Capital, largest city, and chief industrial and commercial centre of Nicaragua, and capital of Managua department, it is situated on the southern shore of Lake Managua, 45km/28 mi from the Pacific coast, on the Pan-American Highway, and 138 km/86 mi from the main port of Corinto; population (2002 est) 1,106,600. One-fifth of the nation's population is resident here. Managua produces around 60% of the nation's goods by value including tobacco, textiles, cement, cotton, drinks, soap, and processed foods. Surrounding lowlands are very fertile, supporting maize, beans, sugar cane, and banana plantations.
Founded as the capital in 1858, it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1931, and again in 1972; it was also badly damaged during the civil war of 1978–79. The major earthquake of 1972 (6.2 on the Richter scale) killed 5,000 people. Near the lakeshore are the preserved Huellas de Acahualinca, prehistoric animal and human footprints.
The city is the home of the Central American University (1961) and the Polytechnic University of Nicaragua (1968), as well as of schools of business management and medicine.