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Museums Tour (Self Guided), San Jose

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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Museums Tour Map

Guide Name: Museums Tour
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: 4 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 8.5 Km or 5.3 Miles
Author: john
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Museo de Formas, Espacios y Sonidos
  • Museo Rafael Obregon Loria
  • Museo Nacional de Costa Rica
  • Museo del Jade
  • Museo Para la Paz
  • Museo Filatelico
  • Museo de Arte Costarricense (MAC)
  • Museo de la Comunidad Judia
  • Museo de Ciencias Naturales La Salle
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 Obregon Loria

2) Museo Rafael Obregon Loria

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 best part is that the museum is free, so this will work in any travel budget.
Museo Filatelico

6) Museo Filatelico

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.
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 Judia

8) Museo de la Comunidad Judia

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.
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 or 0.6 Miles
Paseo Colon Tour

Paseo Colon Tour

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: 5.7 Km or 3.5 Miles
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: 1.5 Km or 0.9 Miles
San Jose Introduction Walk

San Jose Introduction 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: 4.3 Km or 2.7 Miles
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: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 Km or 1.7 Miles
Historical Architecture Tour

Historical Architecture Tour

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: 2.1 Km or 1.3 Miles

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