San José Sights

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Museo Nacional Review

In the mango-color Bellavista Fortress, which dates from 1870, the National Museum gives you a quick and insightful lesson in English and Spanish on Costa Rican culture from pre-Columbian times to the present. Cases display pre-Columbian artifacts, period dress, colonial furniture, religious art, and photographs. Some of the country's foremost ethnographers and anthropologists are on the museum's staff. Outside are a veranda and a pleasant, manicured courtyard garden. A former army headquarters, this now-tranquil building saw fierce fighting during a 1931 army mutiny and the 1948 revolution, as the bullet holes pocking its turrets attest. But it was also here that three-time president José "Don Pepe" Figueres abolished the country's military in 1949.

The museum and Costa Rica are abuzz with the repatriation of nearly 1,000 pre-Columbian stone and ceramic artifacts from the Brooklyn Museum. The objects date from about AD 1000 and were taken from the country in the late 19th century by businessman Minor Keith during the construction of the Atlantic Railroad. The museum is in the ongoing process of arranging display space.

    Contact Information

  • Address: Eastern end of Plaza de la Democracia, Barrio La Soledad, San José, 10101 | Map It
  • Phone: 2257–1433
  • Cost: $8
  • Hours: Tues.–Sat. 8:30–4:30, Sun. 9–4:30
  • Website:
  • Location: Downtown
Updated: 02-15-2013

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