Nicaragua’s capital has been affected by natural disasters more than almost any other city on the continent.

Three times in the last 120 years, earthquakes have caused catastrophic damage. The old centre of Managua was literally erased in one night by the devastating earthquake of 1972. During the last years, life returned to the former center at the Plaza de la Revolución, but the ruin of the old cathedral still looks like a memorial. The Casa Presidencial, completed in 1999, is the official residence of the president, whose construction costs at that time triggered vehement protests in the population. Today, the Palacio Nacional de Cultura accommodates Nicaragua’s National Museum, after different ministries were accommodated in the building during the pre-Sandinist times. The Centro Cultural de Managua occupies the two lower floors of the formerly much higher Gran Hotel that was once the first address of the city. Today, there is a café on the ground floor, and art exhibitions, concerts, puppet shows and dance performances are also organized here. On the upper floor, prominent Nicaraguan artists have their studios. In the corridors of the building there are impressive black and white photographs of scenes and buildings of Managua from the times before the great earthquake. In the La Cavanga bar, which offers live music from Wednesday to Saturday, the atmosphere takes you back to the fifties.

Managua’s present center, called Metrocentro, is hardly recognizable as such and essentially consists of a roundabout with a fountain surrounded by a series of modern buildings, including a luxury hotel and a “shopping mall” based on the us-American model. One can enjoy a panoramic view over the city from the hill above the Laguna de Tiscapa, the Loma de Tiscapa. The larger-than-life Sandino silhouette was built on the ruins of the destroyed Somoza residence after the victory of the Sandinista Revolution and is located on military property. It can be reached by following the narrow, winding road behind the pyramid-shaped former Interconti Hotel (now Crowne Plaza), Managua’s unofficial landmark. Managua’s most controversial building is the new cathedral, designed by Mexican star architect Ricardo Legorreta, whose raw concrete architecture and Mosque-like roof are a source of controversy. It is definitely well worth a visit for architecture fans.