The capital is undoubtedly the best place in the country if you're a night owl, want to catch some live music, or like to show off your dancing skills. You'll find drinking holes all over the city, but it is best to stick to certain areas that are safer. Zona Rosa is the disco strip. It stretches along the Carretera Masaya from the new cathedral to the Rotunda Centroamérica and beyond. Here, you'll find an ever-changing string of pubs, clubs, and restaurants that come and go with alarming frequency. You'll also find a cluster of bars in front of the Hotel Crown Plaza. Another popular nightlife spot is the Zona Viva, around the Galerías Santo Domingo shopping mall. For up-to-date listings on what's going on around town, check Esta Semana, an entertainment listings supplement in the newspaper El Nuevo Diario, or go to the website www.bacanalnica.com.
Look hard enough, and you'll find live music performances all over the city. I've listed the best and most established venues, but if mariachis light your fire, you should also go for a stroll around the Rotonda Bello Horizonte. This busy roundabout, surrounded by fast-food restaurants and cheap eateries, is very much a local hangout and is the favored circuit for groups of baritone mariachis and wandering troubadours doing their thing con gusto. Bars like the Shannon Pub also stage the occasional live mariachi performance.
The Bar Scene
Bar Bongó (tel. 505/2277-4375) is one of the livelier spots in the Zona Rosa district, with Cuban food and live music on weekends. It is 3 blocks south of the Metrocenter. Enoteca Galerías Santo Domingo (tel. 505/2276-5113) is a busy wine bar in the shopping mall of the same name that attracts a well-polished clientele, especially on weekends. Etnico Bar Café (Planes de Altamira; tel. 505/2270-6164) is a moodily lit bar with some world music going on in the background. Woody's, 40m (131 ft.) south of Hotel Seminole (tel. 505/2278-2751), is a popular "after office" drinks place with a pavement terrace. They specialize in chicken wings and chichilados (a spicy beer version of a bloody mary). Z-Bar (Antiguo Rest Los Gauchos; tel. 505/2278-1735) has an open-air bar with a dance floor churning out good old-fashioned rock 'n' roll. La Curva (no phone) is on a corner behind the pyramid-shaped Crowne Plaza. This beach-style bar with bamboo walls and a frond roof looks somewhat out of place amidst the downtown traffic and nighttime corner hookers. It is heaving, however, on Friday nights with crowds dancing to salsa, merengue, and cumbia. Saturdays are a little more sedate with '70s and '80s rock and pop. Its open plan with no walls also means it's a good spot for some early evening people-watching. It is open Monday through Saturday from 5pm to midnight. Piratas, 1 block south of Hotel Seminole (tel. 505/2278-3817), is a funky theme bar in the heart of the Zona Rosa and a slick establishment of dark woods, pirate murals, anarchic graffiti, and black leather furniture. The wraparound veranda lets you ogle the passing traffic while enjoying pub grub and cocktails. It can get noisy, however, and service is slow.
El Chamán in the Metrocentro Mall (tel. 505/2278-6111) is a young and popular dance club with a most ridiculous American Indian-themed decor. Yet it has been around for quite a while now and keeps packing visitors and locals into its smoke-filled corridors to listen to rock and techno. The cover charge is C200. El Quetzal (Rotonda Centroamérica, in front of Registros Públicos; tel. 505/2277-0890) is an old-school salsa and cumbia dance hall. You'll be the only tourist there, but that's fine, just shimmy like the rest of the mixed, raucous crowd. The cover charge is C200.
XS (Zona Rosa; tel. 505/2277-3086) is your typical glittery nightclub with mirrors to admire yourself (and others) and punch the air to techno. The cover charge is C200. It is located in front of T.G.I. Friday's on Carretera Masaya. Hipa Hipa (Plaza Coconut Grove; tel. 505/2278-2812) attracts a wealthy and trendy college-age crowd that take to its three boisterous dance floors to groove to salsa, merengue, and techno. It's famed for attracting fresas, or strawberries, as Managua's "It girls" are affectionately known. The cover charge is C200. The doormen are notoriously selective, so dress up and pout. At O.M. (Carretera Masaya, across from T.G.I. Friday's; no phone), you can be treated like a rock star and charged accordingly. The cover charge is C200.
Island Taste (2 blocks east of Siemens, Km 6 Carretera Norte; no phone) is a lot more down-to-earth and a famous hangout for Caribbean exiles in the capital. The friendly crowd gets down to proper roots-style Caribbean tunes. Moods (Zona Viva, Galerías Santo Domingo; tel. 505/2276-5276) plays disco, house, and electro in a somewhat sterile but boisterous disco-bar. The cover charge is C200. Club Hollywood (Zona Rosa, Edificio Delta; tel. 505/2267-0263) is arguably Managua's most exclusive nightclub, so dress sharp. The cover charge is C200.