National Theater Of Costa Rica (Everything You Need To Know Before Visiting)

If you’re in San José, Costa Rica, you must have heard visitors talking about the National Theater of Costa Rica (Teatro Nacional Costa Rica).

It’s one of the top destinations in the area for tourists, especially if you’re interested in arts, history, and even architecture! 

While it’s in a great location and relatively affordable to visit, it can become a less impressive excursion if you don’t prepare your mind for what to expect. 

Where’s the location of this landmark? Is it recommended to go on a guided tour? What are the activities to do there? Is the visit worth it overall?

I have provided answers to these questions and many other relevant details about this place that you’d need as you plan your itinerary for Costa Rica

Key Takeaways

In case you don’t have all the time to read the entire article, here’s a table briefly pointing you to the critical information about Teatro Nacional Costa Rica. 

Name The National Theater of Costa Rica (Teatro Nacional Costa Rica)
Location Avenida 2, C. 5, San José, Catedral, Costa Rica.
Opening timesIt varies from Monday to Sunday, but tours start at 9 a.m. and usually happen hourly until 4 p.m. 
A guided tour is required.Yes (for the best experience).
Duration of exploring 45 minutes to 1 hour long
Ticket pricesThe entrance fee is $7.23 for adults and free for kids under 12. (Entrance Hall and the café are free.)
Things to doArts, history, architecture, live performances (music, a ballet, or a play), coffee at Alma de Café.
Other attractions nearbyThe National Museum of Costa Rica, the Museum of Democracy
Final VerdictWorth the visit. It is inexpensive, entertaining, educational, and one that not too many tourists consider. 

Continue reading to get more inside scoop about this landmark and the experience you can expect to have when you visit. 

National Theater of Costa Rica Location

The National Theater is in downtown San José, on Avenida Segunda between Calle 3 and Calle 5. 

Walking is an excellent way to get around because driving and parking are tricky. 

Buses are cheap and familiar, but drivers might only take local money. The closest bus stops to the National Theater of Costa Rica are Sabana Estadio and Barrio Luján.

Meanwhile, there’s no parking close to the theater, so walking or using Uber is best during the day. 

Public transport is also an option. If you drive, the theater’s website suggests parking lots in central San José. 

They offer a free minibus service before and after shows. 

But if you’re just visiting for a tour, you’ll need to find parking on your own.

What Can You See at the National Theater in Costa Rica?

At the National Theater in San José, you can explore art, history, architecture, and live performances all in one place.

  1. Outside the theater: Outside the theater, you’ll find two tall statues: one of Calderón de la Barca and another of the famous composer Ludwig van Beethoven. 
  2. Inside the theater: Inside, the ceilings are high, and the first thing you’ll notice is Aleardo Villa’s painting, ‘Allegory of Coffee and Bananas,’ dedicated to Costa Rica’s coffee farmers.
    This painting used to be on the five colones bill until it became a coin.
  1. Paintings: When you visit, take a self-guided tour to admire this famous painting and the stunning architecture.
  2. Live performances: The theater hosts excellent performances like orchestras, operas, and ballets. As you enter, you’ll walk through large doors into hallways with gold leaf walls and bronze lamps. 
  3. The auditorium’s grand open ceiling and golden velvet curtains will transport you back in time.
  4. The shows: Sit back and enjoy performances like “Algo Sobre un Tal Shakespeare,” the Philharmonic Orchestra, or “The Nutcracker.”
  5. Café Allegro: You can visit the delightful café located within the theater to enjoy a coffee or a light meal.

The National Theater of Costa Rica offers tickets at an affordable price.

The tour costs 3,653 Colones or around $7.23 for adults. 

Kids under 12 can enter for free, making it great for families.

But if you don’t want to spend money, you can still visit the entrance hall and café for free. You’ll get to see some beautiful statues there.

If you’re coming with a school group or a large group, it’s best to book your tour online in advance.

If you’re not in a big group, you can buy tickets online or just show up. 

Tours usually start around 9 a.m. and go every hour until 4 p.m., unless there’s a show happening. If there’s space, you can join the next tour group.

You can purchase tickets for performances at the National Theater of Costa Rica through their official website, at the theater’s box office, or through authorized online ticket vendors.

You must activate Google Translate on the page for more straightforward navigation on their Spanish-language website.

The National Theater of Costa Rica shows

The National Theater in Costa Rica offers a wide range of shows for everyone to enjoy.

In any given month, you might find a piano festival, comedy acts, plays, or concerts by the National Symphony Orchestra. 

Like many theaters, the National Theater regularly changes its lineup, so there’s always something new.

Some months might focus more on theater performances, while others highlight musical acts. Check the online calendar before your visit to see what’s on.

There’s definitely a show for you, but the real question is whether you’ll be there on the right day to catch it at the National Theater.

National Theater of Costa Rica Tours

If you have some spare time, I highly suggest taking the 40-minute guided tour at the National Theater. 

The actors really get into their roles, especially the actress, who plays multiple characters. 

They know a lot about the theater and can answer questions about the building, the upstairs area, the paintings, sculptures, and historical figures connected to it.

It’s a good idea to book the tour ahead of time, even though you pay when you arrive. I booked the 11 a.m. tour in advance, but when I got there, there were a couple behind me who wanted to join the same tour, but it was already full. 

They had to wait for the next tour at 1 p.m. To make a reservation. 

Meanwhile, if you’re new to San Jose and want to explore other parts of the area, there are tours on Viator that include both explorations of the National Theater of Costa Rica and other landmarks around, all at cheap prices. 

For example, you can consider:

1. Guided Walking Tour in San Jose with Lunch

  • Price: Starts at $68
  • Includes: Teatro Nacional Costa Rica, Casa Jiménez de La Guardia, School Buenaventura Corrales, Morazan Park, Avenida Central, Los Presentes, Central Market (Mercado Central), and Plaza de la Cultura
  • Duration: 3 hours, 30 minutes

2. San Jose Walking and Bus City

  • Price: Stars from $76
  • Includes: Teatro Nacional Costa Rica Lobby of Theater, Central Market (Mercado Central), Plaza de la Libertad Electoral National Monument, VIP City Bus, Pre-Columbian Gold Museum (Pass By), and Museo de Arte Costarricense (Gold Room).
  • Duration: 5 hours

What are the performances done at the Teatro Nacional Costa Rica?

Throughout the week, you can catch shows by the National Symphonic Orchestra and other performances like ballet, operas, and plays. 

These shows feature both local and international artists, dancers, and composers.

While most performances require tickets, there are free musical performances on Thursdays at 5:00 p.m. and around lunchtime, which anyone can attend.

A Brief History of the National Theater of Costa Rica

The National Theater of Costa Rica was built in 1891, when San Jose had only around 18,000 people. 

Opera shows, which were popular back then, used it as a stop on their worldwide tours. The money to build it came from taxes on coffee exports, which was Costa Rica’s primary product at the time.

Before the National Theater, San Jose already had its own theater called Teatro Mora, but it wasn’t as fancy. 

Unfortunately, an earthquake destroyed Teatro Mora, leaving the National Theater as the only large opera theater in the capital.

During its construction, the National Theater had some problems, but an Italian engineer fixed them. 

Finally, it opened on October 21, 1897, with a performance of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s “Faust.”

The National Theater of Costa Rica has been operating for 127 years.

Final Remark: Is Teatro Nacional Worth the Visit?

The visit was worth it, especially with the little detour to the café to grab some coffee in this historic building. 

It’s more than just a theater; an old fortress houses it, offering you a window into the nation’s past.

As you explore, you’ll see old prisoner cells, lookout towers, and other parts of the fort. 

The journey begins with a charming butterfly garden, and as you walk through the exhibitions, you’ll learn about indigenous peoples and all stages of the country’s history. 

Even if you don’t like guided tours, you should definitely see a show here.

Teatro Nacional Costa Rica Contacts:

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Born in California, Michelle traveled extensively through the USA and Europe before moving to South Florida during the pandemic. Her career in Marketing has taken her all across the world. Her favorite country is France but she'll never turn down a beach vacation!

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