Mercado Roberto Huembes, both a market and a significant transit stop for the city's chicken buses and intercity expresses, is chaotic, colorful, and overwhelming. It is also the most tourist-friendly and accessible of all the big markets in Managua. You'll find everything, from fruit to hubcaps, here. Its arts-and-crafts stalls are just as good as anything you'll get in Masaya, and it's also a great place to find local music CDs. The market is open daily from 7:30am to 5pm, and is located 4km (2 1/2 miles) southeast of the Zona Monumental on Pista Portezuelo.
There are other major markets dotted around the city's suburbs, most notably Israel Lewites (also known as Boer), where you can catch an express bus to Rivas and San Juan del Sur. It is 3km (1 3/4 miles) southwest of the Zona Monumental on Avenida Héroes de Batahola and sells everything from cheap toys to fresh fruit. It is open daily from roughly dawn to dusk. One market to avoid is the sprawling Mercado Oriental, 2km (1 1/4 miles) east of Plaza de la Revolución. It's part flea market and crime black spot; you should only go to this sprawling hive of commerce and thievery if you are looking for trouble.
Much more civilized is Mama Delfina, 1 block north of Enitel Villa Fontana (tel. 505/2267-8288). Here, you'll find a pleasant minimarket of gorgeous handicrafts from all over the country and a coffee shop upstairs where you can cool off and rest. It is open daily from 8am to 7pm.
Okay, perhaps visiting a shopping mall is not an authentic Latin American experience; but believe it or not, the mall is here to stay, and Nicas have taken to the indoor, air-conditioned experience as heartily as the world in general has. Some of Managua's best restaurants are situated in or beside a mall, and many of the city's malls differ in size, quality, and authenticity. So allow yourself the guilty pleasure if you need to, and run those last-minute errands under one roof. Just be careful which mall you choose. Metrocentro, in front of Rotonda Rubén Darío (tel. 505/2271-9450; www.gruporoble.com), is the usual gamut of designer labels and screaming babies, and is best avoided unless you have a penchant for giving your money to rich multinationals while in a poor country that needs it more.
Plaza Inter, in front of Hotel Crowne Plaza (tel. 505/2222-2613; www.plazaintermall.com.ni), is a little more down-to-earth, but still filled with lots of foreign stores and goods. The Centro Comercial de Managua (Colonia Centroamérica, in front of Colegio Salvador Mendieta; tel. 505/2277-3762), is an open selection of fashion stores, bookshops, banks, Internet cafes, and one post office. It is 1 block north of the National Cathedral. My favorite mall, however, is Galerías Santo Domingo (tel. 505/2276-5080), an up-market collection of stores and open-air restaurants, which is a 10-minute taxi ride southeast of the city center.
Managua has an exciting art scene, with a forte for producing colorful primitivist paintings that the whole country is famed for. Many of the city's galleries act as meeting points and venues for the city's musicians, artists, writers, and intellectuals. One such place is Códice, 1 block south and 2 blocks east of the Hotel Colón (tel. 505/2267-2635), with a relaxing patio cafe next to a courtyard and gallery rooms exhibiting paintings and sculptures. It is open Monday to Saturday from 9am to 7pm. Galería Solentiname, 60m (197 ft.) south of the UNAN in Barrio Edgard Munguía Transfer, is operated by artist Doña Elena Pineda and specializes in art from the colorful archipelago. Part of a family of artists, Elena can help set you up with trips to the islands. The gallery is open Monday to Saturday from 9am to 5pm.
Galería Casa de los Tres Mundos (2 1/2 blocks north of the restaurant La Marseillaise, Los Robles; tel. 505/2552-4176) is the Managua base of poet, sculptor, and priest Ernesto Cardenal and showcases work from the Solentiname Islands. It is also the headquarters of Nicaragua's writers' association and holds a library and bookstore. It's open weekdays from 10:30am to 1:30pm. Galería Praxis (1 block west and 1 block north of the Optica Nicaragüense, Colonia; tel. 505/2266-3563) exhibits paintings, sculptures, and sketches, and has a pleasant cafe. Galería Añil (1 block west and 8m (26 ft.) south of Canal 2 TV, Bolonia; tel. 505/2266-5445) features avant-garde work by Nicaraguan and Latin American artists. It's open weekdays from 2 until 7pm.
El Aguila (Km 6 Carretera Sur, in front of Farm 22-24; tel. 505/2265-0524) is the house and workshop of one of Nicaragua's most famous artists, Hugo Palma. It's open Monday to Saturday from 9am to 5:30pm, but call ahead to ask about visiting. Galería Epikentro, 7 blocks north and 2 1/2 blocks west of Rotunda El Güegüense, holds frequent book readings and shows a mix of contemporary and primitivist art. It's open weekdays from 9am to 6pm. Galería Pléyades (Centro BAC, 2nd floor, Km 4 Carretera Masaya; tel. 505/2274-4114) exhibits a broad range of Nicaraguan art. It's open weekdays from 9am to 6pm.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.