Few come to San José to see the sights. But there is something about Costa Rica that encourages diversity and the capital is no different. In among the chaos of the streets, you can find somewhere to sit and wonder about the madness of it all. Between unimaginative high-rise blocks - some of which are exceptionally ugly - odd, solitary gestures to architectural style stand out. The numerous parks and plazas dotted around the city are often so cluttered with monuments and benches, winding paths and flower beds that few people pass through them, leaving them strangely empty and peaceful even at the busiest times of day.

On the museum front, San José has its fair share. Compact and numerous, the museums are not daunting even if coverage is a little patchy. While the specialist may find them wanting, if you are after a brief insight into Costa Rican culture and history you'll be more than happy. Of the many options available, if time is limited, the underground
Museo de Oro Precolombino
(Pre-Columbian Gold Museum) is impressive in content and presentation and the
Museo de Jade
(Jade Museum), with the largest collection of jade in the Americas, is a source of pride for all
. The
Museo Nacional
(National Museum) now occupying Bellavista Fortress stands monument to the changing fortunes of the city and country.

While there may be no such thing as a normal city, San José seems less normal than most. Without the romantic legacy of Paris, the classical weight of Rome or the frightening chaos of some of the larger Latin cities, San José is manageable and, approached without too much expectation, almost refreshing.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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