A superb collection of pre-Columbian art (pottery, stone, and gold) and an eclectic mix of colonial-era art, furniture, costumes, and documents highlight the Museo Nacional (Calle 17 and Avenidas Central/2, tel. 506/2257-1433, www.museocostarica.go.cr , 8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Tues.–Sat., 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Sun., $8 adults, $4 students), in the old Bellavista Fortress on the east side of Plaza de la Democracía .
Separate exhibition halls deal with history, archaeology, geology, religion, and colonial life. Only a few exhibits are translated into English.
The towers and walls of the fortress are pitted with bullet holes from the 1948 civil war. The museum surrounds a landscaped courtyard featuring colonial-era cannons and ancient stone spheres.
Steps lead down to a netted butterfly garden, and in May 2008 a passion flower garden was added.