Museum Walk in San Jose, San Jose (Self Guided)

Although San José is one of the youngest capital cities in Latin America, its museums display a huge collection of traditional and pre-Columbian art. This walking tour should give you the perfect opportunity to explore the museums in the city and to familiarize yourself with its culture.
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Museum Walk in San Jose Map

Guide Name: Museum Walk 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: 9
Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 6.7 km
Author: john
Museo de Formas, Espacios y Sonidos

1) Museo de Formas, Espacios y Sonidos

The Museo de Formas Espacios y Sonidos is one of the interesting and eclectic museums in all of San Jose. It is located at the intersection of 3rd Avenue and 21st Street, not far out of the downtown area. Wait until you see the blue train cars, they are just neat. The location for the exhibits is the old Atlantic Railway Station.

The old station was first put into commission in 1908, and served the people of San Jose for many years. Eventually though, the buildings and grounds fell into a bit of disrepair, so the city turned it into a museum in April of 2002. The wood and stone sculptures housed here are simply beautiful. You can also see a very realistic replica of the ruins in Ujarras.

If you go to the Sonidos side of the museum, you will see one of the most interesting collections of musical instruments to be found anywhere, It also has, as you might expect, a great exhibit on the history of the railways of Costa Rica. Make sure you also check out the 1939 Steam driven locomotive on display. It was imported from Philadelphia by Tomas Guardia, who founded the local rail system.
Museo Rafael Obregón Loría

2) Museo Rafael Obregón Loría

Museo Rafael Obregón Loría is a museum that aims to preserve and exhibit the representative elements of Masonic history in Costa Rica as well as to highlight the contribution that the Freemasons have made to the development of the country.
Museo Nacional de Costa Rica

3) Museo Nacional de Costa Rica (must see)

The Museo Nacional de Costa Rica is the national museum of Costa Rica, located at Calle 17, between Central and Second Avenue, Cuesta de Moras, in the Bellavista Fortress – a crenelated, ocher-colored building opposite the Legislative Assembly of Costa Rica. The fortress was built in 1917 and was originally a military barracks: the exterior walls still have many bullets lodged in them from the country's 1948 civil war. It became the site of the museum in 1950.

The entrance on the east side leads to a courtyard displaying pre-Columbian artifacts and cannons from the colonial period. The museum is organized thematically in a counterclockwise direction from the entrance with artifacts related to Costa Rica's geological, colonial, archaeological, religious and modern history. The museum had a notable collection of pre-Columbian stone tables (metates), ceramics and a gold room ("Sala de Oro") in the northeast tower. The colonial room has a notable collection of furniture and is designed to emulate that of actual quarters in the 18th century. The museum also has an exhibit of the 1987 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Óscar Arias, and a bust of José Figueres and butterfly garden in the outside "Plaza de la Democracia".

Why You Should Visit:
Traces Costa Rica's development from its prehistoric roots the present day, and does so in an informative and visually appealing manner.
Good history of how the country lived through Central America's civil wars and quite an elaborate history of its most prominent Presidents, including the one female elected in 2010.
The entrance is unique, leading you to the main exhibits through a butterfly sanctuary and the museum setting itself is very pleasant with good views and nice gardens.

If you haven't got time to check out the Jade and Gold museums, there are displays of each here. If you do have time to do all three, then buy the combined ticket, as you won't have to visit them all on the same day.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sat: 8:30am-4:30pm; Sun: 9am-4:30pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Museo del Jade

4) Museo del Jade (must see)

Museo del Jade is an archeological museum in San Jose, Costa Rica. It is associated with Marco Fidel Tristan Castro and can be found at Calle 9 and Avenue 7 in the National Institute of Insurance (INS) building. It is one of the few office towers in town and is situated next to Parque Espagna. It was founded in 1977 by the famous man who started the INS.

The location features one of the best collections of pre-Columbian artifacts you would ever want to see. You can get a chance to see real stone tables from the period, as well as ceramics, ceremonial heads, adzes, and other decorative pieces from 500 BC to 800 AD.

You will also want to take a moment and visit the Jade Room located in the building. It displays translucent jade pendants, which is quite something to see. The 11th-floor museum lobby also contains a sculpture by José Sancho, a white marble, called Plenitude, which is one of the museum's prized possessions.

Why You Should Visit:
One of the only two serious jade museums in the world, with an impressive collection size/quality.
The audiovisuals that complement the written information makes it more stimulating and insightful.
You can go to the soda for a snack if you're hungry, or browse to the gift store near the main entrance.

After seeing the small exhibit on the 1st floor, try going to the top and working your way down.
Lunch or dinner can also be had at the Chinese restaurant in front (Wong's).

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-5pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Museo Para la Paz

5) Museo Para la Paz

The Museo Para la Paz is found on the corner of Avenida 2 and Calle 13 in San Jose. It is owned and operated by the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress. This quaint little exhibit was designed to show the history of peace in the world. Over time, it has morphed into something a little different. It is now built around an exhibit of the life of Oscar Arias, who was president of Costa Rica twice, and also received the Nobel Peace Prize during his lifetime.

In a more global sense, the country of Costa Rica is the perfect place for this museum, given the nature of the violent history of the neighboring countries. The most notable exhibit is centered on the story of the 1988 Esquipulas Peace Agreement. The event was significant because it helped to bring peace to many of the Central American neighbors of Costa Rica. Previously, the region had been in conflict for tens of years.

The museum is open to the public Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. The best part is that the museum is free, so this will work in any travel budget.
Museo Filatélico

6) Museo Filatélico

Museo Philatelic is located on the second floor of a very historic building in downtown San Jose, and as you might expect from the name, it is a museum of stamps. In fact, it has a noted collection of Costa Rican stamps on display. In addition, the institution has made an exhibit out of the old telegraphic equipment from the city, which is quite fascinating.

On the first or second Saturday of each month, the museum will host a stamp exchange fair for the people of the city. You will see some great collections from the locals, if you happen to get a chance to go on one of those days. Some wheeling and dealing may also take place.

The Edificio Central de Correos building is architecturally one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. It is done in a Spanish revival style. So it really compliments the look of the museum exhibits.

Most of the location is also interactive in nature, so this can be a good stopping spot for people who are traveling in San Jose with children. It is open to the public Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., and Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. until noon. The museum is closed on Sundays.
Museo de Arte Costarricense (MAC)

7) Museo de Arte Costarricense (MAC) (must see)

The Museo de Arte Costarricense has been built into an old air terminal building at the Parque la Sabana. At one point in time, this location was the main airport for the whole area. The airport has since been moved to a new location.

The museum features the paintings of Costa Rican artists, with permanent exhibits including the works of Teodorico Quiros, Margarita Berthau, and Enrique Echandi. There are also some works on display from artists outside the country, such as paintings from Diego Rivera and Alexander Calder.

Pay attention to the overall architecture here, for there are many wall paintings that portray the history of the lives of the Costa Rican people. The wood carvings are also quite stunning, as many of them are overlaid in gold.

Why You Should Visit:
The curating of both the permanent & temporary exhibits is unsurpassed – you could spend hours with either, as well as with the magnificent mural in the upstairs lounge.
This museum is free and surely one of the art highlights of San José, besides being a wonderfully kept historic place!

Don't miss the sculptures and beautiful garden outside.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 9am-4pm; Free admission
Museo de la Comunidad Judía

8) Museo de la Comunidad Judía

Museo de la Comunidad Judía de Costa Rica (The Museum of the Jewish Community of Costa Rica) was inaugurated in 2005 and its main displays present the history of the Jewish community in Costa Rica and memories of the Holocaust.
Museo de Ciencias Naturales La Salle

9) Museo de Ciencias Naturales La Salle (must see)

The Museo de Ciencias Naturales La Salle is a major attraction in San Jose. Located on the corner of Parque la Sabana, which is next to the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, this interesting little natural science museum features one of the best butterfly collections you can find in the country. Since Costa Rica is a very tropical country, with lots of rainforests, they are blessed with lots of beautiful creatures to show off.

Butterflies are not the only thing to see, however. You can find reptiles in collection jars and a rather weird collection of stuffed animals, which have aged a bit through the years. A leatherneck turtle, the biggest reptile on Earth, is on display here as well. You will also want to check out the grouper they have on display because it has to be one of the ugliest creatures ever found. So if oddity and eclectic displays are your thing, you need to pay a visit to the museum. The cost of admission is $1.00, so it will be hard to beat that deal.

Why You Should Visit:
Excellent place to learn about the planet's biological diversity!

Operation hours:
Mon-Sat: 8am-4pm; Sun: 9am-5pm
Sight description based on wikipedia

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.
Shopping Tour in San Jose

Shopping Tour in San Jose

Shopping in San Jose is undeniably a fun experience, with a large selection of downtown department stores, traditional marketplaces and souvenir shops selling handicrafts. So if you are looking for something authentic, original and made in Costa Rica, then take this tour to visit some of the acclaimed shopping venues of San Jose.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.4 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
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
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
Historic Architecture Tour in San Jose

Historic Architecture Tour in San Jose

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.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.4 km
Souvenir Shopping

Souvenir Shopping

It would be a pity to leave San Jose without having explored its specialty shops and bringing home something truly original. We've compiled a list of gifts and souvenirs, which are unique to San Jose, that a visitor might like to purchase to reflect their visit.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.2 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.