San Jose Museum Guide

Museum of Costa Rican Art

The building is a work of art in itself, and once the terminal of the old airport at the east end of where Sabana Park is today. This art deco museum houses a permanent display of 3,200 national treasures spaning over the last two centuries. Travelling exhibits fill the remaining side galleries. In the backyard is a garden of sculptures with works from Francisco Zuniga, Jorge Jimenez and others. From there a pleasant day can be spent walking the lush grounds of Sabana Park. The museum is open Tuesday to Friday from 10am to 6pm, and 10am to 4pm weekends, closed Mondays. Entrance is $5, and $3 for students. Telephone 2222-7155.

Jade Museum

It is located on the 11th floor of the largest building in Central America, the National Insurance Building, with an excellent view over San Jose and the Central Valley. It has the world’s largest collection of Pre-Columbian jade with pieces dating from 500 BC to 800 AD. Recent renovations to the museum have improved the lighting to show each piece of art’s spectacular shades of green. It is located on Avenida 7, between Calle 9 and 11, and open from 8:30am to 3:30pm Monday to Friday with admission of $2. Telephone 2287-6034.

National Gallery of Contemporary Art and Design

This gallery uses the great architecture of the old liquor factory between the Parque Espana and the National Library, Avenida 3 between Calles 15 and 17. It is a spectacular maze of theaters, libraries and galleries that emphasize current trends in Costa Rican art and design. It is open from 10am to 5pm Monday to Saturday, and the admission is a slight 600 colones. Telephone 2257-7202.

Gold Museum

This is a wonderfully thought out and extensive display of the process and uses of Pre-Columbian gold as viewed by the indigenous societies. There are hundreds of exquisite glittering pieces which must have helped give Costa Rica its name. Also included in your admission is a numismatic museum featuring rare coins and bills, as well as an art gallery. It is open from 9am to 4:30pm every day, and admission is $6, students $3. Telephone 2243-4202.

National Museum

Though not extremely large in size, it is a carefully thought out display taking visitors on a sort of time machine starting with Pre-Columbian indigenous culture to colonial life, the advent of the industrial revolution, mentioning historical facts along the way, right up until modern times. It is located in the Old Fort where you can still see bullet holes from the 1948 revolution. There is a great little observation deck as well with views into the San Jose hub. It is open from 8:30am to 4pm Tuesday to Saturday, and Sunday from 9am to 4pm. Entrance fee is $4, $2 for students. Telephone 2257-1433.

Children’s Museum

Housed in what was once Costa Rica’s jail, this is a world class museum and a delight for those travelling with children, or with a young spirit themselves. Lots of hands-on exhibits illustrate concepts in technology, science, culture and literature, all from a Costa Rican perspective. There is a fun house and an earthquake simulator. There is a part showing what life was actually like when the building was filled with criminals, definitely making children to think twice before heading to a life of crime! Open from 8am to 4:30pm weekdays and 9:30am to 5pm weekends, admission is a measley 800 colones for adults and 500 for children, and includes admission to an art gallery upstairs as well. Telephone 2258-4929.

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