If Nicaragua ’s capital were a vehicle, it would be a battered 1960s school bus, dented and dinged on all sides, paint chipping through multiple layers of color, four bald tires rolling slightly akilter, but sporting a brand new, $2,000 sound system blaring a merengue classic for its smiling passengers, both rich and poor.
Managua rarely impresses; its labyrinthine, unnamed streets are complicated to navigate, it is loud and architecturally uninspiring, and there’s no city center to speak of. Though it’s relatively safe, it doesn’t feel that way, and its understated charms don’t exactly jump out at you.
Home to nearly a quarter of Nicaragua’s population, Managua sets the tone for the political and economic dialogue that shapes the nation’s destiny. The story of Managua and Nicaragua are largely parallel, from earthquake to revolution to economic revival and onward, so the better you understand Managua, the better you will understand the history of Nicaragua itself.
Managua is also the best place in the country to get your gear repaired, see a doctor or dentist, see a movie or show, and party like a salsa star. It also has the nation’s most varied selection of restaurants  and night spots .
You likely won’t plan your trip around a visit to Managua, but neither should you necessarily avoid it, as Managua does have a charm of its own that will become apparent once you’ve spent a little time here. You may even discover you like the place.