San Jose Sights

The Irish band U2 could have written their song "Where the Streets Have No Name" about San José. Admittedly, some streets have names, but no one seems to know or use them. Streets in the center of the capital are laid out in a grid, with avenidas (avenues) running east and west, and calles (streets) north and south. Odd-number avenues increase in number north of Avenida Central; even-number

avenues, south. Streets east of Calle Central have odd numbers; those to the west are even. Locals rarely use the numbers, however.

Costa Ricans rely instead on a charming and exasperating system of designating addresses by the distance from landmarks, as in "100 meters north and 50 meters west of the school." Another quirk: "100 meters" always refers to one city block, regardless of how long it actually is. Likewise, "200 meters" is two blocks, and so on. (As you can imagine, getting a pizza delivered here is quite a challenge.)

Historically, the reference point was the church, but these days it might be a bar, Burger King, or even a quirky landmark: the eastern suburb of San Pedro uses the higuerón, a prominent fig tree. The city has embarked on an ambitious project to name all its streets once and for all. Even after it’s completed, it's improbable that anybody will know or use the names. Your best bet is to follow the time-honored practice of ir y preguntar (keep walking and keep asking).

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Arts/ Performance Venue 4

Building/ Architectural Site 1

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Industrial Site/ Mill/ Factory 1

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Plaza/ Square/ Piazza 5

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San Jose Sights

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Parque Central

  • Plaza/Square/Piazza

At the city's nucleus, the tree-shaded Central Park is more plaza than park. A life-size bronze statue of a street sweeper ( El Barrendero...

Parque España

  • Park/Playground

This shady little park is a favorite spot. A bronze statue of Costa Rica's Spanish founder, Juan Vásquez de Coronado, overlooks an elevated...

Parque La Sabana

  • Sports Venue

Though it isn't centrally located, La Sabana (the Savannah) comes the closest of San José's green spaces to achieving the same function...

Parque Morazán

  • Park/Playground

Anchored by the 1920 Templo de Música (Temple of Music), a neoclassic bandstand that has become the symbol of the city, downtown's largest...

Parque Nacional

  • Park/Playground

A bronze monument commemorating Central America's battles against North American invader William Walker in 1856 forms the centerpiece...

Plaza de la Cultura

  • Plaza/Square/Piazza

The crowds of people, vendors, and street entertainers at the plaza—it's a favored spot for marimba bands, clowns, jugglers, and colorfully...

Plaza de la Democracia

  • Plaza/Square/Piazza

President Oscar Arias built this terraced space west of the Museo Nacional to mark 100 years of democracy and to receive dignitaries...

Plaza del Banco Central

  • Plaza/Square/Piazza

A widening of Avenida Central, this plaza is popular with hawkers, money changers, and retired men, and can be a good place to get a...

Teatro Nacional

  • Arts/Performance Venue

The National Theater is Costa Rica at its most enchanting. Chagrined that touring prima donna Adelina Patti bypassed San José in 1890...

Teatro Popular Melico Salazar

  • Arts/Performance Venue

Across Avenida 2 on the north side of Parque Central stands San José's second major performance hall (after the Teatro Nacional). The...

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