5a Avenida Sur #19, Antigua, Guatemala
Occupying the middle ground between the few large hotels and the numerous small family inns of Antigua, the 12–room Panza Verde hotel offers personal service, historic atmosphere, and one of the city's best restaurants.
With more than three decades in business, Meson Panza Verde has continually refined its operation as its guests have moved up the income scale. A five–minute walk from the main plaza, this convenient but quiet inn is a great choice for those who like their historic gravitas to come with a full bar and room service.
The restaurant here, featuring "international cuisine with a twist" prepared by a European chef, attracts plenty of locals and guests of other hotels. While this hotel was built from scratch, the main salon looks centuries old. It's is a refined space with elegant tableware, soft lighting, candelabras, and oil paintings on the walls with arches. A second dining space is along the hotel's lap pool, under stone arches, with candlelight bouncing off the water and creating dramatic shadows. One bar and lounge in this area joins another full bar near the lobby and entrance, both serving a surprising international array of rum, whiskey, and wine. Musicians perform four nights a week.
The lap pool is good for a dip or a little sunning, there are regular yoga classes, and a business center is ready if you have to do something more than check e-mail on your phone over the included Wi-Fi. An on–site art gallery features rotating exhibits from the best local artists.
Rooms range from small quarters with little light to spacious suites fit for a king. All are non–smoking and those facing noisy areas have been equipped with soundproofed windows and doors. Each room is a bit different in layout and furniture, but all have interesting antiques, ironwork, and fabrics. Most have a fireplace, some kind of terrace or balcony, and bedspreads made from local weavings. Avoid rooms 1–3 if at all possible as these are the smallest. Suite 9 on the ground floor has one of the most evocative whirlpool baths you could wish for, while Suite 4 is large enough for two queen beds in the bedroom and has a private courtyard. Suite 5 on the second floor has mountain views and a balcony with hammock. Suite 6 next to it is more like a giant junior suite, with a four–poster queen bed and plenty of open space to spread out.
Grand Suite 12 is the original owner's apartment and is the prime choice if available. Its floor–to–ceiling windows allow a direct view of Volcan Agua and high ceilings topped with cupolas provide a dramatic feel. It's a nice romantic space for couples, with a big whirlpool bath and shower for two, or it can work for families thanks to several beds in the main bedroom and a sleeping alcove.
Evocative Panza Verde effectively straddles the line between small inn and full–service hotel, making it the best choice in Antigua for those who want the best of past and present.
Review and photos by Timothy Scott.