Historic Architecture Tour in San Jose, San Jose (Self Guided)

From a small village of little significance during the Spanish invasion, San Jose grew to become a densely populated cosmopolitan city. The city of San Jose was mostly built from the profits of the coffee-export business, and that is why its architecture represents a mix of European and Latin American features. Take this tour to discover some of the best historical architecture in San Jose.
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Historic Architecture Tour in San Jose Map

Guide Name: Historic Architecture Tour in San Jose
Guide Location: Costa Rica » San Jose (See other walking tours in San Jose)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.4 km
Author: john
Edificio Metálico

1) Edificio Metálico (must see)

The Edificio Metálico (The Metalic Building) is a marvelous piece of architecture located next to the Morazan Parque. The Metallic Building was made in Belgium and then transported and assembled in San Jose in 1896. This kind of architecture is unique in Costa Rica and is said to have been inspired by the Eiffel Tower.

Why You Should Visit:
One of the most eye-catching school buildings you'll see, and one of the reference points of the city center.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 7am-5pm
Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones

2) Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones

The Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones (The Supreme Electoral Court) is a modern building, built in the late 1980s. It combines both western and Latin American architecture. It is located in the heart of the city.
Iglesia La Soledad

3) Iglesia La Soledad (must see)

The Iglesia de la Soledad has been one of the architectural highlights of San Jose since 1909. The church boasts a neoclassical design with colonial touches. The church's prized possession is its colorful stained glass windows, which were imported from Switzerland. It is located in San Jose's Chinatown neighborhood and has been recently restored.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 6am-7pm
Teatro Nacional

4) Teatro Nacional (must see)

Teatro Nacional is the national theater of Costa Rica. You will find it in the central section of town. This national treasure was started in 1891 with the construction of the building that would house the company. The first theatrical presentation took place in October of 1897, when Wolfgang von Goethe’s “Faust” debuted to the delight of the crowd there.

The glory days of the theater came during the time when coffee exports for the country were at their best. There were many good patrons of the arts, and therefore the quality of the performers could not be beaten. At one point, there was also a tax on coffee dedicated to the arts. That kind of free-flowing money also shows in the design of the building that houses the company. If you ask any local, the Teatro Nacional is considered the most historic structures in all of San Jose. It is well known for lavish furnishings and a beautiful, rich looking interior that was designed to rival the great theaters of Europe.

In the front of the theater is a statue of Calderon de la Barca and Ludwig van Beethoven, which are worth taking a moment to check out. The same statues are featured on some of the country's paper money. The theater regularly performs several times a week, so you may want to catch a performance while in San Jose.

If you go on the hour, ask for the free English tour included in the ticket price to learn a bit of history and details about the place. Otherwise, without showing a ticket, you can go on a circa 40-50min paid tour (also on the hour), which is time and money well spent.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-5pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Grand Hotel Costa Rica

5) Grand Hotel Costa Rica

The Grand Hotel of Costa Rica is a true gem among the hotels of San Jose, Costa Rica, and it also happens to be the very first such hotel in the country. It was formed in 1928, and up till that time, there was no major first class hotel in the capital city. An act of the Constitutional Congress of the Republic of that year made it possible to get the hotel in town. The hotel got funding from the government, and in turn the hotel agreed to always sell Costa Rican coffee, as well as the hotel agreed to always keep two rooms available for the government to use for dignitaries and the like.

In 2004, President Abel Pacheco declared the hotel to be a national landmark of the country. The architecture of the place is also quite wonderful, expressing the best in Victorian style architecture. In recent times, the Choice International Hotel chain has acquired the hotel, and added it to its growing list of historic hotels that are being turned into Resorts. It remains a popular destination in the capital city not only because of its historicity, but because it also sits very close to the ocean and some of the best mountain side landscaping in the country. 

On December 7th, 2004, the Gran Hotel Costa Rica was declared by the President of the country Abel Pacheco a historical-architectural landmark of Costa Rica, not only for being the first major hotel of the country, but also for its long trajectory, its architecture, which represents the San José of those years, and the historical complex it forms with other landmarks in the area.
Teatro Popular Melico Salazar

6) Teatro Popular Melico Salazar

The Melico Salazar Theatre is located in the capital city of San Jose, Costa Rica. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country, as it maintains a very heavy schedule of concerts, plays, and performances each year. In fact, many people have called this location the Madison Square Garden of the country.

Upon first glance, one will notice that it is quite a large building. It represents some of the best European Baroque style architecture in the country, but is not nearly as ornate as the Teatro Nacional just a block away.

Jose Raventos started the theatre in 1927 by buying land for the building. He had always dreamed of constructing a place to perform a type of Spanish operetta called Zarzuelas. The architect was Jose Garnier Ugalde. The location was ready to go by 1928, and the first performance given was the classic operetta Esperanze Irish.

A more lavish style gallery was added to the building in 1960, but it sadly burned in a fire just seven years later. For the next ten years, the location would not do well. It would take until 1985 for the old theater to really get back on its feet again. In that year, the government passed a law declaring the theater a “cultural institution especializada.” In that year, the theater was given its current name to honor Manuel Melico Salazar.

Operation Hours: Monday & Friday 8 am - 4 pm.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Catedral Metropolitana

7) Catedral Metropolitana (must see)

The Metropolitan Cathedral of San Jose is located on Calle Central and 2nd Avenue in the capital city of San Jose, Costa Rica. It was built in 1802, and has been the seat of the Catholic people of the city since. Sadly, in the early 1800s, the location was damaged by an earthquake. In 1871, it was rebuilt into the current structure that stands today.

The new center of worship combines Greek Orthodox, Neo-Classical, and Baroque styles of architecture together in a way that honors the old and new portions of the church. The Doric style pilasters and neo-classical pediment with steeples located on the side of the building are a fine example of how that melding of architectural styles happened.

You will want to pay a visit to the inside of this church also. The finely tiled Colonial floors and stainless windows are quite lovely. Various biblical themes adorn the windows. You will also want to check out the wooden Cherubs and figure of Christ at the altar.

In 1983, the church received a special visit from Pope John Paul II. You will be able to see a marble statue of him standing guard over the garden on the building's north side. Two former archbishops, as well as a Costa Rican President are buried in the basement of the building.

Although not technically part of the cathedral complex, a small statue of Holocaust victim Anne Frank graces the pedestrian mall on the building's south side. It was donated by the Embassy of the Netherlands.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 6am-7:30pm; Sun: 6am-9pm
Correo Central

8) Correo Central

The Correo Central is the old historic Central Post Office of San Jose, Costa Rica. The neat thing is that it is still in full operation today. It was first opened in 1917, though the overall architectural design of the building would suggest that it is much older.

On the first floor of the building there is a Stamp Museum that is pretty neat, especially seeing as how the hobby of stamp collecting is very popular in the country. You can get classic examples from the history of the country here. Plus, how often do you see a stamp museum in an operating post office? The area is open Monday through Friday from 7:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. It is also open 8:00 a.m. until noon on Saturdays. Admission to the museum is free, since it is part of the post office.

There is a small park that is located right next to the building, which is a great spot to stop and rest. Some of the most beautiful fig trees in the country are located here, and provide a peaceful resting place for the wearing traveler.

Walking Tours in San Jose, Costa Rica

Create Your Own Walk in San Jose

Create Your Own Walk in San Jose

Creating your own self-guided walk in San Jose is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Barrio Amon Tour in San Jose

Barrio Amon Tour in San Jose

The Bario Amon represents one the oldest neighborhoods in San Jose. Designed by a Frenchman, Amon Fasileau, it grew to be a beautiful area with a rich architectural history. Take this walking tour to appreciate the splendor of this neighborhood.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.9 km
Paseo Colon Tour in San Jose

Paseo Colon Tour in San Jose

The Paseo Colon is a modern area in San Jose where you will find most of the business centers and foreign embassies, as well as other architectural highlights and tourist attractions. At the end of Paseo Colon is Sabana Park, which stands out among the local metropolitan communities because of its proximity to the business district and its large area dedicated to recreation. Take this tour to...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.1 km
City Orientation Walk

City Orientation Walk

San Jose enjoys secluded location in the Central Valley of Costa Rica with its skyline dominated by the majestic Talamanca Mountains, hugging the city to the south, and a volcano ridge to the north. Local architecture reflects strong Spanish colonial influence manifested in places like Catedral Metropolitana in Calle Central, and the ornate, neoclassical National Theater presiding over...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.8 km
Places of Worship Tour in San Jose

Places of Worship Tour in San Jose

San Jose's churches are vivid examples of historical and architectural value. Whether you are a keen church goer or simply interested in places of spirituality from either architectural or historical standpoints, this tour will take you to the most important religious sites of the city.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.9 km
Art Galleries Walk in San Jose

Art Galleries Walk in San Jose

The art scene in San Jose has always been fascinating, and there are some remarkable art galleries that are a testimony to Costa Rica’s art legacy. Centers of art such as the Centro Nacional de Arte y Cultura constitute some of the most prominent artistic landmarks in San Jose. This walking tour will familiarise you with Costa Rican Art in San Jose.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 km
Children's Entertainment Tour in San Jose

Children's Entertainment Tour in San Jose

As many other cities in the world, San Jose has a lot to offer to its young tourists to keep them occupied and happy. Museum of Children, for instance, is full of fun, with plenty of educational activities and adventures. Take this tour for an unforgettable experience for you and your family.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.0 km

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

17 Uniquely Costa Rican Things to Buy in San Jose

17 Uniquely Costa Rican Things to Buy in San Jose

Not to be confused with San Jose, the sunny California, San Jose, Costa Rica is the capital city of a wet (250 centimeters of rainfall per year) and colorful Latin American country renowned for its diverse craftsmanship (courtesy of the numerous indigenous tribes), splendid coffee and rich cultural...

Tips for Exploring City on Foot at Your Own Pace

Whether you are in San Jose for a quick stopover or have a few days to see the city in more detail, exploring it on foot, at your own pace, is definitely the way to go. Here are some tips for you to save money, see the best San Jose has to offer, take good care of your feet while walking, and keep your mobile device – your ultimate "work horse" on this trip - well fed and safe.

Taking Care of Your Feet

To ensure ultimate satisfaction from a day of walking around the city as big as San Jose, it is imperative to take good care of your feet so as to avoid unpleasant things like blisters, cold or overheated soles, itchy, irritated or otherwise damaged (cracked) skin, etc. Luckily, these days there is no shortage of remedies to address (and, ideally, to prevent) these and other potential problems with feet. Among them: Compression Socks, Rechargeable Battery-Powered Thermo Socks for Cold Weather, Foot Repair Cream, Deodorant Powder, Shoes UV Sterilizer, and many more that you may wish to find a place in your travel kit for.

Travel Gadgets for Your Mobile Device

Your mobile phone or tablet will be your work horse on a self-guided walk. They offer tour map, guide you from one attraction to another, and provide informative background for the sights you wish to visit. Therefore it is absolutely essential to plan against unexpected power outages in the wrong place at the wrong time, much as to ensure the safety of your device.

For these and other contingencies, here's the list of useful appliances: Portable Charger/External Battery Pack, Worldwide Travel Charger Adapter, Power Converter for International Travel Adapter, and Mobile Device Leash.