La fortaleza san juan: La Fortaleza | Discover Puerto Rico

La Fortaleza (A Local’s Guide to Visiting)

La Fortaleza is Puerto Rico’s executive mansion in Old San Juan and one of the island’s best kept secrets.

Of course people know where La Fortaleza is, but not everyone has been inside it — mostly because very few realize it’s possible to take a tour through this top site in Puerto Rico.

On your visit, you’ll get to see beautiful gardens, the original towers, and the breathtaking State Staircase. Guides offer tours Monday to Friday from 8:15 am to 4:30 pm with advance reservations. 

As a local that’s been there, I’ve put together this guide with everything you need to know before visiting La Fortaleza.

Table of Contents

  • Why Visit La Fortaleza
  • History of La Fortaleza
    • Building La Fortaleza
    • The Attacks
    • The Remodeling 
    • The Spanish-American War
    • Becoming a Historical Site
  • How to Visit La Fortaleza
    • How to Get to La Fortaleza
    • Entrance Costs, Hours, Details
  • What to Expect Inside La Fortaleza
    • The Entrance
    • State Staircase
    • The Interior Courtyard
    • The Chapel
    • The Dungeon
    • The Gardens
  • Tips for Visiting La Fortaleza
    • Tip #1 – Dress Appropriately
    • Tip #2 – Bring an Official Photo ID
    • Tip #3 – Pack Wisely
  • FAQs About La Fortaleza
    • Who built La Fortaleza?
    • What is La Fortaleza used for?
    • Why is La Fortaleza important?
    • Can you tour La Fortaleza?
  • Images of La Fortaleza

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Why Visit La Fortaleza

La Fortaleza is almost as old as Puerto Rico itself. It has hosted more than a hundred Puerto Rican governors, and it’s the oldest executive mansion in use in the New World. 

The building is a mix of structures and styles that reflect the island’s history since Spanish colonization. Both a fortress and a palace, La Fortaleza will enchant you with its beauty. 

History of La Fortaleza

Building La Fortaleza

The construction of La Fortaleza began in 1533. At first, it consisted of one main medieval-style tower, four 7-feet wide walls, and an interior courtyard. 

The first tower was known as the Tower of Homage. Besides serving as an observation tower, it was the place where the governor swore loyalty to the Spanish crown. 

The Attacks

Although La Fortaleza’s purpose was to protect San Juan bay, its location was not optimal to do so.  

In 1598 George Clifford took over the city and, later in 1625, the Dutch Commander Boudewyn Hendrick did. During this attack, the dutch burnt the city, destroying La Fortaleza.

The Remodeling 

Exterior of La Fortaleza

In the 19th century, the La Fortaleza went through a process of remodeling and expansion that resulted in its current palace facade. Although La Fortaleza lost most of its fortress appearance, it still has the two original military towers.

The Spanish-American War

You can still find the legendary clock at La Fortaleza

In 1898, Puerto Rico became a territory of the United States. It is said Ricardo De Ortega, the last Spanish governor, slashed a clock with his sword to mark the time Spain lost Puerto Rico. The clock is still on the second floor of La Fortaleza.

Becoming a Historical Site

In 1960, La Fortaleza became a United States National Historic Landmark. Later in 1983, UNESCO declared La Fortaleza a World Heritage Site, along with other historical structures in Old San Juan such as Castillo San Felipe del Morro.

How to Visit La Fortaleza

How to Get to La Fortaleza

🚶‍♀️ Walk – If you’re staying at Old San Juan, you can walk to Fortaleza street.

🚗 Drive – If you’re outside Old San Juan, you can reach the historical district by driving. Use Discover Cars to rent a car in Puerto Rico for a low rate.

🚌 Public Transportation – The AMA bus system reaches Old San Juan from other cities. See the routes here.

🚕 Taxi – Taking a taxi from anywhere in the metropolitan area to reach Old San Juan is easy.  If you’re not in a tourist area where it’s frequent to see them, look for private taxis online.

Entrance Costs, Hours, Details

🎟️ Entrance – Free

🕖 Hours – Tours are from Monday to Friday from 8:00 to 4:30 pm. Call ahead to book a tour. Hours might change if there is an event in La Fortaleza.

🖥️ Website – La Fortaleza

📞 Phone – 787 721-7000, ext. 2323, 2358, 2211

📍 Map It –  63 C. de la Fortaleza, San Juan, 00901

What to Expect Inside La Fortaleza

The Entrance

After you cross the gate through the east side of the building, you’ll come across La Fortaleza’s neoclassic facade. The main building consists of three floors. The second floor features a balcony with five doors, where the governor makes a public appearance on Inauguration day. 

Over the building, you’ll find a white flag with Puerto Rico’s crest, the United States, and the Puerto Rico flag. When the governor is out of the country, the white flag is down.

State Staircase

You’ll find the State Staircase at your left in the entrance hall of the building. This staircase is one of the most impressive sights you’ll see inside La Fortaleza. 

Designed by the engineer Santiago Cortijo in 1846, the staircase boasts impressive ornamentations, carvings, gold leaf, and a cupola.

The Interior Courtyard

The interior patio provides a pleasant view of the first and second-floor galleries. The arched galleries on the first floor connect to different parts of the building. 

Sometimes the interior patio is used for exhibitions. Two old wells now serve as a jardiniere.

The Chapel

Inside the northern tower, you’ll find a small chapel. Its origin date is unknown, but it was restored in 1950. 

Artist Marcolino Maas created a 95,000 piece hand-cut mosaic that represented the trinity. Although most of the original mosaic was lost in 2004, the First Lady restored the chapel again.

The Dungeon

Underneath the chapel in the north tower, you’ll find a dungeon from the 16th and 17th centuries. It’s believed the space became a storehouse later. 

Nowadays, visitors can find a re-creation of how munitions and arms were stored in the space.

The Gardens

The gardens at La Fortaleza are worthy of a palace. With a view of the San Juan bay, these gardens boast terraces, lampposts, fountains, and green foliage over the city wall. 

You can also find canyons and one of the famous sentry boxes that identify Puerto Rico. Don’t miss a stop at the Sunken Garden, a recreational garden that is below the level of the rest of the patio.  

Tips for Visiting La Fortaleza

Tip #1 – Dress Appropriately

La Fortaleza is an executive mansion in use. As an official government building, it requires visitors to dress appropriately. People wearing shorts, crop tops, flip-flops, and see-through or revealing clothes can’t enter the building.

Tip #2 – Bring an Official Photo ID

Visiting La Fortaleza doesn’t require many things, but you’ll need an official ID to enter the facilities. If you’re coming from the United States, and you didn’t bring a passport to Puerto Rico, use your driver’s license.

Tip #3 – Pack Wisely

If you’re bringing a bag or a backpack, make sure it doesn’t have any sharp or blunt objects or firearms. Your backpack will undergo a safety inspection, and anything deemed suspicious could prevent you from visiting.

FAQs About La Fortaleza

Who built La Fortaleza?

La Fortaleza was built between 1532 and 1540 by the Spaniards in Puerto Rico to serve as a fort that protected the city of San Juan.   Carlos V, the king of Spain at the time, authorized the construction.

What is La Fortaleza used for?

La Fortaleza is currently the house of the governor of Puerto Rico, but it was originally a fortress that protected San Juan from attacks. La Fortaleza has also been an arsenal, a prison, and the Spanish Captain-General’s residence. This last one was the highest political and military position under Spanish rule.

Why is La Fortaleza important?

La Fortaleza is important historically, architecturally, and politically. La Fortaleza was the first fortification made by the Spaniards to protect the city from Indian attacks, after their arrival on the island in 1493. Its architecture reflects Italian Renaissance, Baroque, and French Enlightenment designs inherited from Europe. La Fortaleza is also the oldest executive mansion in use in America, 

Can you tour La Fortaleza?

Travelers can’t tour La Fortaleza freely, but the executive mansion features tours for tourists through reservations. Tourists that want to tour La Fortaleza can make a reservation by calling 787 721-7000, ext. 2323, 2358, 2211.

Images of La Fortaleza

***

Now you know everything you need to know to visit La Fortaleza! Check out my guide to the best things to do in Puerto Rico, to fill your Puerto Rico itinerary with fun, history, culture, and food.

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La Fortaleza (The Fortress) — שיחור

Calle de la Cruz

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El Yunque National Park

El Yunque Rainforest is the only tropical rainforest under the protection of the US Forest Service and also the largest nature reserve in densely-populated Puerto Rico. It is situated in the mist-wreathed Luquillo Mountains where year-round precipitation ensures lush, green landscapes and a healthy diversity of animal life. This includes mongooses, non-venomous snakes, the rare Puerto Rican Parrot and the Coqui frog whose distinctive croak provides El Yunque’s soundtrack.
El Portal Rain Forest Center provides a good introduction to the area. There you can pick up a map and set out on well-defined walking trails which will take you past such sights as the La Coca Falls and the observation points of Yokahú Tower and Mount Britton Lookout Tower.

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Old San Juan

Old San Juan sits on a small island guarding the entrance to the Bahía de San Juan, the “rich port” which gave Puerto Rico its name. Its strategic position was backed up by fortifications include the forbidding San Felipe del Morro fort at the tip of the island, as well as San Cristóbal fort and La Fortaleza, now the Governor’s residence.
Inland, the compact grid of hilly, narrow streets, with their colorful houses and elegant wrought-iron balconies, represents one of the oldest and best-preserved town centers in the Western Hemisphere. Two historic houses of worship bookend the center: in the north, the simple white exterior of the San José Church and the comparative grandeur of the older Cathedral of San Juan Bautista, built in 1521, in the south. The latter contains the tomb of Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León.

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Castillo San Felipe del Morro

Just north of the Old San Juan district, within the San Juan National Historic Site, lies Castillo San Felipe del Morro, a 16th-century citadel, or fortress.
It is a World Heritage-listed site on the northwestern tip of the islet of San Juan – a perfect spot to keep watch over the Atlantic Ocean and protect Old San Juan and the Bay of San Juan from incoming enemies. Its more recent history includes the American military, which occupied the site from 1898 to 1961.
The citadel, surrounded like it is by an expansive green lawn and the dramatic rocky coast, sits on quite a beautiful spot; the imposing fortress walls create an interesting contrast to the sparkling blue sea. When the wind blows, the lawn that connects the citadel to the town is a popular kite-flying spot.

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San Juan Cathedral (Catedral de San Juan Bautista)

Built in 1521, The San Juan Cathedral (aka La Santa Catedral San Juan Bautista de Puerto Rico) is one of the highlights of any trip into Old San Juan. The second oldest cathedral in the Americas, this historic landmark lies right in the heart of Old San Juan and boasts an impressive array of religious and historical artifacts including the tomb of notorious Spanish conquistador Ponce de Leon and the mummy of St. Pio. An operational cathedral, you can attend mass here Saturdays at 7 pm, Sunday at 9 and 11 am, and weekdays 7:25 am and 12:15 pm. And experience a traditional catholic mass, or, when service isn’t being conducted, you can wander the nave free of charge, gaze at the huge stained glass windows, or marvel at the construction of the oldest church on U. S. soil.

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Fortaleza Suits San Juan

Fortaleza Suits Old San Juan 4*

24-hour service

9000

Wi-Fi

No smoking

Air conditioning

No pets


The 4-star Fortaleza Suites offers basic rooms near Armas Square. The hotel is located in a historic building.

Near the hotel is the Basilica of the Metropolitan Cathedral of San Juan Bautista, and 2.5 km from La Esperanza Park. The center of San Juan is 3 km away.

Smoke detectors, an in-room safe and multi-channel television, as well as a refrigerator, a toaster and a microwave are provided in the rooms. Each has a hairdryer, a walk-in shower and bath sheets.

Restaurants The Marmalade restaurant and wine bar are just 30 meters away.Bus stop 12 is a 5-minute walk away.Guests will also enjoy free access to the pool and spa therapy. The hotel also features a gym, luggage storage and a terrace.

  • Local attractions
  • Capitol

    650 m

  • Escambrón Beach

    600 m

  • 008

    900 m

  • 9000 900 m

  • Fort San Felipe del Morro

    900 m

  • Columbus

    650 m


Services in the hotel

Description

  • Smoking is prohibited
  • Wi-Fi
  • Parking is not provided
  • 24-hour reception
  • VIP registration of arrival/ departure
  • Express Bar Registration
  • rooms
  • Vending machines
  • Smoke detectors
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Keys

Food and drink

  • Radio-Budger
  • It is important to know

    Registration of the race: from 15:00 to 23:59

    9000 extra beds are not available in the rooms.

  • Baby cots are not available in the rooms.
  • FAQ

    • Fortaleza Suites Old San Juan is located next to Columbus Square.

    • On average, Fortaleza Suites Old San Juan offers rooms for $192. For more information, please contact the hotel representatives.

    • Fortaleza Suites Old San Juan offers a choice of Suite, Presidential Suite and Queen Room.

    • Yes, there is high speed internet throughout Fortaleza Suites Old San Juan.

    • 0.5 km separates San Juan Isla Grande Airport from Fortaleza Suites Old San Juan.

    • The nearest bus stop 3 is 100 meters from Fortaleza Suites Old San Juan.

    • Close to Fortaleza Suites Old San Juan is Columbus Square.

    • About 200 meters from Fortaleza Suites Old San Juan you will find Chocobar Cortés and Greengos Caribbean Cantina.

    • The hotel offers free cancellation. Learn more from Fortaleza Suites Old San Juan.

    Check the conditions of your booking

    For bookings made from April 6, 2020, we recommend that you evaluate the risk associated with coronavirus (COVID-19) and the measures taken by the authorities to combat it. If you select a non-refundable rate, you will not be able to receive a refund if your booking is cancelled. Your cancellation request will be processed by the hotel in accordance with your rate conditions and consumer protection laws. If in doubt, we recommend booking a free cancellation option. If your plans change, you can cancel your booking without penalty during the free cancellation period.


    Room information


    Smoke detectors, an in-room safe and multi-channel television, as well as a refrigerator, a toaster and a microwave are provided in the rooms. Each has a hairdryer, a walk-in shower and bath sheets.


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    FORTALEZA SUITES OLD SAN JUAN SAN JUAN

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    Fortaleza Suites Old San Juan

    The 4-star Fortaleza Suites is located a 20-minute walk from Port San Juan, next to Pier 4. It offers high-speed internet throughout the property.

    Fortaleza Suites is located 8 minutes walk from the Cathedral of St. John. The center of San Juan is 3 km away. The hotel is about a few minutes walk from Columbus Square.

    They feature elegant furniture and marble floors.

    Guests can dine at Greengos Caribbean Cantina and Pieria, both within a 5-minute walk. Bus stop «3» is 100 meters from the hotel.

    + Read more

    Rooms and availability

    Fortaleza Suits Old San Juan 4*

    Wi-Fi

    24-hour service

    A round-the-clock recreespower

    Express registration

    9 9000

    Express Check-In/Check-Out

    Non-smoking

    Air conditioning

    Pets not allowed

    The 4-star Fortaleza Suites is located a 20-minute walk from Port San Juan, next to Pier 4. throughout the territory.

    Fortaleza Suites is located 8 minutes walk from the Cathedral of St. John. The center of San Juan is 3 km away. The hotel is about a few minutes walk from Columbus Square.

    They feature elegant furniture and marble floors.

    Guests can dine at Greengos Caribbean Cantina and Pieria, both within a 5-minute walk. Bus stop «3» is 100 meters from the hotel.

    Amenities

    Description

    • Non-smoking
    • Wi-Fi
    • No parking available
    • 24-hour reception
    • VIP check-in/out Express
    • 0111

      • Air conditioner
      • Zone for rest
      • terrace
      • Garden furniture
      • Set for preparing tea/coffee
      • Free toiletries 9000 9000 9061
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        • No smoking
        • Wi-Fi
        • No parking available
        • 24 hour reception
        • VIP registration of arrival/ departure
        • Express registration of arrival/ exit
        • Pets are prohibited
        • rooms 23:59

          Check-out: until 11:00

          • Children and Extra Beds
          • Extra beds are not available in a room.

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