Lonely Planet review
On the southern side of the Plaza de la Cultura resides the Teatro Nacional, San José’s most revered public building. Constructed in 1897, it features a columned neoclassical facade that is flanked by statues of Beethoven and Calderón de la Barca, a 17th-century Spanish dramatist. The lavish marble lobby and auditorium are lined with paintings depicting various facets of 19th-century life. The most famous is Alegoría al café y el banano , an idyllic canvas showing coffee and banana harvests. The painting was produced in Italy and shipped to Costa Rica for installation in the theater, and the image was reproduced on the old ₡5 note (now out of circulation). It is clear that the painter never witnessed a banana harvest because of the way the man in the center is awkwardly grasping a bunch (actual banana workers hoist the stems onto their shoulders).
If you’re looking to rest your feet, try the excellent onsite cafe .
Across the street, also belonging to the national theater is the Museo Homenaje Joaquín García Monge which features temporary exhibitions by contemporary Costa Rican and Central American artists.