There are many things to do in San Jose City. From walking in the busy town to a large array of museums, markets and shopping areas to many pubs and restaurants.
San José has been unfortunately known as a dirty and chaotic city. However little by little and following the efforts of private companies, artists, galleries, and the city government it is turning into the type of city you don’t only want to visit, but you want to stay for a while to see all the possible options it has to offer.
As to provide a list of possibilities, find below seven things you can do any time in San Jose and three more, if you come in the right time to the right place. From the most traditional highlights to the newest things, if you are staying in San Jose… Yes! There are things to do! Many!
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This is a must if you are in the city in the daytime. Open from 7 am to 7 p.m. the Central Market is the heart of this town since the XIX Century. It offers souvenirs, yes… But also a glimpse of the Costa Ricans of all classes, ages, ethnics, and types. From the fruit stands to the fisheries, passing by pet shops and snack places, the Central Market offers great photo ops and fantastic chances to understand the country you are visiting.
A walk on the Central Avenue Boulevard:
Anyone who’s older than 35 in Costa Rica remembers when driving through San José was the way to see boys and girls, get smiles and maybe a date. Nowadays it has radically changed, and it is the main artery of the city. More than a million people walk through this boulevard every single day of the year. Street sales, stores, cafeterias, and others will make you enjoy this walk tremendously. Super recommended in the day time or even before 8 p.m. After 8, it can turn a bit dangerous as the crowd comes down and pickpocketers can get out.
More than a million people walk through this boulevard every single day of the year. Street sales, stores, cafeterias, and others will make you enjoy this walk tremendously. Super recommended as one of the compulsory things to do in San Jose in the day time or even before 8 p.m. After 8, it can turn a bit dangerous as the crowd comes down and pickpocketers can get out.
Plaza de la Cultura
If the Central Avenue is the main artery and the Central Market is the heart, I would say then that the Plaza de la Cultura and all it includes are the brains of the city. Everything passes through it. Flat, clean, with a zillion pigeons eating corn from children’s hands it deserves at least twenty minutes, just sitting and enjoying the people passing by, the lovers on benches, the street vendors and all of this with the gorgeous National Theater on the back. And with the amazing and almost surreal Gold Museum underneath.
(April to September 2016, the Plaza is close due to restoration)
Home of the Art of Costa Rica. The National Theater belongs to our history as much as our flag, or the national anthem. It lives in us; we are proud of it. We learned classical music there, and theater, and operas. It has all sorts of shows throughout the week, even at noon. The architecture is beautiful, and I could almost say it deserves a post on its own having such importance for us. But you just get in, and to the left side, sit in one of the marble tables of the cafeteria, zip a good Costa Rican coffee just by one of the big windows and enjoy the atmosphere… It will conquer your heart.
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Among the things to do in San José, definitely the Gold Museum is a must. You walk on the Plaza and if none tells you about it… You’ll never know it is there. But as you discover it, pass through the metal detector (No cameras allowed) and get in, you will see that there are three different art opportunities in the building:
The Numismatics Museum (Historical Costa Rican coins), an art gallery that shows temporary art shows of many kinds, and the Gold Museum, coming down the stairs and under the city. With great explanations and a fantastic display, it shows a lot of the Precolumbian history of the country.
Quite new, this six floors museum has one of the biggest pre-Columbian jade collections in the World, together with a large pottery and gold figures collection. It is probably one of the most complete museums of the country, and it has a fantastic way to display the whole collection too. It is worth the visit, and if you could go with the guide you will enjoy it twenty times more!
It is located at the old headquarters of the Costa Rican army. An old building that has been turned into a temple of knowledge and art. The first impression you get as you come in… is nature! As it has a butterfly garden on the way in.
The second thing you see, on the right-hand side wall is the plate at the very place where our army was abolished almost sixty years ago, and then you have this botanical garden. On the edge of the garden, you will find a collection of the pre-Columbian history of the country, displayed in chronological order for your enjoyment and comprehension.
And, there are activities, that, if you are lucky to be at the right place at the right time you can enjoy:
Every three months in San Jose, on the third Wednesday, all museums open for free, all galleries open for free and there is free transportation to go from one museum to the next. Thousands of people walking in the city, from one place to the next. The city boils in art and art lovers… It is a fantastic chance to deep in Costa Rica!
The Lost Books Day
This is a Latin American tradition that happens in many cities, on equinoxes and solstices. People drops off books, anonymously, all over the city, at malls, in parks and plazas. If you want to “plant a book” have to write something on it, in the beginning, starting with “I am a lost book… “. And then you can go harvest as well! And look for books that have been lost and are waiting for you to find them. It is fun! And a great feeling!
And to end this up… There are great bars you can go to in historic houses, restaurants in beautiful open settings, a tour that applies to four hours to four different nice and busy bars in town… shots included!
San José lately is the type of walking city where it has become pretty usual to have mob dances, violins playing in the plazas and bands playing on the sidewalks.
You find sculptures in many places and even though.
Unfortunately, the architecture was not kept, now and then you look up and see the magnificence of an old classical building just there, waiting for you to see it.
You see acrobats, dancers and actors as part of the city and live the nowadays Costa Ricans it is compulsory to take a walk through San Jose… and simply breath it in!