Theater and Museums

These are almost all in San Jose or its suburbs, though historical and archeological sites are scattered throughout the country.

The National Theater is Costa Rica's symbol of the people's interest in the arts as well as the national architectural treasure. A European opera company, led by singer Adelina Patti, came to Guatemala City in the late 1800's but didn't travel on to Costa Rica because there was no suitable place to perform. In response, the coffee growers agreed to pay a tax on coffee they exported to raise money for a theater. Construction started in 1890 and the building was finished in 1897.

Today it is one of the busiest buildings in the country, with performances or official functions 320 days a year. If your Spanish is good, enjoy one of the many plays presented by Costa Rican and touring foreign companies. With little or no Spanish, you can watch dance performances, opera, or the National Symphony. Check the schedule of upcoming events so you won't miss the ones you'd like during your stay. Tickets are inexpensive.

The theater is patterned after European opera houses though on a smaller, more comfortable scale. The facade, overlooking a rose garden and a tree-shaded square, is Renaissance style, with figures representing Music, Fame, and Dance. Statues of Beethoven and Calderon de la Barca All niches on either side of the entrance. The lobby inside has marble floors and columns. To your left is a refreshment area with coffee and great Ice cream concoctions, its walls usually adorned with art exhibits. The Grand staircase and foyer on the second floor feature Italian marble Sculptures paintings and a mural of Costa Rica 's main exports. You can tour the building with or without a guide during the day, but shouldn't miss the experience of a performance.
:Ave. 2, Calle 3, adjacent to the Cultural Plaza and Gran Hotel Costa Rica.
The National Theater adjoins the south side of the Cultural Plaza and faces the same square as the Gran Hotel Costa Rica. Other smaller theaters are around the San Jose area and the University of Costa Rica campus. Check the English language Tico Times, weekly on Fridays, for performances, locations and for art exhibits in the city which change often.

The National Museum of Costa Rica is in the Bellavista. Fortress, the former army barracks on Calle 17, Ave. 2/Central. Open Tues.Sun., 10-5. Closed Mondays, holidays. Students with identification free. The outside walls of this fortress still show bullet scars from the revolution of 1948, after which the army was abolished. The museum features an excellent exhibit of pre-Columbian artifacts, historical exhibits from the colonial period, and historical religious cosumes, and articles. All of Costa Rica's history and historical art are represented here in the massive stone buildings surrounding a garden.


The jade Museum features prehistoric carvings of jade and stone, and some ceramic and gold articles, arranged according to their region and historical period. It's on the 11th floor of the INS (Institute for National Security) Building, Calle 9, Av. 7. Phone, 23-5800, Ext. 2581. Open Mon.Fri., 9-3. Admission free.

Note that museum openings are usually early in Costa Rica, often 8:30 or 9 a.m. Closings may be at 3 or 4 p.m. Most museums are open on Sundays-sometimes admission free. Most, except for the Natural Science Museum, are closed Mondays.

The Gold Museum is near the ICT information center under the Cultural Plaza on Ave. Central. This collection, one of the finest in the world, contains over 2000 pre-Columbian gold artifacts. Its 24,000 troy ounces comprise the second largest collection in the Western Hemisphere. The artistic wealth as well as the gold make it well worth a visit. Many of the articles were obtained from private collections of burial and religious art. Tues.-Sun., 10-6.

The Museum of Costa Rican Art occupies the former airport terminal building in Sabana Park on Calle 42 at the west end of Paseo Colon, Open Tues.-Sun., and holidays, 10-6. Closed Mondays. In this lovely Spanish-style building is a great collection of some of the most expressive art you'll ever see. Most is modem, but some sculptures are pre-Columbian. There are changing exhibits as well as the permanent collection.

The Natural Science Museum is in the Colegio La Salle, a school across from the south side of Sabana Park. Open Mon.-Fri. 8 to 3 and Sat. 7:30-12. Small admission charge. All specimens (over 22,500) and scenes were prepared locally, though they feature species from around the world as well as Costa Rica.

The Entomology Museum at the Agruicultural School on the University of Costa Rica campus in San Pedro, east of San Jose. is the only insect museum in Central America. The butterflies alone are worth a trip. Open Wed., Thurs., 1-6.

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