Shopping and Food Walking Tour, San Jose

Shopping and Food Walking Tour (Self Guided), San Jose

Walking the pedestrian-friendly promenades of Costa Rica's capital – San Jose – is a great way to experience the local culture. Despite an occasional rainstorm, the country's tropical weather makes outdoor shopping an undeniably fun experience. The downtown part of San Jose has no shortage of department stores, traditional marketplaces and souvenir shops selling handcrafts.

The best souvenir shopping in town can be found at Mercado Central (Central Market) with vendors selling everything, from Costa Rican coffee and fresh produce to cell phone accessories, souvenirs, and clothing. Established since 1880, this old-school market has been a staple shopping hub in San Jose where locals meet to catch up and discuss current affairs, latest gossips, plus to haggle over prices.

Just outside the Mercado is the pedestrian-only Central Avenue Boulevard, a classic Costa Rican thoroughfare stretching for several blocks – home to all kinds of shops (department stores, fashion boutiques, etc.) along with numerous eateries and several permanent public art installments (wall murals, bronze statues, etc.).

Whenever you look for something memorable to take home from San Jose, consider La Casona. This three-story shopping complex offers an ample choice of souvenirs – everything from clothing to jewelry, fabrics, ceramics and more. Ideal for afternoon browsing.

Mercado Municipal de Artesania (Municipal Market of Handcrafts) is an outlet specifically designed for Costa Rican artisans – a perfect one-stop souvenir shopping experience. An array of paintings, sculptures, ceramics, textiles, leather-work, wood-work, bead-work, jewelry and other stuff, all made in Costa Rica.

If you're keen to find original and authentic Costa Rican merchandize on your own, much as to try the local food, take this self-guided walking tour to some of the top shopping venues in San Jose.
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Shopping and Food Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Shopping and Food Walking Tour
Guide Location: Costa Rica » San Jose (See other walking tours in San Jose)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 4
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.1 Km or 0.7 Miles
Author: john
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Mercado Central (Central Market)
  • La Casona
  • Avenida Central (Central Avenue Boulevard)
  • Mercado Municipal de Artesania (Municipal Market of Handcrafts)
Mercado Central (Central Market)

1) Mercado Central (Central Market) (must see)

The Central Market is one of the busiest places in the center of San José. The market encompasses one entire block and is a fixture of the area since it was established in 1880. You will find stall after stall of almost anything you can think of purchasing.

The isles are narrow and can become very crowded at times, but the atmosphere is still delightful. There are fresh fish, fresh flowers, and delicious freshly ground coffee to purchase along with local bread, fruits and vegetables. Add a nice beer, and you can prepare an incredible meal from local products.

If you need a great souvenir to take home, how about some coffee beans? The best advice is to buy whole beans and grind them yourself as the local grind is too fine for most coffee pots. There are also freshly prepared meals here for those who come here to taste the local dishes.

The market is open from dawn to dusk daily. Make sure to have a map of the surrounding area with you in the market, as it is very congested and it is easy to get lost while wandering and exit from a totally different spot from where you entered the marketplace.

Give the traditional ice cream flavor a try! Otherwise, eat where you see the most locals, as they know where the best foods are.
La Casona

2) La Casona

Visitors who love souvenirs but don't love the time it takes to track them down should head to La Casona. It is said to be the largest souvenir market in all of San Jose. Visitors are certain to find bargains on typical gifts and souvenirs. This is especially true if they are good at haggling.

La Casona is more than a souvenir shop. It is also a piece of history. The building that now holds numerous booths selling inexpensive souvenirs dates to 1908. It was originally a hardware store that was owned by Miguel Macaya Artuze. Nearly 70 years later, Ricardo Baltodano Chamberlain rented the store to create space for the La Casona market.

Architect Jaime Carranza remodeled the store in a neoclassical architectural style. It was redesigned to more closely match some of the architecture of the city. Specifically, the architect chose to use edged stone for the flooring, which matches San Jose's sidewalks.

La Casona is open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 AM to 6:30 PM. It is closed on Sundays.
Avenida Central (Central Avenue Boulevard)

3) Avenida Central (Central Avenue Boulevard)

Avenida Central, often referred to in English as Central Avenue Boulevard, is a one-mile pedestrian street that sits in the middle of North and South San Jose.

The walkway is filled with tourists as well as local pedestrians making their way through the city. Along with the busy foot traffic, there are often musicians, dancers and other street performers adding to the lively nature of the boulevard.

Visitors can use Avenida Central to find some of their favorite parts of the city. They can walk to the Central Market, Plaza de la Cultura, Museo del Jade and a number of historical buildings.

Avenida Central is a good place to find local restaurants and local art. The pedestrian boulevard has bronze statues, murals and other art installments that offer excellent photo opportunities while touring the city.

Visitors can use this street as part of a walking tour or to simply find must-have items while they are in the city. Shopping centers and supermarkets are just as common as restaurants along Avenida Central.
Mercado Municipal de Artesania (Municipal Market of Handcrafts)

4) Mercado Municipal de Artesania (Municipal Market of Handcrafts) (must see)

Mercado Municipal de Artesania, or the Municipal Craft Market, is an outdoor market where tourists can buy souvenirs, try local food or sit down and relax. Visitors may even get to watch some of the artisans work on their crafts.

Shoppers will find brightly colored accessories, wood carvings, handcrafted jewelry and art, t-shirts, baskets, pottery and more. The already low prices are easily haggled for even more affordable findings.

There are many open-air markets in San Jose. What makes Mercado Municipal de Artesania unique is the strong focus on handcrafts. While mass-produced trinkets are also available at the Municipal Craft Market, shoppers will find more decorative items than in some of the other outdoor markets in the city.

The market has room for 88 stalls and ample space to walk while browsing. It is located south of the Parque de las Garantías Sociales. The market is open from 8 AM through 7 PM each day.

Walking Tours in San Jose, Costa Rica

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The history of San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica, is that of growth and transformation. Founded in 1736 by the Spanish colonial administration (Cabildo de León) to concentrate the scattered inhabitants of the area, San Jose lacked formal city status until 1812. Surprisingly, but only two years later, the status was revoked. However, in 1820, it was reinstated, and San Jose became Costa...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.2 Km or 2 Miles
Historical Buildings Tour

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What's known today as San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, came into being as a small settlement during the Spanish invasion, circa the mid-16th century. From a town of little importance, San Jose eventually evolved into a densely-populated cosmopolitan city, built mostly with proceeds from coffee trade.

The historic architecture of San Jose is a mix of European and Latin American styles...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.7 Km or 1.1 Miles

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