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Managua: Why This Hidden Gem Deserves to be Explored

The Old Cathedral in Managua, Nicaragua
The Old Cathedral in Managua, Nicaragua | © eric molina / Flickr
The Nicaraguan capital has a reputation as an ugly and sometimes dangerous place to be, but there are some excellent reasons to spend a few days here. From bustling outdoor markets and partying inside a pyramid to theatre productions and baseball games, here’s why Managua is a city worth exploring.

Get to know Nicaraguan culture

In front of the old cathedral is the former congress building, which now houses the Palacio Nacional de Cultura. Take a walk around the exhibition rooms to see artifacts such as pre-Columbian ceramics, ritual masks from various regions, and selected works by contemporary artists.

Palacio Nacional, Managua, Nicaragua © Zenia Nuñez / Flickr

Hang out at Puerto Salvador Allende

This relatively new entertainment complex is a good spot for eating, drinking and listening to live music in one of the various bars. There is also a big go-karting track and boat trips on the lake.

Stock up at the markets

Whether you’re looking for produce or souvenirs, the markets of Managua are bound to have something you want. Mercado Roberto Huembes doubles as a bus terminal, and has a good selection of handicrafts, while Mercado Oriental eschews the tourist stuff in favour of seemingly endless stalls selling functional items.

Eat like the locals in Nicaragua © Matyas Rehak / Shutterstock

Visit a symbol of revolutionary triumph over the Somoza dictatorship

Loma de Tiscapa is the highest point in the city, sitting on the edge of an extinct volcano. Former-dictator Anastasio Somoza García had a palace here, complete with torture rooms, but now the area is dominated by a giant silhouette of revolutionary hero Augusto Calderón Sandino.

Take a look at a forbidden cathedral

The 1972 earthquake destroyed large swathes of central Managua, but the Old Cathedral survived. It might have suffered visible damage, including bent bell towers, but it’s still standing. You aren’t allowed to go inside for safety reasons, but you can take photos from the fence.

The Old Cathedral in Managua, Nicaragua © eric molina / Flickr

See how the city has been regenerated at Paseo Xolotlán

The previously abandoned lakeside street has been turned into an attraction for local families and tourists alike. There are kiosks, a water park, a 737 airliner that you can climb into, and models of 35 churches from across Nicaragua. It’s a bit kitsch but it’s a popular spot.

Experience contemporary culture at Teatro Nacional Rubén Darío

Named in honour of Nicaragua’s most famous poet, this theatre hosts regular performances and shows. Check the listings before you travel and check out a performance if there is something that catches your eye.

A stamp printed in Nicaragua shows the Nicaraguan poet Ruben Dario, circa 1967 © neftali / Shutterstock

Party inside a huge pyramid

For the hardest partying in Managua, head to Chamán. This 2000-person-capacity club is housed inside a shining, white pyramid that can be seen from across the city.

Experience a baseball game

Nicaraguans are mad about baseball, and the biggest games take place in Managua. The game might be a bit slow, but there is plenty of entertainment. People buy beers by the bucket and listen to traditional chichero musical groups, as the baseball players do their thing in the background.

Baseball in Nicaragua © Roman Konigshofer / Flickr

See how older Nicaraguans get down at La Casa del Obrero

It’s not just the youngsters who like to party in Managua. At La Casa del Obrero you’ll find daytime parties largely attended by retirees, with an average age of around 65. It’s quite the experience, and Sunday is probably the best day to go.

Get the best fritanga in the country

Managuans claim that their city is home to the best traditional fritanga spot in Nicaragua. Head to Doña Tania’s to try the deep-fried chicken, pork, or beef with rice and beans, plantain chips and coleslaw salad.