Once just another residential neighborhood in Costa Rica’s capital, Barrio Escalante has transformed into one of the trendiest spots in San José.

With enough restaurants to please even the most serious foodie, outdoor spaces to enjoy the warm Costa Rican air and nightlife to keep the festivities going well into the evening hours. Here are 10 reasons why Barrio Escalante is a worthwhile addition to your Costa Rican travel plans.

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Large groups of people sit at a collection of tables while others stand by outdoor stalls on a paved brick lane. There are tall, leafy trees framing the photo.
Get your fill of fresh Costa Rican produce at Feria Verde © Alejandro Zúñiga / Lonely Planet

1. Try everything at Feria Verde 

Costa Rica is replete with fruits and vegetables, and there’s no better place to sample them all than at San José’s best farmer’s market. Each Saturday morning, Feria Verde de Aranjuez transforms a riverside athletic campus into a popular market for fresh produce, traditional meals, artisanal goods, live music and more. On other days, the polideportivo (sports center) is home to community events, ultimate frisbee competitions and flea markets. 

2. Dive into Costa Rica’s craft beer scene 

For decades, Costa Rica’s beer options were limited to a select few macro brewery brands. These days, the country is finally embracing the craft beer craze, and nowhere is that more prominent than in Barrio Escalante. Check out Wilk — housed in the old Polish embassy — to start, and don’t miss the Costa Rica Beer Factory and Lupulus Beer Shop for some of the best brews Costa Rica has to offer. 

A group of people relax on park benches in a small city park in Barrio Escalante.
There's no shortage of green spaces to relax in Barrio Escalante © Alejandro Zúñiga / Lonely Planet

3. Enjoy the breeze at Parque Francia

At the center of Barrio Escalante is Parque Francia, a small city park with a bubbling fountain, rustling trees and relaxing benches to find a little peace from the busy city streets. After a few hours of people-watching, visit Librería Francesa for a good book. If you want an even bigger green space, Parque Nacional is a five-minute walk from Barrio Escalante toward San José center. 

4. Catch an award-winning movie at Cine Magaly

Inaugurated in 1978, Cine Magaly is a Costa Rican icon. Once the country’s largest theater, Cine Magaly differentiates itself from other movie chains by curating independent, award-winning films from across the world. It also plays host to an array of film festivals and other cultural events. Start your experience at the attached Kubrick Café, where you can order anything from pizza to salads to bring into the theater. 

5. Attend a performance at the Antigua Aduana 

Once the customs house for goods entering and leaving Costa Rica, the Antigua Aduana has been deemed a historic landmark and tastefully renovated into a cultural center for concerts, performances and art galleries. Though events are less frequent, it's well worth the price of admission. Just next door, Santa Teresita Church is a small – but beautiful – venue for a Catholic mass. 

Exterior view of food stalls at Jardin de Lolita. Large plants and lights hang from the exposed rafters.
The repurposed shipping containers at Jardín de Lolita are a popular evening spot in Barrio Escalante © Alejandro Zúñiga / Lonely Planet

6. Spend an evening at Jardín de Lolita

Nothing says trendy like an outdoor food court made out of repurposed shipping containers right by the railroad tracks. Jardín de Lolita is a popular evening destination thanks to its collection of quality fast-casual dining options, its local craft beer stand, and its pleasant ambiance with second-floor views of the mountains surrounding San José.   

7. Sip on the world’s best coffee 

Some of the world’s best coffee is grown in the fertile soil around Costa Rica’s Central Valley. Try it for yourself at one of Barrio Escalante’s many boutique coffee shops and restaurants. Franco is almost universally acclaimed for its breakfast and brunch, while other popular spots like Cafeoteca, Cafe Barrio and Creperie & Café Entre Nous are all within a block. 

You might also like: Best coffee tours in Costa Rica 

Exterior shot of Kalú restaurant. Just beyond the door frame is a bright pink counter with glass containers on opposite sides.
Go beyond the tourist traps and find quality trinkets at a variety of small shops in Barrio Escalante © Alejandro Zúñiga / Lonely Planet

8. Shop til you drop 

If you’re looking for a Costa Rican memento but want to avoid the kitsch you might find in a tourist trap, Barrio Escalante’s independent boutique stores are the perfect alternative. After you’ve explored Feria Verde, shop fashion at Buena Nena and Amarilla Virulenta, trinkets at Kalú, or all-natural goods at ECOCO. 

9. Indulge your sweet tooth

In addition to coffee, Costa Rica has a long history with chocolate. Take advantage in Barrio Escalante with a stop at Tapir, which makes sweets from locally grown cacao. Want a cold treat? Try Dolce Gelato for its wide selection of flavors. For adults, Galway Escalante infuses alcohol into artisanal ice cream, while Neon Ice prepares boozy slushies in a decidedly retro (read: Instagrammable) nighttime venue.

You might also like: How to eat like a local at San Jose's top spots 

10. Expand your palate

Barrio Escalante is home to Costa Rica’s most eclectic cuisine. Try Lebanese at Faqra, Mediterranean at Olio, Latin fusion at Arbol de Seda and Al Mercat and for vegetarians, there's the popular Mantras Veggie Cafe. Not sure where to go? Calle 33 is known as the paseo gastronómico (gastronomic walk) which features row after row of restaurants.   

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