San Salvador is a frenetic, modern, international city in which travelers will find examples of the best and the worst of Central America's fastest growing economy. On the plus side, the nation's capital offers one of Central America's most diverse collections of international restaurants. You can sample fusion, Italian, Asian, Brazilian, and other cuisines at restaurants with top-notch service and, at least by North American and European standards, reasonable prices. You can also lay your head on the fluffy pillows of high-end, luxury hotels such a Hilton, Sheraton, and Intercontinental Real and shop at an international collection of designer stores in sparkling new malls such as the Multiplaza and Gran Via. In addition, the city boasts a world-class art museum, a historic center (El Centro), a nearby international airport, and beach resorts within one hour's drive. It's a city with a lot going for it.
On the downside, San Salvador suffers from pollution and heavy traffic and there is a great divide between the rich and the poor here, which means there are some unsafe, crime-ridden neighborhoods. Earthquake damage has taken its toll on older buildings, and the city -- which is Central America's second-most populated behind Guatemala City -- lacks any grand vistas. Instead of pretty architecture, San Salvador seems to have the highest concentration of fast-food restaurants in the world; Burger Kings, Wendy's, and Pizza Huts are practically on every corner.
If you have limited time in El Salvador, it's best to see San Salvador in 1 or 2 days. That will give you enough time to enjoy its international comforts and to see the main highlights, but leave you ample time to explore the country's small, more charming, towns.