National Theatre

Elaborate Belle-Époque appointments, capacity for 1,000

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National Theatre

San José's most grandiose edifice

Perhaps the capital's most recognisable architectural icon, back in the day this national monument right in the heart of downtown between Calle 3 and Calle 5 gave rise to the saying in Europe that Costa Rica was "a village around the National Theatre". Inaugurated in 1897 (though interior work went on for some years more), the Teatro Nacional boasts capacity for 1,000 spectactors and is surrounded by handsome gardens, which can all be visited for free. It was financed by Costa Rica's wealthy coffee growers, who wished to have a live performance venue available to them, and they followed the luxurious fashions of the day, with details including various oil paintings and an elaborate staircase with marble statues. There are also some great vintage photographs here.

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