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San José, affectionately known as Chepe, is Costa Rica's largest city and capital and has a multidimensional appeal thanks to an array of activities on offer. Read this article to find out what there is to do in the country's cultural heart.

As an expat living in San José, you're likely to find more than enough things to do to keep you entertained in the big city when you decide to take a break from visiting all the other beautiful corners of the country. Whether you wish to wander around a museum before dancing the night away to live music at a club or join the 'Josefinos' at a soccer game after strolling around a morning market, you'll soon be enticed by the allure of this neoclassical capital.

Culture

If you have an appetite for architecture, you may well enjoy wandering around neighbourhoods such as Barrio Amón, where you'll find everything from art-deco clergy houses and brightly painted Victorian structures, to cafetalero (coffee grower) mansions that were constructed from around the late 19th century. In recent years, many of the historic buildings in this area have been converted into contemporary art galleries, restaurants and hotels, giving it quite an artistic, creative vibe.

There is no shortage of museums in San José, so if you're looking to familiarise yourself with Costa Rican history, head straight to the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica (National Museum), which was the site where President José Figueres Ferrer announced the abolishment of the country’s military back in 1949. Alternatively, the Museo de Oro Precolombino y Numismática (Museum of Gold) houses an extensive collection of pre-Columbian gold and other artefacts, while the Museo de Jade (Museum of Jade) is home to the world’s largest collection of intricately crafted American jade (there are nearly 7,000 carvings and ceramics) displayed over seven exhibits.

Or if contemporary art is more your thing, you may wish to spend some time at the TEOR/éTica Foundation, which supports Central American art and culture by exhibiting work by established, as well as up-and-coming, artists from Latin America.

Come evening time, after a day emerged in Costa Rican culture, head to San José’s National Theatre, which is the country’s main performance centre with 1,000 seats. In this grandiose building, you can continue on your cultural odyssey by watching an array of cultural events, from flamenco to opera.

Food and markets

If you're a foodie, you may soon fall in love with Barrio Escalante, which is the city's epicurean epicentre and is particularly popular on weekend evenings. The streets of this trendy neighbourhood are lined with bakeries, cafes, restaurants and bars, so you can eat, drink and be merry to your heart's content. Many eateries can be found along Calle 33, which has been nicknamed Paseo Gastronómico La Luz (La Luz Restaurant Promenade).

The Saturday farmers' market, Feria Verde de Aranjuez, provides yet another gastronomic adventure. The city's artists and organic growers congregate here each weekend to sell their wares, from organic coffee and artisanal chocolate to leather products and jewellery.

And, although you can choose to do your shopping at a regular supermarket, the crowded indoor markets still provide an authentic, traditional feel not to be missed. Mercado Central is the main market, and you can find everything here from spices to cheap souvenirs.

Outdoor activities

Although it is a capital city, there are plenty of green spaces in San José. So, if you're looking for something to do on a Sunday, you can join the crowds in the 72-hectare Parque Metropolitano La Sabana to take a stroll or a jog along the park's paths, or enjoy a picnic by the lagoon. There are also various sporting facilities, including the 35,000-seater national stadium, Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica, which hosts both international and national football games.

Alternatively, Parque Nacional is one of the city's nicest shady spots and has a peaceful feel if you want to take a moment to contemplate or read a book outdoors. The park is dotted with myriad monuments devoted to Latin American historical figures, including the Monumento Nacional in the centre, so exploring the park can be an interesting escapade in itself.

 Useful links:

Expat.com – Leisure in San Jose Forum 
Official site of San Jose - Activities san-jose.cr
Ministry of Culture and Youth – Events www.mcj.go.cr
Costa Rica Tourism Board www.visitcostarica.com

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