A number of important buildings are near the intersection of the main roads in the historic centre. On the east side of Avenida Cuscatlán is the
Plaza Barrios
, the heart of the city. A fine equestrian statue looks west towards the renaissance-style
Palacio Nacional
(1904-1911). To the north is the
new cathedral
, which was left unfinished for several years after Archbishop Romero suspended its construction to use the money to reduce poverty. Work was resumed in 1990 and completed in 1999, the last consecration of a cathedral of the millennium. It now stands as a beacon of tranquillity amid the dirt and noise of the downtown capital. It commands a striking presence, gleaming white and modern, its façade flanked by two giant murals vividly splashed with the colourful work of the country's most famous artist,
Fernando Llort
. Inside it is quite bare, but for the fabulous circular stained-glass window of a dove surrounded by a hundred shards of brilliant yellow glass, which in turn is framed by yellow stars set in deep lapis lazuli- blue glass. Beneath the cathedral, a new chapel has been created to house the tomb of assassinated
Archbishop Oscar Romero

East of Plaza Barrios, on Calle Delgado, is the
Teatro Nacional
, whose interior has been magnificently restored. If you walk along 2 Calle Oriente you pass, on the right,
Parque Libertad
with the rebuilt church of
El Rosario
on the eastern side where José Matías Delgado, father of the Independence movement, lies buried. The interior, decked out in modern sculpture, is fascinating, although knocked slightly by the earthquake. The
Palacio Arquiepiscopal
is next door. Not far away to the southeast, on 10 Avenida Sur, is another rebuilt church,
La Merced
, whose belltower rang out Father Delgado's tocsin call to Independence in 1811.

One block north, across Calle Delgado, is the
Teatro Nacional
on Plaza Morazán, with a monument to General Morazán. Heading east along Delgado is the
Mercado Ex-Cuartel
, and the expected confusion of sounds and smells that besiege the senses. Nearby are some of the cheapest hotels in the city. Running west from the Teatro Nacional, Calle Arce leads to
Hospital Rosales
and its own gardens. On the way to the hospital is the great church of
El Sagrado Corazón de Jesús
, which is well worth a visit; don't miss the stained-glass windows. Turn left (south) here and after one block you come to the
Parque Bolívar
, with the national printing office to the south and the Department of Health to the north.

Four streets north of Calle Arce is the Alameda Juan Pablo II, an important road for bus transport, on which stands
Parque Infantil
, where you will find the Palacio de los Deportes. One block west is the
Centro de Gobierno
, with many official buildings.

The north side of Parque Bolívar is Calle Rubén Darío (2 Calle Poniente), which becomes Alameda Roosevelt, then Paseo General Escalón as it runs through the commercial and residential districts west of the centre. Heading west this boulevard first passes
Parque Cuscatlán
. A major junction is with 49 Avenida: to the south this avenue soon passes the national stadium,
Estadio Olímpico Flor Blanca
, before becoming the main highway to the international airport. To the north, 49 Avenida crosses Alameda Juan Pablo II beyond which it changes name to
Bulevar de los Héroes
, home to the fashionable shopping centres,
and the newer
, the
Hotel Real Intercontinental
, some of the city's better restaurants and a glut of fast-food places, which is a busy area at all times, especially at night. At the Shell station by Metrocentro, mariachis and other musicians gather each evening, waiting to be hired; others wander around the restaurants, playing to diners.

Continuing west along Alameda Roosevelt, the next landmark at the Plaza Las Américas is the
Monumento al Salvador del Mundo
, a statue of Jesus standing on the Earth atop a column. From this junction the Pan-American Highway heads southwest to
Santa Tecla
. Straight ahead is
Paseo General Escalón
, Parque Beethoven and an area with many restaurants, shops and the Colonia Escalón residential district.

Another important residential and entertainment region is the
Zona Rosa
Colonia San Benito
, reached either from the Pan-American Highway or from Escalón. In this leafy suburb, some of the most elegant restaurants and the
Hotel Sheraton Presidente
Hotel Hilton Princess
(where former US president Clinton stayed while on his Central America tour) are found.
MUNA (Museo Nacional de Antropología David J Guzman)
, is a brand new museum worth visiting showcasing exhibits on the country's archaeological and historical past as well as numerous cultural events. Just north of the museum at the end of Avenida Revolución is
MARTE (Museo de Arte de El Salvador)
. This new, privately run modern arts museum has permanent exhibits depicting the history of Salvadoran painters with temporary exhibits of artists from Latin America and other parts of the world.

A little further north is
El Arbol de Dios
, an arts and crafts store, restaurant, museum and garden, operated by the famed Salvadorian artist Fernando Llort, who designed the façade of the Metropolitan Cathedral and is known for his naïf-style wood paintings. The display here also includes the work of other artists.

In Colonia San Benito is
Museo de Ciencias Físicas Stephen Hawking
, with sections on astronomy, ecology, electronics and biochemistry. Interactive exhibits about the sciences with monthly lectures on scientific topics. This area also has many art galleries such as
Galería Espacio
Galería 1-2-3
La Pinacoteca
, to name a few.

Worth visiting is the
María Auxiliadora church
, locally known as 'don Rua', situated in Barrio San Miguelito. This multi-coloured marble temple - a copy of the cathedral in Turin (Italy) - is one of the city's landmarks, displaying a Venetian clock tower and with a spectacular view from the belltower.

Museo Militar de las Fuerzas Armadas
, has a collection of exhibits of weapons, uniforms and decorations of the armed forces, and weapons captured from FMLN guerrillas.
Mercado de San Miguelito
is an indoor market located close to don Rua. Safer than many of the other city markets and famous for its
which offer typical Salvadoran dishes (difficult to find outside a traditional Salvadorian home) at economic prices. There are several food stalls throughout the place - look for the area dedicated just to
at the far end of the market. It's a great place to watch people go about their shopping and to enjoy the display of stalls.

A good sightseeing tour of the surrounding area heads south to a couple of local places of interest. Lasting most of the day by bus (No 12) or two to three hours by car it starts a few blocks southwest of the main square on the eastern side of the Mercado Central. It includes the
San Salvador Zoo
, which was recently renovated and although small, is quiet and attractive. Just three blocks away is the newly restored
Museo de Historia Natural
, with interesting displays on prehistoric findings and a herbal medicine garden. To get there, take bus No 2 ' Zoo', and No 12 from the centre. You then pass the
Casa Presidencial
and go on up to the new residential district in the mountain range of
Planes de Renderos
. This place is crowned by the beautiful
Parque Balboa
, and there's a good view of the city from El Mirador at the foot of the park. Parque Balboa is a
, with cycle paths, playground and gardens. From the park a scenic road runs to the summit of
Cerro Chulo
, from which the view, seen through the Puerta del Diablo (Devil's Door), is even better. There are local buses to Puerta del Diablo and Parque Balboa (No 12 from eastern side of Mercado Central and No 12-MC marked 'Mil Cumbres') almost hourly. Bus No 17 goes from the same location to Panchimalco through Los Planes de Renderos so you can get off at the junction there and take the No 12 to Parque Balboa and Puerta del Diablo.

Puerta del Diablo
consists of two enormous, nearly vertical rocks which frame a magnificent view of the Volcán San Vicente. The rocks are very steep but the sides can be climbed on reasonable paths for an even better view. A little beyond the car park and drinks stands at the Puerta del Diablo is a path climbing up a further summit, from which there are 360° views: to the coast, Lago Ilopango, the capital and volcanoes, including San Salvador, Izalco and Cerro Verde and San Vicente.

At the foot of Cerro Chulo is
. The route to Panchimalco (No 17 from Mercado Central) and the coast branches off the road to Parque Balboa at the village of
Los Planes
, a few kilometres before the park.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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