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At the heart of a country striving to dimension itself worldwide as a sanctuary of peace and democracy, for its natural richness, as well as an axis of technological development, lies San José city, open gateway to many interesting destinations, which in itself offers alternatives for those remaining in it.

Our capital is abundant in cultural places, such as theaters, museums, art galleries, concert halls, with crafts and fine arts works of the highest order, not forgetting popular and modern music, as well as classical, ballet and opera, and street theater of an avant garde, elaborated style and expression, typical foods, and high cuisine to suit the most demanding tastes, in an ambiance characterized by pleasant manners and spontaneity, is the excellent Costa Rican tourism product.

The Municipal Government of San José, the Costa Rican Tourism Board, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cult, the Ministry of Public Security, and the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, proudly present a proposal for a historical walk, which includes part of the values and attractions of our main city San José.

Legislative Assembly

The Congress or Parliament, here called Legislative Assembly, is the First Power of the Republic, and is distributed in several neighboring buildings; among the main ones are: Ancient Sión School (Antiguo Colegio de Sión), the Blue Castle Castillo Azul), the Pink House of the Salazar family, and the building of the Plenary, all of them historically valuable, conceived with different purposes originally, later used as presidential houses, and now as offices and consultancies of the 57 deputies.

Located: Between Central and 1st Avenues, 15th-19th Streets. Open Monday through Friday, from 8:00 to 16:00. Phone number (506) 243-2000, Guided visits: (506) 245-2545, ext. 2546.

Costa Rica’s National Museum, ancient Bellavista Fort

The Bellavista Fort was built in 1917, on the peek of Moras’ Hill, Cuesta de Moras (family name of the people living there), place occupied by the dwelling of Mauro Fernández, reformer of Costa Rican education. This building has a place in our history, not by being a witness of military deeds, but because in 1948, José Figueres Ferrer, three times President of Costa Rica, wielding a hammer, stroke its walls, in an allegorical abolishment of the army, thus founding the National Museum, guardian of precious treasures of Costa Rica’s cultural heritage.

Located: Between Central and 2nd Ave., 15th-17th St. Open Tuesday through Sunday, from 8:30 to 16:30. Phone numbers: (506) 257-1433, 256-6016, 257-0012. Fax: (506) 256-4139.

Museum of Shapes, Spaces and Sounds, ancient Atlantic Railroad Station

The Atlantic railroad, built between 1871 and 1890, facilitated the contact with European markets. Before it was built, travel was done through the port of Puntarenas, making it more difficult. The railroad station began operating in San José in the seventies, but it was not until 1908 that the present building came to be. With the closing of the railroad service, it became a Museum, an interactive design proposed for disabled persons and the general public, offering an alternative approach to the Arts.

Located: 3rd Ave., 17th and 23rd St. Visits (January & February, from Tuesday through Saturday), from 9:30 to 15:00 hours. March-December, Monday through Friday, from 9:00 to 15:00 hours. Telefax (506) 222-9462 or 223-4173. E-mail: Museum of Shapes, Spaces and Sounds, ancient Atlantic Railroad Station


National Park

Relevant symbol of the turn of the nineteenth century, the National Park features the National Monument, dedicated to the heroic deeds of the 1856-1857 War against the expansionist, pro-slavery attempts of the American filibuster William Walker. It’s a key spot of the “Calle de la Estación”, or 3rd Avenue, which runs from the Atlantic Railroad Station to the Morazán Park, which was called “Paseo de las Damas” or Damas Drive not because of the ladies but because of the tree species it had. Located: Between 1st and 3rd Avenues, 15th and 17th Streets.

National Cultural Center (CENAC)(former National Spirits and Liquors Factory)

For the year of 1850, the president Juan Rafael Mora Porras created the National Spirits and Liquors Factory (FANAL), to improve the income of the Public Treasury and avoid production of illegal liquor. Due to the simplicity of design of the façade and distribution of internal spaces, the building seems of colonial style. Presently it houses the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports’ offices, as well as the “1887” and FANAL theaters, the Colegio de Costa Rica and the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design.

Located: 7th Ave., between 11th and 15th St. Visits: Monday through Friday, from 8:00 to 16:00 Theaters: According to schedule. Phone numbers: (506) 255-3638 or 255-3376. Fax: (506) 256-6722.

Old Main Customs House

It was built between 1889 and 1891, to the East side of the capital, and was related to the Atlantic Railroad Station, which is one of the greatest nineteenth century buildings preserved to this day. Presently, it is administered by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, which uses it for national and international cultural and artistic activities and shows. Behind it is located the former Coin (Cuño) Building, presently the Theater La Aduana. Located: Between 3rd and 9th Avenues, 23rd Street.


Jade Museum “Marco Fidel Tristán Castro”

This museum groups a series of important archaeological pieces, of pre-Columbian ages. Its purpose is to protect, conserve and divulge the Costa Rican indigenous heritage. There you may appreciate polychromic pottery, gold works, and jade pieces, of the Mesoamerican area, and mainly of certain regions of Costa Rica, among which Guanacaste and Nicoya (Northern Pacific); Central Valley; Atlantic Watershed, and Great Chiriquí.

Located: 7th Avenue, between 11th and 9th Streets, eleventh Floor of INS. Open from Monday through Friday, from 8:30 to 15:30 Phone number (506) 287-6034. Fax (506) 255-3456.

Museum of Contemporary Art and Design

Located in the former rums’ factory of the National Liquors Factory, it’s noted by its walls made of boulders, nearly one meter thick, and cedar timber work. Has six show rooms, where permanent and temporary collections are displayed. It also offers innovative proposals of contemporary art and design, a library, video collection, special movies’ projections, and reunions on topics like present day creativity, at a national and international scale; has as well a Central American Arts Documentation Center.

Located: 7th Avenue, between 11th and 13th Streets. Attention to the public: from Thursday to Saturday, from 10:00 to 17:00 Phone number: (506) 257-9370 Fax: (506) 257-8702. E-mail: Museum of Contemporary Art and Design For more information visit Museum of Contemporary Art and Design

Yellow House (Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cult)

In the year 1912, Andrew Carnegie donated funds to build the headquarters for the Central American Court of Justice in the city of San José. Works were ended by 1916. The new building has an ornamented lintel in its façade, of baroque influence. In 1919, when the court was dissolved, the building came to be property of the Costa Rican Government. On repeated occasions it was to be the Presidential House and for some months, it lodged the Legislative Assembly. Nevertheless, since its beginning and until now, the “Yellow House” as it is usually called, has mainly been headquarters for the Ministry (previously Secretariat) of Foreign Affairs and Cult. The building also houses the Museum “Marqués Manuel María Peralta,” who was one of the most important Costa Rican diplomats.

Located: 7th Avenue, between Streets 11 and 13. Attention to the Public: From Monday through Friday, from 8:00 to 16:00 hours. Guided visits, once a week, with previous appointment. Tel.: (506) 223-7555 Fax: (506) 257-9062. E-mail: Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cult For more information visit Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cult


Metallic Building

The Metallic Building is a symbol of public education, supported by the liberal Costa Rican state by the end of the nineteenth century. Just as the Morazán Park, it was built over a dried and filled swamp, by means of a contract signed with a Belgian manufacturing company, of iron material, which was brought in separate pieces to be assembled in the country. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, this building houses two primary schools, bearing the names of relevant figures in the field of Education, Buenaventura Corrales and Julia Lang.

Located: 5th Avenue, 9th Street. Phone: (506) 222-0026. Fax (506) 257-9661. E-mail: Metallic Building

Music Shrine

By the end of the nineteenth century Morazán Park was the heart of the city’s social and political life; for decades, parties celebrating the New Year, took place there, until they moved to González Víquez Plaza in 1930. A very traditional activity was the “greeting” that “josefinos” performed for New Year’s eve, as well as the popular and frequented music open-air concerts. For this reason, in 1920, it was decided to build the Music Shrine, with the best architectonic finishes and excellent acoustics. Located: Morazán Park, between 3rd and 5th Avenue, 5th and 9th Street.

Museum of the Central Bank of Costa Rica, Culture Plaza

The Central Bank of Costa Rica offers two important museums, to those visiting the Culture Plaza, at the center of the capital city: the pre-Columbian Gold “Alvaro Vargas Echeverría”, which exhibits a significant collection of gold objects, manufactured between 500 B.C. and the arrival of the Spaniards in the sixteenth century, and the Coin or Numismatic Collection “Jaime Solera Bennett”, which displays an important selection of bills and coins, illustrating Costa Rica’s economic evolution.

Located: In the underground of the Culture Plaza, Central Avenue, 5th Street. Attention to the public: Daily from 9:00 to 16:30 Phone numbers: (506) 243-4202 or 243-4214 Fax (506) 243-4220. E-mail: Pre-Columbian Gold Museum For more information visit Pre-Columbian Gold Museum


Melico Salazar Popular Theater

Its construction ended in1928, following José Fabio Garnier’s design. In the beginning it was called Raventós Theater, after its owner’s name, and offered the best shows, mainly cinema. At the later eighties decade, and to render homage to Manuel “Melico” Salazar, one of the brightest performers of Costa Rican opera, its name was changed, as was the kind of shows offered, aiming to open a space for more popular forms of artistic expression, as well as the Bohemia Coffee Shop, a space for conversation.

Located: 2nd Avenue, Avenue 0. Open to the public: Coffee Shop, from Monday through Saturday, from 10:00 to 22:00. Sundays, when there are performances. Theater: Guided visit, with previous appointment. Performances, according to timetable. Phone numbers (506) 221-4952 or 233-5424. Fax (506) 233-5387. E-mail: Melico Salazar Popular Theater

National Theater

Representing the European aspirations of the liberal coffee-growing society, the National Theater was built by the end of the nineteenth century, with a strong tax on coffee production. The monumental architecture, painting and sculpture works of famous artists, mainly Italian. The taste and refinement in all finishes of this national jewel, which stand in sharp contrast with the underdevelopment of the country in that time, to the point that it was said in Europe that Costa Rica was a village encircling the National Theater. But voilà! The National Theater is still there, and the village has somewhat changed.

Located: 2nd Avenue, between 3rd and 5th Streets. Visits: from Monday through Saturday, from 9:00 to 16:00. Shows according to timetable. Phone numbers: (506) 221-3756 or 221-9417 Fax: (506) 223-4990. E-mail: National Theater


Metropolitan Cathedral

At the end of the eighteenth century, the hermitage of San José de la Boca del Monte – name given to the capital at the time – was moved to the place where the Cathedral is located today. Of sun-dried brick and straw roof in the beginning, it was rebuilt as a stone church, with Salomonic columns, which having endured earthquakes, was remodeled and transformed into what it is today, with the North side aggregate where the chapel El Sagrario (Sacrarium) is and the Southern side where the Metropolitan court is.

Located: Between 2nd and 4th Avenues, 0-1 Streets. Mass Service schedule: from Monday through Saturday: 6:30, 11 and 17:00. Sundays: 7, 9, 10:30, 12, 16, 18, 20:00. Every Thursday, Holy Hour at 15:00. Phone number: (506) 258-1015 or 221-3820. Fax: (506) 221-2427.


Central Park

In 1868, when San José’s water-supply system was first created, a water fountain was installed on the main plaza of the city; it was surrounded with a gate brought from England. In 1885, the plaza was to become the Central Park, to be remodeled again, in order to improve the urban landscape of the city. This park is at the heart of the city, crossroad for so many people coming daily from different parts of the country, to spread out for their everyday activities. Located: Between 2nd and 4th Avenues, Streets 0-2nd.

Post Office Building

Of reinforced concrete, an eclectic style, notably of French influence, the Post Office and Telegraph was built between the years 1914-1917, based on architect Luis Llach’s design. It’s an elegant and monumental work, with beautiful corner towers, the main entrance with coupling fringes. Presently, besides the post office, it houses a Philatelic Museum that shows tourists the history of Costa Rica in that specific area.

Located: 2nd Street, 1st and 3rd Avenues. Attention to the public: Monday through Friday from 7:30 to 18:00. Saturdays from 6:30 to 12:00. Philatelic Museum: Monday through Friday from 8:00 to 17:00. Phone numbers: (506) 223-9766 (Museum 223-1969). Fax: (506) 233-5182. E-mail: Philatelic Museum For more information visit Post Office Building

Central Market

After the Main Plaza was transformed into the Central Park, a place known as New Plaza was chosen, to create the city’s market. The property has experienced many changes since then, without losing its essence: being the hearth of cultures for Costa Rican society and a daily representation of the cultural heritage that is constructed day by day, in a process where the traditional is combined with the modern.

Located: Between Central and 1st Avenues, 6th and 8th Streets. Open: From 8:00 to 16:00. Phone number: (506) 295-6104.