Museo Juan Santamaría Museum, Alajuela

Visit the interesting Museo Juan Santamaría and learn everything about the achievements of this national hero

Museo Juan Santamaría Museum, Alajuela
Museo Juan Santamaría Museum
© Esteban Cervantes Jiménez

The Museo Juan Santamaría (Juan Santamaría Museum) is dedicated to Juan Santamaría, who is considered to be the most important historic personality in Alajuela.

He made his hero deed when the National Central American War occurred. The Riva Battle took place on April 11, 1856, in Nicaragua. By that time, the Costa Rican Army was fighting against William Walker’s freebooters to defend their country from them. It was at this battle when the national hero’s feat took place, and this historic episode was later called “the Burning of the War Fortress” (‘Quema del Mesón de Guerra’). William Walker and his men were fortified at a military operations center that was a very advantaged attack position if compared to the one of the Costa Rican Army. Santamaría, showing an amazing courage, volunteered to go and burn the buildings where the enemies were barricaded. He managed to make the freebooters’ surrender, but, unluckily, he died in the fire. His glorious hero deed had its reward and Juan Santamaría is now considered to be a national hero.

The building where the museum is located was declared as “historic-architectonic interest building”. It was originally a fortress and dates back to 1874. It was built by general Tomas Guardia and remodeled by president Leon Cortes Castro in 1936. It was in this last remodeling when the subterranean tunnels were built. They connect the barracks with the general’s residence and the city hall. It was used as the town’s prison and as barracks, and after the army’s abolition, it was transformed into an educational center until its transformation into the current museum.

Maps, paintings and historical pieces related with the war against Walker are exhibited in its showrooms. The most outstanding pieces are the paintings that portray the main actions of the burning of the war fortress, among them the painting by the Spanish painter Tomas Povedano, which portrays the moment where Santamaría lights on fire the war fortress; but those related to the Rivas and Santa Rosa battles also notable. There are also some pieces by local artists and craftsmen.

In addition, the museum also has a temporary exhibitions showroom and an auditorium where concerts, speeches, and lectures are hold. The schedule for these cultural activities can be checked on the museum’s website.

More information:


Central Park, Alajuela, Costa Rica.

Admission prices:

Both the admission tickets and the guided tours are free.

Opening times:

Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

If cultural activities are scheduled in night opening time, the museum stays open until the activity finishes.

Telephone number:

(506) 2441-4775 / (506) 2442-1838



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