National Museum (Museo Nacional)
In a fitting setting—where in 1949, President José Figueres Ferrer announced he was abolishing the country’s military—National Museum exhibits an extraordinary collection, from pre-Columbian pieces from ongoing archaeological digs to artifacts from the colonial period and the early republic era. The entrance, through a glass atrium butterfly garden, is a fitting tribute to the country’s spectacular natural beauty. Purchase a ticket in advance to avoid lines and guarantee admission.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The National Museum is an ideal spot for history and art lovers.
- An admission fee is required; students and children enjoy discounts.
- The museum is wheelchair-friendly.
How to Get There
National Museum (Museo Nacional) is located in the Bellavista Fortress at Calle 17, between Avenida Central and Avenida Segunda, in the center of downtown San José. The entrance can be difficult to find; look for it opposite the large circular structure. Walking is one of the best ways to get around the compact city as traffic can get chaotic and parking is difficult to find. Public buses are plentiful and inexpensive. Be aware, drivers don’t often speak Spanish and they accept only local currency.
When to Get There
The theater is open Tuesday through Sunday, from morning until afternoon. Check the calendar for performance schedules. Free tours of the building take place typically at 11am and 3pm. Peak season in Costa Rica is from mid-December to April during the dry season. Come in March for the annual International Festival of the Arts when the capital city transforms into a giant stage with live concerts and festivities, organized by the National Theatre.
History and Grounds
While the museum’s impressive collection offers a chance to travel back in time, don’t miss the building itself and the grounds. Nationals fought at these old barracks during the Civil War in 1948, and damage from bullet holes can still be seen in the pockmarked stone walls. Out in the courtyard, don’t miss the mysterious stone spheres, commonly attributed to the extinct Diquis culture, 500–1500 CE.
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- Yellow House (Casa Amarilla)
- Metallic Building (Ed)ificio Metálico)
- Gold Museum
- Jade Museum (Museo del Jade)
- Plaza de la Cultura
- National Theater (Teatro Nacional)
- Morazan Park
- San Jose Central Market (Mercado Central)
- Children's Museum (Museo de los Ninos)
- Costa Rican Art Museum (Museo de Arte Costarricense)
- La Sabana Park
- Rescate Animal Zooave
- Orosi River Valley (El Valle del Rio Orosi)