and is at the heart of the sprawling Gran Area Metropolitana or GAM, located in the Central Valley. San José is the seat of national government, the focal point of political and economic activity, and the major transportation hub of this Central American nation.
Founded in 1738, San José is one of the youngest capitals of Latin America by its year of foundation, though it was not named capital until 1823. Nowadays it's a modern city with bustling commerce, brisk expressions of art and architecture, and spurred by the country's improved tourism industry, it is also a significant destination and stopover for foreign visitors.
Officially, the city's current population is of 346,799, this population corresponds to the San José Canton, the first of the twenty administrative units in San José Province, though the metropolitan area stretches beyond the canton limits and comprises a third of the country's population. Besides, San José exerts a strong influence on a wider range because of its proximity to minor cities (Alajuela, Heredia and Cartago) and the country's demographic assemblage in the Central Valley.
San José City lies in the Torrid Zone, like the rest of the country, but its elevation of 1,161 m above sea level, gives it a mild climate. The temperature ranges between 15 °C and 28.3 °C (59-83°F). The rainy season is from April to late November, but cloudiness and rainfall can occur during the dry season. The weather is also very windy; this may decrease temperatures even more. Relative humidity tends to range between 60% and 90%.
The University of Costa Rica was established here in 1843, in that time with the name of University of Santo Tomás. San José also serves as the headquarters of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The city is served by Juan Santamaría International Airport, 23 km west of downtown, in the city of Alajuela.
San Jose's History
First, the country......
During the fourth voyage to the New World in 1502 Christopher Columbus landed at "Cariari," known today as Puerto Limon. Christopher Columbus actually named Costa Rica (rich coast) under the assumption that the land was filled with precious metals. The earth never yielded gold and silver, but the name was perfect for the wealth of natural beauty and flawless climate. Located in Central America, Costa Rica is bordered on the north by Nicaragua, on the south by Panama, the Pacific ocean on the west and the Caribbean on the east.
The country has a territory of 51,000 km2 and a population of 3,200,000. Mountains spread from the northeast to the southeast forming a fertile central valley measuring approximately 3,000 km. The great majority of the population is concentrated here. The first settlers in Costa Rica were the Chorotega, Huetares and Brunca or Boruca Indians; today there are still about 20,000 Indians living here.
Peaceful Costa Rica, has been ruled since 1949 by democratically elected presidents. The Executive Power is exercised by the President, a person who must be over thirty years old and of Costa Rican birth. The constitution prohibits any army, to maintain peace and order the Civil Guard serves as a police force.
Now, the city ..... The latter half of the 20th century was a period of rapid growth for the city, considering that in 1950 its population was a mere 86,900.
San José was a small village of little significance until 1824. In that year, Costa Rica's first elected head of state, Juan Mora Fernández, moved the government of Costa Rica from the old Spanish colonial capital city of Cartago. This was a time of much optimism in the newly independent nation of Central America, of which Costa Rica was at that time a state.
The City Sights
The city's landmarks include the Banco Central de Costa Rica building; the Banco Nacional building, which is much taller than other buildings nearby, giving the city its particular skyline; La Sabana Metropolitan Park; and the Avenida Central, a pedestrian thoroughfare and one of the major commercial areas in the city.
The Central Park and the Plaza de la Cultura are also visited by thousands of citizens and tourists every day. The Teatro Nacional de Costa Rica (National Theater of Costa Rica), the Melico Salazar Theatre, and the Cathedral are also other landmarks in the central area.
Northward is a neighborhood called Barrio Amon, with many older and historic buildings of architectural importance. The Clínica Bíblica (a private hospital) and the Pacific Train Station are located in the south of the city, and are both considered important edifications.
Costa Rican Art Museum: This museum was opened in 1977 and its purpose is to have a permanent display of the work done by Costa Rican artists during the 19th and 20th centuries. The building that houses this museum used to be the Costa Rica International Airport and is located in the Sabana Metropolitan Park. The museum is open from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, Tuesday through Sunday.
National Gallery of Contemporary Art: this gallery is located on the west side of the National Library, just across from the National Park in downtown San Jose. The gallery opens from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Saturday.
National Museum: this museum has on display pre-Columbian art, documents and other objects of cultural and historic significance. Here the tourist will be able to appreciate the exhitions of Costa Rican History, Archeology, Geology and Colonial Life. The national museum opens from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm, Tuesday through Sunday.
Entomological Museum: this museum belongs to the University of Costa Rica, the extensive display of insect life of Costa Rica is located in the basement of the School of Music, University Campus in San Pedro de Montes de Oca. This museum opens from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday.
Legal Science Museum: this museum displays portraits and items related to the Legal Sciences and the Supreme Court. The museum opens from 7:00 and to 11:00 am & from 1:00 pm to 5:30 pm, Monday through Friday.
Fidel Tristán Jade Museum: presents the best Jade Collection in Costa Rica, with the addition of ceramics, stone and some gold miniatures. This museum is located on the 11th floor of the National Insurance Institute in downtown San Jose. The museum opens from 9:00 to 3:00 pm, Monday through Friday.
Museum of Natural Sciences: the collection shown on this museum is know to be among the most comprehensive in the world and it has been divided in four areas: Paleontology, Archaeology, Zoology and Malancology (mollusks). The museum is located southwest of La Sabana Metropolitan Park and is administered by the Ministry Agriculture. The museum opens from 8:00 to 3:00 pm, Monday through Friday.
Gold Museum: located under the Plaza de la Cultura park, the gold museum maintains a permanet exhibit of over 20,000 troy ounces of pre-Columbian gold figures. The museum opens from 9:00 to 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday.