From the World Heritage inscription:
Antigua Guatemala is an outstanding example of preserved colonial architecture and of cultural value. The religious, private and government buildings bear exceptional testimony to the Spanish colonial architecture in Antigua.
Built 1,500 m above sea level in an earthquake-prone region, Antigua, the capital of the Captaincy-General of Guatemala, was founded in the early 16th century as Santiago de Guatemala. The conquerors chose this location as the previous capital had flooded in 1541 and the valley provided an adequate source of water and a fertile soil. Antigua Guatemala was the seat of Spanish colonial government for the Kingdom of Guatemala, which included Chiapas (southern Mexico), Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. It was the cultural, economic, religious, political and educational centre for the entire region until the capital was moved to present-day Guatemala City after the damaging earthquakes of 1773, but its principal monuments are still preserved as ruins. In the space of under three centuries the city, which was built on a grid pattern inspired by the Italian Renaissance, acquired a number of superb monuments.
Antigua might be the most charming city in Central America.
The former capital of Guatemala (antigua means ‘old’ in Spanish), Antigua was abandoned for Guatemala City because the area was earthquake prone.
Among the many Spanish colonial buildings are several ruined churches which were destroyed by earthquake and never rebuilt. In particular, the cathedral which you see today (shown in photo) is only a fraction of the size of the original building. If you go to the back of the structure you can see the remains of the original cathedral.
Antigua is an hour drive from the Guatemala City airport and one of the top attractions in Guatemala.
View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.