A stroll through the Center of San José and a visit to the National Theatre

No, I’m not dead, and yes, I’m still in Costa Rica. I know I haven’t posted in more than 6 weeks and that is a long time. Why that? Well, life kind of got in the way. So what has happened in those 6 weeks? A lot!

I will try to sum up all the trips and small adventures of the past six weeks a series of post. I’ll start where I left off the last time I posted on this blog. That was about the trip to the Rio Celeste and the beaches in Nicoya. Two other AFS volunteers and I left Nicoya early on Monday morning (27. March) and took the bus to San José. We were lucky to get a seat because we’d bought our tickets the day before. There were many people who had to stand throughout the whole 5-hour ride.

Back in San José, one of the other volunteers had to leave right the way because he had to work in the morning. But the other one spent the day with me in San José and together we did some sight-seeing. Even though I’d been in the center of San José many times before, I’d never checked out the main attractions. So this was the perfect time to do it. After a stroll through the Central Market, we went to the National Theatre.

The National Theatre

National Theatre Square – San José, Costa Rica

National Theatre – San José, Costa Rica

At many tourist attractions in Costa Rica such as national parks and also the national theater, there are two different price classes. There is the local tariff and the tourist tariff. Often the entrance fees for tourists are around 10 times the price of the local fee. Since we’re living and volunteering in Costa Rica, we are supposed to get the local tariff. But that doesn’t always work. Fortunately, at the national museum it did work.

Entrance Hall National Theatre – San José, Costa Rica


Staircase National Theatre – San José, Costa Rica

Included in the entrance fee was a guided tour through the museum. We learned many new things about the theater and San José in general. The national theater opened it’s doors to the public in 1897. It has definitely a lot of European Influences all mixed together. To give you an example: The facade is fashioned in neo-classical German style, the marble floor in the entrance hall is from Italy, the glass doors are in French style, and the second vestibule features Spanish Baroque style. No wonder why it made me feel like I was in Europe once I entered this magnificent building. And did you know that San José was, in fact, one of the first cities to use electrical light? I was pretty surprised by that!

When you walk up this staircase, you get to the Lobby, where people used to gather and socialize during performance intervals. Nowadays it’s used to host important events like the elections.



Lobby National Theatre – San José, Costa Rica

Seats in the Gentlemen’s Room National Theatre – San José, Costa Rica

Lobby National Theatre – San José, Costa Rica

To both sides of the Lobby, there are two smaller rooms. One used to be designated to the ladies and one to the gentlemen of society. This is where they would go for a smoke and to share all kinds of gossip.

The floor in the lobby is made of 20 different kinds of Costa Rican wood. It’s almost always protected by a rug because the high heels of guests would damage the soft wood. Due to strict logging regulations in Costa Rica some of the tropical wood pieces couldn’t be replaced anymore.

Parquet Floor National Theatre – San José, Costa Rica

The ceiling painting below is called Allegory of Costa Rican Commerce and Agriculture and is one of the most famous paintings of Costa Rica. It looks very beautiful but there are many mistakes. Can you spot them? For example, the man in the middle is carrying the bananas the wrong way around, the women harvesting look more like Europen women than Ticas. The Italien artist who’d never been to Costa Rica painted the picture following verbal instructions and descriptions. So this is basically how an Italian painter in the late 19th century pictured the coffee-growing nation, Costa Rica.

Painting Allegory of Costa Rican Commerce and Agriculture National Theatre – San José, Costa Rica

The Auditorium of the Theatre has almost 1000 seats. A whole box on the second floor is reserved for the president and his family. The tickets for the performances used to be and still are sold to an affordable prize. If I get the chance I’ll definitely go to see a performance before I leave. And I do recommend visiting the National Theatre or even better going to a performance!

Seats National Theatre – San José, Costa Rica

Stage National Theatre – San José, Costa Rica

Chandelier National Theatre – San José, Costa Rica

San José is not as ugly as you think!

That woman’s expression really captured my attention! National Theatre – San José, Costa Rica

Many tourists that come to visit Costa Rica only spend very little time in the capital of Costa Rica or try to totally avoid it on their trip. I don’t think that’s fair. San José is Costa Rica’s vivid heart and center. There are some interesting museums that are worth a visit, some beautiful neighborhoods that you should check out, and some beautifully green parks to relax in.

Central Avenue

I also recommend simply walking down the central avenue. This is one of the few streets only for pedestrians which means you don’t have to constantly look out for cars that might run you over. It’s also a perfect place to watch the constant stream of people walking up and down the avenue. And not to forget, it’s also more colorful than most of you’d probably imagined.




Av Central – San José, Costa Rica

Pipes – San José, Costa Rica

Street Art

Close by the National Museum you can find some streets with lots of amazing street art! This is one of my favorite parts of San José! In my opinion, there should be many more walls free to paint and spray on.

Street Art – San José, Costa Rica

China Town

In San José, like in many major cities, you can find a small china town. Of course, at its entrance, there is this characteristic gate. However, the actual china town is really small and there are not many Chinese shops or restaurants. However, this neighborhood has a very interesting history.

China Town – San José, Costa Rica


You can find many fruit and vegetable shops in San José. So if it’s not market day, that’s where you can find locally produced fruit and vegetables. There are also many street vendors selling fruits in the streets.

Fruit & Vegetable Store – San José, Costa Rica

There are many more things to discover and do in San José. This is only a small part of what Costa Rica’s capital has to offer.

I must say I’m happy to live in Curridabat (a suburb of San José). First of all the climate here is very similar to the climate in Switzerland. It’s not as hot and humid as on the coasts and other places in Costa Rica. Also, you can get and find pretty much everything you need because it’s a big city. Another positive aspect is the fact that San José is more or less in the center of the country which means from here you can easily get to both coasts and there are buses to everywhere in Costa Rica. Moreover, I really like the people of San José! There are many students, especially in San Pedro. And where there are students, there are also cool places to go out 😉

So this was the first part of what I’ve been up to the last 6 weeks. More is coming soon!


2 replies
  1. Tab
    Tab says:

    Hi Miranada,
    Feels so good to read your blog again! I was missing something.
    Oh, the old memory creeps in, the Central Avenue, National Theater, China town…all are moving in a slide show in front of my eyes! And your narration with historic background is excellent! I was almost glued until the end. Maybe, it’s a bit nostalgic for me. And you know something! I am an electrical engineer and I didn’t know that Costa Rica had the first electric light. Was it in San Jose?
    I look forward to reading more!

    • Miranda
      Miranda says:

      Hi Tab! Yes, I’m back… at last for now 😉 I’m happy you’re still following my blog!
      And yes, it was our guide that told us that San José was among the very first cities to use electrical light.


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