San Salvador El Salvador Capital City. Great Place to Visit or Call Home

San Salvador Capital of El Salvador
San Salvador Capital of El Salvador.

San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador, is the largest city in the country; it is located in the Valley of the hammocks in the San Salvador department. San Salvador was founded in Antiguo Cuscatlan in 1525, moved to Ciudad Vieja in 1528, and to its current location in 1545; it was declared a city in 1546 and capital city in 1834.

San Salvador, El Salvador’s capital city, is ideal for spending time as a tourist or making it a permanent residence. There is plenty to do and see in this city.

The city has diverse cuisine options, great shopping, and excellent nightlife. Also, it has various museums, iconic historic churches, well-known plazas, and famous buildings.

The Salvadoran nation’s capital is characterized by commerce and services as its principal economic activity. Also, it is the country’s cultural, educational, financial, and political center.

San Salvador El Salvador Capital City
San Salvador El Salvador Capital City.

History of El Salvador Capital city

San Salvador has a rich history that dates back to colonial times. The city moved several times before settling in its current location.

According to historians, the Villa of San Salvador was first built in what is now Antiguo Cuscatlan in 1525. Soon after it was built, the Villa was abandoned. The fight against the Pipil Indians forced the settlers to return to Guatemala.

In 1528, the Villa of San Salvador was rebuilt but at a different location. The rebuilt took place at what is now Ciudad Vieja “Old City” located near Suchitoto.

After the pacification of the region, little by little, the small Villa of San Salvador was abandoned. And in 1545, a new settlement was built in the Zalcoatitan Valley or Valley of the Hammocks; it was called La Aldea.

In 1545, the authorities of Villa San Salvador in Suchitoto were given permission to move to “La Aldea” located in the Valley of the Hammocks.

In 1546, while the third town of San Salvador was being built at the La Aldea location, it was given the title of city.

Population of San Salvador

The Capital city is one of the most densely populated in the country. According to the 2007 population census, San Salvador has a population of 300,000. However, since then, the number of residents has increased.

In 2021, it is estimated that over 550,000 people live in the capital city. It is an estimation; El Salvador has not conducted a census since 2007.

The capital city is part of the San Salvador metropolitan area. It includes other heavily populated municipalities such as Santa Tecla, Mejicanos, Soyapango, Ciudad Delgado, Antiguo Cuscatlan, and others.

Although the capital city’s population is about 550,000, over 2.5 million live in the San Salvadoran Metropolitan area.

San Salvador Capital City of El Salvador
San Salvador Historic district. Photo by Tuth Preza

Tourism to El Salvador Capital City

The capital of El Salvador is a great city to visit for a few days or an entire trip. There are plenty of things to do and see in the city; furthermore, some of the best tourist destinations in the country are in the city or nearby.

If you visit for a few days, you can experience Salvadoran culture and history at its best. For example, you can see the San Salvador historic district and hang out at Liberty Plaza or Plaza Barrios.

In the historic district, visitors will find iconic buildings such as the National Palace, the National Theater. They will also find the National Cathedral and the El Rosario church, two of the best churches in El Salvador.

Many visitors stay in San Salvador the entire trip and make it a base of operations; these visitors take day trips to nearby tourist attractions. The capital of El Salvador is centrally located; some of the best tourist destinations are less than two hours away.

Should you Visit El Salvador’s Capital City? Is it Safe?

Visitors should visit San Salvador; the capital city is not dangerous for tourists. Previously, the capital was regarded as a hazardous area to visit, but not anymore. As of 2020, San Salvador is no longer one of the most dangerous cities in the world.

The capital city of El Salvador is safe for tourists to visit! Although parts of the town are considered dangerous, the areas visited by tourists and areas tourists stay at are safe and have extra security.

The current administration has made security at the nation’s capital a top priority, especially tourist locations. Over the last two years, crime in San Salvador and the entire country has declined drastically.

San Salvador is similar to other big cities in Central America or the United States. Some areas are deemed safe for tourism, and others are recommended not to visit.

San Salvador El Salvador Capital
Liberty Plaza in downtown San Salvador. Photo by Mario Duran.

Getting Around San Salvador

There are a few options available to get around the city, taxis, uber’s, public transportation, private shuttles, walking, and driving; it is up to you which one to use. The location where you are staying and your destination will help narrow down your options.

Any destinations near you, you should walk or take the bus. By all means, farther destinations, take a taxi or uber, will be a more comfortable ride. Take a shuttle for faraway destinations, it is better, and you will get a guide that knows the area.

These are only suggestions; in the end, you are the one who will decide on what is the better option for you to get around.

Also, ask the hotel staff about getting around the city; they might suggest something different or even provide you with transportation.

Accommodations in El Salvador Capital City

The capital city has plenty of accommodations for all types of visitors. Your budget and the area that you want to stay in will be the deciding factor on cost.

For one thing, budget travelers can find hostels or private rooms, in a safe area, for about $20 per night. For safety reasons, make sure you research and read reviews about the hostel or private home you consider staying in.

By all means, if budget is not an issue, you will find top-of-the-line hotels that will cost you over $200 per night. These hotels are in the city’s most wealthy areas, with some of the best restaurants and shopping malls around.

Places to Visit in San Salvador

There are plenty of places to visit and activities to do in San Salvador; one day is not enough to explore everything the city has to offer.

A must-see place in San Salvador is the San Salvador historic district. Here is where the capital city began. The downtown area has historic buildings such as the National Palace and the national theater.

The San Salvador historic district has beautiful plazas and unique churches such as the El Rosario church and the San Salvador Cathedral.

The National Palace is worth visiting. This building is a big part of Salvadoran history; it housed all the branches of the Salvadoran government for most of the 1900s.

The building has beautiful architecture from the beginning of the 20th century and displays some historical artifacts from that time.

Visitors can also go shopping for some local arts and crafts and enjoy the nightlife. There is plenty of nightlife available in the nation’s capital.

Guided Tours of San Salvador

The best option to explore the Salvadoran Capital is to do it with a guided tour. These tours are available from popular beach towns such as El Tunco and El Zonte.

Salvadoran tour companies have different guided tours to the Nation’s capital. Most guided packages include historical sites, shopping, and tasting the local gastronomy.

Others packages include other activities like hiking the San Salvador volcano. When planning a visit to the Nation’s capital, talk to a tour company and see what they recommend.

Taking a guided tour of San Salvador is highly recommend. It might be more expensive, about $50.00, but you will see more in a shorter period.

How to Get to the Capital of El Salvador?

If you are in the country, you can get to San San Salvador by either driving, taking public transportation, or renting a shuttle. The most economical way of getting to the Capital from any point in the country is Public transportation. However, it will take a long time and is not that comfortable.

For those who are not familiar with El Salvador, it is recommended to use a shuttle or make arrangements with a tour company.

San Salvador Capital of El Salvador
San Salvador Capital of El Salvador.

Living in San Salvador. El Salvador Capital City

Why not live in San Salvador! Yes, the city has issues, but it is still a great city to call home. For one thing, the local culture is exceptional, and the activities are plentiful.

Where to Live in San Salvador?

Some of the best areas to live in San Salvador are Santa Elena, Colonia Escalon, San Benito, Colonia Maquilishuat, and Cumbres de Cuscatlan.

The areas mentioned above are some of the most exclusive in San Salvador; therefore, the cost for renting or buying is high.

It is hard to take a position on where to live in San Salvador or the best places to live in; there are just too many factors to consider.

If you are moving alone, some of the factors might be, do you want to live in a trendy area or not? Do you have a car or plan to take public transportation? Are you on a budget or not? These are just some of the things that will impact your decision on where to live.

If you are moving with a family, things change; now there are more factors to consider, such as kid’s education and family safety.

The choices of where to live in San Salvador are vast; each individual or family will have their criteria about what they are looking for.

When choosing a place to live in El Salvador, it is best to talk to a realtor. A real estate company will help narrow down the choices.

Take a look at the following website, “Salvadoran real estate,” and get an idea of what rentals go for in the city.

Is San Salvador Dangerous to Live in?

San Salvador is not a dangerous city to live in; however, just like other big cities in Central America, it has areas considered dangerous. In the past, San Salvador has had one of the highest crime rates in Latin America; however, that has changed in the last five years.

Speculating how dangerous the Capital city would be to you, just by looking at crime statistics in general, is a bad idea.

The crime statistics will not give you a clear picture of safety. It does not take into consideration things such as the location you will be living in and transportation.

The following three things could show you how dangerous the city will be to you, your residence location, mode of transportation, and lifestyle.

Choosing the right community to live in is a big step in the right direction when it comes to safety. Before choosing a location to live in, find out everything about the area.

How you are going to be moving around is the next step. If you plan to drive, making sure your house has a safe parking space will be your biggest worry.

If you plan to take public transportation, you will need to worry about the bus route and the areas it travels before your final destination.

Lastly, your lifestyle has a big impáct on safety; if you live a calm life and don’t take crazy chances, the city will not be as dangerous.

On the other hand, if you do drugs and go out drinking often, you will put yourself in more challenging situations.

I am in no way judging the lifestyle of anyone; it is just an honest observation.

Without a doubt, if you take care of the three items listed above, follow safety recommendations, and use common sense, the city will not be dangerous to you.

How Expensive is it to Live in San Salvador?

The city of San Salvador is the most expensive urban area in the country. The estimated cost of living in the Capital city is $600 to $1,000 for a single person without rent. For a family of four, the cost ranges from $1,000 to $2000, without rent.

The cost of living in San Salvador fluctuates depending on a person’s lifestyle. The following could give you an idea of how much it costs to live in the capital city.

Housing Cost in San Salvador

Just like any other big city, housing is going to be the most significant expense.

In San Salvador, you can find a furnished studio or apartment for rent starting at $350 or more in a safe area on the low end. On the higher end, you will find apartments or homes for $1,000 or more.

By all means, these amounts are not set in stone, some places will run you as low as $200 per month, and upscale rentals will cost you upwards of $1,500 per month.

Food Cost in San Salvador

Food is another significant expense; on the low end, you can live on $200 per month per person; from there, you can go as high as your budget allows it.

To give you an idea about lunch cost, it is about $4.00, including a drink at a typical small place. And a combo meal in a fast-food restaurant (Big Mac Meal or similar) is about $7.50.

Groceries are available at supermarkets and local markets all over the city; prices at the supermarket will be higher. I will not list any individual items cost here as they change often; but, if you want to see current prices go here and see for yourself.

View of San Salvador
View of the Capital City.

Other Costs

Other items and their cost based on a low rental unit are; gas and electricity $80, house cable and unlimited internet $60, and cell phone plan $30.

Some items not listed here are transportation, entertainment, and healthcare. These items are unique to each person, and so are the amounts that they will cost.

Schools, Universities, and Government Offices

Living in the capital city is ideal; the city is the hub for the entire country. If you have kids and need to attend school or university, the best in the country are in the area.

Also, if you want to learn another language or improve your Spanish, some of the best language schools are in the area.

Suppose you have issues with your passport or need your home country’s embassy for something. In that case, if your country has an embassy in El Salvador, it will be located in the capital city or nearby.
If you need to deal with Salvadoran government offices for whatever reason, you don’t need to go far; the main offices will be in this city.

Living in El Salvador Capital

San Salvador is centrally located and the hub for the entire country; it is a great large city to call home. Yes, even with all its problems, the culture is excellent, the activities are plentiful, and the people are friendly.

San Salvador has had a bad reputation worldwide, but the city is more than what many news outlets show. San Salvador is not as dangerous anymore!

So, if you are looking to move to Central America, take a look at El Salvador and the other best places to live in El Salvador.

Great panoramic view
Aerial view of SS.

San Salvador, the Capital of El Salvador

To summarize, San Salvador is excellent for spending time as a tourist; or to make it your permanent home. Diverse cuisine options, great shopping, and outstanding nightlife make it more appealing.

Furthermore, museums, historic churches, well-known plazas, and iconic buildings add to the cities charm. Take a chance and visit San Salvador or move to it!


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