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Sitting atop the Plaza de la Democracia, the Museo Nacional provides a solid, all-around sampling of the archaeological, historical, and natural wonders of Costa Rica from pre-Columbian times to the present. That means pre-Columbian art and artifacts, including musical instruments, recreated tombs, pottery, and pieces in jade and gold. In the area devoted to the colonial period and onward, you’ll find recreated interiors, paintings, furniture, and dioramas, with lots of explanations in English. Housed in a large, former army barracks, the building features turrets and outside walls that still bear the bullet marks from fighting in the 1948 civil war. In addition to all the historical exhibits, this place also has a large butterfly garden with more than 25 species fluttering about. Plan on around 2 hours to get a good feel for this museum.