Old san juan san juan puerto rico: Old San Juan, Puerto Rico — Viejo San Juan

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico — Viejo San Juan

Experience the Enchantment, Romance & Exuberance of this Magical City…The Happiest Place in the Caribbean

Old San Juan “San Juan Antiguo“, is one of the most popular cruise destinations in the Caribbean and the most visited place in Puerto Rico.  Old San Juan is special in every way, known for its rich history, five-century-old forts, romantic ambiance, Old World elegance, exquisite food, and festive atmosphere.  “El Viejo San Juan” is no ordinary cookie-cutter destination, it is a real living place where locals and visitors come together to experience a place that pulsates and encapsulates the history, stories, culture, color, and energy of Puerto Rico. 

What Paris is to Europe, Old San Juan is to the Caribbean, you can’t leave Puerto Rico without visiting this fantastic place.  Whether you explore it on your own or with a tour guide, this place will not disappoint.  Old San Juan is an islet connected to the main island of Puerto Rico by three bridges, azure views of the Atlantic Ocean and the San Juan Bay add to the magic of the city.

Tourism in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Tourists can enjoy a variety of interesting attractions, play at San Juan Beaches, and savor exquisite cuisine, and shop til you drop at many unique shops.  

If you’re the traveler type,  Old San Juan is an authentic community where you can experience the exuberant, warm culture of one of the happiest places in the world.  Puerto Ricans from all over the island come to San Juan to enjoy cultural and fun events throughout the year.  You’re warmly invited and welcome to mingle with locals to experience the San Juan life with great food, vibrant culture, rhythmic music, and fun traditions.

Top Rated Walking Tours in Old San Juan

The Culture of Old San Juan

Old San Juan is the cultural hub of Puerto Rico and the most culturally rich destination in the Caribbean.   What is known to visitors as a major tourist destination is a real community, there’s nothing contrived about this place.   Old San Juan is a very family-friendly place, with happy cultural activities for the young and less young.  The colorful century-old buildings, monuments, food, and music you can experience in Old San Juan, capture the essence of Puerto Rican culture and spice for life.  

As you walk around the colorful city, your body will want to move to the sounds of salsa or relax to the sounds of jazz played by local musicians.  Hundreds of events are held in Old San Juan and throughout the island to celebrate culture, we invite you to enjoy them if you happen to be visiting.   Try the food, learn to dance, attend the events, and just have a good time.

+ Food & Culture in San Juan, Puerto Rico — Top Cultural Experiences

Top Rated Cultural Tours in San Juan Puerto Rico

The Romance of Old San Juan

Old San Juan is a popular wedding/honeymoon destination.  You’ll feel the love spark from couples holding hands, as they explore this romantic city.   It may be the most popular cruise port in the Caribbean, yet you’ll find it surprisingly relaxed, with many intimate romantic spots.   Couples wishing to remain active will enjoy a variety of romantic places to visit during the day, exquisite dining choices, and vibrant nightlife. 

+ Romantic Things to Do in San Juan Puerto Rico

The History of Old San Juan

San Juan is the second oldest city established in the New World, one of the most historically significant destinations in the Caribbean & the Western Hemisphere.  Walkthrough 500-year-old forts with breathtaking views of the Atlantic, various UNESCO sites, historic churches, tour the second oldest cathedral in the Americas, visit museums, step foot into Ponce de Leon’s mansion, tour La Fortaleza palace, and so much more.  More about attractions in Old San Juan.

The Streets of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

A visit to Puerto Rico is not complete until you take a walk on the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan.   Everywhere you walk, there’s something beautiful and interesting to see.  Bring comfortable walking shoes so you can explore all the attractions, you may find yourself wanting to do it all over again, only to find new interesting things to do and see.  There’s a plaza about every few blocks, a place locals enjoy from morning till night, you can relax your feet as you cool off with a piragua.  The weather is always at a comfortable mid-’80s, and once you get to the seaside by the forts, the cooling trade winds offer a wonderful refreshing touch.  If you are unable to walk for long, the free trolley makes a stop at the most popular attractions.

DIY Old San Juan Walking Tours: Calle Norzagaray  ⎜ Calle Beneficiencia  ⎜ More coming soon

The Attractions & Things To Do

The 7 blocks historic district is packed with interesting attractions.  Don’t miss visiting the San Juan National Historic Site, two five-century old forts the entire family will enjoy.  Old San Juan is so much more than historic attractions, visit museums, dine at excellent restaurants, go shopping, take salsa lessons, enjoy beaches and water sports nearby.   Almost everywhere you go, there’s a breathtaking view of the San Juan Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, so make sure you have plenty of space on your digital camera.  Rent a car and enjoy fantastic day trips, packed with world-class attractions you won’t find anywhere else in the Caribbean.  Be sure to take an afternoon nap at your hotel so you can re-energize in order to enjoy the vibrant nightlife of Old San Juan.

+ Things to Do in San Juan, Puerto Rico

The Colors of Old San Juan

Visually Old San Juan brings on feelings of happiness, with its perfectly coordinated candy and bright pastel-colored buildings.  You’ll be walking on blue-toned cobblestones, you’ll be looking up at decorated balconies with bright pink bougainvillea flowers that move to the ocean breeze.

The Architecture of Old San Juan

The best way to admire the rich architecture of Old San Juan is on foot.  Old San Juan feels more like a living gallery, it’s like stepping into a rich exhibit of colorful, elegant paintings of Spanish colonial architecture.  Puerto Ricans respect and celebrate the island’s past, evident with carefully restored buildings painted in colors that represent the vibrant and diverse culture of the island.  In the 1940s, Old San Juan went through the restoration of buildings, setting new standards for other countries in Latin America and islands in the Caribbean.  Architecture is part of the attraction of Old San Juan, visitors are captivated by the balconies, elegant doors, and Colonial details.  These buildings house residents, businesses, and government executive offices.

Places to Stay in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Right in the heart of Old San Juan, historic buildings have been restored into luxury boutique hotels, charming small inns for every budget, and vacation rentals to enjoy all to yourselves, giving you access to everything within walking distance.  

  • Hotels & Small Inns in Old San Juan
  • Vacation Rentals in Old San Juan
  • Bed & Breakfast in Old San Juan

Cost of Visiting Old San Juan

You don’t have to spend much to enjoy Old San Juan, part of the magic is simply observing the architecture and most historical buildings are free to enter.  Entry to the forts is just $5 for ages 15 and older, you can see both for a little extra.  There are plenty of restaurants for every budget.  Food trucks along Princesa offer great food at great prices.  Some museums charge a small fee to enter.

Footwear to Wear While Visiting Old San Juan

Wear comfortable shoes or sandals, no high heels. You’ll be walking in five-century-old cobblestone on the most beautiful streets, with uneven surfaces and areas with broken stones.

Time Needed to Explore Old San Juan

It depends on what type of traveler/tourist you are… If you’re a history buff, a foodie, or love shopping, you can easily spend a week in the city. The average visitor will need about two days to visit the top attractions and one day to see San Juan National Historic Site, eat and find a scenic spot to relax.

Walking Tours

You may start your tour at the Tourist office, they have a number of pamphlets and maps to help you plan your visit.  You can explore Old San Juan on your own with our self-guided tour guide.   You may also book a number of walking tours, the tour guides do an excellent job, you will visit places, hear stories and historical details you would miss with a self-guided tour.

Getting Around Old San Juan

Old San Juan is best enjoyed by foot. If you prefer to do less walking, hop on the free trolley, offering 3 routes.

Topography of Old San Juan

From south to north, the historic town runs uphill. –  Visitors with average physical fitness will walk comfortably.  If you have limited mobility or prefer to have an easier walk, simply take the trolley up to the forts and then walk the streets down from the north side.

Staying Healthy

You’re in Puerto Rico with tropical warm weather all year round, hotter and more humid in the summer.  You’ll be walking most of the time, it is very important to do the following to stay healthy during your visit:

Stay hydrated, drink plenty of water often throughout the day, even when you think you don’t need it.  There are various pharmacies where you can buy cold water, as well as street vendors every few other blocks.  We love the …..flask, pays for itself fast, keeps the water very cold, and environmentally friendly.

Protect your skin:  Avoid sunburn and sun poisoning, by wearing sunscreen often throughout the day.

Having a backpack makes travels much easier when walking the city.  

Staying Safe

Old San Juan is a safe residential and tourist area, the police presence is very strong, more than any other tourist destination in Puerto Rico.  Police presence is strong primarily because Old San Juan is home to La Fortaleza, the governor’s mansion/residence as well as governmental offices; second, it is the most visited tourist destination in Puerto Rico and police are there to keep visitors comfortable. Policemen are friendly and specifically trained to help tourists in the Old San Juan area, they’re happy to answer any questions and direct you if you need to find a particular place. Don’t hesitate to ask for help in a medical or personal emergency.


Old San Juan is the most popular cruise stop in the Caribbean, during cruise days, there are many people walking around the city, it becomes more vibrant due to the special events that the Puerto Rico Tourism Company holds to welcome and entertain visitors. Somehow, Old San Juan does not lose its magic, the streets are busier with people, yet it feels relaxed.  Along Paseo Princesa, more artisans showcase their crafts, there’s live music and great food, so don’t stay away from the streets when it’s crowded.

Old San Juan at Night

Old San Juan is wonderful at night, elegant lanterns light up the city to a golden glow. Music plays at the squares on special nights and dance clubs lure people in with the sounds of salsa. Visitors can feel safe walking the streets, police presence remains strong at night.  

See things to do in San Juan at night.

Events in Old San Juan

Old San Juan is the cultural hub of Puerto Rico, celebrating many events throughout the year both residents and visitors can enjoy.  Check the tourist office when you arrive for a calendar of events.

Old San Juan is a district of San Juan, Puerto Rico, an islet, connected to the rest of (San Juan Metro) by 3 bridges at the southeast corner.  It consists of historical Old San Juan to the west and the community of Puerta de Tierra to the east.

Old San Juan Walking Tour — Calle Norzagaray

This walking tour is great for first-time visitors, Calle Norzagaray is the location for both forts and many interesting stops in between.  What appeal to some may not to others, so we included a little bit of everything to satisfy the interest of tourists (visitors that typically prefer to simply visit the main attractions) and travelers (visitors that wish to see tourist attractions, experience the local culture and visit places locals love).

If you’re in Old San Juan for a full day, you’ll have time to do all the stops and tour more streets.  Visitors and cruisers visiting for half a day, please see the entire page and choose the attractions and stops that most appeal to you and fit your travel itinerary.



We understand you have time constraints, you may want to walk and take the trolley in between in order to save time, however, if you see long lines during cruise days, you may get to places faster by walking than waiting for a trolley stop.  There are many trolley stops along the way, so you can hop on any time you see a chance.

What you’ll see on this Old San Juan walking tour

This self-guided walking tour will cover the San Juan National Historic Site (both forts), quick stops along colorful alleyways, cafes, two museums, nearby restaurants, and many photo-ops along the way.   Playful children and adults alike will have a chance to stop at Plaza del Quinto Centenario for a fun refreshing stop at the water feature, go kite flying on the grounds of El Morro Fort, explore tunnels throughout the forts…and of course tropical ice cream and piragua stops along the way.

Tips — Walking Distances

  • from the cruise terminal to San Cristobal is about a 10 – 15-minute walk from the Old San Juan Pier. Easy walk, mostly flat and some slight uphill.
  • from San Cristobal Fort to El Morro Fort (end of Norzagaray) is about a 20-minute walk without stopping.  Mostly flat walk.
  • Feel free to mix it up by walking and using the free trolley to do this tour.   Depending on the number of tourists on the islet of Old San Juan, you may be waiting to get a spot on the trolley.

Friendly Visiting Advise

You’re on vacation… relax, take your time and don’t focus on the number of attractions, make stops along the way, enjoy the sights, and the ocean breeze, it will help create more memorable experiences.   If you wish to see more, just come back to Puerto Rico.

The following tour is designed for walking.  We have included a full map of the places mentioned for your convenience.  Feel free to print this page and review the attractions in more detail ahead of time so you can make the most of your time in Old San Juan.

Castillo San Cristobal

+ Castillo San Felipe del Morro

As you begin walking towards Calle Norzagaray, you’ll see Castillo San Cristobal at the top of the hill overlooking the city.  On the other end of Calle Norzagaray, you’ll get to Castillo San Felipe del Morro (El Morro Fort), many visitors wish to see both forts, if you’re short on time and only have one day in Old San Juan, you may want to consider visiting one of them.  You may also opt to visit San Cristobal a shorter amount of time touring the main areas, leave through the north exit ramp and continue down Norzagaray Street.  If you choose to skip visiting San Cristobal, at the upper east corner of Norzagaray, you’ll there’s a nice stop where you can appreciate the walls of the fort, and take a beautiful photo at one of the most popular Garitas of San Juan overlooking the Atlantic.  Keep in mind that the entrance fee gives visitors access to both forts.  If you’re visiting with children or individuals with a physical disability, El Morro is easier to navigate and more family-friendly.

La Garita del Diablo

La Garita del Diablo

As you begin walking away from San Cristobal, be sure to look back to get another point of view of La Garita del Diablo (The Devil’s Sentry Box), sitting right on the water.

La Perla Neighborhood

+ La Perla

Walking west, you’ll pass La Perla, a neighborhood that became infamous for its share of drug-related crimes in the past.  You may have heard of La Perla lately due to the song Despacito, all we can say is that we don’t support the song, it does not reflect the island, the culture, the women of our island, or the family values of the islanders.  You may read stories and comments about not going into La Perla, but that infamous reputation is quickly fading, thanks to community efforts.

The majority of the homes are not occupied, but in the past few years, the community is seeing a positive revival.  Homes are getting a fresh coat of paint, and some getting repaired thanks to private donors and its residents.  La Perla has a new bakery and gardens, the community is gaining energy to change the neighborhood reputation.

Soon, there may be guided tours of La Perla.  Keep in mind that the police do not patrol the neighborhood of La Perla like the main tourists’ areas.   You can easily see La Perla from Norzagaray, we recommend you keep going, there’s so much more to see on this street and beyond.

Calle Tanca Refreshment Stop

+ Calle Tanca & Norzagaray

Your next stop is at Calle Tanca & Norzagaray, a picturesque alley with various casual cafes locals love and attracts travelers that wish to experience the casual and laid back San Juan culture.  It is a good stop to get some refreshments, try traditional Puerto Rican food favorites to enjoy on the outdoor tables overlooking the sea.  The restaurant on the corner – Antojitos de la Calle Tanca sells traditional fried treats and drinks at reasonable prices.  The restaurant on the other corner also sells traditional Puerto Rican food and bar drinks.  At night, the vibe is very festive with music playing and people dancing.  On weekends you may find live entertainment and a happy local crowd, a great place to immerse yourself in the warm Puerto Rican culture.   Don’t miss taking a photograph of the colorful mural.

Quick Photo-op at Calle Imperial

+ Flag photo-op at Calle Imperial

Flag photo-op at Calle Imperial – Old San has a brand new gorgeous flag at the end of Calle Imperial. an Instagram worth spot.

Museo de San Juan

+ Museo de San Juan

If you wish to learn about the history and cultural heritage of the Capital City of San Juan, you may want to stop at Museo de San Juan.  The special art galleries throughout the year make it worth a stop.  During weekends you may find live entertainment at the center as well as a farmer’s market on Sundays.

Plaza del Quinto Centenario

Next stop is great for the kids, give them a few minutes to run around the circular water feature at Plaza del Quinto Centenario…parents, let loose and join them…you’re in Puerto Rico!

Castillo San Felipe del Morro

Castillo San Felipe del Morro

Castillo San Felipe del Morro is one of the top tourist attractions in Puerto Rico and the most visited fort.  Although much smaller than San Cristobal, many visitors tend to elongate their time visiting, all six levels offer interesting historical facts, scenic vantage points, romantic corners, and architectural wonders.

Fly at Kite on the Grounds of El Morro

+ Fly a Kite

One of the top things to do for families and lovers is flying a kite on the grounds of El Morro.  The grounds of El Morro is a place for visitors to observe and immerse themselves in the culture of Puerto Ricans; remaining playful at any age, laughing their way through life with family and friends while enjoying the simple things…are some of the qualities that describe what it means to be a Puerto Rican.   We invite you to participate in this joyful tradition.

Where to buy kites: Cheap kites and refreshments are sold across the street from Plaza del Quinto Centenario, if you want to wait flying the kite after touring El Morro, you can find better quality kites at El Morro’s Gift Shop (when available) so you can keep it as souvenir and remember the experience in other places you go.

Old San Juan Cemetery

+ Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery

On your way to or from El Morro, you can stop by the city walls to see Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery, commonly known as The Old San Juan Cemetery.  Here you’ll find the resting place of many prominent Puerto Ricans.  The cemetery dates back to early 1863.  The oceanfront location of the cemetery is symbolic of the journey over to the afterlife, a belief originating from Spanish superstition and fear of death.

Watch the Sunset

If you love to watch the sunset, we encourage you to stay on the grounds of El Morro and to watch it from there, the sun comes down right behind Isla de Cabras.

Dinner Time

From here you can head back to Plaza del Quinto Centenario, up the steps towards Calle San Sebastian, or down to Calle del Cristo or Calle Fortaleza, where you’ll find a great variety of restaurants for a great dinner.  The walk to these streets is downhill, making it much easier after.  If you’re tired of walking, be sure to have your hotel concierge / front desk available phone number ready, they will be happy to call a taxi so it can pick you up and take you back to your hotel or restaurant of your choice.

El Morro at Night

Sadly, very few people get to enjoy one of the most breathtaking sights in San Juan at night.   When the sun goes down and the sky becomes dark, the walls of El Morro come alive with a golden glow.  Crowds are gone, the grounds are quiet, becoming one of the most romantic settings in Old San Juan.  If you are eager to have dinner or get back to your hotel, then be sure to get a taxi ride to El Morro at night so you can take a look.

Puerto Rico: San Juan: juan — LiveJournal

Puerto Rico has belonged to the US since 1898, when the Americans took it from Spain (along with the Philippines). Spanish is still spoken there, but they dream of becoming the 51st state. But Congress is not in a hurry, because if Puerto Rico becomes a state, it will immediately top the ratings of the most criminal and poorest states, at the same time it will reduce the per capita GDP in the country a little, and this is somehow zashkvarno.

There are heavenly beaches on the neighboring small islands.

In the depths of tropical forests.

This is the capital city of San Juan.

By the way, the oldest city in the US by a wide margin. If we take only full-fledged states, then the oldest will be the city of St. Augustine (Saint Augustine) in Florida.

San Juan is rather big, there is even a subway, but the tourist part is only a long and narrow cape, which was originally an island.

Transport in Puerto Rico is very, very bad. In the US, in comparison, everything is simply divine. There is no intercity transport on the island at all. There are only «collective taxis», like in third world countries, only the prices for them are more like the prices of first class trains in Switzerland. San Juan has city buses. The official site proudly promises buses from the airport every 10-15 minutes, in fact, I waited more than an hour, but didn’t wait at all, I had to spend almost $ 20 on a taxi (for 6 kilometers). Taxis in Puerto Rico are just such giant jeeps, like, they come here on vacation with a whole family of five and with ten suitcases, nothing less.

Puerto Ricans are diligently learning the redneck from their American overlords.

Prices are about the same as on the mainland.

The hostel was outside the old town, but I walked there in about an hour. The area is pretty nice too.

Street signs. Spanish names.

Lettering in English and Spanish. In English, traditionally ornate and inventive, in Spanish they do not bother.


Bicycle path leading to the old town. This place used to be a strait that made old San Juan an island.


But this is clearly in the American style: the government house (capitol). Empire as it is.

The old town of San Juan and its two fortresses are listed by UNESCO.

Monument to Columbus. He really visited here during his expeditions.

The old town is similar to other Spanish colonies. It is carefully kept, as they know how to do in America.

The sidewalks, however, are narrow.

Street signs look like Mexican ones.

And there are similar illustrations in Madrid.

Monument to a goose on a merry boat.

Embankment from above.

Below, the area seems to be like a slum, it looks really poor by local major standards.

The picture on the wall corresponds to: «Juntu get out!»

Cemetery by the sea.

In San Juan, the police wear funny round hats.

The second castle looks cool: it looks like a huge lawn in front of it, on which you can lie.

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History. San Juan is not only the oldest city in Puerto Rico, but also the oldest city founded by Europeans in the United States. It’s even older than St. Augustine, Florida. San Juan traces its history back to 1508, when one of the first settlements on the shores of the New World was founded in its place. The old town has been remarkably well preserved. Ancient forts and wonderful examples of colonial architecture create an extraordinary historical atmosphere that rare cities in America can boast.

An almost anecdotal story happened with the name of the capital. The island was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493. The land was then inhabited by the Taino Indians. They called their island Boriken. The Spaniards renamed it San Juan in honor of John the Baptist, and the capital was called Puerto Rico — «Rich Port». New place names were sent to the Spanish Queen for approval, but in the final version they were returned in the reverse order — the island was called «Puerto Rico», and the capital was «San Juan». Apparently, the royal officials made a mistake, but it was too late to retreat.

San Juan is a wonderful place for walking: old houses and churches, cozy squares, art galleries, restaurants and cafes, small shops and a special Caribbean flavor. This is a real open-air museum, keeping 500 years of history only from the time of Christopher Columbus.

Shopping. The island is often called the Caribbean capital of shopping — in San Juan there are huge modern shopping centers, where even residents of the surrounding islands come to shop. Here is the «Plaza Las Americas» — the largest shopping center in the Caribbean.

Kitchen. There are national gastronomic «highlights» here, which were inherited from the Taino Indians, who once inhabited the island. Tainian, African and Spanish culinary traditions, over which local lovers of good food conjured for five centuries, gave the island its unique gastronomic “I”. It has been proven in practice that Russians like the local cuisine, which, by the way, is characterized by the use of a large number of roots.

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