San Jose - Costa Rica
A city worth the visit
San Jose, Costa Rica's capital counts 288'000 habitants and doesn't have the best reputation. People say it's too dangerous to go there as a tourist and that the capital hasn't that much to offer. We have been already two times to Costa Rica and never dared to go to San Jose. But this time we did and we can say: YES, San Jose is definitely worth a visit!
Already the arrival at the airport was crazy. Lots of drivers, whether taxis or "piratas" (non-registered taxi drivers), who want you to be their client; drivers from companies holding name signs into your face and so on... It was already late and we were tired, so we decided to take a taxi to our accommodation to get there quicker. Unfortunately the taxi driver had no idea where our accommodation was located. We ended up leading him through the city with the GPS application on OUR smartphone... Pura Vida -Welcome to Costa Rica :)
We opted for a cheap accommodation in the city center: the Costa Rica Guesthouse. A nice, welcoming house with huge private rooms held in a typical colonial style. Free wifi, coffee and tea all the time. A place we definitely recommend!
Discovering San Jose
The next day we decided to explore the city. We didn't took a guided tour, because we don't like to be in a group with 20 other people waiting, until everyone got their picture. We prefer going on our own and it always provides an adventurous feeling and we can decide for ourselves how much time we spent at each attraction. As San Jose has to offer great historical architecture, we started with the beautiful colonial buildings that definitely have to be seen!
Did you know that there is a metallic building, which was made in Belgium and then transported and assembled in San Jose in 1896? This is a unique kind of architecture and a must-see in Costa Rica! At the first sight it doesn't even look like metal, it seems to be a regular building as every other one. You have to take a closer look to recognize the difference.
After the great colonial buildings, we headed up to the Avenida Central, a pedestrian street with lots of shops and restaurants. While strolling through this street and its surroundings, we stumbled on the local art market and ended up at the Central Market, which is an absolute must-see and our favorite spot in the whole city. A hall overfilled with lots of stalls offering fresh fruits, veggies, herbs, meat, fish etc. without forgetting the sodas - typical Costa Rican restaurants - selling their local dishes. Very cheap and yummy!
San Jose offers a lot of museums as well. We rarely go to museums, but nevertheless we visited the National Museum to find out more about Costa Rica's history. The museum is located in an impressive fortress, which was originally a military barrack and became the National Museum in 1950, after the country's civil war. It has a beautiful courtyard, a butterfly garden and lots of geological, archeological, colonial and religious artifacts to see. If you want to learn more about the country, go visit the “Museo Nacional de Costa Rica”.
So what more can we say about San Jose?
We found out that:
- Ice cream is very cheap here
- Taxi drivers don't always know the city
- You always have to put on some sunscreen. Yes, even in the city you will get sunburned!
- A bit of Spanish can be very helpful, especially at the local markets
- San Jose isn't that dangerous like everyone says (at least not during daytime). We were out at the evening to get some food around the corner and had no problems so far. Maybe you should avoid less crowded quarters at night...
A little helper ...
In order to not get completely lost in the city, we had a little helper: the GPSmyCity app. A very cool app guiding you through a foreign city without getting lost and without knowing the city in advance. You can choose between several self-guided tours with offline maps. We liked the option that we could set a waypoint where our accommodation was located. So we had no issues to get back to the accommodation from every corner of the city. This app exists for more than 470 cities around the world! Just check it out!