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Guatemala City is the country's capital and largest city. In fact, with a population of some three million, it's the largest city in Central America.

Guatemala City was founded as the country's third capital in 1776, following the destruction of two earlier attempts by natural disasters -- earthquakes and mudslides. Christened with the unwieldy name of La Nueva Guatemala de La Asunci├│n de la Valle de la Ermita by Spain's King Charles III, it's most commonly known by its simple abbreviation, Guate. Long before the Spaniards moved their capital here, this was the site of the pre-Classic Maya city of Kaminaljuy├║, whose ruins you can still visit. The city is set on a broad plateau at an elevation of 1,468m (4,897 ft.) above sea level, and is surrounded by mountains and volcanoes on all sides.

Despite its well-deserved reputation as a violent and dangerous place, Guatemala City has a lot to offer travelers. The principal commercial and tourist zones are full of fine hotels and excellent restaurants, and the nightlife found in Zona Viva and Cuatro Grados Norte is the best in the country. The city also boasts theaters, art galleries, and several worthwhile museums.