At the heart of the city centre is Parque Central, Av 2, C 0/2, a landscaped square punctuated by tall royal palms and centred on a weird Gaudí-esque bandstand. 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 nice place to snack on the lychee-like mamones chinos or papayas sold by the nearby fruit vendors.

At the eastern edge of the Parque Central looms the huge columnar Catedral Metropolitana (Mon–Sat 6am–noon & 3–6pm, Sun 6am–9pm), nicely restored and well worth a peek inside for its colourful frescoes and gilded columns. On the square’s northeastern corner, the Neoclassical Teatro Melico Salazar (free guided visits can be arranged by appointment on t 2221-5172) is one of Costa Rica’s premier theatres, second only to the Teatro Nacional a few blocks further east. The barely contained hubbub of Calle 2 and its assorted electronics and shoe shops overtakes the park’s northwestern corner.

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