A bustling, modern city in the middle of the Central Valley.
Fully a third of Costa Rica's population lives in San José itself, a bustling, congested modern city in the middle of the Central Valley, where most international flights arrive.
It is worth a short visit for a taste of local life and to take in some of the principal sights:
- the National Theatre is the most lavish building in the capital. Funded by a coffee tax in the late 19th century its baroque interior parades the wealth of the coffee planters in neo-colonial style.
- the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum is an underground museum containing thousands of gold artefacts from as early as 500 BC. Exhibits range from plain body ornaments, bracelets, earrings, chest plates, little bells and earrings to intricately worked representations of local animals: charming frogs, birds of prey and delicate figurines. A gallery in the foyer shows the work of contemporary Costa Rican artists.
- the Jade Museum holds the largest collection of jade carvings in the Americas and has displays of pre-Columbian art, pottery and sculpture. The museum is on the top floor of an office building and so has good views over the capital.
- the Museum of Costa Rican Art contains a small collection of 19th and 20th century painting and sculpture by national and international artists with changing exhibitions. It is located in a large, well-planted park near the city centre created 35 years ago on what was formerly the city's airport.
There is a good choice of hotels in and around the city itself, and in the surrounding countryside of the Central Valley.
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