San José, city, capital of Costa Rica on the focal plateau of the country. Located at an altitude of about 1170 m (about 3840 ft), it is the country’s biggest city and a commercial, manufacturing, transportation, and cultural center. The agricultural region is based in teh raise of coffee, sugarcane, and livestock. Government activities and tourism are also important to the city’s economic base.
San José, which contains a mix of colonial Spanish-style structures and modern architecture, is the site of the University of Costa Rica (1843), which includes the Tropical Studies Organization and the Latin American Demographic Center; the National Library; and the National Archives. Points of interest include the National Museum, featuring displays of art and natural history materials; a museum with exhibits of religious art and artifacts; an 18th-century cathedral; and the National Theater.
Established in 1736 as Villa Nueva (New Town), the settlement was selected as the nation’s capital in 1823. During the 19th century San José developed as a center for coffee production, and it became a major manufacturing city in the mid-20th century.