José, the Capital of Costa Rica, located at 1149 m
above sea level, maintains an average all year round temperature
of 24°C and is home to the main museums and cultural centers.
This is where you might spend your first night before embarking
on the unforgettable experience of discovering the natural
beauty this small country has to offer.
San José's foremost architectural showpiece, the National Theater is a source of pride to Costa Ricans everywhere. Inaugurated on October 19, 1897 with a performance of "Faust" by the Paris Opera Company, the building's origins date to 1890 when the Italian opera singer, Angela Pelati, gave a number of performances in Guatemala but refused to come to Costa Rica due to the lack of a proper theater. The members of the country's coffee elite proposed that a theater be built in San José to correct this situation and agreed to contribute five centavos per exported sack of coffee to finance the construction.
Some parts of the theater were crafted in Europe and shipped to Costa Rica for assembly, such as the metal framework which was cast in Belgium and many of the statues, murals, and ceiling frescos which are the work of Italian artists that never saw Costa Rica. The stunning baroque design features ample use of 221/2 karat gold overlay and Carrara marble.
The National Symphonic Orchestra season runs from March to
November with performances on Thursday and Friday evenings
and again on Sunday mornings. Periodically, other activities
ranging from the Moscow ballet and Chinese acrobats to state
dinners and Costa Rican theatrical presentations are also
scheduled. The coffee shop adjoining the main lobby is a wonderful
place to sit and watch the world go by.
Best known for the variety of pre-Columbian artifacts
on permanent display, the National Museum also has exhibits
dedicated to Costa Rican religious art and the history of
the country since the Spanish conquest. The building itself
has historic significance since it was once a military fortress
and after the abolishment of the army, following the Revolution
of 1948, was converted into the museum.
Museum of Jade
Although the numerous pre-Columbian jade pieces on display are among the most impressive anywhere, the museum also features excellent examples of indigenous craftsmanship in stone, ceramics, and gold. Housed on the 11th floor of the National Insurance Company (INS) building, the view of the city and surrounding mountains is an added attraction to a visit to this museum.
Rotating selections from the permanent collection together
with temporary exhibitions showcase the artwork of Costa Rican
painters and sculptors in a building that was once an airport
terminal. The Sabana Metropolitan Park which stretches west
behind the museum was formerly the international airport landing
strip in the days prior to jet planes.
Located at the western end of Paseo Colón (avenida
Operated by the Central Bank of Costa Rica, this museum
houses an extensive collection of pre-Columbian gold in which
the level of artistry achieved by native craftsman working
with this precious metal is easily appreciated. The exhibition
rooms have been completely remodeled in 2002.
The entrance to the museum is on calle 5, beneath the Plaza
de la Cultura.