El morro old san juan puerto rico: Exploring Castillo San Felipe del Morro in Old San Juan

Discover Puerto Rico’s Old San Juan

Aaron Spray

See some of the United State’s earliest history in Puerto Rico in the island’s capital and UNESCO site Old San Juan.


The oldest Post-Columbian settlements in the United States are not those in Jamestown or Plymouth but are in the USA’s Caribbean territories like Puerto Rico. Old San Juan is a historic district that is fabulously old by colonial America’s standards. The oldest buildings in Old San Juan predate the oldest standing building in the mainland United States by the better part of a century.

It is located on the northwest triangle of the islet of San Juan and is the oldest settlement in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is an often forgotten part of the United States, but one that everyone should visit. Those who do visit Puerto Rico should plan their trip around certain things to have the best time.

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The Old San Juan district is listed as a National Historic Landmark District. Additionally, some of its most noteworthy buildings have been inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983. This is where one finds the oldest European-age structures in the United States.

Some of the most remarkable structures include La Fortaleza, the city walls, El Morro, and the San Cristobal castles.

  • Oldest: San Juan Is The Oldest Continuously Inhabited Post-European Contact City On US Territory
  • Second Oldest: The Second Oldest Post-Europen Contact City In The Western Hemisphere
  • Founded: In 1519 By The Spanish Explorer Juan Ponce de Leon

Ever since San Juan was founded in 1519 by the Spanish, it has served as the capital of Puerto Rico. It was Spanish for the better part of 4 centuries until the United States annexed Puerto Rico in 1898 at the end of the Spanish-American War.

  • Architecture: Boast Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque Architecture

Related: San Juan Vs Rincon: Check Out These Photos To Help You Decide Where In Puerto Rico To Vacation

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La Fortaleza and Old San Juan’s Defenses

Many of the structures surviving in Old San Juan are defensive in nature — including three forts and a large portion of the city wall that was constructed between the 16th and 19th centuries.

San Cristobal Castle:

This is the largest fortification built by the Spanish in the Americas. It was designed to provide defense from both the land and the sea during the colonial period

  • Largest: The Largest Spanish Fortification In The Americas

San Felipe del Morro Castle:

Also known as just «El Morro», this is a 16th-century citadel that was built to protect against private and foreign attacks in the colonial period. It is also the location of a historic lighthouse.

San Juan City Walls:

The San Juan City Walls were built to surround Old San Juan — today around three-quarters of the old city walls remain intact. It was a city ringed with stone that saw its walls gradually expand over the course of 250 years. Eventually, these walls were united to connect to the city’s two largest forts — Castillo de San Felipe del Morro and Castillo de San Cristóbal.

  • Nickname: «La ciudad amurallada» (the walled city)

The only other city in the United States and Canada that still preserves its colonial defensive wall system is Quebec City in Canada (it even managed to repulse an invasion attempt by the Continental Army in the War of Independence).

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Santa Catalina Palace: 

Santa Catalina Palace is otherwise known as La Fortaleza (i.e. The Fortress). It is a fortification and is still the current residence of the governor of the territory of Puerto Rico.

  • Oldest: It Is The Oldest Executive Residence Anywhere In The Americas

Related: Puerto Rico Vs Costa Rica: 20 Photos To Help You Decide Between These Two Vacation Destinations

Old San Juan’s Churches

Besides forts, one of the first things the catholic Spanish went about doing was constructing churches.

San Juan Cathedral:

This is one of the oldest buildings in Old San Juan and is thought of as the oldest cathedral in the United States. In the Western Hemisphere, it is second only to the Santo Domingo Cathedral in the Dominican Republic. It is even a cathedral containing relics.

It is located on del Cristo Street and is still open for daily services. It is formally known as La Catedral de San Juan Bautista.

  • Started: In 1542
  • Style: Gothic and Renaissance Revival Architecture
  • Oldest: Oldest Cathedral In The USA (Second In The Americas)

San Jose Church:

This is regarded as one of the most important architectural landmarks of Old San Juan. After many years of restoration, it has finally reopened to the public in 2021. 2021 is exactly 500 years from when it first dates from — 1521.

It is a great example of Gothic and Renaissance architecture. It was also the home of Dominican friars.

Other old churches include John the Baptist (Catedral Basílica Metropolitana de San Juan Bautista), Saint Francis of Assisi Church ( Iglesia de San Francisco de Asís), and Santa Ana Church (Iglesia de Santa Ana). Read more about Old San Juan on the National Park Serice.

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Next: These Puerto Rican Villa Rentals Have Us Dreaming Of Sunny Days And Gorgeous Beaches

25 Best Things To Do in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

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When you’re planning a trip to Puerto Rico, its capital city of San Juan should definitely be high on your priority list. Old San Juan especially is full of charm and history, with streets of colorful colonial buildings, restaurants offering classic Puerto Rican dishes, and old forts telling the story of this city. You won’t want to miss these things to do in Old San Juan!

Pro Tip: Old San Juan is compact and very walkable! You should be able to see everything on this list on foot! And I’ve done my best to put this list in a reasonable walking order.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. This means if you make a purchase using a link, I may get a small commission at no cost to you.

Things To Do in Old San Juan

1. Visit El Morro

El Castillo San Felipe del Morro (El Morro) is by far the most popular tourist attraction in Old San Juan. This fort is located at the very western tip of Old San Juan and overlooks the ocean for some beautiful views.

This fortress was built 1539 (although it wasn’t fully completed until 1790!) and worked to protect the Spanish settlers of San Juan from enemy ships. It was also used by the United States during both WWI and WWII. In 1961 it became part of the National Park Service as a National Historic Site.

Inside, you can peer through the gunholes to imagine a cannon firing on an enemy ship, explore the barracks used by soldiers, and enjoy beautiful views of the ocean. Park rangers offer tours, but you can of course also explore on your own. Taking a tour will help you understand the important history of this fort better though, as well as the history of Puerto Rico.

And while the inside of the fort is the main attraction here, we also really loved the giant lawn out front. It has beautiful views of San Juan, offered us a nice breeze on a hot day, and we loved watching kids flying kites! (Plus, enjoying the lawn is free!)

El Morro is open every day of the week from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Adults are charged a $10 entrance fee, but kids under 15 are free. You ticket for El Morro will also give you access to the other major fort in Old San Juan, Castillo San Cristóbal.

2. Walk the Paseo del Morro

Just outside of the El Morro, there is a paved walkway that cuts between the city walls and the water called El Paseo del Morro. This pathway used to be a maintenance road for the city wall, but now it is open for visitors to enjoy views of the San Juan bay.

If you’re visiting El Morro, this is as fun way to leave the fortress. Climb the stairs down to it from the back of the fort and then walk until you reach the entrance up into the main section of Old San Juan.

Pro Tip: This walking path can get VERY hot! So make sure to bring plenty of water, and if you’re visiting on a hot day, you may save this for the evening! You can get back to it by going through the city gate (see #3).

3. Go Through La Puerta de San Juan (San Juan Gate)

On the Paseo del Morro, you’ll find a large red door known as La Puerta de San Juan (literally the door of San Juan, but known as San Juan Gate). Since Old San Juan was a walled city, there were many entrances in the city wall that allowed visitors to access the city from the bay. La Puerta de San Juan was the main entrance, and you can still walk through it back into Old San Juan.

4. Walk the Paseo de la Princesa

From the San Juan Gate, you can keep walking around the city wall and you’ll find yourself at the Paseo de la Princesa. This tree-lined avenue is often called the most beautiful promenade in San Juan.

This is a great place to people watch and soak in the feel of the Old San Juan. You’ll also usually find lots going on (especially on the weekends), from food stands to craft vendors to live music.

5. Stop By the Capilla del Santo Cristo de la Salud

At the southern end of Calle del Cristo (now up on top of the city wall), you’ll find a tiny chapel called the Capilla del Santo Cristo de la Salud. It was built in the mid to late 1700s, and the legend is that it was built to commemorate a miracle in which a person in a horse race fell of the city’s cliff but survived. Another theory is that it was built to prevent further accidents off the edge of the cliff.

You can stop by and see the outside of it any day of the week, but note that it is only open on Tuesdays.

6. Feed the Pigeons at Pigeon Park (Parque de las Palomas)

Next to la Capilla del Santo Cristo de la Salud, you’ll find Pigeon Park. Pigeons flock here and you can find vendors nearby selling food you can feed to the pigeons. Be careful though, because if you have food they can definitely swarm you!

This might not be the stop for you if you have a fear of birds, but it’s definitely a unique place and there are some beautiful views of the bay from here!


Visit the Umbrella Street (Calle de la Fortaleza)

At the very west end of Calle de la Fortaleza you’ll find Old San Juan’s Instagrammable Umbrella Street. Calle de la Fortaleza is the street that leads to the Governor’s Mansion (La Fortaleza).

Note that you might not always find umbrellas here though. When we visited in October of 2022, the street was covered with a giant pink Puerto Rican flag (I assume for Breast Cancer Awareness month?) and the street was also blocked off by security (perhaps for something going on at the Governor’s Mansion?).

If you are nearby, it’s definitely worth checking out and snapping a few colorful photos.

8. See La Fortaleza

La Fortaleza (translated as The Fortress), was originally a fort built in 1540. But the 1840s it was converted into the home of the governor. Today, it is still the official house of the Governor of Puerto Rico and also contains government offices.

While you can’t visit La Fortaleza while the government is in session, at other times you can take a 30-minute guided tour of the building between the hours of 8:15 a. m. and 3:30 p.m.

Even if you aren’t taking a tour though, definitely stop by to see the beautiful building. For what I think are the most scenic views, see it from on top of the city walls along Calle de Rafael Cordero.

9. See La Rogativa

Near La Fortaleza (and from the spot where I think you can get the best views of La Fortaleza) you’ll find La Rogativa, a sculpture commemorating an important moment in Puerto Rican history.

The story goes that Puerto Rico was about to be invaded by the British. That night, a large group of women lead by the Bishop walked throughout the streets saying prayers with lit torches. From their ship, the British mistook the lights for reinforcements and called off the attack.

The statue was created by artist Lindsay Daen in 1971, and the location offers amazing views of La Fortaleza and San Juan Bay.

10. Visit Cats at Save a Gato

Just up the street from La Rogativa (walking back toward El Morro), you’ll find the main location for Save a Gato. There is a colony of feral cats that lives in Old San Juan, and Save a Gato is a non-profit organization that cares for these cats. They feed them, spay and neuter them, and otherwise make sure they are cared for.

Most of the cats know to congregate near the Parque Pasivo Viego San Juan where they get fed daily. If you decide to visit these cats, remember that they are feral cats and may not always be friendly. While some of them may be happy to interact, its best to admire them without trying to get too close both for their safety and yours.

Note: The National Parks Service has recently proposed a plan to remove the cats, although there is no timeline for when this will happen or if it is even definitive. Visit the Save a Gato website to stay updated.

11. Take in the History of the Catedral Basilica Menor de San Juan Bautista

The Catedral de San Juan was first built in 1521, but after being destroyed in a storm it was rebuilt in 1529. This makes it the second oldest church in the Western Hemisphere (the Cathedral of Santa María la Menor in the Dominican Republic is the oldest).

This church has several interesting things to see, and two things are especially of note. First, it’s the final resting place of Juan Ponce de León, the Spanish explorer whose name you will see all over Puerto Rico (just like you do in Florida).

Second, the martyr Saint Pius is also here. His mummy was encased in wax and is kept in a glass box which you can view. If you look closely inside his mouth you can see his mummy teeth!

Another interesting fact about this church is that there are many people buried in the walls. I believe they were mostly priests of church officials, and their resting places aren’t necessarily marked, but they believed that the higher up you were buried the closer you would be to heaven, so they wanted to be in the walls as opposed to buried in the ground.

12. People Watch in the Plaza de Armas

The historic Plaza de Armas is located one block southeast of La Catedral de San Juan. It was built during colonial times to be the main plaza of the city, and today it is still a great place to take a seat on a bench, enjoy a coffee or pastry, and watch the people of San Juan pass by.

There are also a couple points of interest here. The first is the Four Seasons Fountain, which has a statue representing each season at each corner. The second is a statue of Puerto Rican salsa composer Tite Curet Alonso, which sits on one of the benches.

13. Visit La Casa Blanca Museum

La Casa Blanca was built in 1521 and was once the home Juan Ponce de León’s family. Today it is a museum set up with furniture from the 16th and 17th centuries. There are also gardens you can stroll though, and the house and gardens look out over the city wall to the bay.

This is a small museum, and you won’t find many crowds here. It is open Wednesday through Sunday from 8 to 11:45 a.m. and 1-4 p.m.

14. Admire Art in the Museo de las Américas

Near the Casa Blanca, you’ll find a large building once used as a military barracks called the Cuartel de Ballajá. This large building is where the Museo de las Américas is located, which highlights folk art from Puerto Rico and other the Americas.

The museum gives you a chance to understand the history of Puerto Rico and the Americas through art with three permanent exhibits: Folk Arts in the Americas, Our African Heritage, and Conquest and Colonization. They also have temporary exhibits.

The Museo de las Américas is open Wednesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1-4 p.m. On Saturdays and Sundays they are open from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Even if you don’t stop at the museum, be sure to at least stop by the building. This old military barracks has a beautiful courtyard area, and it’s a great place to sit down and rest.

There are also two important necessities you can find here on a long day of walking around Old San Jan. First of all, in the entrance closest to El Morro there is a small room with a glass door that has an small exhibit (I think on the building’s history if I remember correctly?) that has THE BEST air conditioning. Secondly, on the opposite end of the building, you’ll find some bathrooms.

There are also some great places to sit in the courtyard and a few restaurants where you can get out of the sun.

15. See the Ocean from the Plaza del Quinto Centenario

Across from the Museo de las Américas is the Plaza del Quinto Centenario. This plaza was built in 1992 to mark the 500th anniversary of Colombus’s first voyage to the Americas (so, you know, not the best). But it does have a very cool monument called El Tótem Telúrico, which is made of clay and symbolizes the origins of the Americas.

There is also a splash fountain at the bottom which is nice for cooling off on a hot day. And, like so many other attractions in Old San Juan, it overlooks beautiful ocean views.

16. Learn about the History of San Juan at the Museo de San Juan

The Museo de San Juan (Museum of San Juan) is located just a couple blocks from the Museo de las Américas. It was once a public market (and even now there is a farmer’s market on Saturdays), and now it houses a museum. It’s a smaller museum, but the main exhibit is about the history of San Juan. The other part rotates through temporary exhibits.

Admission to this museum is free, and it’s open Wednesday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 – 4:00 p.m. On Saturdays and Sundays it’s open from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and from 1:00 – 5:00 p.m.

17. Take in the Views at Cementerio Santa María Magdelena de Pazzi

Across from the Museo de las Américas and back near El Morro, you can walk down Cemetery Street (you’ll go through a tunnel so be careful of oncoming traffic) to find the beautiful Cementerio Santa María Magdalena de Pazzi. This cemetery overlooks the ocean and is full of white headstones and tombs.

You’ll mostly find Puerto Ricans of note buried here. Note that the cemetery is open daily from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Pro Tip: For the BEST views of the cemetery, its actually better to view it from above near El Morro. There you can take in the cemetery, the ocean, and San Juan all at once.

18. Walk Through La Perla

From the cemetery you can walk through the unique neighborhood of La Perla. This area is sometimes described as a shantytown, and it has an interesting history. In the 1700s, enslaved people were required to live outside the city walls, which means they built homes in this neighborhood right next to the sea and where the slaughterhouse was.

Today it remains a poorer area and an underserved community. However, it is also full of vibrant art and culture. The La Perla Community Board has undertaken projects to restore the community. And it was especially made famous for being where the music video for Despacito was filmed.

Some highlights in La Perla include seeing The Bowl (El Bowl), which is used as a skate park during the week and a pool on the weekends; walking along the Malecón, which goes right along the coast; and viewing the variety of murals painted throughout the neighborhood.

Do remember that while this area has gone through a revitalization recently, it can still be a rougher neighborhood. Don’t walk through La Perla alone, be sure to visit during daylight hours, and be aware of your surroundings.

19. Visit Castillo San Cristóbal

On the opposite end of Old San Juan from El Morro is the other major fortress in town, Castillo San Cristóbal. While El Morro was built to defend San Juan from an attack by sea, Castillo San Cristóbal was built to defend the city from a land attack. It is also the largest fort built by the Spanish in the Americas.

Much like El Morro, Castillo San Cristóbal was also used by the United States in WWII, and later became part of the National Park Service in 1961.

Inside you can view the main plaza within the fortress, see the bunker from WWII, peak through the sentry boxes, see the large underground cisterns once used to hold water, and explore a series of underground tunnels.

Castillo San Cristóbal is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

More Things To Do in Old San Juan

Ok, now that we’ve gone through the major attractions to see in Old San Juan, let’s talk about some other fun things to do! These are experiences you can have throughout the city (or, in some cases, at a specific restaurant) for an unforgettable time in Puerto Rico.

20. Take a Walking Tour

If you really want to immerse yourself in the history of Old San Juan, take a guided walking tour of the city. We took this tour of Old San Juan and were able to appreciate the city so much more because of it.

Not only did the tour take us to the major attractions of Old San Juan, but it also introduced us to some lesser known corners of the city we otherwise would have walked right past.

The tour we booked took about two and a half hours, and we learned SO much about Puerto Rican history. We also really loved being with a small group of other tourists, because it meant we got to meet people from other places and also hear what else they had done and loved in Puerto Rico.

21. Take a Food Tour

If you’re a foodie, you might want to take a food tour in Old San Juan. Through one of these tours you can get samplings of a variety of Puerto Rican cuisine (usually enough to make a meal out of, so come hungry!) while you also learn about the history of the city and see many of the San Juan attractions on our list of things to do.

Some dishes you might have on your food tour include a cocktail, ceviche, mofongo, coffee, chocolate, and more.

There are several different options for booking a food tour in Old San Juan. The Flavors of Old San Juan Food Tour and the Old San Juan Sunset Walk & Taste Food Tour are some of the highest rated tours online. You can also check out all the tours offered by Flavors of San Juan Food and Culture Tours.

22. Shop for Puerto Rican Souvenirs

You’ve got to make sure you’re taking home the perfect souvenir from San Juan! And you’ll find lots of great shops in Old San Juan where you can shop. (Aren’t sure what kind of souvenir to buy? We have a post about some of our favorite kinds of items to bring home!)

Of course, just like so many other tourist spots you’ll find all kinds of stores selling “Puerto Rican” souvenirs that aren’t actually Puerto Rican and that you could just as easily buy online. So here are a few tips for making the most of your souvenir shopping:

  1. Avoid the streets with souvenir shops lined up one right after the other. Try to find the smaller looking stores with crafts and handmade objects, not just t-shirts and sunglasses being shown off out front.
  2. Pick up the products and look at the labels. Look for products that say they were made in Puerto Rico!

23. Drink a Piña Colada Where It Originated!

Piña Coladas were invented in Puerto Rico, and in Old San Juan you can drink one at the bar where it was invented.

Okay, actually, back up because there are actually TWO places in San Juan that claim to be the home of the Piña Colada.

The first is the restaurant Barrachina. This restaurant is located near La Fortaleza, and they claim their bartender created the Piña Colada in 1963. Since this restaurant is in Old San Juan, this is a great place to stop for a drink while you’re spending time walking around the city.

The second place that claims to have invented the Piña Colada is the Caribe Hilton. This hotel claims that their bartender invented the drink in 1954. This hotel is located just a few minutes drive away from Old San Juan and you can still have one of their Piña Coladas at the hotel bar.

Either way, you’ll definitely want to try Puerto Rico’s national drink on your trip!

24. Eat Traditional Mofongo

There is lots of amazing food to try in Puerto Rico (ceviche! skirt steak! sorullitos!), but perhaps the most traditional Puerto Rican dish is mofongo.

Mofongo is a dish made from mashed green plantains that are fried with garlic and other seasonings and often stuffed with meat like pork.

There are LOTS of places to try mofongo in Puerto Rico (I mean, really, probably almost every restaurant). Some popular options include El Jibarito, Deaverdura, and Café Manolín. (We ate at Café Manolín, an old school Puerto Rican restaurant and loved it!)

25. Treat Yourself To Chocolate!

You know if there is a chocolate restaurant/specialty shop in a town, I am GOING to go there! In Old San Juan, you’ll want to visit Chocobar Cortes, where they sell chocolate drinks, cakes, pastries, and some basic lunch food like sandwiches and brunch items (many of which incorporate chocolate somehow!).

I had a chocolate mousse cake that was amazing and the most delicious and refreshing frozen hot chocolate. And if it weren’t for the hot temperatures that would have caused chocolate to melt in my backpack, chocolate definitely would have been coming home with me!

Fun Fact: Chocobar Cortes started in Puerto Rico, but has also expanded and now has a NYC location!

Tips For Visiting Old San Juan

For a great trip, here are a few tips for visiting Old San Juan!

  • Be prepared for walking! While the city is totally walkable, know that it is a bit hilly. So be prepared to walk and wear comfortable shoes.
  • Be prepared for heat! It can get HOT in San Juan, so be prepared to deal with heat. Always have water with you, and bringing something like these cooling towels can help keep you cool on a hot day.
  • Most people speak English, but it is still nice to greet people in Spanish. If you are worried about traveling to a place were you don’t speak the language though, don’t worry. You should be fine!
  • Puerto Rico uses the U.S. dollar, so if you are coming from the United States you don’t have to worry about exchanging money.
  • Be prepared for rain! Always have a rain jacket or umbrella with you, because rain can start out of seemingly nowhere.

Where To Stay in Old San Juan

Looking for somewhere to stay in Old San Juan? Here are some of the best options!

  • Hotel El Convento is actually housed in an old convent! They have beautiful rooms, a rooftop pool, restaurants in a secluded courtyard, and even a resident cat. This is probably one of the most popular hotels to stay at in Old San Juan.
  • El Colonial is small a hotel right in Old San Juan with a clean white lobby, rooms that look over the streets of San Juan, and a rooftop with city views.
  • Caribe Hilton is not technically in Old San Juan, but it is just a short Uber ride away. We stayed here on our trip and absolutely loved it! We had a room with a great view, enjoyed the pool, thought the lobby was beautiful, and had great dining experiences at some of the on-site restaurants.

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Puerto Rico’s capital celebrates its long and colorful history

Puerto Rico’s capital, San Juan, is one of the most historic cities in the New World, with early explorers establishing a settlement here 15 years after Columbus’s monumental first voyage. The city has been the scene of many historical events, from naval battles to pirate attacks. Modern day San Juan, now a popular tourist destination in the Caribbean, has a long and fascinating history.


  1. Early settlement
  2. Improvement of the importance of
  3. Piracy
  4. XVII and XVIII century
  5. XIX century
  6. Spanish-American war
  7. XX century
  8. San Juan today

Early settlement

first Puerto Rico was home to Caparra, founded in 1508 by Juan Ponce de León, a Spanish explorer and conquistador best remembered for his quixotic quest for the Fountain of Youth in 16th-century Florida. However, Caparra was deemed unsuitable for long-term settlement, and the inhabitants soon moved to an island not far to the east, at the current site of Old San Juan.

Increasing importance

The new city of San Juan Batista de Puerto Rico quickly became famous for its location and port, and became of great importance in the colonial administration. Alonso Manso, the first bishop to come to America, became Bishop of Puerto Rico in 1511. San Juan became the first ecclesiastical headquarters of the New World and also served as the first base for the Inquisition. By 1530, only 20 years after its founding, the city had a university, a hospital and a library.


San Juan quickly attracted the attention of Spain’s rivals in Europe. The first attack on the island came in 1528, when the French destroyed several outlying settlements, leaving only San Juan untouched. Spanish troops began building San Felipe del Morro, a formidable castle, in 1539. Sir Francis Drake and his men attacked the island in 1595 but were detained. However, in 1598 George Clifford and his band of English privateers succeeded in capturing the island, remaining for several months before disease and local resistance drove them away. This was the only time El Morro Castle was captured by an invading force.

17th and 18th centuries

San Juan declined somewhat from its original importance as wealthier cities such as Lima and Mexico City flourished under colonial rule. However, it continued to serve as a strategic military post and port, and the island produced significant crops of sugarcane and ginger. He also became known for breeding fine horses prized by the Spanish conquistadors who campaigned on the mainland. Dutch pirates attacked in 1625, capturing the town but not the fort. At 179In 7 AD, a British fleet of about 60 ships attempted to take San Juan but failed in what is known on the island as the «Battle of San Juan».

19th century

Puerto Rico, as a small and relatively conservative Spanish colony, did not participate in the independence movements of the early 19th century. -Rico flocked royalist refugees loyal to the Spanish crown. The liberalization of some Spanish policies, such as the granting of freedom of religion to the colony in 1870, encouraged immigration from other parts of the world, and Spain held Puerto Rico until 1898 years old

Spanish-American War

The City of San Juan played a minor role in the Spanish-American War that broke out in early 1898. The Spanish fortified San Juan but did not. anticipate American tactics for landing troops on the western tip of the island. Because many Puerto Ricans did not oppose the change of administration, the island all but surrendered after several skirmishes. Puerto Rico was ceded to the Americans under the terms of the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Spanish-American War. Although San Juan was bombed by American warships for a time, the city suffered relatively little damage during the conflict.

20th century

The first few decades of American rule were mixed for the city. Although some industry developed, a series of hurricanes and the Great Depression had a profound effect on the economy of the city and the island as a whole. The dismal economic situation led to a small but determined independence movement and a large emigration from the island. Most Puerto Rican emigrants in the 1940s and 1950s went to New York City in search of better jobs; it is still home to a very large population of Puerto Rican origin. The US Army left El Morro Castle at 1961 years old.

San Juan today

Today San Juan has its place among the Caribbean’s leading tourist destinations. Old San Juan has been extensively renovated and attractions such as El Morro Castle attract many visitors. Americans who want to vacation in the Caribbean love to go to San Juan because they don’t need a passport to go there: it’s American soil.

In 1983, the old city defenses, including the castle, were declared a World Heritage Site. The old part of the city is full of museums, reconstructed buildings from the colonial era, churches, monasteries and much more. There are excellent beaches near the city, and first-class resorts are located in the El Condado area. Tourists can get to several interesting places within a couple of hours from San Juan, including rainforests, a cave complex, and many other beaches. It is also the official home port for many major cruise ships.

San Juan is also one of the most important ports in the Caribbean and has oil handling facilities. refining, sugar processing, brewing, pharmaceuticals and more. Naturally, Puerto Rico is well known for its rum, most of which is made in San Juan. The oldest settlement in Europe under US jurisdiction, Old San Juan is a colorful colonial town that echoes centuries of history. Culturally and geographically, Old San Juan is quite different from the rest of the city. Viejo San Juan — as the locals say — sits on a tiny island on the north coast of Puerto Rico and is connected to mainland Puerto Rico by three bridges. A lively and agile city, it oozes with energy and joie de vivre, its narrow cobbled streets literally pulsing with the dynamic rhythm of the Caribbean Sea. Its restaurants offer a one-of-a-kind gastronomic experience; its colonial architecture is among the finest in the region. Want to experience it yourself? Try the following 10 experiences:

Exploring the great Spanish fortresses You can’t go to Old San Juan without visiting the saving forts of El Morro and San Cristobal. Two forts stand on the banks of the Old San Juan as a reminder of centuries of Spanish possessions in the West Indies. Nicknamed the Gibraltar of the Caribbean, San Juan was the main frontier outpost of the Vice-Allegiance of New Spain. El Morro and San Cristoble shine over the Atlantic against any enemy — protecting the old city from invasion. The aggressive El Morro is said to be the oldest Spanish fort in the Americas, while the monumental Fuerte San Cristoble is one of the largest military installations ever built by the Spanish in the New World. The forts are connected to Calle Norzagaray, and while you can go from one fort to another by taking a cart, walking around Norzagaray, pastel-coloured La Perla (stop near some of the museums along the way if you have time) is a more rewarding way to go. Cost: 3 USD. Get a combo ticket for both forts for only $5.

Kiteflight at El Morro Park On any given weekend, you’ll see countless colorful chiringas — the Spanish word for kites — of various shapes dot the skies of Old San Juan. The coastal breeze and wide open space make the park an ideal spot for kite flying. You can join the locals by flying over a chiringa or having a lazy day of picnicking. El Morro Park is where locals play Puerto Rico’s national sport, where tourists see the picturesque (not to mention historic) San Juan Cemetery. Cost: You can get a chiringa and a string for under $5 from one of the street vendors around the park (or you can always bring your own).

Farmer’s Market Shopping Every Saturday, the San Juan Museum’s courtyard turns into a farmers’ market, where locals and visitors shop for the freshest local produce or traditional handicrafts (or both). Stop at the market for an affordable and delicious brunch made with organic ingredients and served by friendly chefs. The market has a rich selection of vegetarian products that are rarely found on the island. Also on sale: flowers, scented soaps, and even composting worms used in vermiculture. Cost: Spend as much as you want!

Spectacular sunset at Paseo del Morro Paseo del Morro is a trail following the masonry wall that surrounds the old town. A waterfront walkway connects San Juan Gate to El Morro, although the path does not provide access to the fort. The best time to hike this National Recreation Trail is at the end of the day when the sun sets behind the bay and the Katano begins to light up. You’ll be sharing the trail with Old San Juan’s most notable inhabitants: wild cats. Hundreds of them roam the street, and Paseo del Morro is where they stretch and sunbathe. Cost: free.

Seeing dead people in the cathedral The second oldest cathedral in the Western Hemisphere is a prime example of authentic and rare New World architecture. It is located on a hill from the San Juan Gate, and the cathedral was the place where travelers thanked God as soon as they got off the boat. It now serves as the seat of the Archdiocese of Puerto Rico. The Cathedral of San Juan Bautista, in addition to its ecclesiastical functions, is the resting place of two famous historical figures. Juan Ponce de León, founder of Puerto Rico’s first settlement and the island’s first governor, is buried inside a marble casing inside the building. The cathedral also keeps a relic of Saint Pius, a first-century Christian martyr, inside a glass case so visitors can see his wax-covered remains. Cost: free.

Feeding Las Palomas At the end of Calle del Cristo there is a quaint little park filled with hundreds of palomas (the Spanish word for pigeons). The Parque de las Palomas is a shady area with a great panorama where you can enjoy the beautiful view of San Juan. Young children love to run around this park while feeding soft pigeons (and you should, too). When you decide to feed these birds, they will come at you quickly (and one or two may try to climb you), but it’s great fun for everyone and a great photo opportunity. Don’t forget to cover your head! Although considered good luck by the locals, you don’t want to get anointed bird droppings. Bringing hand sanitizer is also a good idea. Next to the park is the Capillo del Cristo, a well-preserved chapel built to celebrate a local miracle. Cost: You can buy a bag of peas or corn for $1.

Watching the Cuartel de Ballajá lights up the night. Quartel de Ballaja, the military barracks that houses the Musée de las Americas, is a completely different place at night. The building glows in bright lights, and the songs of coca, Puerto Rican endemic frogs, fill the air. Every Thursday and Friday night, people come to the square to watch a 17-minute 3D forecast presentation called «Puerto Rico: La Isla del Encanto.» It is a feast for the senses, a creative and impressive combination of light and sound. Using a sophisticated cinematic technique called Ultra 3D Projection 3D Projection, realistic looking scenes are projected onto the far wall of the barracks. The show chronicles the long history of Puerto Rico since the pre-Columbian era and also portrays the vibrant culture of Puerto Rico. The event also features images of famous Puerto Ricans (including politicians, activists, actors, athletes, artists, and beauty pageant winners). There are two versions of the show, one in Spanish and one in English, shown alternately throughout the night starting at 7pm. Cost: free.

Puerto Rican Dining Style Puerto Rican cuisine has a unique taste, a fragrant blend of Taíno, Spanish, African and American influences. The locals refer to their cuisine as «cucina criolla» (Creole cuisine) and many dishes include roasts. Plantains can be considered one of the staples for the people of Puerto Rico. Mofongo, a specialty in Puerto Rico, is made by mashing roasted green seedlings in a pylon, a wooden mortar. Vegetables are served with fried meat, as well as soup. This dish is a must for every visitor and can be found almost everywhere around the island — from small food stalls to five star restaurants. Besides mofongo, you should also try tostones (fried pieces of wormwood) and amarillos (sweet fried plantains, known as maduros in Cuba). When it comes to drinks, Puerto Ricans are proud of their rums, and the commonwealth boasts the best-selling rum in the world. Unlike fifty states, the island’s legal drinking age is 18. Cost: Varies by restaurant.

Walk along Paseo de la Princesa. The name translates to «Princess Promenade» and it’s a beautiful path along the southern tip of Old San Juan, adorned with ever-changing views and a rather European vibe. The Paseo de la Princesa offers beautiful views of the Atlantic Ocean and San Juan Bay. After night falls, artisans and food vendors stroll along the promenade, tempting carriages, to peruse their work, nibble on Puerto Rican snacks (like alcapurrias and bacalaítos) and quench their thirst for piña colada or piragua.

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