Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, is the country’s premiere economic center as well as its largest city. The city is mindful of its past while looking toward its future as the capital of a country that has experienced a decade of peace. Upscale developments, most notably the neighborhoods around Carretera Masaya, are replete with international restaurant chains and luxury boutiques that serve as the playgrounds of the city’s well-heeled residents. Meanwhile, in the barrios that edge the city, many families maintain a traditional way of life that is far removed from the hustle and bustle of urban life.
Managua’s layout is perplexing to the firsttime visitor. A request for a taxi driver to take you to the city center will likely be met with a blank stare: this big sprawling city has no real downtown. It wasn’t always this way. The city was devastated by a severe earthquake in 1972 that wiped out more than 600 of the city’s blocks, and the growth of infrastructure since then has been haphazard. As a result, exploring Managua in depth in a short amount of time can be a challenge. The decentralized nature of the city means distances can be great, and seemingly innocuous neighborhoods sometimes have unexpectedly substantial crime rates. Further, though Managua has been the capital of Nicaragua since 1857, most of its streets remain unnamed, making navigation difficult.
Despite these challenges, Managua offers many of Nicaragua’s most vibrant accommodation, dining, and entertainment options to visitors willing to seek them out.
Managua has a handful of worthwhile sights, but it’s not one of Nicaragua’s more attractive cities. Most visitors prefer to spend their travel time in less congested locales, and a half-day city tour is enough to see the city’s highlights (see p 96). If you prefer to move on immediately, it’s easy to see Managua on a half- or fullday tour from Masaya, Granada, or León.
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