The city of San Jose is the capital of Costa Rica and also the header of the province of the same name. It was founded in 1736 and chosen as capital in may occasions. After the civil war of Ochomogo (1823-1834) and along a great commercial development, it was definitely named as capital city.
It had a constant development that was reflected in the building of theaters, banks, hotels and state buildings. By 1884, it was the third city that had electric lighting worldwide, after New York and Paris. Currently it has many interesting places.
In the very center of San Jose there’s a very particular place, the Mercado Central (Central Marketplace), where the colors and smells will set your imagination free. It opened its doors more than 130 years ago, and is the largest marketplace in Costa Rica. Every corner is used to display hundreds of different products, where you can also enjoy a good meal like a “casado”, a “gallo pinto” or homemade ice cream. This marketplace receives more than 50.000 people every day.
The boulevard of the Central Avenue was built as part of a project that tries to reduce the traffic in the center of San Jose. It extends for 12 blocks in an East-West direction. Recently it was complemented with the boulevard of the 4th Avenue, which has a similar length. This pedestrian passage allows you to discover hidden spots that attract more and more tourists from everywhere.
In the central area you can find beautiful and peaceful resting places, such as parks with plenty of trees, which are the real lungs of the city.
These are the Parque Morazan, Parque Espańa, Parque Nacional and Parque de la Merced.
There is also the Parque del Este, where you can play some traditional games, take horseback rides or have lunch in the picnic areas. Another place is the Plaza Gonzalez Viquez, which has swimming pools for adults and children, tennis courts and playgrounds.
In La Sabana you can be part of different activities, from swimming in the pools, enjoying the lake view and fishing, to flying kites, jogging or working out. In this park you will find the Gimnasio Nacional and the Estadio Nacional, which recently opened.
There are also public spaces where you can relax and where cultural and artistic activities are frequently arranged, like the Plaza de la Cultura, Plaza de la Democracia, Plaza de las Garantias Sociales or the Templo de la Musica.
This city has beautiful buildings of different architectural styles, like the Teatro Nacional, the Teatro Melico Salazar, the Post Office Building, the Casa Amarilla (Chancery), the Castillo Moro, the Edificio Metalico and the Church of La Merced, built in the late XIX century and early XX century. It is a young city with buildings no more than 150 years old, which have been restored for their preservation.
The most important museums of Costa Rica are found here, such as the Museo Nacional, former Cuartel Bellavista and evidence of Costa Rica’s army, which existed until 1948. The Museo de los Nińos used to be the Central Correctional Center, and currently offers workshops, displays and preserves the military architecture of the time.
There are also the Museo de Oro Precolombino in the Central Avenue and the Museo de Jade; the Museo de Arte y Diseńo Contemporaneo, located in the former National Liquor Factory, next to the Biblioteca Nacional; and the Museo de Arte Costarricense, which was the country’s first airport, located in the Parque Metropolitano La Sabana. All of these buildings of great historical value have been restored and preserved.
Other interesting sites are the 5 catholic churches located in the center of San Jose, shaping a cross. The Catedral Metropolitana in the center, El Carmen towards the north, La Dolorosa in the south, La Soledad towards the east and La Merced towards the west. Other religions also have their temples in this city.
Here you can also find the three different State powers, as well as government institutions and ministries. This is the business center for the State banks, where you will find the buildings of the Banco Nacional, the tallest building in San Jose, and the Banco Central, which is located in the old artillery plaza. The other state and private banks have some main and branch offices close to these blocks.
You can purchase many different products in the stores located in the center of this town, from clothing for all ages, food and ornaments, to the latest technology and services. Thousands of citizens that go to work pass through these streets everyday.
Accommodations and gastronomy
In this zone of the country you can find a wide variety of hotels and restaurants. There are 5-star hotels of international hotel chains with amenities that adjust to the taste and budget of their guests. There are buildings of modern architecture, which have large swimming pools and spas.
Other hotels are Victorian-style recreations of the mid XX century.
San Jose has many hostels and apartments that welcome backpackers from all over the world.
International dishes and typical Costa Rican meals are served along the main roads and malls of San Jose. You can find restaurants of Italian, Lebanese, Chinese, Thai, Japanese, French, Arabic and Hindu cuisines, among many others.
In the center of the capital you can find the traditional “sodas”, which are small restaurants ideal for having freshly prepared snacks like a cheese empanada (type of typical pastry) or a “casado” (rice, beans, ripe plantain, salad and meat) with a natural beverage.
Fast food chain restaurants have opened many places and can be found in different areas of San Jose, mostly in the shopping malls of this city.