San José

San José: Top 10

(continuer en français) – Last updated: December 20, 2022

Costa Rica is best known for its natural parks and beaches, but just as a capital does not reflect a country, to know a country, it is necessary to know its capital. San José replaced Cartago as the country’s capital in 1823. Since then its agglomeration has been growing, spreading in a disorderly way in the surrounding area.

01. Teatro Nacional

It is the building that is consistently put forward to present a flattering image of San José. Although not very representative of the rest of the city, its architecture seduces by its finesse and elegance. The European flair continues inside where visits are organized. The theatre also serves as a prestigious venue for major events.

02. La Catedral

The present building dates from 1827, with subsequent work to repair the damage caused by earthquakes. Although it is the seat of the Archdiocese, the Cathedral does not attain the religious prestige of the Basilica of Cartago, which continues to attract crowds of pilgrims. The parvis is extended by a small pleasant square.

03. Museo Nacional

The National Museum occupies a former barracks that was made available following the abolition of the army in 1948, a rather rare situation, as a precaution against a possible military coup. The museum institution dated back to the end of the 19th century and had accumulated important collections tracing the history, both pre-Colombian and colonial in Costa Rica.

04. La Casa Amarilla

This house with its attractive façade could be seen as a fine example of Spanish colonial architecture. The construction actually dates back to 1920 under the direction of an American architect, funded by businessman Andrew Carnegie, to make it the Court of Justice of Central America. Today it houses the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

05. Asamblea Legislativa

El Castillo Azul, the Blue Castle, is now occupied by the Parliament of Costa Rica. It was built in 1911 and it served first as the residence of the President of the Republic and then as the United States Embassy. The color blue comes from the color of the flag used by the wealthy politician who built the house, thinking he was going to become president, wrongly.

06. El Mercado Central

With a wide variety of goods sold, the Central Market is more of a bazaar than a market. A large part of its space is occupied by fast food stalls, called sodas, which are very popular with locals, and less so with tourists, in contrast to other countries. In the nearby streets, many shops make it a very lively district.

07. El Edificio Metálico

It’s probably the weirdest building in town. Inspired by the structure of the Eiffel Tower, the Belgian architect Charles Thirion designed a metal building in 1893, precast in Belgium and then reassembled in San José after its transport by boat. It has been occupied by several educational institutions and is still in use today.

08. Museo de Arte Costarricense

The Museum of Fine Arts appears to be a rather strange building, it is actually the old airport terminal that used to be where the urban park of La Sabana now stands. The collection consists of paintings, sculptures and photographs, from the mid-19th century to the beginning of the 21st century, of national and international origin.

09. Avenida Central

The straight road around which the city was built still occupies a central position. Since 1994 the portion in the heart of the city has been transformed into a pedestrian zone, further increasing its popularity. Many shops are located there, with all the boatmen and criers who contribute to its liveliness until late at night.

10. Los Presentes

In front of the headquarters of the Central Bank of Costa Rica, stands this large sculpture dating from 1989, Los Presentes, honoring the traditional farmers of the central valley, in the process of disappearing due to the urbanization of the countryside around San José. Its realism and the perceptible tension that emanates from it catch the attention of people walking by.

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