Managua, Nicaragua: Top Things You Must Do

Welcome to the vibrant city of Managua, the heart of Nicaragua! This bustling capital city is an enchanting blend of old-world charm and modern sophistication, nestled between lush green mountains and the sparkling Lake Managua. A hidden gem in Central America, Managua, Nicaragua offers an intoxicating mix of old-world charm and modern attractions.

The city of Managua, Nicaragua is an underrated destination in Central America | David's Been Here

A city that has risen like a phoenix from the ashes of its tumultuous past, Managua today is a bustling metropolis that retains its authentic charm while embracing modernity. From its sun-drenched shores to the buzzing local markets, Managua offers a treasure trove of adventures—especially food adventures.

Managua lies along the shores of Lake Nicaragua | David's Been Here

From the earthy beans and rice of gallo pinto to the complex mix of savory, sweet, fresh, and heavy in baho, Nica cuisine is a dream. The country’s cuisine is a diverse blend of Spanish, Indigenous and Creole influences. Hearty meats are plentiful here, but you’ll also find seafood, fresh fruits, and lots of maize.

Raspados is a popular icy and fruity snack in Managua | David's Been Here

With its mesmerizing landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and mouth-watering cuisine, discovering Managua is like unveiling a treasure chest of adventures. When I visited Managua with my guide Carlos back in 2022, I was captivated by its unique blend of the past and present and friendly locals. Join me as I share my top things you must experience in Managua, Nicaragua!

Visit Restaurant The Cousins

When you visit Managua, Nicaragua, one spot that should be on your list is Restaurant The Cousins. Their extensive menu features hearty dishes like meat and potatoes, chicken with jalapenos and cream, carne asada, valencia rice, BBQ ribs, tongue with salsa, pinched pig (pig with vegetable sauce), rice with shrimp, fried enchiladas, fried tacos, gallo pinto, and more.

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A sampling of the foods I ate at Restaurant The Cousins | David's Been Here

I highly recommend their gallo pinto, carne asada, tajadas con queso, and enchilada frita. The enchilada was massive and filled with a generous helping of rice and meat. Their carne asada was smoky and crunchy with a perfect amount of heat. I loved the beans and rice of the gallo pinto, as well as the grilled pork with chimichurri.

The service at Restaurant the Cousins was fantastic, as was the food | David's Been Here

The pork was tender yet charred on the outside, and the chimichurri sauce added a rich, earthy flavor. The food was so good, I didn’t want to stop! It’s the perfect introduction to the food culture in Managua, Nicaragua.

Go on a fritanga street food tour of Managua, Nicaragua

Managua is the perfect place to try fritanga, or Nicaraguan street food. At a local favorite called Fritanga Nica, you’ll have the opportunity to try a unique dish called quesillo en bolsa. It’s essentially a rolled taco in a plastic baggie, along with melted cheese, onions, salad, ketchup, cream, and chilies. Locals eat it by crunching it together, tearing a hole in the corner of the bag, and sucking the mixture out. It’s an incredible mix of hearty and fresh flavors and textures!

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Going on a fritangas tour of Managua, Nicaragua is a must | David's Been Here

At another spot in Managua, Nicaragua called Asados don Mincho, I met a woman grilling chicken, gallo pinto, and meat. Her gallo pinto had a vibrant reddish color from the red beans she used. Gallo pinto typically contains black beans, so it’s a unique take on a traditional dish. Additionally, she also grilled a fried banana that added a delightful touch.

Torta de Maduro is one of my favorite

I recommend her torta de maduro. This sweet plantain empanada was filled with cheese and topped with cabbage salad. Accompanied by a grilled hot dog, this dish was sweet and savory, with a hint of spice. It reminded me of one of my all-time favorite dishes, the Venezuelan cachapa! Torta de maduro and gallo pinto are musts when visiting Managua, Nicaragua!

Get a Haircut in Managua, Nicaragua

One of my favorite things to do when I travel is to get pampered with a haircut. At Barber Magic in the Oriental Market in Managua, Nicaragua, a barber named Usbaldo gave me the ultimate shave, haircut, and head and back massage.

Getting a haircut at Barber Magic in Managua, Nicaragua | David's Been Here

He also gave me a thoroughly relaxing massage across my chest, hands, and arms. It was heavenly and he helped relieve a lot of my tension. Best of all, the entire experience cost only 300 Cordobas, or a little over $8 USD. If you’re looking to get pampered, Barber Magic can’t be beat!

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Cool off at Freaking Frozen

If you visit Managua, Nicaragua in the spring like I did, the weather will likely already be sweltering. Cool off at Freaking Frozen, which sells icy treats like smoothies. The mango smoothie I chose had an interesting twist – it was spicy! Additionally, we tried a hoctada smoothie, which had a sour and meaty fruit like cherries.

The incredible hoctada at Freaking Frozen | David's Been Here

The hoctada was a combination of spicy, sweet, and salty flavors. The mango smoothie was made from green mangoes and had a slightly sour and bitter taste. It was like a spicy fruit cocktail. Out of all the options, my favorite was the granizado de limonada, which was essentially a mixture of ice and lemon!

Explore the Oriental Market

Visiting markets is often the best way to get a taste of everyday life in a new location. The Oriental Market in Managua, Nicaragua is the largest market in Central America. It covers 135 city blocks and its vendors offer everything from food to clothing to household items.

Baho is a popular dish you can find in the Oriental Market in Managua, Nicaragua | David's Been Here

One popular dish found in the market is quesillos en bolsa, but my favorite is a dish called baho. It consists of calf chest, yuca, sweet plantains, tomatoes, and crunchy cabbage and is a hearty, savory, and sweet treat you can’t miss. Also, don’t miss the pharmaceuticals and clothing shops—they have really great options!

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Dine at La Plancha II

If you head to the boardwalk along the shores of Lake Nicaragua, you’ll find La Plancha II. This bar and restaurant in Managua, Nicaragua offers a variety of meat dishes cooked right in front of you. I highly recommend their famous black beans with tortilla chips, beef consommé, and grilled beef.

The mouthwatering spread of Nicaraguan food at La Plancha II in Managua | David's Been Here

The consommé, made with onions, pepper, and tomatoes, is a fantastic appetizer. The pureed black bean soup with cream is delicious when paired with tortilla chips and enhanced with onions and spice.

My guide Carlos and I enjoying grilled beef at La Plancha II in Managua, Nicaragua | David's Been Here

The Punta de fillet de jalapeño, a large piece of grilled beef accompanied by an onion-jalapeño cream, is perfectly cooked and not overly salty. Have a glass of their pear-like granadilla juice to wash it all down!

Book a trip to Managua, Nicaragua

Whether you’re exploring the street food in Managua’s Oriental Market or dining in one of its fantastic restaurants, this city is a food lover’s dream. Visiting the city taught me so many things I never knew about Nicaraguan cuisine.

Me and my guide Carlos at La Plancha II Restaurant | David's Been Here

It was the experience of a lifetime and is one that is dear to my heart. I think you’ll enjoy it as much as I did. Be sure to book a trip to Managua, Nicaragua today to experience it for yourself!

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