Old san juan sites: 31 Best Things to Do in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico!

28 Fun and Unique Things to Do in Old San Juan You’ll Love

Old San Juan is a destination full of history, cool sights, fun nightlife and amazing food. There’s no shortage of things to do in Old San Juan, and this guide covers 28 activities you’ll love.

The colorful streets of Old San Juan 😍

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This vibrant city is full of character. It’s filled with Spanish colonial architecture, perfectly balanced with fun plazas and historical sights. After all, Christopher Columbus claimed Puerto Rico for Spain back in 1493, so you know there’s a ton of history to see!

The most popular attractions is the San Juan Fort, Castillo San Felipe del Morro, which brings in over 2 million visitors a year. But there’s so much more to do in Old San Juan!

Pro tip: plan to spend at least 2 days and nights in Old San Juan, before heading to another area like Fajardo, Ponce or Culebra, Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico flags hang throughout Old San Juan

Map of the best things to do in Old San Juan PR

This list covers a lot in a small area. Here’s a map to help you plan your time in this colorful city.

Things to do in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

It might just be your new favorite spot in the Caribbean! Old San Juan has so much to offer visitors, let’s dive into the list of the best activities in the area.

1. Visit El Morro

The Main Plaza inside El Morro

It’s a must-see for any visitor, ‘El Morro’ as it’s called for short, is one of the top things to do in Old San Juan. Dating back to 1533, Castillo San Felipe del Morro is a 6-level fortress built to defend San Juan’s harbor from its attackers.

It was designed and built by the Spaniards until the United States overcame Puerto Rico during the Spanish-American War in 1898.

Why it’s modern-day cool: you can walk around the perimeter of the fort along the ocean and bay. You’ll see what opponents saw while the soldiers inside sat defending the place.

Inside, see the main plaza, where important events took place in the 1700’s and 1800’s. Check out the dry moat from the exterior or walk through the gun deck, where you can imagine cannons firing at enemy ships.

You’ll also be able to walk in the old kitchens, church and living quarters. It’s a really cool experience!

The walls of El Morro from the path around it

To see Castillo San Felipe del Morro from the inside, there’s a $10 fee per person to get in, although if you have the America the Beautiful Pass, it’s free.

By the way, I highly recommend the pass if you travel because it saves quite a bit! I’ve used it to see places like Glacier National Park in Montana, Mount Rainier National Park in Washington, Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial in Put-in-Bay, Ohio and a bunch of other planned and random stops while traveling.

Anyways, visiting this fortress is an incredible experience. Whether you’re into history, architecture or just want to see more of the island’s past, you’ll definitely want to add this to your Puerto Rico bucket list!

Pro tip: bring water and wear comfortable shoes – it’s a big fort!

Location: 501 Bulevar del Valle, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico

2. Taste Old San Juan on a food tour

In this amazing city, one thing is for sure: the food is fantastic!

As my husband and I ate our way through the town of Old San Juan, we determined it’s in our top 5 for culinary experiences while traveling. Others are a variety of fish tacos on a budget trip to Maui, exploring restaurants in Old Town San Diego and the amazing Mexican food in Phoenix, just to name a few.

Anyway, on this Old San Juan food tour, you’ll taste the unique flavors that make San Juan’s food scene superb! From African and Spanish influences to traditional indigenous foods, there’s a little bit of everything on this food tour.

If you love trying new foods, this fun adventure is for you!

Book it now: Old San Juan food tour

Location: various restaurants in the city

3. Walk the cobblestone streets

With a city 5 centuries old, it’s no wonder the streets are magnificent! With tiny roads barely wide enough for one vehicle at times, these streets are really cool to experience.

I particularly loved the blue cobblestone streets! Most city streets have some type of stone in the oldest part of the city.

As you walk you can imagine yourself in a horse and buggy, or perhaps old time bicycle heading to the market in the streets of Old San Juan. Wow!

Location: all over the city

4. Visit Old San Juan beaches

A beach this close to Old San Juan? Yes, please!

Fun fact: Old San Juan beaches are hard to come by. Most of the city was built right up to the water’s entrance, at least in the historic part of the city.

However, there’s a couple beaches on the north side of Old San Juan as you head east towards Condado. And the nice thing about these beaches is that they’re less busy than the ones in Condado!

Note: for the most gorgeous beach in the area, be sure to check out Flamenco Beach, Puerto Rico!😍

Best Old San Juan beaches:
  • Playa Puerto De Tierra, navigate to Playa Puerto De Tierra San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico (my personal favorite)
  • Balneario El Escambrón, C. San Agustín, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico
  • Escambron Beach, navigate to Escambron Beach San Juan, 00910, Puerto Rico

Pro tip: if you’re planning to enjoy the beach in Puerto Rico, be sure to download this beach packing list!

5. Enjoy the perfect Pina Colada at it’s birthplace

Sitting on some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, like Flamenco Beach, Puerto Rico, the gorgeous beaches of Aruba and white-sand beaches in Turks and Caicos, I had no idea until I visited Puerto Rico that the Pina Colada was first invented here!

One of the must-do activities in Old San Juan is visit the spot where the Pina Colada was created. Back in 1963, Ramón Portas Mignot put together the wonderfully sweet cocktail at the famous Barrachina restaurant.

To pay tribute to the origin of the fruity drink, you can sit at the very place it was created! Oh, and the bar has several machines of perfectly mixed Pina Coladas, so it’s always ready to pour.

Pro tip: go late morning or early afternoon to avoid waiting hours for a seat! If there’s a long wait, consider sitting at the bar and ordering just drinks. After all, you’re there for a Pina Colada. 😉

Location: 104 C. de la Fortaleza, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico

6. Take an Old San Juan helicopter tour (one of the most unique things to do in Old San Juan)

Aerial view of El Morro and La Perla, with the city in the background

Experience the beauty and history of Old San Juan with a birds eye view! I personally love taking helicopter tours like this because you get a unique perspective that hardly anyone else gets to see – the amazing city from above!

The helicopter tour of Old San Juan is short but worth it. I’d recommend to take a walking tour of the city (see #17 below) before this tour so you’re somewhat familiar with the sights before hand.

Book it now: helicopter tour of Old San Juan

Location: Helipuerto de Bahía Urbana, FV7V+7R6 San Juan, Puerto Rico (departure point)

7. Marvel at the old architecture

It’s no surprise that the architecture in Old San Juan is fabulous. 🤩 Staring at the architecture is one of the top things to do in San Juan, and it can be done for dayyyyys!

The Spanish Colonial style feels exciting with every turn. The vivid colors of the buildings are captivating as you walk the city. As you reach each plaza, business or micro neighborhood, each street is just as interesting as the last..

Take some time to explore the city on foot, marveling at the old architecture. You can only imagine how it was built 300, 400 and 500 years ago!

You’ll see some buildings in various levels of repair, while others are so well taken care of, they seem brand new! From romantic balconies to wispy flowers and greenery, the wonderfully decorated city is like eye candy for any traveler.

Note: keep in mind many of these properties are people’s homes, so respect their space accordingly.

Location: literally everywhere in Old San Juan🤣

8. Popsicles at Señor Paleta

Just gotta say it: no beach vacation is complete without ice cream. And in Puerto Rico, it’s really the popsicles that will win you over!

With incredible, full flavors and toppings (say whaaaaat?), you’ll love the popsicles at Señor Paleta. Whether you like fruit popsicles or decadent flavors, you’ll find something here to enjoy.

Try incredible flavors like Dulce De Leche, Strawberry Cheesecake (pictured above) Tembleque, Mango Nutella and Oreo (also pictured above). Don’t forget the toppings!

Pro tip: expect the line to be long – this place is delicious!

Location: 153 C. de Tetuán, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico

More things to do Old San Juan

Seriously such a fun city, right? And this list is only 1/3 of the way done! More fun and unique Old San Juan attractions ahead…

9.

Check out Umbrella Street (one of the most touristy things to do in Old San Juan)

Umbrella Street, Old San Juan

One of the most popular attractions in Old San Juan is Umbrella Street. It’s a great spot for taking photos, too!

The umbrellas are positioned to create a canopy over the street leading up to La Fortaleza, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which also happens to be the Governor’s mansion.

Over the years the umbrellas have changed from multi-colored to all pink, all white, etc. They’re swapped out to generate awareness to various causes. When I visited Puerto Rico, the umbrellas were white to shine a light on Diabetes.

Because of it’s popularity and proximity to the governor’s residence, you can no longer walk down Umbrella Street. However, the barricade makes it easy for anyone to grab a photo of it.

Location: C. de la Fortaleza, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico

10. See the Capilla del Cristo

Capillad del Cristo interior, Old San Juan

The tiny Chapel, built in 1753 has a truly amazing story to tell. Back then horse racing through the streets was common during fiestas.

One particular day a rider lost control of his horse, who fell off the steep city wall to his death, but the rider was spared. The Chapel was built in the place the horse went over the wall, with a painting of Christ of Good Health above the altar.

Despite storms and looting across various parts of history, the Chapel is in near original condition, including the silver and gold leaf altar.

Fun fact: this religious museum is ran by volunteers and is free to visit. A donation is appreciated to keep it well maintained!

Location: 1 C. del Cristo, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico

11. Visit the 2nd oldest Cathedral in the Americas

Standing outside the oldest church in Puerto Rico

Dating back to 1521, the Catedral Basilica Menor de San Juan Bautista is the oldest church on US soil!

Located in the heart of Old San Juan, the church is open and holds services almost daily. Inside, you can find the final resting place of Juan Ponce de León, a Spanish explorer who was instrumental in establishing Puerto Rico.

The beautiful facade and stained glass windows are noteworthy architectural elements that make this church extra special. This is by far one o the best places to visit in Old San Juan for it’s history and beauty.

Location: 151 C. del Cristo, San Juan, 00902, Puerto Rico

12. Hang out on the plaza

There are so many public spaces in Old San Juan to enjoy. From people watching to food trucks and festivals, it’s a great spot to take a break and rest or sit out and enjoy the weather.

San Juan Plazas:
  • Plaza de Armas, FV8M+48H, San Juan, 00969, Puerto Rico (one of the largest, hosting concerts and festivals)
  • Plaza de San José, FV8J+WMF, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico
  • Plaza de la Barandilla, FV8P+G78, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico
  • Plaza Colón, C. de la Fortaleza, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico (especially fun at Christmastime)
  • Plaza de la Marina, FV7P+84G, San Juan, Puerto Rico
  • Plaza de la Catedral, 74 Caleta de San Juan, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico

13. Get your chocolate fix at Chocobar

Imagine this: a restaurant menu with every dish made of chocolate. At Chocobar Corte, every item on the menu has a bit of chocolate flavor.

From delightful cocktails, including the Bloody Choco-Mary or Choco Martini to delicious eats like Avocado Toast or a Chocoburger, you’ll find something on the menu to devour.

Oh, and don’t forget the desserts! Favorites include Chocolate Chip Madeleines, Lava Cake and Chocolate Baklava. Yum!

Pro tip: expect a long wait. It’s worth it though!

Location: 210 C. de San Francisco, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico

14. Fly a kite (one of the most unique things to do in Old San Juan)

Flying kites at El Morro’s public space

If you’re young at heart or traveling with kids, one of the most popular things to do in San Juan is fly a kite at Castillo San Felipe del Morro.

The exterior grounds of El Morro are spacious and a great spot to enjoy the ocean breeze, have a picnic or hang out for the day. It’s also a perfect spot for kite flying!

There’s a kite vendor that sits close to the main entrance of the fort where you can pick out the perfect kite. The breeze coming off the Caribbean Sea is perfect for launching and flying a kite!

Note: take your kite home as a souvenir or be sure to dispose of it properly. While walking the outside walls of El Morro, we saw plenty of kite strings and reminants littering the walls. It’s also dangerous for sea life, so just be responsible with it. 😊

Location: 501 Bulevar del Valle, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico (entrance to El Morro)

15. Visit La Perla

Vibrant La Perla, Puerto Rico

A San Juan neighborhood with a troubled past, La Perla is now a destination in itself. Nestled along the coast, positioned between Castillo San Felipe del Morro and Castillo San Cristóbal, this colorful neighborhood has a lot to offer visitors.

Take a walk through La Perla to witness the brightly colored homes and business, colorful street art and fantastic views of the water.

See El Bowl, the skate park turned community pool (depending on the day!), the basketball court donated by Carmelo Anthony and a handful of shops and restaurants.

Note: this is a neighborhood so please be respectful of the locals’ property.

Location: navigate to La Perla, San Juan, Puerto Rico

16. Adventure on a day trip to El Yunque

Okay, so this is obviously a post of the best things to do in Old San Juan. But no Puerto Rico travel guide is complete without mentioning El Yunque National Forest!

It’s a tropical escape from a busy city, El Yunque offers sightseeing with historic lookout towers, waterfalls with natural pools and great hiking.

If you’re staying in Old San Juan, you likely won’t have (or need) a rental car. So to get to El Yunque, you can rent a car for the day. I find the best rates using Discover Cars, typically saving 20-30%.

Otherwise, you can take a day tour of El Yunque from San Juan. Either way you visit, there’s a ton of things to see and do in El Yunque!

Note: it’s normally free and easy to enter El Yunque. But the NPS is monitoring traffic to many protected lands, so a reservation may be required. Make reservations for El Yunque here.

Location: PR-191, Río Grande, 00745, Puerto Rico (address of Visitor Center)

17. Take a walking tour of Old San Juan

Love the colorful Old San Juan buildings 😍

See the city’s amazing architecture and historical sites in Old San Juan through the eyes of a knowledgeable guide.

On a walking tour of Old San Juan, you’ll visit cathedrals, plazas within the city, historic government buildings and the famous Castillo San Felipe del Morro.

Opt for a sunset walking tour so you’re beating the heat of the day, while watching the sun dip into the Caribbean Sea from the beautiful streets.

Pro tip: wear comfortable shoes and bring water.

Book it now: walking tour of Old San Juan

Location: all over the city!

18. Visit the Rincón de Gautier mural (one of the most fun things to do in Old San Juan)

Felisa Rincon de Gautier was a force of nature! She was the first woman mayor of San Juan, and any US city, for that matter. Felisa established the first preschool in San Juan, which later became a model for preschool programs across the USA.

She was instrumental in the suffrage movement in Puerto Rico and also was one of the first female voters on the island. Rincon de Gautier also served as Goodwill Ambassador for 4 US presidents!

Although her death was over 2 decades ago, she’s still remembered as a power house for the political and humanitarian movements in Puerto Rico.

This incredible, 5,000 square feet of mosaic tile over concrete is just one of the many tributes to her around the city. If you’re looking for Old San Juan things to do, this is one of the most picturesque and important spots in the city.

Learn more about the mosaic here.

Location: at the intersection of Av. Luis Munoz Rivera and C. San Agustin

19. Immerse yourself in the culture

Watching Puerto Rican singer, Victoria Sanabria at a free outdoor concert

Old San Juan Puerto Rico is full of culture! While in the area, be sure to check out a street festival, live music, street parties or cultural traditions.

From the Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastian in January to the Festival de Teatro Puertorriqueno e International in summer to Nochebuena in December, there’s always something to look forward to in this fun city!

Check out the Old San Juan events calendar here.

Or, as you walk along the streets, keep an eye out for street performers and ears open for live music, especially on the weekends!

Location: various around Old San Juan

20.

See the beaches of Isla Verde

Carolina Public Beach in Isla Verde near sunset

I know, I know, this isn’t directly in Old San Juan. But can you really go to Puerto Rico without exploring the beaches?

Isla Verde is an area close to Old San Juan along the northern side of mainland Puerto Rico. With palm trees lining the beaches and soft sand, it makes for a pretty great day. Swap out the busy city noise for the rolling waves of the ocean!

I visited quite a few beaches while in Puerto Rico. These were my favorite in the area…

Best Isla Verde beaches
  • Carolina Public Beach. It’s large, clean and has quite a few amenities really close. You can even rent beach umbrellas, beach chairs, etc.
  • Isla Verde Beach. Great for boogie boarding, these waves are a little more intense (especially in winter months), but really fun to ride or watch from the sand. Clean beach with excellent amenities, too!
  • Pine Grove Surfing Beach. As the name suggests, this beach is perfect for riding the waves! They’re especially strong in winter months. If you’re up for adventure, visit Pine Grove!

San Juan Puerto Rico things to do – continued

With all that has already been covered, can you believe there’s still 1/3 of the list left?! Let’s keep going…

21. Visit Castillo San Cristóbal

Built to defend San Juan from the eastern side of the island, Castillo San Cristóbal is a fortress that’s worth visiting. It’s much smaller in size compared to El Morro, but is impressive in its own way. In fact, it’s one of the most underrated but top things to see in Old San Juan!

Built in the 1600’s and named after Saint Christopher, it’s a fortress that saw many attackers. Visitors can explore the fort and imagine what life was like in the bombproof rooms.

One of the coolest features of this fort is the tunnels that soldiers would use to retreat from enemies and attack before being seen.

The fee to enter Castillo San Cristóbal is $10 per person, or else covered with the America the Beautiful Pass.

Location: navigate to Castillo San Cristóbal main entrance (official address is the same as El Morro)

22. Cool off with gelato (one of my favorite things to do in Old San Juan)

Delicious flavors of gelato await!

It’s hot in Puerto Rico. And unless you’re by the coast, the breeze can be sparse. So one of the best things to do in Old San Juan PR is to grab some gelato from Anita Gelato.

You know the gelato is top notch when they also have restaurants in Barcelona, Spain, Syndey, Australia, Limassol, Cyprus and Tel Aviv, Israel!

With flavors like Milk Chocolate Pretzels, Rocher Cream, Crunch Raspberry, White Chocolate & Pistachio Cream and Strawberry, you know it’s going to be good!

Check out their Facebook page for local info.

Pro tip: it’s going to be busy, so expect to wait. Each time we went the line wrapped through the restaurant and out the door, down the street.

Location: 65 Calle de la Fortaleza 00901 San Juan, Puerto Rico

23. Go shopping in Old San Juan

Whether you’re into jewelry or art, cigars or clothing, you’ll find something to love in Old San Juan. There’s plenty of places to look for souvenirs in the city.

Unique, hand-crafted items are a specialty in Old San Juan. You won’t find chain retail stores, either. As you walk the streets of this charming city, you’ll see opportunities to find the perfect collectible to remember your time in Puerto Rico.

Location: find shops all thought out the city

24. Old San Juan sunset cruise (one of the most underrated but excellent Old San Juan attractions)

One of the most unique things to do in Old San Juan is take a sunset cruise. Step aboard a spacious catamaran complete with cocktails as you watch the sun setting on the horizon.

Sail along the coast, getting a unique perspective of the city from the bay. See the Old San Juan Fort while also enjoying the views as the sun sets on the historic city.

The whole experience will make you think you’re living in a time long ago!

Book it now: Old San Juan sunset cruise

Location: 482 Av. Manuel Fernández Juncos, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico (departure point)

25. Visit the museum

Museum de San Juan

The Museo de San Juan is a colorful building with a historic past. In centuries past, it was a marketplace where goods were sold and people would socialize and dine.

Today, the museum includes historical and modern exhibits. And bonus – on weekends you can still find a farmer’s market there!

It’s free to tour the Museum de San Juan, but donations are welcome.

Location: 150 Norzagaray St., San Juan PR 00901

26. Hang out at the Old San Juan Port (Dársenas Square)

The San Juan Port is the modern entrance of San Juan by sea, one that typically draws millions of visitors each year. Situated on the San Juan Bay, this is where you’ll arrive on the island if traveling via cruise ship.

At the entrance of the city, you’ll find the Dársenas Square. It’s a public space with views of the bay and there are a handful of restaurants to visit.

There’s also carnival-style food trucks, vendors selling artisan crafts and street performers in this area, too. It’s a fun place to walk around when vin Old San Juan.

Pro tip: grab a cocktail and some empanadas at La Casita de Rones – delicious!

Location: Cll San Agustin, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico

27. Tour the capitol building (El Capitol de Puerto Rico)

The Capitol of Puerto Rico at Christmastime

If you love history, architecture or politics, you’ll want to see El Capitol de Puerto Rico. The 20+ year construction started in 1907 and was finished in 1929.

Despite many significant storms to the area, the Capitol Building is in impeccable shape. The marble facade is stunning to see in person!

Visitors can take tours of the inside, including seeing the incredible rotunda and dome. Also inside are the chambers for the Senate and House of Representatives.

Location: navigate to El Capitol de Puerto Rico, San Juan, 00902, Puerto Rico

28. See the Quincentennial Plaza

This plaza is one of the most impressive in all of Old San Juan. Built 500 years after Christopher Columbus discovered Puerto Rico, this plaza commemorates that discovery.

Water fountains and several statues reside in the Plaza del Quinto Centenario. However, the most noteworthy is the El Totem Telurico. It’s a 40 foot tall totem pole, created from ceramic, with carvings representing the Taino, or natives of Puerto Rico.

It’s close to the entrance of El Morro, and is a good spot for kids (and adults) to cool down on a hot day.

Location: C. del Cristo, San Juan, 00926, Puerto Rico

Best things to do in Old San Juan – a recap

This architecture though!😍

What a list! Whether you’re in the city for the culture, food, history or beaches, this list of things to do in Old San Juan has something for everyone.

From walking the cobblestone streets on various tours to exploring historic sights or seeing the city from the air, this colorful city has so much going for it!

Let’s recap that list again, in a more succinct fashion…

San Juan Puerto Rico things to do

  1. Visit El Morro
  2. Taste Old San Juan on a food tour
  3. Walk the cobblestone streets
  4. Visit Old San Juan beaches
  5. Enjoy the perfect Pina Colada at it’s birthplace
  6. Take an Old San Juan helicopter tour
  7. Marvel at the old architecture
  8. Popsicles at Señor Paleta
  9. Check out Umbrella Street
  10. See the Capilla del Cristo
  11. Visit the 2nd oldest Cathedral in the Americas
  12. Hang out on the plaza
  13. Get your chocolate fix at Chocobar
  14. Fly a kite
  15. Visit La Perla
  16. Adventure on a day trip to El Yunque
  17. Take a walking tour of Old San Juan
  18. Visit the Rincón de Gautier mural
  19. Immerse yourself in the culture
  20. See the beaches of Isla Verde
  21. Visit Castillo San Cristóbal
  22. Cool off with gelato
  23. Go shopping in Old San Juan
  24. Old San Juan sunset cruise
  25. Visit the museum
  26. Hang out at the Old San Juan Port
  27. Tour the capitol building
  28. See the Quincentennial Plaza

Related content you’ll love:
Ultimate Guide to the Gorgeous Culebra, Puerto Rico
Everything You Need to Know About Flamenco Beach, Puerto Rico
30 Incredible Warm Winter Vacations in the USA
100 Most Romantic Vacations in the United States

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23 San Juan Landmarks & Historical Sites (A Local’s Picks)

There are so many San Juan landmarks worth visiting that you could spend countless hours exploring them alone.  

The oldest city in the United States, there are a ton of historical things to do in San Juan. But how do you know which are the essential historical and cultural landmarks you shouldn’t miss?

Worry not! I’m a Puerto Rico local that’s been to San Juan dozens of times, and I’ve put together a list of the 23 essential San Juan landmarks to visit on your next trip.

Disclosure: Travel Lemming is an independent reader-supported blog. You can support us by purchasing via the affiliate links on this page, which may earn us commissions. Thank you!

23 San Juan Landmarks

Castillo San Felipe del Morro

Reminisce the military history of Spanish Puerto Rico at this historical fortress

📍 Google Maps | San Juan National Historic Site | 👉 Browse Nearby Hotels on Booking or Browse Tours to El Morro

Castillo San Felipe del Morro, simply known as El Morro, is one of the most popular San Juan landmarks. Located at the heart of Old San Juan, Castillo San Felipe del Morro is an attraction for history lovers. The fortress was built in the 16th century to protect San Juan bay from sea attacks. 

Exploring el Morro requires just a few hours of your Puerto Rico itinerary. After visiting, you can spend the rest of the day flying kites in El Morro’s esplanade. 

La Fortaleza

Admire the mix of architectural styles in this historical executive mansion

📍 Google Maps | La Fortaleza | 👉 Browse Nearby Hotels on Booking

La Fortaleza is one of the oldest structures in Old San Juan. Together with Castillo San Felipe del Morro and Castillo San Cristobal, they form a UNESCO World Heritage Site. La Fortaleza was the first fortress built in San Juan to defend the bay between 1533-1540. 

Due to its poor location and lack of resources, the authorities repurposed the building as the governor’s mansion. La Fortaleza was home to almost 170 governors. Being the longest active executive mansion on this side of the hemisphere, La Fortaleza is a must-see for history and architecture enthusiasts.

Check out my Ultimate Guide to La Fortaleza for everything you need to know to plan your visit.

👉 Looking for More Landmarks in Puerto Rico? Check out my list of the top Puerto Rico Landmarks, with main attractions like El Yunque National Forest, Flamenco Beach, the Cabo Rojo Lighthouse, and Parque de Bombas. 

Castillo San Cristóbal

Tour the largest Spanish fortress in the New World

📍 Google Maps | San Juan National Historic Site | 👉 Browse Nearby Hotels on Booking

Castillo San Cristobal is another fortress that belongs to the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Although it’s similar to El Morro, Castillo San Cristobal has its own charm with tunnels, barracks, and canyons. 

Castillo San Cristobal’s purpose was to protect the walled city from land attacks and so it covers more land space than El Morro. This fortress is the largest Spanish fortress in the New World, and it makes a great day trip for families touring the old city. 

San Juan Cathedral

Admire the interior of this imposing cathedral as old as San Juan itself

📍 Google Maps | Catedral San Juan Bautista | 👉 Browse Nearby Hotels on Booking or Book a Tour to San Juan Cathedral

The San Juan Cathedral is almost as old as San Juan itself and is worth a visit for both religious and non-religious people. You can find this beautiful church as soon as you go through the San Juan Gate. 

Built in 1540, the San Juan Cathedral boasts beautiful stained glass windows, arched roofs, and domes. The church is open from Sunday to Friday to visitors. 

Paseo de La Princesa

Stroll through a historical promenade with food kiosks, decorations, and artisans

📍 Google Maps | 👉 Browse Nearby Hotels on Booking or Browse Tours to Paseo de la Princesa

Paseo de La Princesa is one of the most popular places to visit in San Juan. This historical promenade is an open space where couples and families like to spend a nice Sunday evening. 

In Paseo de La Princesa you can find food kiosks, artisans, and even live music during the weekends. During the holidays, Paseo de La Princesa becomes a hot spot for photographers and influencers taking walking tours and snapping pictures with light decorations. 

Raices Fountain

Visit the fountain that celebrates Puerto Rico’s cultural heritage

📍 Google Maps | 👉 Browse Nearby Hotels on Booking or Browse Tours to Raices Fountain

The Raices fountain is located at Paseo de La Princesa, overlooking San Juan Bay. This iconic fountain is one of the most photographed places in Old San Juan. In the fountain, you can see carvings of Taino, Spanish, and African icons, paying homage to the ethnic roots of Puerto Ricans. 

The sunset is one of the best moments to see and admire this fountain and one of the best moments for photographers to snap great shots.

Puerta de San Juan

Cross the same door that important historical figures used to access San Juan

📍 Google Maps | San Juan National Historic Site | 👉 Browse Nearby Hotels on Booking or Browse Tours to La Puerta de San Juan

The San Juan gate is one of the unique landmarks in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. This door is the only one left of the doors that provided access to the walled city. 

Through the San Juan gate, important visitors from Spain entered the city. The San Juan Gate stands out of the walls for its bright red color, with an inscription on top that welcomes visitors.

👉 Did you know? “Benedictus Oui Venit In Nomine Domini”, the Latin inscription on top of the gate, is a welcome message to those that arrived on the island in the name of God. This is one of the many religious monuments you’ll find around San Juan linked to Catholicism and Puerto Rican history.

San José Church

Tour the second oldest church on the American continent

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While the San Juan Cathedral is one of the oldest structures in Old San Juan, San José Church is one of the oldest on the American continent. The San José Church was built in 1532, so it’s as old as La Fortaleza. 

A restoration project kept the Spanish Gothic-style church closed for many years. During that time, workers discovered frescos and murals from the 19th century. History buffs will rave about the architecture, paintings, and statues inside this national treasure.

Casa Blanca

Tour the house of Juan Ponce de Leon in Puerto Rico

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Casa Blanca is one of San Juan and Puerto Rico landmarks that visitors often miss. Hidden across Cuartel Ballajá, Casa Blanca is the oldest fortification built inside the city walls and it was the house of Juan Ponce de Leon. 

Although he couldn’t live in it, his descendants did make use of it. Casa Blanca is nowadays a museum, perfect for people that want to learn how life was in early colonial Puerto Rico. Even if you’re not into history, you’ll love touring the gardens of the house and admiring its unique view of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Capilla del Cristo

Learn the legend behind this small chapel in the middle of a San Juan street

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Capilla del  Cristo is the most unique church in San Juan. Located in the dead end of Calle del Cristo, this small chapel is right in the middle of the street.

Its altar has mostly objects from the 18th century, including paintings from José Campeche. It’s said the church was built after a man fell with his horse over the walls of the city exactly from the spot where the chapel is located. 

La Perla

Explore this beachfront colorful community with hundreds of years of history

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La Perla is a colorful neighborhood located outside the city walls of Old San Juan. It became renowned after the world-famous music video “Despacito”. But, La Perla’s history dates back to the 18th century. Back then, slaves, poor people, and workers of the slaughterhouse formed a community outside the walled city. 

La Perla was a feared community, considered dangerous for many years. Now, it’s a tourist attraction with many things to do for small-town lovers. Some things to do include visiting art galleries, surfing, strolling along the beachfront boardwalk, and enjoying Puerto Rican food at local kiosks.

Plaza de Armas

Visit the main town square of Old San Juan

One of the sculptures you can find in Plaza de Armas

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Plaza de Armas is one of the many plazas you’ll find in Old San Juan. But, unlike the others, Plaza de Armas is right across the city hall. Plaza de Armas inherited its name from times when the Spanish military did exercises in it. 

Despite its military history, Plaza de Armas is now a cultural center. It’s common to see kids feeding pigeons, artists performing, and people taking photos with the sculptures and the fountain.

La Placita de Santurce

Dance and eat all you can in this partying spot in Santurce

(photo: Mark Zhu / Shutterstock)

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One of the best places in San Juan to enjoy Puerto Rican culture is in La Placita de Santurce. This historical structure is home to a typical market during the day, where you can get local Puerto Rican fruits and vegetables cultivated in the island’s land. 

But, at night, locals flood the multiple food kiosks, restaurants, and bars, turning La Placita into a joyous Puerto Rican club. If you want to practice your salsa dancing skills, look no further than La Placita de Santurce.

Luis Muñoz Rivera Park

Enjoy the outdoors with your family in this relaxing park

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The Luis Muñoz Rivera Park is located right across Escambrom Beach at the entrance of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. This lovely park is ideal for couples and friends who just want to walk, take cool social media pictures, and enjoy a refreshing drink. 

The park is also ideal for kids that want to run on skates or bicycles. Sometimes, you’ll find festivals or salsa dancing classes in Pabellón de la Paz, the largest gazebo to the east of the park.

Cuartel de Ballajá

Get lost in this mesmerizing building with a hidden green roof

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Cuartel Ballajá is one of the most iconic landmarks in San Juan. Once the military barracks, this unique building now hosts Museo de las Americas. Museo de las Americas is a top Puerto Rico museum that celebrates the Taino, Spanish and African heritage of the American continent. 

You will also find Puerto Rican coffee shops, restaurants, and dance schools in this building. Although it isn’t open to the public yet, Cuartel Ballaja also hides a green roof on its top, perfect for seeing Puerto Rico’s coast and escaping the rush of Old San Juan.  

Plaza Las Américas

Shop in the second largest mall in Latin America

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Not every landmark in San Juan is historical, and Plaza Las Americas is proof of it. This giant shopping mall is a popular destination where Puerto Ricans like to gather. Plaza Las Americas is home to chain restaurants like Cheesecake Factory, P.F. Changs, and Chili’s. 

It’s also home to popular department stores like Macy’s, JCPenney, Sears, and Marshalls. More than a shopping mall, Plaza Las Americas is an entertainment center with something to do for everyone in the family.

Condado Lagoon

Kayak or paddleboard in a calm lagoon where you can see manatees

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The Condado Lagoon is the perfect San Juan landmark for watersports enthusiasts. It’s common to see people kayaking or paddleboarding around the body of water.  

Adrenaline seekers can try joining the locals that jump from Dos Hermanos, San Antonio, and Guillermo bridges into the lagoon. Occasionally it’s possible to see manatees popping out to get some air before going back underwater.

Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery

This cemetery outside the city walls will make you feel like you’re at an outdoor museum

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Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis is one of the top things to do in San Juan. While a cemetery is an unusual vacation destination, this historical cemetery offers a unique walk through a sculpture garden and a unique perspective of El Morro. 

From angels to crying women in veils, the statues boast great detail you would expect to see inside a museum. Most of Puerto Rico’s famous residents have their final resting place in Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis. 

El Capitolio

Tour a palace of laws that faces the coast of the Puerto Rican island

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El Capitolio, or the capitol, is where most of the politics take place in Puerto Rico. Despite its looks, the Capitol building was built in the 1920s and is young in comparison with everything else in Old San Juan. 

Even if politics aren’t your main interest, you’ll find breathtaking mosaics and murals that highlight Puerto Rico’s history inside El Capitolio.

Calle Loiza

Eat, drink, and party at this popular street in San Juan

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Calle Loíza is a great example of a San Juan landmark that is not as old as El Morro, but that many locals love and visit. Calle Loiza refers to a street that connects San Juan to Carolina. This street is home to bars, restaurants, food kiosks, stores, and clubs. 

If you visit Puerto Rico searching for the best partying spots, Calle Loíza should be part of your itinerary. A block away from Calle Loíza you can also find Ocean Park Beach.

El Convento Hotel

Stay at a historical hotel that was once a convent

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El Convento is one of Puerto Rico’s luxury hotels and one of the most famous landmarks for its historical value. El Convento is located across from the San Juan’s Cathedral, and even if you’re not staying at this San Juan hotel, you should pay a visit to its building. 

Considered the oldest historic hotel in America, El Convento was built in 1646. Originally, this building was a Carmelite convent until 1903.  Nowadays the luxury hotel has 58 guest rooms, a pool, and a restaurant, but it still keeps its Spanish Colonial architecture.

The Black Flag

Pose with the iconic Black Puerto Rican flag

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The black Puerto Rican flag is much younger than most historical Puerto Rico landmarks, but it still represents an important moment in Puerto Rico’s history. Located in Calle San José, a group of artists from Artistas Solidarixs en Resistencia painted the black flag in 2016. 

This flag was in protest against the PROMESA law which established a federal fiscal board in Puerto Rico. The flag is a popular stop for both Puerto Ricans and tourists.

Escambron Beach

Bathe in the enchanting waters of the Atlantic Ocean

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Although Playa Flamenco in the Caribbean Sea is the ultimate dream beach for beach buffs, San Juan also boasts top-notch beaches you will love. 

Escambron Beach is located at the entrance of Old San Juan’s islet and is one of the best beaches in Puerto Rico. The beach boasts turquoise waters, soft sand, facilities, and wide parking. Besides swimming in the Atlantic Ocean, Escambron Beach hides corals reefs you can explore snorkeling. 

FAQs About San Juan Landmarks

What is the most significant historical site in San Juan?

The most significant historical sites in San Juan include Castillo San Felipe del Morro, La Fortaleza, San Cristobal Castle, and San Juan Gate. All of these landmarks are part of the San Juan National Historic site and some date back to the 16th century.  

What is San Juan known for?

San Juan is known for its historical district called Old San Juan. This part of the capital city is home to Spanish colonial houses, churches, palaces, and military fortresses like Castillo San Felipe del Morro. Most of these structures are well-preserved and some are among the oldest structures on the American continent. 

***

Now you know the best landmarks in San Juan you shouldn’t miss while touring the famous cobblestone streets during your next Puerto Rico visit. Up next, check out my guide to the best activities to do in Puerto Rico.

Have fun exploring San Juan’s historical sites!

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fire festival in Spain on the night of June 23-24

At the end of June, the Spaniards celebrate Midsummer Day — La Fiesta de San Juan. On the night of 23 to 24, in some places from 24 to 25 June, there is a festival that has changed over the centuries and depending on the region of Spain. The Church celebrates on this day the birth of John the Baptist, which took place 6 months before the birth of Christ.

Historians associate the holiday with pagan rites in honor of the summer solstice, although the shortest night of the year comes 2 days earlier, from 21 to 22 June. Nevertheless, the rites and traditions of the peoples of the Iberian Peninsula survived and the night of San Juan acquired the magic of the pagan holidays of the summer solstice.

The rites that take place on this night revolve around three elements:

  • Fire: bonfires celebrate the power of the sun and renew energy. The custom comes from ancient pagan cults that seek to scare away evil spirits and cleanse the world of evil and disease.
  • Water: symbolizes fertility and purity. Bathing naked in the dew, according to pagan priests, brings health, helps to find a partner or have children. Modern Spaniards believe that from midnight the water is miraculous, cures diseases and brings happiness.
  • Earth: after midnight, people go out to the fields for medicinal herbs, and then hang bouquets over the windows to receive the blessing of St. John.

This night is filled with joy and hope, good omens, good luck and positive energy. The bad and the negative are burned in the fires of San Juan and give way to the good and the positive.

Feast of San Juan in the regions of Spain

Andalusia

In the province of Cadiz, fires are lit on the beaches and rag dolls of juana are burned. In Almeria and Malaga, in addition to maintaining the flame of bonfires, women wash themselves with midnight water in order to wake up beautiful in the morning.

The Water and Jamon Festival takes place in Lanjarón in the province of Granada on the weekend closest to 24 June. At midnight, from 23 to 24, city residents run through the streets and pour all the water they find along the way on themselves, neighbors pour water on the race participants from windows and balconies. In the morning after the race, participants are treated to jamon free of charge. In addition, costumed parades and fairs take place on the streets during the week.

In Algeciras, on June 23, rag dolls with wish lists sewn inside are set up on the beaches. At midnight, the effigies are set on fire and the night is filled with bonfires and fireworks.

Balearic Islands

The El Jaleo tradition was born in Menorca. The name is translated as noisy fun, confusion, revival. Riders dressed in black and white head towards the center of the city. In the central square, riders ride through the crowd, demonstrating their skills in controlling the animal. Under a repeated short piece called «haleo», the rider puts the horse on two legs, transferring the weight to the hindquarters.

Those standing nearby put their hands on the sides of the animal to help balance and take a few steps. At the festival, they drink gin with lemonade, they light fires in the squares and dance. At midnight, a purification ritual is performed with the help of fire. A piece of paper on which a wish list has been written is thrown into the fire. While the paper is burning, the flame is jumped over three times. If a fire is made on the beach, three coins are thrown into the sea, with their backs to the water.

Canary Islands

On the night of June 23-24, bonfires are lit on the islands of the archipelago, around which they have fun until the morning. In the fishing villages of the northern part of Tenerife, domestic goats are bathed in sea water at dawn to protect them from disease.
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria was founded in 1478 on the day of San Juan. Therefore, the celebrations stretch for a whole week.

In addition to the bonfires on the beaches, there are free outdoor concerts and fireworks in Playa de las Canteras.

Cantabria

In Cantabria, the original customs of this night are still preserved: jumping over fires, walking on coals, dancing around the flames and carrying fire across the fields to protect the crops. On the night of San Juan, a branch of poplar or alder is decorated with flowers and placed on the window of the girl she likes. In addition, a tree is placed in the center of the city, with ribbons, and bouquets.

According to legend, Caballucos de Diablo, huge dragonflies with demon riders appear at midnight and destroy joy and happiness. To avoid an attack, you need to find a clover leaf and keep it with you.

Castile and León

In Zamora, holidays are celebrated with garlic fairs, folk pottery, concerts and folk dances in the main square. In the province of Soria, in the town of San Pedro Manrique, the townspeople walk barefoot along a path of red-hot coals.

In Valladolid, the night of San Juan is celebrated mainly on Moreras beach. Locals gather around bonfires and write wishes down on paper. At midnight, the sheets are thrown into the fire. The festival is accompanied by concerts and gastronomic fairs.

Castile-La Mancha

In Albacete, the peak of the holiday falls on June 24 and on the night of San Juan. A procession with torches goes from the town hall to the Fairgrounds, where the fire of San Juan is lit, into which old things and rubbish are thrown. This is followed by fireworks and festivities until the morning.

Catalonia

In Catalonia, the holiday is called the Night of Fire — Nit del Foc, the Night of the Witches — Nit de les Bruixes or the Night of the Dew — Nit del Ros. Volunteers take the fire that has been burning since 1965 in the kitchen of the Casa Pairal Museum in Perpigna Castle and climb to the top of Canigó, 2784 meters high. They light a new fire, and at dawn on June 23 they descend with a renewed Flame.

Thus begins the annual journey of fire for the Festival of Saint John in different parts of Catalonia. Parties with drinks and dances are arranged around the fires, firecrackers and fireworks are blown up.

Valencian Community, Alicante.

The holiday dates back to the time when farmers celebrated the longest day of the year for harvesting and the shortest night for wiping out evil. The first street parties with games, music and the first puppets caricatures of the vices of society appeared in Alicante in 1881. From 1932 years there were competitions for the best doll and the most beautiful representative of the neighborhood community.

Now the Bonfires of San Juan Alicante have been declared an object of international tourist interest. The festival starts on the first Friday of June. From the 14th to the 20th, sculptural compositions are installed that carry a satirical message. On the night of June 24-25, the dolls are burned. Fireworks are launched from Santa Barbara Castle, which is visible from anywhere in the city.

Extremadura

Coria, province of Cáceres, celebrates Sanjuanes, which has been declared a Festival of National Tourist Interest at 1976 year. On June 23, 12 bulls are driven through Plaza Mayor, the main square, as they pass by the firewood set for the fire. From the 24th, 2-3 bulls are released into the streets of the city for 5 days.

Daredevils try their luck by running in front of animals. In 2019, a bullfight was added to the celebrations. The final of the national competition of bullfighting schools «Ciudad de Coria» takes place on 29 June. In the Olivenza region, in the province of Badajoz, dolls made from straw and rags are burned to destroy the annoyances and problems of the past year.

Galicia

Fire, water and herbs of San Juan are worshiped in Galicia. This autonomous community is dominated by summer solstice-oriented celebrations and variants related to Celtic mythology. Bonfires are lit in every yard, square and quarter. On the night of June 24, Galicia looks like a territory of thousands of fiery points.

A Coruña

The holiday received the right to be called a festival of international tourist interest in 2015. The people of A Coruña celebrate the arrival of summer with bonfires, grilled sardines and fireworks. On June 23, costumed processions, a parade of giant puppets and orchestra performances take place in the city. The fire is lit at 10 pm on the 24th. To gain health and good luck, the inhabitants of La Coruña jump over fires.

Nine leaps above the flame guarantee success in business, and nine sea waves promise the birth of a child in the coming year. A typical holiday drink, Keimada, is made with fruit brandy and lots of sugar.

Basque Country

June 24th for the Basque city of Tholos is festive processions and dinners. In the morning, communities of neighbors prepare meals for dancers, pipers, flute players, and participants in the Parade of the Giants. At 10:30 the procession arrives at Church Square. At 11:00, the mass ends in the Cathedral, the image of St. John is taken out and installed on the main gate of the church.

Giant figures with puppeteers inside dance to the sound of bagpipes and flutes. After a volley of guns, the procession makes a circle through the streets of the city and arrives at the Town Hall Square, where a festive dinner begins for the participants of the festival and the inhabitants of Tholos.

What do the Spaniards think and ask for on the night of San Juan

The San Juan festival began as a pagan holiday. The inhabitants thanked the gods and spirits of nature for the summer, harvest, fruits and for the increase in daylight hours. Rituals are popular in our time.

Fulfillment of wishes

Place an ivy branch and white paper with a wish under the pillow. Before going to bed, light a white candle, let it burn out. Add wax to paper and ivy and go to bed. In the morning, burn the paper and bury the ashes to make the wish come true.

Attracting economic well-being

Wait until there is neither moon nor sun in the sky and go picking vervain. It protects from evil, brings good luck in money matters.

Attracting good luck in love and wealth

On the night of San Juan, go looking for clover. The two-leaf will attract a loved one, the three-leaf will protect love. A four-leaf clover will bring wealth, and a five-leaf clover will bring good luck in financial affairs and protect against ruin.

Help in finding love

Light two red candles in the bedroom. Write your name and the name of the person you want to involve on a piece of paper. Fold the leaf and seal with wax. Boil a decoction of three parts yarrow, three parts lavender, three parts verbena, 12 red rose petals, and one part ginger. Spray the room with cooled infusion. Put paper under your pillow and go to bed. This night you will have a prophetic dream about the near future.

Choosing the right groom

Fill a basin with water and place it under the bed. Put folded sheets of paper with the names of applicants in it. The next morning, the sheet with the desired name will be expanded.

Protection from troubles and misfortunes

Place seven red candles on a surface covered with a red cloth. Fire one after the other. Name out loud the seven virtues you attract: energy, magnetism, passion, love, courage, prosperity, and protection. Write these words on paper. Let the candles burn to the end.

Make a paper envelope with a photo and a list. Go to the fire, take the ashes and put them in an envelope, seal with wax and keep for a year in a red cardboard box.

San Juan Cruise Port. Old san juan Old films produced by san juan puerto rico

It is believed that Christopher Columbus visited this place in 1493, and the city of San Juan was founded by Spanish colonists at the beginning of the 16th century. This is the second of the oldest cities in America founded by Europeans. Among the main attractions are the 16th-century forts of San Felipe del Morro. and San Cristobal of the 17th century. The construction of fortifications was justified by the fact that San Juan was a major port where Spanish merchant and military ships called, and in those days attacks by the British (three times), Dutch and Americans were often made. San Juan was only occupied at the end of the Spanish–American War, and Spain ceded the island to America.

What to see

The city has many wonderful squares and parks, including the Pigeon Park, which is located on the site of the old city wall. The fortification of Fortales in the 19th century became the governor’s palace.

Among the most significant buildings in San Juan is the Cathedral of St. John. St. Joseph’s Church is a former monastery church, the second of the oldest Catholic churches in the Western Hemisphere. In San Juan and the suburbs there are many restaurants, nightclubs.

Don’t miss

  • The cobblestones and ornate mansions of old San Juan.
  • Pablo Casals Museum — hundreds of audio and video recordings of the world-famous cellist are at your service. Casals lived in Puerto Rico all his life until his death in 1973.
  • Bacardi Factory (so-called Roma Chair) — Guided tours in English and Spanish. Free Bacardi Tasting!
  • Isla Verde.
  • Ocean Park.

Things to know

Puerto Rico is a self-governing commonwealth controlled by the United States.

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San Juan Attractions

1. Old San Juan

Showcasing almost 500 years of history on the streets of old San Juan (San Juan Viejo) is a real window into the past, here you will see historic forts and Spanish colonial architecture, churches and old squares that still remember how the Spanish conquistadors walked on them crowns. Old San Juan is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is the second oldest city in South America and the oldest city under the US protectorate.

Old San Juan — Seven historic squares and over 400 beautifully restored 16th and 17th century colonial buildings now mostly occupied by antiques and souvenir shops catering to tourists from all over the world, as well as restaurants, museums and hotels . You can not take a guided tour, but just wander the streets, admiring the ancient architecture and enjoy the atmosphere of the old city.

2. Fort San Cristobal

Fort San Cristobal rightfully competes with Fort El Morro for the title of San Juan’s most atmospheric historical attraction. If the fort of El Morro protected the city from the sea, then the fortress of San Cristobal from the land.
San Cristobal is larger than El Morro and is also the largest fort built by the Spanish crown in the New World. Fortress
has five independent blocks connected by a moat and a tunnel, each of which is designed for a separate defense.
The fort was built between 1634 and 1790 years to guard the eastern gate to the city.

3. San Juan Cathedral

Built in 1540, San Juan Cathedral is known as one of the oldest cathedrals in the Americas and one of the oldest buildings in the city.
The interior of the cathedral, with its black and white checkered floor tiles and yellow decor, is surprisingly rich.
The body of the great Spanish explorer and conquistador, founder of the first European settlement on the island and discoverer of Florida, Ponce de Leon, is buried in a marble tomb in the cathedral.

4. La Fortaleza

La Fortaleza was built in 1540 as a fortress against Indians and other invaders. She was captured twice, first by the Earl of Cumberland in 1598 and then by the Dutch led by Bowdin Hendrick in 1625. Over time, La Fortaleza lost its military importance and became the seat of the governors of Puerto Rico, a role it still retains today. La Fortaleza is the oldest governor’s residence still in use in the Western Hemisphere, with over 150 governors living or staying here. The building itself has undergone many changes over its long history.

5. Museum of Contemporary Art of Puerto Rico

Established in 1984, this museum is the place to discover the best works of the most famous Latin American artists in contemporary art. The museum’s surprisingly good collection, for such a small island, consists of paintings, sculptures, graphics and installations.

6. San Jose Church

The Church of San José was built by Dominican friars in 1532, making it one of the earliest examples of Spanish Gothic architecture in South America. Unlike the Cathedral of San Juan, this church is small, with a modest façade, but the vaulted interior gives it an airy feel. For nearly 300 years, the Spanish conquistador Ponce de León was buried here until his body was transferred to the Cathedral of San Juan in 1913 year.

7. San Juan Cemetery

Situated along the coast on a high bluff adjacent to Fort El Morro, this is a beautiful cemetery in the city of San Juan. Note the beautiful tombstones in the Spanish colonial style, the red-domed neoclassical chapel dedicated to Mary Magdalene and the magnificent view of the city and El Morro Fort.

Old San Juan, or as the locals call it El Vejo San Juan, is located on the western tip of a rocky peninsula at the mouth of San Juan Bay. Traveling to Puerto Rico, you simply must visit Old San Juan with its cobbled streets, which are covered with blue stone from the furnace scale and keep the secrets of the history of this amazing city.

Architectural features

Old San Juan is full of buildings and structures from the 16th and 17th centuries, which today are a National Historic Site and a starting point for tourists. This city is more like a museum, which contains buildings with ancient architecture. The most famous area is the Plaza del Cinto Centenario, which has preserved examples of the colonial style in the western part of the city. The narrow and winding streets are paved with blocks called «adekines». The elegant façades of the buildings and their balconies with lattices entwined with flowers take passers-by back to the time of the classics of Spanish literature. On the northern side of Old San Juan, fortifications made of stone stretch, forming, together with the forts, a strong defensive system that once protected the locals from the raids of French, Dutch and British corsairs. Over time, many buildings were destroyed, and only the ramparts of San Cristobal, El Morro and the walls of La Muraglia remained intact. However, even these buildings testify to the power and former grandeur of the fortress.

Excursion tour

Old San Juan is considered the main cultural attraction of the resort of Puerto Rico. Docks for cruise ships stretch along the entire waterfront of the city. This is where the walking tour should start. To the left of the pier is the Plaza de la Darsena, which houses the tourist information center, the center of artisans with their work, and here you can also see the schedule of cruise ships that make daily sea voyages and walks along the surrounding beaches.

Other attractions in El Vejo San Juan include:

  • Casablanca, built in 1523 as the residence of the Spanish conquistador Pense de Leon;
  • Dominican convent, which today houses the Institute of Culture;
  • City Hall;
  • La Fortaleza, erected in 1540 as the residence of the governor of the island;
  • San Juan Cathedral;
  • La Princesa — a neoclassical building that was built in 1837 as a prison, and today it is a fine exhibition hall of works by local artists;
  • La Rogativa — an amazing sculptural group erected in 1797 to commemorate the salvation of the city from British troops;
  • Museum of Colonial Architecture;
  • San Cristobal Fort and Fuerte San Felipe del Moro, both designated National Historic Landmarks and UNESCO World Heritage Sites;
  • Delas Palomas — now a pigeon sanctuary;
  • Plaza de Armas — the main square of the Old City with four monuments representing the seasons;
  • El Convento is one of the most luxurious

San Juan Botanical Garden is also called the University of Puerto Rico Botanical Garden. It is an educational center for scientific research and a place for excellent rest and relaxation. Its territory, with an area of ​​121 hectares, serves to study and preserve more than 30 thousand local and exotic plants, trees, flowers.

The Botanical Garden is located in the center of the capital of Puerto Rico, the city of San Juan, in the northeast of the island. The idea of ​​creating such a place was voiced back in 1959, but only on March 10, 1971, the garden was officially opened. In 1991, the first visitors were able to enjoy the beauty of its botanical collections, lakes, waterfalls, cozy roads and sidewalks, allowing a better appreciation of native and tropical flora. The territory is divided into two parts — northern and southern, the latter contains most of the sights. In the south you can see the garden of heliconias, orchids, palms, herbarium.

Entrance to the botanical garden is free from 6 am to 6 pm.

Coordinates
: 18.38778300,-66. 05554200

Museum of the Book

Museum of the Book in San Juan, dedicated to the history of the book, where you can see the most valuable printed copies in all of Puerto Rico.

The Book Museum is located in Old San Juan, in northern Puerto Rico. Today it presents many rare editions of books, medieval manuscripts written on parchment, manuscripts dating from the 12th-17th centuries. The most valuable are two documents signed by the Catholic Monarchs in 1493 year, which are considered the oldest in all of America. From the end of October 2013, it is planned to open a new exhibition dedicated to the 55th anniversary of the founding of the House of Books.

Its history begins in 1955, when a group of citizens founded the community «Friends of Calla del Cristo», one of the goals of which was to create a specialized library of the best printed publications over the centuries. The best specialist in this field, Elmer Adler, was involved in organizing the library. Under his leadership, books were bought with public and private funds, and after a while the dream of this community became a reality.

Book House is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 11.00 to 16.30. Free admission.

Coordinates
: 18.46427100,-66.11758900

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Market Square

Market Square is located in Puerto Rico, the city of San Juan. More precisely, in its old part. The area has existed for almost a century. On its territory there are markets, shops, museums. Festivals are also held here from time to time.

Markets sell fresh farm produce, herbs, bread, delicacies and more. There are cozy restaurants and cafes on the square, where it is especially interesting to sit in the evening. Around them are beautiful architectural buildings. Near the central building there are large sculptures in the form of avocados. On this square, you can fully experience the life and traditions of the city. Local stalls sell handicrafts of extraordinary beauty and you can even chat with the locals.

Coordinates
: 18.44150700,-66.04742800

Church of Christ the Savior or Chapel of Christ, built in the late 18th century, on top of one of the city’s defensive walls. This is one of the most beautiful and fascinating sights of Old San Juan, and today it is over 250 years old.

The Church of Christ the Savior is located at the south end of Via del Cristo, near the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista, in the western part of San Juan. Legend has it that the temple on this site was built for a reason. In 1753, a young man raced, but lost control of the horse, and it rushed into the abyss. The city secretary, Don Mateo Prats, asked Christ to have mercy on the boy’s life, and his prayer was answered. The young man, to express his gratitude, began to build this chapel in the same year. The Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Old San Juan is a building with an amazing history and a must see when traveling around San Juan.

Coordinates
: 18.46392800,-66.11769400

San Jose Church

San Jose Church, built in Old San Juan in 1532, is the second oldest church in all of America. This temple is one of the few surviving examples of 16th-century Spanish Gothic architecture in the Western Hemisphere.

San José Church is located in the historical part of the city of San Juan, in the north of Puerto Rico. The land on which the temple was built was donated by Governor Don Juan Ponce de Leon, who was the first to be buried here. First, the Dominican Order built the monastery of St. Thomas Aquinas on it, then it was renamed by the Jesuits who settled here in 1865. The first governor of Puerto Rico, Juan Ponce de León, was buried in the crypt of the temple in 1559year, but in 1836 his remains were transferred to the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista. Under the floor in the Church of San José is still a crypt where the grandson of Juan Ponce de Leon is buried, as well as the famous artist José Campeche. The Temple of San José is not in the best condition today, it has been closed for 13 years.

Coordinates
: 18.46918900,-66.12280400

Mary Magdalene Cemetery

The Mary Magdalene Cemetery in the city of San Juan was named after Saint Mary Magdalene de Pazzi. It is the burial place of many famous natives of the city and its inhabitants. It began to be built in 1863 with the support of Ignacio Mascaro.

The cemetery is located in the historical part of the city of Old San Juan, in the north of Puerto Rico. It is located outside the walls of the San Felipe del Morro citadel, the city’s most famous landmark. The average height of the walls is 12 meters, and the width is from four and a half to six meters. Many prominent personalities are buried in the cemetery in San Juan — Jose Ferrer, the first Latin American actor to win an Oscar, Pedro Salinas, a Spanish poet, Rafael Hernandez Marin, a famous musician, Jose de Acosta, a famous historian. The cemetery was built near the Atlantic Ocean as a symbol of the spiritual journey after death.

Coordinates
: 18.46950400,-66.11977800

Grand Turk

Old City — a place of shopping streets — everything is here: gold, diamonds, clothes, souvenir shops. There were a lot of tourists here. But there were places where it was quiet and deserted.

Are you curious to know how well you know the sights of San Juan? .

Cathedral of San Juan Bautista

Cathedral of San Juan Bautista is a Roman Catholic church in San Juan, the oldest building in the entire city and the second oldest church in all of America, after the Cathedral of Santa Maria la Menor in Dominican Republic. It is the seat of the Archbishop of San Juan.

The cathedral is located in the western part of the city of San Juan, on Calle del Cristo, in the north of Puerto Rico. The first original temple building made of wood, built in 1521, was destroyed by a hurricane, so a new cathedral was built in its place in 1540.

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