San Jose

  | Home | Americas | Costa Rica | San Jose |
| Main Menu |  

The original San Jose, capital of Costa Rica and unlikely metropolis in the middle of the mountainous spine of Central America, nearly four thousand feet up. It is one of the safest cities in the region, and perhaps not the prettiest or most charming but it still offered sufficient diversions for a couple of days. Traffic was expectedly awful, travelling between the airport and the city centre took at least an hour each way, and the street grid numbering system is unusual in starting from the centre rather than one edge.

San Jose was the start and end point of my trip through Costa Rica and Panama in late 2016, we stayed the first few nights in an Air BnB in the Dent district near San Pedro Mall, within walking distance from the centre proper. The weather was refreshingly cool, in contrast to the heat of the coast, but it did rain a lot.

National Museum

San Jose's National Museum of Costa Rica, in the former military barracks of Bellavista Fortress, dating back to 1917.

El Teatro Nacional was a quite splendid affair, just next to Plaza de la Cultura. Although we didn't catch a show, we did stop in for afternoon tea.

Teatro Nacional

Avenida Central

Avenida Central is the pedestrianised axis of the city, running east to west with parallel avenues being numbered oddly to the north, and evenly to the south. Although this sounds simple, it caused me significant confusion when first trying to navigate around the city, without it having been explained.

Street musicians on Avenida Central, photography doesn't do the shaker man justice as he had some very smooth moves.

Street musicians

Monument to the farmers

Monument to the Farmers outside one of the banks downtown. San Jose has a wide range of statues throughout the city, celebrating the ordinary people of Costa Rica.

The old post office is now a postal museum, another of the grand buildings in central San Jose. It was largely original inside, with large banks of little lockers and drawers, and reminded me of similar buildings in Cuba.

Postal museum

Estatua de la chola

Estatua de la chola, another of San Jose's monuments to the ordinary people, this one features a jolly and corpulent middle-aged woman.

Pope John Paul II visited San Jose in 1983, and as the most well-travelled pope in history, his statuary likeness has shown up in several places I've visited, including Bosnia and Poland. I was lucky enough to see the man himself on my first trip to the Vatican in 2005.

Pope John Paul II

Old house in San Jose

One of San Jose's historic old houses, there are several dotted about the city centre.

Parque Morazán and its bandstand, there was even a little amateur live music going on one time we passed through.

Band stand in Parque Morazán

Metal building

Edificio Metálico, the Metal Building, is a school just opposite Morazán park and was built in the late 1800s with Belgian steel, when steel structures were particularly in vogue, such as the Eiffel Tower or Forth Bridge. Officially it is called Escuela Buenaventura Corrales.

Urban railway lines snake through the inner city residences of San Jose, with occasional clanking trains rumbling through.

Urban railway

The Thinker

The Thinker ponders how he ended up in San Jose, here cast in bronze I think, but protected from the elements. The Thinker can be found around the world, but I am unsure how new this reproduction is.

Underneath Plaza de la Cultura lies a vast new museum, featuring amongst other artifacts a trove of pre-Columbian gold. These items escaped the plunder of the Spanish and are preserved for the nation.

Gold figurines in the Bank Museums

Independence monument in Parque Nacional

Independence Monument in Parque Nacional, celebratin secession from Spain in 1821. Costa Rica is one of very few nations that does not maintain a standing army, having abolished it in 1948.

Plaza de la Cultura was remodelled and unveiled in 2016, including a dancing lit fountain, which is hugely popular with the local kids.

Fountain in Plaza de la Cultura

El Cascanueces!

Our last night in Costa Rica was in early December, and the Christmas spirit was certainly picking up, with school choirs singing carols in the street, and even El Cascanueces on show. For those uninitiated in Spanish, this is The Nutcracker!

Top of page

Copyright © Ross Wattie 2018