Top things to do in San Salvador

The capital of El Salvador has somewhat a bad reputation over the past couple of decades. Despite Central America being very much on the backpacker trail, often El Salvador is often skipped and those that do visit the country regularly go straight to the surf spots and miss the capital completely.
For the adventurous traveller who wants something a little different then San Salvador can be a lively and fun place to visit. Here are 10 suggestions as to what to do in San Salvador.

1. Try the beers at the La Cadejo microbrewery.
In upmarket Zona Rosa this bar/restaurant and brewery makes it’s own beers (with 51 varieties) and also supplies nationwide.
It’s possible to have a tour of the brewery, and the location is a popular spot on an evening to watch sports and eat decent pizzas and a range of other filling dishes.

The real draw here however is the great selection of unusual brews. There’s a pumpkin spice, a strong ginger ale at over 5% and a strawberry, as well as IPA, APA and a few stouts.

cadejo microbrewery san salvador

 

2. Devour the local speciality, the pupusa.
These corn dough patties are served hot and often cheese filled and are cheap and filling way to eat. Many meals come automatically with these on the side but they also serve as a fantastic snack at any time of day and feel like a treat.

3. Rock out at Republik Bar.
San Salvador’s top rock venue and Irish bar Republik draws a cool fun loving crowd and after 9pm is full on most evenings, particularly a weekend. It’s an atmospheric place with a stage for the bands and a VIP area/whiskey bar upstairs with great views over the crowd and band.
They do a good range of food as well as good value cocktails. Check on their social media to see what’s on and for the top notch cover bands.
3. Visit the Cathedral
The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Holy Savior is the main Roman Catholic Church in El Salvador and dominates the skyline of the city. It’s an important place for the people of San Salvador as it was visited twice by 

Pope John Paul II, and because it is also the resting place of Archbishop Óscar Romero who was assassinated in 1980.

 

4. Take a walk around Mercado Central
Mercado Central stretches a number of streets and is a fun way to get to know the city. Walk through the busy streets with vendors shouting out prices and offers for all things imaginable. Navigate the tight streets between stalls and chat with the smiling locals whilst dodging the fruit carts.
5. Grab a bite to eat at the food area of Mercado Excuartel
A fairly difficult to navigate market with seemingly endless stalls selling On the lower level of the market are around 20 mini restaurants, almost all run by women offering home cooking style food cooked up fresh and piping hot for under 2/3 dollars. On top of the usual pupusas expect spicy chicken and chicken soups as well as empanadas with rice & salad options. 1a Calle Oriente, San Salvador, El Salvador.
6. Buy some fresh fruit from the street vendors. There are fruit sellers everywhere and for under a dollar you can quench your thirst with a fresh coconut juice plus all the flesh or a stack of sweet pineapple.
7. Check out the architecture at Teatro Nacionale. Opened in 1903, it’s  the oldest theater in Central America. It’s free to enter but with fairly varied entry times. It has a great French classical style and is worth a wander round, even to see the facade of the building if you’re short on time. If you have a little longer and fancy something different then catch a show in the evening.
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8. Check out the pinatas on Calle San Antonio Abad
Somewhere between scary and fun this colourful street has endless pināta stalls on both sides with all shapes and sizes on offer. Expect unicorns, cars, emojis and giant beer bottles that you’ll have to duck and dive to get around.

pinatas in El Salvador

9. Try to navigate the city on local buses. Head to trendy Zona Rosa on the old American school buses in a variety of colours. Stand on the side of the road and listen for the bus callers shouting the destinations before you hop on and speed through the city.

For more ideas as to where to visit and how to plan a trip to San Salvador watch my full guide to San Salvador on YouTube.

Top things to do in Ruta de las Flores, El Salvador

 

The Ruta de las Flores is a picturesque area in El Salvador, popular for spending a few days exploring the small towns and villages that make up the route, hiking, visiting markets and generally having a nice laid back time. Below you’ll find some top suggestions for what to do in the area.

My suggestion for a company that offers tours in El Salvador that are well priced fun hitting up all the main spots is Tunco Life.
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  1. Learn about the local artists and weavers in Ataco
    Ataco is full of great craft shops selling locally made items. You can see some of the traditional looms used to make the brightly coloured cloths you’ll see around, as well as shops selling ceramic designs by/inspired by Fernando Llort the famous artist from El Salvador.
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  2. Get lost in the Albania el Laberinto
    The maze is a fun activity for all ages. Surprisingly difficult for a small maze it completely defeated me. I’d like to think that with a bit more time I would have found the middle but I did escape to the pleasant cafe on site serving up tasty cakes.20190114_125512
  3. Take a tour of the El Carmen estate  on an Ataco coffee tour
    El Salvador has fantastic coffee and the El Carmen Estate is a great place to learn about the process as well as try some of their quality gourmet coffees.
  4. Visit the Thermal pools of Santa Teresa 
    There are a number thermal pools to try out, of varying temperatures. It’s a pleasant place with pan pipe music replicating Western hits whilst you swim around. There’s a bar/restaurant on site and at weekends it gets very busy so best to visit on a weekday if you want the place pretty much to yourself.810_3792
  5. Eat at the Food market in Juayua
    Every weekend Juayua comes alive with it’s famous food festival. A great number of stalls pop up all over the town especially near the main square and church. If you’re a foodie and want to try local specialities then this is the place, with vendors selling cheap and freshly prepared food right into the night.
  6. Check out the vegetable markets in Nahuizalco
    Nahuizalco is fairly low key but has some great vegetable markets with colourfully dressed market traders and a whole range of local fruits and vegetables as well as other snacks and treats.
  7. Admire the murals in Ataco
    Ataco is one of the prettiest towns in the area and it’s ever so colourful. It’s covered in beautiful wall art and murals all over town. As well as some of the major pieces of work there are also smaller pieces to be found on the sides of cafes and shops, so it’s worth having a good wander round to find your favourites.
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  8. Take in the views of Santa Ana Volcano
    Santa Ana volcano can be seen from miles around and on the Ruta de las Flores is one of the top places to view it from afar. On a clear day you’re able to see the coffee plantations running up the side of the hills and the rolling clouds make for wonderful time lapses for those interested.
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