If you are visiting any tourist attraction in Costa Rica, San Jose is very centrally located, and often times a resting point when traveling around the country. While you are in San Jose, there are plenty of distractions to keep you informed and entertained throughout your stay . In addition, most attractions in the Central Valley are easily accessible by San Jose. You can normally accomplish quite a bit in a day trip.
And, if you just have a few free hours, a walking tour in San Jose is a convenient way to learn about some Costa Rican culture, art and theatre.
The city that we know today became a small town around the middle of the 16th century. Previously the area had been known as the Aserri Valley. The area was nothing but a small town with a few farmers in it until a chapel was built here. The town was called “La Boca del Monte” or The Mouth of the Hills in 1737 when the first chapel was built here. Towards the end of the century the town was home to a little under 5,000 inhabitants dispersed between the city, neighborhoods and surrounding towns.
It wasn’t until 1821 that Costa Rica gained independence from Spain. At the time the main economic developer was tobacco farming in the outskirts of San Jose. When the time came to decide on a capital San Jose, Alajuela, Heredia and Cartago wanted the title. San Jose was granted Costa Rica’s capital after two armed confrontations in 1823 and 1835. After that, San Jose began to grow and some of the most important architectural projects of the era can still be seen today.
The Our Lady of Sion building is usually a good place to start a walking tour. This building was built as a girl’s school and convent in 1887. The State took over the property and part of the Legislative Assembly now resides here. The rest of The Legislative Assembly had many uses or at least planned uses until it was assigned its current use in 1957. It was once designated to be a Catholic Temple. Later it was to become the presidential residence but a lack of materials during the Second World War delayed it construction.
A few feet down the street tourists can visit the Blue Castle, a neoclassic residential home built in 1908. It was passed through the hands of many politicians before becoming a branch of the Legislative Assembly in 1989. The Costa Rican National Museum is also worth visiting if you have time. Built by German naturalists, it spent many years vacant before the government purchased it for military barracks. The museum now displays many exhibits about Costa Rican history.
The Plaza de Democracia is the next stop on the San Jose walking tour. This construction was fairly recent, completed in 1989 to provide a better view of the west side of the National Museum. Other important cultural sites include the Dr. Rafael Angel Calderon Guardia Statue, Plaza de la Cultura and Banco Central Museum, Teatro Variedades (Theater), National Theater and Central Park.
The Methodist Temple is another important cultural site constructed after a missionary project from Mexico acquired the property in 1917. A new church has since been built on the property. The Our Lady of Solitude Church has also been a popular religious site in San Jose since its construction in the middle of the 19th century. Other important religious sites that can be seen on a San Jose walking tour include The Good Shepherd Anglican Church, The Metropolitan Cathedral and Nuestra Señora Del Carmen Church.
There is a lot to see in San Jose and you can see a few or all of the historical and cultural sites depending on the amount of time you have. Costa Rica has a very rich history that is worth exploring just as much as the nation’s other attractions.