Comayagua, as the old Colonial capital of Honduras, has many nice sites to enjoy that are really quite close to each other, making this a perfect place for a walking tour of the city. In an effort to avoid back tracking over your route, I suggest you start at the old Plaza de la Merced, which happens to be the original central park of Comayagua and is located just across the street from the Church of La Merced, which incidentally, was the original cathedral of the city.
The building itself was built between 1551 and 1552, and it was consecrated as a Cathedral, the first such in Honduras, in 1561. Many consider this the oldest standing church in Honduras, and it is definitely one of the oldest in Central America. Its structure has been pretty much the original, with the only major change being that it lost one of its two bell towers to an earthquake in 1774.
The small park across the street from the Church of La Merced is known as the Plaza de la Merced. It has a unique obelisk in the center of the park that was built in 1820 to commemorate the Spanish constitution of 1812, which was passed in Cadiz, Spain on that year. This is one of the last monuments built by the Spaniards in the province of Honduras before independence was granted to New Spain in 1821. The structure is commonly referred to as the Constitution Column, and is built on a large hexagonal base and crowned with an imperial bronze crown. There is a nice colonial looking commercial area around the plaza and you can enjoy a great cup of coffee at the coffee shop located on the ground floor.
To continue your tour, you will now head 3 blocks to the north, towards the Cathedral, you should be able to see the cathedral dome if you are standing in front of La Merced Church, in any case, if you don’t have your bearings, if you are standing in front of La Merced church, facing the building, you should go to the left. You will reach the backside of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. This is without doubt the masterpiece of colonial heritage in Comayagua, and it has been delightfully restored together with the Central Plaza just in front of it. The Cathedral is usually open during the day, except for about an hour at lunch time, sometime between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Built between 1563 and 1711, this is the largest colonial cathedral built in Honduras and one of the few that has a domed rooftop rather than the wooden beams and red tile roofs that were much more common in this part of the colony. Although damaged in the earthquake of 1774, fortunately the building did not suffer structural damage and was fully recovered. The Cathedral was totally restored in 2003. The interior altars are finely carved wood and a true piece of art. Tourists are welcome to the church, so feel free to enter, just make sure you respect the fact that the temple is not only sacred to the Catholics, it is also the pride and joy of the members of the Comayagua community!
Perhaps the most distinguished element in the church is the old clock that is based on the bell tower. This was a gift to the city of Comayagua by King Phillip III back in 1636 and it originally functioned in the old cathedral, known today as the Church of La Merced, and was moved to its current spot in 1711, when the new cathedral was consecrated. The clock was actually quite old when it was donated; as it had been built by the moors during their occupation of Spain sometime during the XIIth century! As far as we know, this is the oldest working clock in the Americas, and probably the oldest in the world! Around 900 years old and still going! Best of all, it runs regularly thanks to an old man that has the task of maintaining it and keeps winding it. It works thanks to a very simple weight system and has to be winded a couple of times a day!
The Central Park , also known as Plaza Leon Alvarado is directly in front of the Cathedral and is the most popular gathering spot in Comayagua. Its lovely gardens, the archway with the coat of arms of the city, the kiosk where musical presentations are done from time to time and the lovely fountain in the middle of the plaza give it a personality of its own. If you take the time to study the floor in front of the cathedral, you will notice that it actually mirrors the façade of this majestic building!
Another important building facing the Plaza Leon Alvarado is the Comayagua City Hall, a lovely old colonial building that was used originally during the first years of Honduras as a independent country as government offices. Feel free to stroll into the building and go up to the second floor terrace overlooking the park, you can get good pictures of the cathedral and park from here. Also, on the first floor, facing the street you will find the municipal tourism office. Here you can find information, hire a guide or get tips about upcoming events. If you are interested in getting historical facts about the city of Comayagua, you should definitely hire a guide here. They can also be helpful if you are interested in having access to the bell tower in the cathedral which I highly recommend! Views of the city from up there are awesome!
Opposite from City Hall is the Casa de La Cultura de Comayagua, The Comayagua House of Culture, here you will find rotating exhibits regarding Comayagua, as well as cultural events. The building has been totally renovated and has a lovely interior courtyard.
After visiting the city hall, continue north one block on the pedestrian street that will bring you to the Plaza San Francisco. Here on the corner, you will find the old presidential house, which today functions as a museum that is run by the Honduran Institute of Anthropology and History. This is one of the two museums that operate in the city, and the building has been delightfully renovated, with lovely gardens, spacious interior corridors and high ceiling rooms. There is a small entrance fee and the visit is well worth it, so take your time and stroll through this old house that was once the political center of Honduras! The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 8:00 am till 4:30 p.m. It is closed on Monday.
Across the street from the Museum you will find the Plaza San Francisco, named this way because of the old colonial Church of San Francisco that is adjacent to the plaza. The parish was founded in 1560 by the Anthonian religious order, it was originally named the Church of San Antonio, however, as of 1575 the temple was handed over to the jurisdiction of the Franciscan Friars, who arrived in Honduras sponsored by bishop Fray Jeronimo de Castilla, hence the change of name. During the earthquake of 1774 part of the roof collapsed, and was replaced by a wooden structure. Its structure has suffered many changes throughout the years. The bell in its tower dates to 1460 and was brought from Alcala de Enares in Spain. Adjacent to the Church is a modern school building that seems totally out of place and takes away from the colonial charm.
Off the far end of the Plaza San Francisco you will find a pleasant pedestrian street that leads back to the south in the direction of the Cathedral. Halfway along this short block you will come upon the ruins of the largest civil building that the Spaniards built in Honduras, the Caxa Real. This is where the governor of the province lived and also were money was coined. The 1774 earthquake seriously damaged the building and a second earthquake in 1809 destroyed the building; total abandonment took care of letting the rest crumble to the ground. Only part of the original façade remains, however Municipality of Comayagua has plans to consolidate what little is still standing and make better use of this historical monument.
There are a couple of more colonial churches to be enjoyed, the Church of Charity (Iglesia de La Caridad) is the most important of these. Also, the old Episcopal Palace is located just across the street from the Cathedral. This is the bishops’ residence in Comayagua and a part of the building was dedicated to a lovely collection of religious artefacts, many dating back to colonial times. Unfortunately, there was a serious fire that took place back in 2009 and the building was seriously damaged. Fortunately, most of the exhibits where saved by the community and the building and museum are in the process of being rebuilt and re opened.