Hotter than an oven and crisscrossed by anonymous highways, there can't be a more visitor-unfriendly capital than MANAGUA. Less a city in the conventional sense than a conglomeration of neighbourhoods and commercial districts, Managua offers few sights and cultural experiences – in fact, most visitors are so disturbed by the lack of street names and any real centre that they get out as fast as they can.
Not even the city's setting on the southern shore of Lago de Managua is particularly pleasant: the area is low-lying, swampy and flat, relieved only by a few eroded volcanoes. It also, unfortunately, sits on top of an astounding eleven seismic faults, which have shaken the city severely over time. The result has been a cycle of ruin and rebuilding, which has created a bizarre and postmodern mixture of crumbling ruins inhabited by squatters, hastily constructed concrete structures and gleaming new shopping malls and hotels. The old city centre, damaged further in the Revolution of 1978–79 and never thoroughly repaired, remains eerily abandoned.
All this said, there are things to enjoy here, although being a tourist in Managua does require a good degree of tenacity. Also, as Nicaragua's largest city and home to a quarter of its population, the city occupies a key position in the nation's economy and psyche, and offers more practical services than anywhere else in the country.