San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador, is a city rich in history and culture. From the majestic Iglesia El Rosario, to the archaeological remains of Joya de Ceren, to the colonial center and numerous art museums, the city offers a multitude of places to explore and will delight those wondering what the best things to do in San Salvador are.
Why not swap the routine for a bit of Salvadoran spice? Whether you’re exploring the Ruta de la Flores or learning to surf, you will come back changed from your stay in this underrated country of Central America.
Let us paint you a picture: El Marte, an artistic jewel of San Salvador, where art is not only on the canvas, but also on the exterior walls.
The expression “judging a book by its cover” makes perfect sense here, as the façade of the museum is a work of art in itself. Immerse yourself in a sea of creativity, where each piece tells a story and transports you through the time and space of Salvadoran art with fascinating temporary exhibitions.
What are some fun things to do in San Salvador? Zona Rosa!
At nightfall, the Zona Rosa comes alive and transforms into a playground for night owls. Fancy an unforgettable evening? Head to Cadejo, an artisanal brewery. Their craft beer is like a hug for your palate, accompanied by a menu with American touches. And just a few steps away is Republik, an Irish pub that will transport you to another world with stand-up comedy and a stunning list of guest artists. From Carlos Vives to the Backstreet Boys, every night is an adventure.
When asked what to do in San Salvador, Zona Rosa is a must.
Iglesia El Rosario
Iglesia El Rosario, ranked first on the list of places to visit in San Salvador, is a marvel of modern architecture. Surprising, isn’t it?
Designed by sculptor Ruben Martinez and completed in 1971, this radically beautiful church breaks with the traditional style of Salvadoran Catholic churches. From the outside, it looks like an airport hangar or a concrete bunker. Once inside, however, you will be struck by the striking contrast between the austere exterior and the bright interior.
The church is also the resting place of José Matías Delgado, “Padre Delgado”, considered the father of Central American independence. Even if you’re not a huge architecture connoisseur, this is definitely one of the most popular things to visit in San Salvador.
Is San Salvador City worth visiting? Yes, if only for its colonial heritage
The historic center of San Salvador is a treasure trove of architecture and culture. This typical neighborhood of a colonial city contains a variety of must-see sites including Plaza Gerardo Barrios.
Among them, the National Palace impresses with its grandeur and neoclassical architecture. You can also discover the National Theater, an architectural masterpiece from the late 19th century.
The Cathedral of San Salvador, with its unique façade, is also a must-see. It’s one of the best things to do in San Salvador for history and architecture aficionados.
Afterwards, escape the urban frenzy at the Mercado Nacional de Artesanias. It’s a world where the talent of local artisans shines brighter than any star. Uncrowded, this local market offers an authentic experience away from the tourists. Imagine artisans doing pretty much everything from sculpting, weaving, and painting with a dexterity that defies comprehension.
And don’t leave without one of these adorable Christmas tree ornaments! They are hand-painted on old coffee sacks – little souvenirs with a big story. As far as activities in San Salvador go, visiting the craft market and its people is sure to be a memorable one.
Best things to do in San Salvador: Plaza Libertad
Plaza Libertad is more than just an open space in the city. It is the very heart and center of San Salvador! Its name comes from the proclamation of Central American independence in 1811. Today it is a hub for merchants, workers and passersby.
In the center of the plaza is a monument commemorating El Salvador’s independence, surrounded by greenery and serenity. Also, don’t forget to take a look at the beautiful arcades that line the square, witnesses of the city’s colonial era.
Excursion trip from San Salvador to the volcanoes
San Salvador is the gateway to several excursions to the country’s volcanoes and their numerous hiking trails. One of the most popular is Santa Ana Volcano, the highest in El Salvador. Its ascent offers spectacular views of Lake Coatepeque and neighboring Guatemala. Another option, the San Salvador volcano, also known as Quetzaltepec, offers a relatively short hike and picturesque views of the capital and Lake Ilopango. You can also explore the Cerro Verde volcanic complex, which is home to several volcanoes, including Izalco and Santa Ana.
For a more comprehensive experience, consider a combined excursion that includes visits to national parks, volcanoes, lakes, and Mayan sites, particularly Joya de Ceren. These excursions can be booked with various operators and are generally available for a full day.