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Heredia (pop. 32,000), 11 kilometers north of San José, and colloquially known as La Ciudad de las Flores (City of the Flowers), is surrounded by coffee fields. A pleasant atmosphere pervades the grid-patterned town despite its jostling traffic. The National University is here.
Heredia's main attraction is Café Britt, just outside town.
Heredia is centered around a weathered colonial cathedral—the Basílica de la Inmaculada Concepción—containing beautiful stained-glass windows as well as bells delivered from Cuzco, Peru. The church was built in 1797. It is squat and thick-walled and has withstood many earthquakes.
The church faces west onto lively Parque Central, shaded by large mango trees and with various busts and monuments. On the north side of the cathedral, across the street, is the bronze Monumento Nacional a la Madre (National Monument to the Mother), by contemporary artist Francisco Zuñiga.
El Fortín, a circular fortress tower, borders the north side of the plaza. The gun slits widen to the outside, a curious piece of military ineptitude—they allowed bullets in easily but made it difficult for defenders to shoot out.
The Casa de la Cultura (tel. 506/2261-4485, casaheredia [at] cultura [dot] cr, 9 a.m.–9 p.m. daily, free), next to El Fortín, contains a small art gallery and historical exhibits. It was once the residence of president Alfredo González Flores (1914–1917), who was exiled in 1917 after a coup d’état. He was later welcomed back and ran much of his presidency from his home, where he lived until his death in 1962. Refurbished, it is today a National Historic Monument.
Getting to Heredia
Microbuses Rápido (tel. 506/2233-8392) offers bus service from San José every 10 minutes, 5 a.m.–midnight daily (and every 30 minutes midnight–5 a.m.), from Calle 1, Avenidas 7/9 ($0.55); and on the same schedule from Avenida 2, Calles 12/14 (tel. 506/2222-8966). In Heredia, minibuses depart for San José from Calle 1, Avenidas 7/9, and buses from Avenida 2, Calles 10/12.
Taxis wait on the south side of Parque Central, or call 506/2260-3300.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Costa Rica, 8th Edition