San Salvador

Capital of El Salvador in the heart of the Central American country, San Salvador is a city once renowned for its provincial beauty but now characterised by all the hallmarks of modernisation for the benefit of the tourist.

Little is known about San Salvador’s distant past except that the first recorded inhabitants were the Pipil tribes, descendants of the Aztecs, who established their capital city, Cuscatlán, on the settlement. Indeed, the actual foundation of San Salvador came in the 16th century and, during its colonial history, was celebrated as a beautiful, tranquil spot. This all changed during the 20th century though, as increased investment and immigration bloated San Salvador from 30,000 inhabitants to a staggering 2 million, becoming the second largest city in Central America.

Such developments have not come easily though, as earthquakes in 1854 and 2001 as well as a nearby volcanic eruption in 1917 took their toll. However, San Salvador survived and now stands as a popular tourist spot thanks to its climate and entertainments.

Attractions & Culture

The most easily recognised edifice in San Salvador is the Casa Presidencial in the Avenida Cuscatlán. As the name suggests, the Casa is the official residence of the President of El Salvador, currently Antonio Saca. Built between 1911 and 1921 in a pseudo-Art Nouveau style, the Casa is further remarkable for the four surrounding parks, named after Juan José Cañas, Felipe Soto, Venustiano Carranza and Miguel de Cervantes.

Standing both as architectural point of interest and cultural hub is the Teatro Nacional de El Salvador. Constructed between 1911 and 1917 in French Renaissance style with Corinthian columns courtesy of the French architect, Daniel Beylard, the Teatro has been classified a National Monument since 1979.

Other exceptional pieces of architecture in San Salvador include the Catedral Metropolitana, the Palace of the Archbishop and the Church of Rosario. However, if you’re willing to travel outside the city centre, you can also visit the Joya de Cerén ruins some 30 minutes away, attesting to the settlement’s Mayan past.

San Salvador enjoys a wide array of museums. These include the David J Guzman Museum of Anthropology (specialising in Pipil and Mayan history), the Museo de Arte MARTE (containing a collection of international art), the Military Museum (housed in the ‘El Zapote’ barracks of 1895) and the [ Tin Marin Museum] (which is aimed at kids).


San Salvador is known for its great shopping opportunities, containing some of the best shopping centres and malls in Central America. These include Metrocentro, the largest in the region, El Pasco, Plaza Merliot and La Gran Via.

Alternatively, try the Mercado de Artesanías for local arts and crafts in particular.

Nightlife & Dining

The exotic El Salvadoran cuisine is one of the main reasons for visiting the country, and most of the best restaurants can be found in San Salvador. Highly recommended are A lo Nuestro in Calle la Reforma, 503 in the Boulevard del Hipódromo and Angus in La Gran Via.

The Zona Rosa is the most popular spot for bars and clubs such as Los Alambiques. However, La Gran Via and Las Terrazas also have some excellent venues like Stanza and El Alebrije. Be warned though, due to the problems with gangs in the city, use taxis after dark to ensure your safety.

If you’d prefer something a little more cultural, San Salvador has some of the best theatres in the country such as the aforementioned Teatro Nacional and the Teatro Presidente.

Tourist Information

  • El Salvador National Tourist Office
  • Boulevard de Hipódromo, 508
  • Col. San Benito
  • San Salvador
  • Tel: +503 2243 7835
  • E-mail:
  • Web: [ El Salvador Tourism (only in Spanish currently)]


San Salvador is served by El Salvador International Airport, some 50 km away from the city itself. There is an excellent road network to San Salvador though, making it easily accessible via car.

As one of the largest airports in Latin America, you can expect international and domestic connecting flights to be regularly available, but mainly to American destinations.