Central Valley: Downtown San Jose

The city’s Central Avenue features a convenient boulevard full of stores and restaurants. San José does offer the amenities of a big city, yet the proximity of places makes it seem small …

The Gold Museum is located at Plaza de la Cultura, a large open area in the middle of downtown. The museum contains the largest collection of pre-Columbian gold jewelry in Central America. The National Theater, inaugurated in 1897, is found on the southwest corner of Plaza de la Cultura. The theater was built through a coffee tax and reflects the influence of the European architecture.

A short walk to the west leads to the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Central Park, the Melico Salazar Theater and the Central Post Office Building. The picturesque Central Market is a labyrinth of narrow passages with small places to eat, flower shops, leather products and a variety of souvenirs. It’s a meeting place for everyone and it offers the opportunity to merge with the locals.

Another short walk, east from Plaza de la Cultura, leads the Morazán and España Parks.

CENAC (the National Center of Culture), home to theaters and art expositions, is located on the east side of the Morazán Park. The INS (National Insurance Institute) building is found the north side of the park. The Jade Museum is on the 11th floor of the INS building. The museum houses one of the largest jade collection on the American continent, some dating to 300 years B.C.

A short walk leads to the National Park which holds a monument to Costa Rica’s triumph against foreign invaders in a battle fought in 1856. The Biblioteca Nacional (National Library) is located on the north side of the park and the National Museum is found two blocks south. Set in a colonial fortress, the museum offers the possibility to learn about Costa Rican pre-Columbian culture until the present.

Paseo Colón

Further west, roads and sidewalks lead to one of the city’s most populated areas. Paseo Colón features restaurants, hotels and shops. La Sabana Metropolitan Park is a large green, forested area. It is located in the west end of Paseo Colón and holds sport fields, the National Football Stadium, the National Gymnasium and the Costa Rican Art Museum.

Los Yoses, Barrio Tournón and Barrio Escalante

These three neighborhoods are located on the east end of the city. Art galleries, fancy restaurants, bohemian bars and petit hotels are located within these neighborhoods. Barrio Escalante, with its old and beautiful houses (some nearly 100 years-old), is a delight.

Barrio Amón and Barrio Otoya

The city’s oldest area is also a delight with its charming antique hotels, remodeled after former homes. These hotels maintain the original architecture of these historic buildings and some are considered national landmarks. These neighborhoods hold nice restaurants and pubs.

Travel Tips

Walking in downtown San José is usually not a problem, but it’s wise to take precautions as in any major city. The use of jewelry is not recommended and it’s important to keep belongings in sight at all times.

There are many spots in San José for nighttime entertainment. The cities of San Pedro and Escazú, to the east and west respectively, are the better known for their bars, clubs, discos, restaurants, pubs, cinemas and shopping malls.


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Costa Rica Travel: Travel Information & Tips

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