Teatro Nacional. On the southern side of the Plaza de la Cultura resides the Teatro Nacional, San José’s most revered public building. Constructed in 1897, it features a columned neoclassical facade that is flanked by statues of Beethoven and Calderón de la Barca, a 17th-century Spanish dramatist. The lavish marble lobby and auditorium are lined with paintings depicting various facets of 19th-century life. More information www.teatronacional.go.cr
Museo de Oro Precolombino y Numismática. This three-in-one museum houses an extensive collection of Costa Rica’s most priceless pieces of pre-Columbian gold and other artifacts, including historical currency and some contemporary regional art. The museum, housed underneath the Plaza de la Cultura, is owned by the Banco Central. More information www.museosdelbancocentral.org
Mercado Central. This is the best and cheapest place in the city to buy just about anything you’d want, whether that’s a hammock, clothes, or a vast assortment of forgettable knickknacks. For something decidedly more Costa Rican, export-quality coffee beans and cigars can be bought at a fraction of the price you’ll pay in tourist shops. Address Street Avs Central & 1 btwn Calles 6 & 8
Barrio Amón. North and west of the Jade Museum lies this pleasant, historic neighborhood, home to a cluster of cafetalero (coffee grower) mansions constructed during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In recent years, many of the area’s historic buildings have been converted into hotels, restaurants and offices, making this a popular district for an architectural stroll.
Museo Nacional de Costa Rica The Museo Nacional is located inside the old Bellavista Fortress, which served as the old army headquarters and saw fierce fighting in the 1948 civil war. The museum provides a quick survey of Costa Rican history, with exhibits of pre-Columbian pieces from ongoing digs, as well as artifacts from the colony and the early republic. More information www.museocostarica.go.cr
Catedral Metropolitana To the east of the Parque Central is the Renaissance-style Catedral Metropolitana, built in 1871 after the previous cathedral was destroyed in an earthquake. The interiors, in keeping with the period, are graceful neoclassic. Address Street Avs 2 & 4 btwn Calles Central & 1