At the heart of the city centre, Parque Central is punctuated by tall royal palms and a weird, Gaudí-esque bandstand dating from the 1940s (the Art Deco kiosco was actually a gift from Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza). It’s the oldest public space in the city, landscaped in the 1880s on the spot where Central American independence was declared in 1821 (and where Central American president Francisco Morazán was executed in 1842). Green parrots roost nightly in the palms; come twilight, their noisy chatter drowns out the constant rumble of traffic. Less frantic than many of the city’s squares, it’s a pleasant place to snack on the lychee-like mamones chinos (rambutans) or papayas sold by the nearby fruit vendors. The barely contained hubbub of pedestrianized Calle 2 and its assorted electronics and shoe shops overtakes the park’s western side.
At the eastern edge of the Parque Central looms the huge, Baroque-style Catedral Metropolitana, the current building dating from the 1870s but renovated several times after earthquakes. It’s well worth a peek inside for its colourful frescoes and stained glass. On the square’s northeastern corner, the Neoclassical Teatro Melico Salazar is one of Costa Rica’s premier theatres, completed in 1928 and second only to the Teatro Nacional a few blocks further east.
Top image: San Jose - capital city, Costa Rica © mbrand85/Shutterstock