QCOSTARICA – If you are fortunate enough to spend some time in Downtown San José, you should make it a point to walk around Barrio Amon. This is the neighborhood that extends from immediately behind the high-rise Holiday Inn Hotel, north to the Rio Torres.
One of the landmarks of Barrio Amon is the venerable Hotel Don Carlos, formerly a collection of three private homes that has become a popular boutique hotel. Locals and expats stop at the Don Carlos often. Why? Because it is a great repository of Costa Rican art.
Hotel Don Carlos is a place where San José residents proudly bring their out-of-town guests when they want to show off the finer side of the capital city. The fact that it also has a pleasant cafe and a lovely gift shop, make it a fine place to visit.
Everywhere you turn in the hotel, you will see beautiful works of art. The walls are filled with oil paintings, there are statues scattered in the public areas, there are hand painted tiles, replicas of pre-columbian stone carvings, elaborate wrought-iron lamps, beautiful stain-glass windows and there are even several coffee tables made from brightly painted wheels of Costa Rican oxen carts.
It is not just the inside of the Don Carlos that features works of art. Outside, there are statues greeting visitors as they walk in the front door. And there is a series of hand-painted tiles depicting Costa Rican scenes of country life that are attached to the hotel’s north wall, along Avenida 9.
Most (but not all) of the art is from Costa Rican artists. And the best thing about the collection at the Hotel Don Carlos, you can view it for free.
Hotel Don Carlos is located on the corner of Avenida 9 and Calle 9, diagonally across from another historic hotel, the Hemingway Inn.
Barrio Amon is a neighborhood that is rich in history and filled with beautiful old homes. In the early 1900’s, Barrio Amon was the most fashionable section of San José, since it was where many wealthy Costa Rican families (and well-to-do immigrants) had their “town houses.”
Today, after decades of neglect and disrepair, Barrio Amon is undergoing a renaissance. Old homes are being renovated; new restaurants are appearing; art galleries are popping up; a sophisticated wine shop has opened; and there is even a late-night jazz club.
The Hotel Don Carlos has been a vital part of Barrio Amon since the 1940’s. And it is still a place you should visit.
Michael Miller is the author of the first and only guide book that focuses on Downtown San José, Costa Rica, titled The Real San José.
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