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Downtown San José doesn't usually do that for most tourists to see places in Costa Rica. Most people do not want to spend time visiting San José but you really miss seeing a truly viable part of Costa Rica. Sure it is overloaded and smacky but many people visit New York City. And even if you can now fly directly to Liberia so you can hit the beaches without even staying in San José, the fact that most people still fly into San José International Airport is why not go on a San Jose hiking tour?

Here's the way I take friends when visiting Costa Rica. Depending on how much you go into this tour, it can take several hours even a whole day.

If you have a rental car parking is very cheap. I like the parking lot over the Omni shopping center so I'll start this tour. Take the road east of Calle 4, Avenida centrally near the Plaza de la Cultura where you will see a lot of people and pigeons that are connected with street preachers, comedians and musicians all prepping live. Across the plaza is the famous Teatro Nacional. It opened doors in 1894 and it is beautiful. Guided tours are available. Across from the theater is the Grand Hotel de Costa Rica. Which is the most famous hotel in Costa Rica. It used to be the most exclusive and luxurious hotel in Costa Rica. They have a nice outdoor dining area where you can have a coffee or a drink and a snack. Their sandwich de jamon (ham sandwich) is delicious. There is also a casino inside the hotel if you are the game type.

Back to the theater and down the grassy stairs on Calle 5 is the ICT Tourist Information Center. It's open Monday-Saturday 9-1, 2-5. From there you can enter the underground exhibitions of the square, including the gold museum, which contains pre-Colombian artifacts. Entry is $ 6 and it is open daily from 9:30 to 4:30.

The main road outside Plaza de la Cultura has been made into a pedestrian street so you can go freely because cars are not allowed. Keep an eye on your valuables and do not wear jewelry that can be captured by thieves. Here you can see many shops and restaurants that draw attention to both sides of the streets.

Some good stops include La Casona, which is off the pedestrian street, just looking to the right outside Calle Central and you will see it. It is a two-story building full of typical Costa Rican souvenirs. You can take care of all your gifts to friends and family here. You will also see Librieria Universal which is one of the oldest stores in Costa Rica. You can buy gadgets, maps, books and more. You will also see Libreria Lehmann another great bookstore.

There you will find a great monument to Costa Rica's democracy, which is a group of bronze campesinos who are humbly but constantly looking up proudly. It stands outside a large building that is Banco Central. Continue walking and you will pass La Gloria, Costa Rica's largest department store. Over La Gloria, Banco de Costa Rica is a large black marble building.

Head towards Mercado Central. The market is crowded full of shops, restaurants, produce stands and more. It covers the entire neighborhood Avenida Central 1 and calls 6-8. This is a great place to take in the local Costa Rican daily life. You will also find some interesting food and meat on display. There are herbs sold for medical use claiming to cure diseases.

If you're claustrophobic or don't like crowds, don't visit the market! Two blocks down is the historic Correo Central building. If you are a stamp collector, check out on the second floor where they have a museum of Costa Rica's postal history with rare and old stamps at the exhibition.

Drive back towards the plaza de la cultura on the north passed the ICT offices and gold museum.

You will see a park in the middle of the city, which is Parque Morazan. It's near the Aurola Holiday Inn. In the middle of the park is the music temple, patterned after Le Trianon in Paris.

Head 2-3 is blocked north and you enter Parque Bolivar and the San José Zoo site that opens daily from 9-4: 30. Entrance is only around $ 2.00.

Head east you will pass the Parque Espana which is full of plants and trees in the middle of the city. Continue Avenida 7 you will see La Casa Amarilla which is home to the Ministry of Foreign Relations. It has a nice park in front. Both donated by Andre Carnegie. Nearby is the Centro Nacional de Cultura open Tues-Sat 10-5. There is a museum and theaters. Close to the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design is also open T-Sa 10-5. Entry is $ 3 and they have art and exhibitions from around the world.

Up the hill on Ave 7 is the Biblioteca Nacional which is the national library. It faces the largest city park, Parque Nacional. Check out the Monumento Nacional which honors the battle again filibuster William Walker. The statue was made in France Rodin Studios and sent to Costa Rica.

Across the street from the park, you see the statue that honors Costa Rica's hero Juan Santamaria with his torch and the legislative assembly that crosses the Costa Rica Congress.

Two blocks south of the Parque Nacional, the Museo Nacional is open Tues-Sunday 8:30 to 4:30. This is a very popular tourist attraction. Entry is $ 4 and you can tour the former Bellavista Fort. You can still see the bullet holes from the 1948 Civil War. Excellent exhibitions in Spanish and English.

The next stop after the museum is Plaza de la Democracia. You can see it from the museum. This was fairly new built in 1989 to celebrate democracy. It has a statue of Jose Figueres hero of the 1948 Civil War. Former president who abolished the army after the civil war. The Plaza is full of tent markets that sell everything from clothes, jewelery, to hammocks and crafts.

Places to eat at

There are several good places to take a quick bite, a cup of coffee or a cold cerveza. For a nice cup of coffee and a delicious bagel-yes, the bagel bagel is a must. Located on Avendia Central in downtown Barrio California.

Cafe de la posada on the pedestrian street south of the National Museum. More local in nature. Good stuff.

Giacomin. Coffee and Italian style pasteries. Located near Fischel pharmacy downtown.

Manolos located right on the pedestrian street. Excellent casados ​​and delicious churros.

There is also a Pops center just around the corner of Plaza de la Cultura just off the pedestrian street. Best ice cream in town.

If necessary, you will find all franchisees in central KFC, Pizza Hut, Burger King, Macdonald's, Taco Bell and Wendy's. For a little more Latin fare, try Rosti-Pollos which is located opposite Cine Vanidades.

There you have it. A good walking tour of downtown San José that meets all the good places. So wear comfortable shoes and have fun!