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San Jose, Give it a chance
Surprising side of Costa Rica
For many visitors, Costa Rica is beach towns, natural beauty and San Jose is just a stop before getting to where they want to go. San Jose is an urban jungle in the truest sense of the word. But those willing to take the plunge will discover Central America's undisputed cultural capital with history on full display, all surrounded by the breathtaking silhouettes of mountain ranges.
If you ready to brave the streets of the affectionately nicknamed Chepe and discover all the gems, here is the Top 10 Things to Do in San Jose.
1. The Teatro Nacional
The Teatro Nacional de Costa Rica is without contest the most famous building in all of San Jose. Located just off the Plaza de la Cultura in the geographical center of the city, this handsome neo-classical structure emanates elegance. The Teatro Nacional hosts events nearly every day.
2. Explore the Museo del Oro Precolombino
The Museo del Oro Precolombino (Pre-Columbian Gold Museum) will remind you of why exactly the Spaniards were so set on conquering Latin America in the first place.
Though Costa Rica was never home to mighty empires like those of the Incas, the Mayans, or the Aztecs, the indigenous people of the territory were very skilled in a number of fields including metalworking.
Additionally, entry to the Museo del Oro Precolombino includes a visit to the neighboring Museo de Numismatica, as both are administered by the Central Bank of Costa Rica.
3. Museo Nacional de Costa Rica
The Museo Nacional de Costa Rica (National Museum of Costa Rica) setting is something special. The walls of the historic Bellavista fortress, the ex-military barracks now home to the museum, are still pockmarked with bullet holes from Costa Rica's civil war. The galleries start with exhibits of pre-Columbian artifacts, move on to the colonial era, and finally reach the early days of Costa Rican independence. A visit to the Museo Nacional is certain to be both enlightening and entertaining, and for that reason it's one of our most highly recommended things to do in San Jose.
4. Calle de la Amargura
The Calle de la Amargura (Street of Bitterness) has the highest concentration of bars found anywhere in San Jose, spread out over a range of about four blocks. It's so famous throughout the city that most residents simply know it as La Calle. It is located directly across from the main campus of the University of Costa Rica, and the college crowd undeniably reigns supreme. Give a chance to San Jose, there's something for everyone.
5. Shop Like a Local at the Mercado Central
If you're looking for a taste of the "authentic" San Jose, look no further than the city's Mercado Central (Central Market). This massive indoor marketplace sells everything from tourist souvenirs near the entrances to fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, fish, flowers, clothes, accessories, spices, toys, and toiletries towards the center-basically everything you could ever want, and then some.
This is far and away San Jose's largest market, occupying an entire city block on the Avenida Central about 250 meters northwest of the Parque Central.
6. Shop Like a Tourist at the Mercado Nacional de Artesanías
Just across the Plaza de la Democracia from the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica sits two long rows of market stalls. This is San Jose's Mercado Nacional de Artesanias (National Handicraft Market). There are a number of artisan merchants who do hand-made souvenirs!
If you've never shopped a Latin American market before, prepare for the bargaining adventure of a lifetime.
7. Walk in the Parque Metropolitano
The Parque Metropolitano La Sabana (La Sabana Metropolitan Park), known simply as La Sabana to locals, is the largest urban park in Costa Rica Often referred to as "the lungs of San Jose", this is where many residents gather for picnics, to play sports, or just to take a leisurely afternoon walk. One more reason to give a chance to San Jose.
8. Costa Rica's national stadium
The National Stadium of Costa Rica is a multi-purpose stadium, hosting athletic and musical events. It is mostly used for football matches. It is the largest stadium in Costa Rica and one of the largest in Central America. It holds about 35,000 people. It is the home ground of the Costa Rica national football team. It was built in the same place where the old national stadium was located.
9. Museum of Costa Rican Art
Originally the main terminal of San Jose's first international airport, this museum houses the largest and most important collection of works by Costa Rican artists from the colonial time to the present. The museum's permanent collection has over 6,000 pieces.
10. Short Half-Day Trip to a Volcano!
The Volcan Irazu is the tallest active volcano in Costa Rica. It's reachable by car or bus less than an hour east from central San Jose. On nice days the views are incredible, but if you've got clouds, be warned that you probably won't even be able to see the crater! If the weather's not cooperating but you still want to visit a nearby active volcano, try the Volcan Poas on the western side of San Jose.
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