Am Airlines crews who often stayed at the hotel. After World War II loosening economic and social policies throughout Guatemala led to an influx of tourism. Visitors often arrived by boat, anchoring at the port of Puerto Barrios and riding the train into the city. Hotel Pan American hosted travelers from Central America, Mexico and the United States and soon added a third floor to boost the hotel’s room count from 28 to 32. By 1956 the hotel had 60 rooms, and continued to welcome guests despite the country’s difficult economic times.

By the early 1980’s Hotel Pan American was the downtown meeting place – 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.

Hotel Pan American still maintains much of its historic charm. The Otis elevator, installed on November 14th 1940, continues to be operated manually and is one of only four in the city, with the others located at the National Palace, the Police Palace and City Hall. The hotel also offers a wonderful collection of antique telephones dating from 1940. Of course, our people are our greatest assets. Our family of longtime staffers includes Doña Aurora Reyes, who has worked in the restaurant for 45 years, Don Alejandro Herrera, head of maintenance for 40 years, Jose Ventura, our Reception Manager of 39 years. Each has wonderful stories to tell about Hotel Pan American and its legendary guest list of politicians, athletes and celebrities.

We invite you to discover the fascinating history of the Hotel Pan American, a beautiful monument in the heart of the Guatemala City that continues to be the city’s most cherished meeting place to this day.

In addition to offering wonderful opportunities to meet and mingle with friendly Guatemalan locals, a stroll through the Guatemala City Historic District brings visitors face-to-face with some of the city’s most fascinating sights and attractions:

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Iglesia de San Francisco

Distance: 1 km from hotel
san francisco

The Church of St. Francis, built by its namesake Franciscan order between 1800 and 1851, is known for its ornate wooden altar. A small museum offers a fascinating glimpse into the church's history

Iglesia de la Merced

Distance: 2 km from hotel
la merced

Step inside this lovely church dating from 1813 to see its baroque interior. Many of the elaborate paintings and sculptures originally adorned La Merced in Antigua, but were moved here after earthquakes devastated that city. The church also has two small museums.

Centro Cultural Miguel Angel Asturias

Distance: 3.5 km from hotel
teatro nacional

The city's fine-arts complex consists of the imposing Teatro Nacional and the open-air Teatro al Aire Libre. Named for Guatemala's Nobel Prize-winning novelist who spent much of his life in exile for opposing Guatemala's dictatorship, the hilltop cluster of buildings overlooks the Old City. Check out the performance schedule while you're here and pick up a ticket if something strikes your fancy. The only way to see the theater, other than attending a performance, is to take a 1½-hour tour

Catedral Santiago de Guatemala

Distance: 2 blocks from hotel
catedral

Built between 1778 and 1867, Guatemala City's cathedral replaced the old Catedral de Santiago Apóstol in Antigua, which was destroyed 1773 earthquake. The structure is a rare example of colonial architecture in the Old City. Standing steadfast on the eastern end of the Plaza Mayor, it is one of the city's most enduring landmarks, having survived the capital's numerous 20th-century earthquakes. The ornate altars hold outstanding examples of colonial religious art, including an image of the Virgen de la Asunción, the city's patron saint.

Off a courtyard on the cathedral's south side—enter through the church—stands the Museo de la Arquidiócesis de Santiago Guatemala, the archdiocesan museum with a small collection of colonial religious art and artifacts.

Palacio Nacional de la Cultura

Distance: 2 blocks from hotel
palacio nacional

The grandiose National Palace was built between 1937 and 1943 to satisfy the monumental ego of President Jorge Ubico Castañeda. It once held the offices of the president and his ministers, but now many of its 320 rooms house a collection of paintings and sculptures by well-known Guatemalan artists from the colonial period to the present. Look for Alfredo Gálvez Suárez's murals illustrating the history of the city above the entry. The palace's ornate stairways and stained-glass windows are a pleasant contrast to the gritty city outside its walls. Your guided visit includes a stop at the presidential balcony off the banquet room. If the palace is a must on your itinerary, call ahead to confirm that it is open; the building occasionally closes for presidential functions.

Mercado Central

Distance: 3 blocks from hotel
mercado

A seemingly endless maze of underground passages is home to the Mercado Central, where inexpensive handicrafts from the highlands are sold from the many stalls. While not as pricey as the open-air markets in Antigua or Chichicastenango, the leather goods, wooden masks, and woolen blankets are true testaments to Guatemalan design and craftsmanship. There are skilled pickpockets in the market, so keep your belongings close.

Plaza Mayor

Distance: 1 block from hotel
Plaza Central

Encircling this historic square are landmarks that survived the 19th- and 20th century earthquakes. In the center of the plaza is a fountain where children sometimes splash while their parents relax on the nearby benches. Photographers perch here on weekends, putting up small backdrops of rural scenes—you can have your picture taken in front of them. On Sunday, the best day to go, the plaza is filled with vendors and local families relaxing on their day off.

Hotel Pan American

Exterior at the Pan American Guatemala

9a calle 5-63 zona 1 01001,
Guatemala, Centro América

Tel: (502) 2244-0850