04 Jun What to do while in Managua?
The city of Managua – Nicaragua’s administrative and commercial center – causes two distinct reactions among tourists: they either love it or they hate it. It’s that simple. Our capital has no center, it lacks pedestrian friendly ways and there are barely any bicycle lanes. But there is something in it for those who know how to appreciate the “beauty of chaos”. Somehow, this city of two million inhabitants still manages to stay green.
If you are passing through the capital, do not overlook it. We recommend some points that you can visit with hat, sports shoes and a bottle of water in hand:
1. Mirador de Tiscapa
Although for many travelers the capital is basically a stop along the day to another destination, the truth of the matter is that there are many things one can do in Managua. For example, visit the “Historical Park Loma de Tiscapa”. This place is famous for being the point where the regime of the Somoza family – a dictatorship that lasted four decades – tortured civilians with differing political views. From this spot you have privileged views of Managua, its old historic center as well as the few high rise buildings that have been built in recent years. A huge statue of Sandino stands guard at the top of the hill, and close to it you can find a few ¨Trees of Life¨ – giant and colorful metal trees – as well as a very fun wire canopy from which one can slide from one extreme of the Tiscapa Lagoon to the other.
The entrance fees for this park are:
Private vehicles: C $ 20
Microbuses: C $ 50
Buses: C $ 100
2. Managua Historic Center
Rehabilitated by the current government, this area of Managua – bordering Lake Xolotlán – has become a major tourist attraction for locals and foreigners. In it you can visit the square where the triumph of the Sandinista Popular Revolution was celebrated, on July 19, 1979, and you can see several buildings that survived the earthquake of 1972, including the National Palace, the old Cathedral of Managua and the Rubén Darío Theater. Incidentally, at the Rubén Darío Theater is where the most prestigious cultural events of the capital are held and it owes its name to the greatest and most renown of all nicaraguan poets.
A few minutes’ walk in the direction towards Lake Xolotlán, located to the north of this area, you will find the Plaza de la Fe, where Pope John Paul II held a mass for thousands of parishioners, who came to see him on February 6th 1996. Adjacent to the plaza, bordering the beach of lake Xolotlán is Port/Puerto Salvador Allende, a very lively and colorful spot where an impressive selection of restaurants, bars and family recreation areas have been recently built.
All these buildings make out a circuit where you can spend the day, whether you are tasting typical Nicaraguan food or walking with a local guide who will share historical facts about Nicaragua.
3. Roberto Huembes Market
Managua has several markets where the Nicas buy clothes, food and pretty much anything at reasonable prices. The Oriental is the largest in the country, but the Roberto Huembes Market is the one that has become a frequent spot for tourists who want to buy Nicaraguan handicrafts, sweets and snacks, clothing and traditional shoes. It is always better to be accompanied by a local, as this will help you “regatear” (negotiate) the price of products and save a few córdobas.
4. Zona Hippos
What is better than ending your long day with an ice cold local beer? Well, near La Bicicleta Hostal you will find a residential area that has gradually been populated with cheap hostels, restaurants, bars and cafes for all budgets and culinary needs.
Amongst the shops, we recommend visiting Chureca-Chic, a quaint operation that, in addition to displaying exotic handicrafts made by women of limited resources, offers relaxing teas and good coffee. We also suggest spending time at the Time Travelers Café, a café-bar which succeeds with its decor in inviting you to make a trip in time, accompanied by good dishes, handmade drinks and microbrew craft beers. And finally, do not forget to stop by El Garabato, a restaurant where you can taste typical Nicaraguan food and listen to some very lively tunes!