Today, cultural life is mainly concentrated in and around San José, where visitors can see the national theatre – “Teatro Nacional”, the gold museum – “Museo de Oro” and the jade museum – “Museo de Jade”. Ticos love to go to the theater to attend concerts, ballets and operas. Concert halls, music bars and restaurants of all kinds often offer concerts or entertainment for those who appreciate a playful culture. We invite you to visit some of these places during your stay in Costa Rica.
San José’s cultural life
The people of San José (josefinos) often joke that there’s one theater for every inhabitant! Why not come and see for yourself the many exhibitions on a variety of themes that frequently take place?
The Sinac and the Antigua Aduana are the main venues for exhibitions and fairs of all kinds. Book culture, gastronomic discoveries, festivals and contemporary art exhibitions take place practically every week. Access to culture is one of the country’s priorities.
The national museum, the culture of remembrance
To the east of the Plaza de la Democracia, the National Museum represents the country’s memory. It’s a real journey through the history of Costa Rica that you’ll discover through three major themes: anthropology, cultural history and natural history. One of the rooms dedicated to archaeology teaches us about the evolution of Costa Rica’s indigenous peoples; another shows us how the country has developed since the arrival of the Spaniards. There is also an important collection of stones, gold, jade and ceramics. The museum also celebrates 200 years of coffee cultivation.
The Pre-Columbian Gold Museum
More than 2,000 pre-Columbian objects, including a large collection of coins, are on display in the Plaza de la Cultura, in the heart of the city. Visitors can learn about the evolution of pre-Columbian culture through gold objects, statuettes and earrings.
The Jade Museum
San José’s new Jade Museum opened its doors in May 2014. The contemporary architecture and exhibition rooms will transport you back in time. You’ll discover the finest collection of pre-Columbian jades in America, dating from 500 BC to 800 AD. Jade necklaces, pendants and ceramics adorn this museum.
The 5 floors of the museum are very well organized, offering a discovery through many new, interactive and attractive musical elements. Children have not been forgotten, and will have a fun and instructive time.
Museum of Costa Rican Art – MAC
The building that houses the MAC (Museo del Arte Costarricense) is a work of art itself, and well worth admiring. Built in the neo-classical style in the late 1930s, this building was Costa Rica’s first international airport. It was converted into a museum in April 1978 and declared a Costa Rican national historic and architectural heritage site in 1986.
The museum exhibits the most representative works of national art. With a permanent collection of over 6,400 works and a travelling collection of around 600 pieces, you’ll be able to get an idea of Costa Rican culture. Sculptures, paintings, bronzes and wood are all part of the national collection.
The museum of contemporary art – MADC
Located in the former national liquor factory in the historic center of the capital, it was founded in 1994. It has become an open, multi-faceted venue for promoting the latest and most dynamic trends in contemporary art and design from Central America. Thanks to its 4 exhibition halls and an outdoor space for temporary exhibitions, visitors can enjoy a particularly warm welcome.
Finally, the MADC’s permanent collection represents an important heritage of contemporary art, with renowned works by Costa Rican, Central American and international artists. A wonderful discovery…
Take them to the San José Children’s Museum. Not because they play Monopoly, but because this former penitentiary was transformed in 1994 into a fun and instructive museum.
It’s true that this castle, straight out of children’s fairy tales, lets you learn while you play.
30 interactive rooms including an earthquake simulator, a tilted house to play with gravity, an animation in honor of the national astronaut, Franklin Chang Clodomiro Picado, a farm with small animals, a banana and coffee plantation are the main attractions. Children are generally enthusiastic about their visit.
The National Theatre
Certainly the most beautiful building in San José. Construction began in 1890, financed by a tax on coffee production. Its neo-baroque style is adorned with frescoes evoking coffee culture, such as the best-known: “Alegoría al café y al banano” – Coffee and banana allegory. It was inaugurated in 1897. Its architecture closely resembles that of the Palais Garnier, which served as a model for the architect.
It is also the country’s largest concert hall.
Numerous world-renowned orchestras and theater troupes perform here.
The Costa Rican Philharmonic Orchestra holds many concerts here.
The Sabana Park
First of all, it’s worth pointing out that this park is located on the site of the former international airport, and that its control tower has been converted into a museum.
Secondly, it’s worth pointing out that this gigantic park has become a favorite spot for Ticos attracted by its many sports facilities: soccer pitches, basketball courts, volleyball courts, tennis courts, jogging tracks, walking trails, a children’s paddling pool, etc. You’ll find many of the activities favored by the Ticos here. Here, you can discover some of Costa Rica’s favorite activities and soak up the lively atmosphere around the activity centers.
It’s also a place to relax, where many enjoy picnics in the shade of the trees.
You can admire trees such as eucalyptus, Japanese cherry, bamboo and African tulip trees, and it’s a great place to take a stroll even in the hottest weather.
It’s also here that the government chose to build the new national stadium, inaugurated in 2011, whose architecture will surprise you. In other words, it’s the ideal place to relax in the heart of the capital.
The National Park
Got a few hours to spare before you head back out? Go to the National Park, where Josefinos – San José’s inhabitants – love to stroll. It’s one of the city’s largest parks, located between avenues 1 and 3, and streets 15 and 19.
Indeed, the new pedestrian zone to the south of the park and its trees invite you to take a refreshing stroll.
The national monument at its center is a representation of the Central American nations driving out the invaders, and in particular a commemoration of the Battle of Rivas, where Juan Santamaria, a national hero, enabled Costa Rica to free Nicaragua from the domination of the filibuster William Walker. In other words, a symbol for the country.