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Yes, It’s old and yes some areas are in need of some tender love and care, but without a shadow of a doubt Old San Juan is a MUST SEE for any one visiting Puerto Rico.
Old San Juan offers something for everyone: Awesome views, beautiful architecture and sculptures, historical sites, museums, plazas (great for people watching), restaurants for all tastes, bars and nightclubs to dance the night away. Kids can even fly a kite (chiringas, min anm)on the grounds in front of El Morro (El Morro fortet längst ut på udden av Viejo San Juan som är byggt på 1500-talet och ett av världsarven). You certainly won’t be stuck for things to do.
Getting to Old San Juan:
If you are not staying in Old San Juan the easiest way to get there from Condado / Isla Verde is by taxi. If you decide to drive, there are a couple of multi-storey car parks and an open air car park near the cruise ship piers, as well as an underground car park close to El Morro Fort. This map of Old San Juan details the locations of the car parks, along with the major sights to see.
What’s the best way to see the city?
A walking tour of Old San Juan is by far the best way to see the city. You will find it relatively easy to walk around the narrow cobbled streets, though being built on a hill and in the tropics it can get quite hot, so make sure you take plenty of fluids during your tour.
If you don’t feel like walking all around Old San Juan, then let the free trolley service take the weight of your feet. You can take the trolley up to both forts (just make sure you take the trolley marked El Morro). If you are feeling a little bit more adventurous, but still do not want to walk every where; then take a segway tour of Old San Juan
How long should I spend in Old San Juan?
How long do you have… You can easily spend a couple of days exploring all that Old San Juan has to offer, but even with just a few hours you can get a taste of this beautiful city.
What are the highlights of Old San Juan?
Must sees include:
- The 2 forts El Morro and San Cristobel (if you are short on time then pick one. El Morro is my personal favorite)
- San Juan Cathedral
- Paseo La Princesa promenade (which leads to the San Juan Gate)
- Cristo Street
- South Forlazela Street
In order to make it easier to locate the various attractions, this list has been broken down by plaza. If you have a favorite place that is not listed, please add it to the comments section at the end of the article.
Plaza San José1. Plaza San José
Said to be the oldest of the plazas in Old San Juan. The plaza is named after the San José church that is close by.
2. Casa Blanca
Built for Ponce de Leon, now a museum for mid 16th century life
End of Sebastian Street
Open daily (except Sunday / Monday)
3. El Morro Fort
Guarding the entrance to San Juan Bay – 6 level fort, now maintained by the National Park Services. This is one of the most spectacular buildings here in Old San Juan.
Open Daily: 9am – 5pm (June to November) and 9am – 6pm (December – May)
End of Norzagaray Street Website: www.nps.gov/saju/ 787-729-6777
4. Kite Flying at El Morro
As well as touring El Morro, you can also enjoy the areas outside the fort too. The grass land in front of El Morro is a popular spot for families on a weekend. Weather permitting you will see people of all ages flying kites on the sea breeze. If you would like to fly a kite, just check with the roadside street vendors as they usually have kites available for a few dollars
5. Museum of African Roots
Highlighting Puerto Rico’s African heritage Open daily (except Sunday / Monday)
San Jose Plaza 787-724-4294
6. Museum of the Americas
Highlighting the islands African and Indigenous heritage Open daily (except Sunday / Monday)
End of Norzagaray Street 787-724-5052
7. National Gallery
Showcases Puerto Rico art from the 1800’s to 1960’s. Includes artists such as Jose Campeche and Francisco Oller Open daily (except Sunday / Monday)
98 Norzagaray Street 787-725-2670
8. Pablo Casals Museum
Memorabilia of the famous cellists life Open daily (except Sunday / Monday)
San Jose Plaza 787-723-9185
9. San José church
Located just by the plaza it is currently undergoing renovations.
10. San Juan Cemetery
Final resting place of several famous Puerto Ricans. Located next to El Morro Fort
11. San Juan Museum
Showcases the history and culture of Puerto Rico Open daily (except Sunday / Monday)
12. San Sebastian Street in January
Famous street festival takes place here in January – San Juan’s answer to Mardi Gras.
Plaza de Armas13. Plaza de Armas
Name is derived from the military defense drills that were carried out there
14. Casa del Libro
Showcases rare and precious books
255 Cristo Street Open daily (except Sunday / Monday)
Webiste: www.lacasadellibro.org/ (Spanish) 787-723-0354
15. Casa de Ramon Power y Giralt
Showcases the works of Puerto Rico’s Conservation Trust
155 Tetuan Street. Open daily (except Sunday / Monday). 787-722-5882
16. Children’s Museum (Museo del Nino)
Interactive exhibits on 3 different floors. Children can learn about TV reporting, caring for animals as well as things like recycling and Space exploration. Focused on children under 15 years of age.
150 Calle Cristo Street
Open Tuesday – Thursday 9am – 3:30pm, Friday 9am – 5pm, Saturday & Sunday 12:30 – 5pm
There is an admission fee $7. Website: www.museodelninopr.org/ (Spanish). 787-722-3791
17. Cristo Chapel
Small chapel dedicated to the Christ of Miracles. Lower end of Cristo Street
18. Shopping on Cristo Street
Looking for a place to shop. Check out Cristo Street; known for its designer outlet shops such as Coach, Ralph Lauren and more.
19. La Fortaleza
Now home to the Governor of Puerto Rico. Tours are available of the grounds. Open daily
Website: www.fortaleza.gobierno.pr/ 787-721-7000 ext 2211
20. Pigeon Park
Small park where you can see awesome views of San Juan Bay and also feed the pigeons
Close to Cristo Chapel
21. San Juan Cathedral
Last resting place of Ponce de Leon. Daily mass in Spanish
Website: www.catedralsanjuan.com/ 787-722-0861
22. San Juan City Hall
Built after the city hall in Madrid. Now has a gallery room and information center
Open weekdays. Gallery open daily (except Sunday / Monday). 787-724-7171 ext 2000
23. San Juan Gate
Last remaining gate that was built into the massive defensive walls that protect the city of Old San Juan. Gate is closed at night
Plaza de Armas24. Plaza de Armas
Small plaza overlooking San Juan bay
25. Casa Don Q
Small museum highlighting the history of the Serralles rum making family and Don Q rum – free samples available. Paseo Gilberto Concepcion de Garcia. Open Friday – Wednesday
26. La Casita
Home to the Tourist Information Center. Lower end of San Justo Street
Open daily. 787-722-1709
27. La Princesa
A former jail is now home to the Puerto Rico Tourism Company. Now has an art gallery
Paseo La Princesa. Open weekdays. 787-721-2400
28. Old Harbor Brewery
The only micro-brewery in Puerto Rico. Website: oldharborbrewery.com/
29. Paseo La Princesa
Promenade that follows the San Juan Bay and the city walls. Takes you to the San Juan Gate.
Plaza Colon30. Plaza Colon
The plaza now honors Christopher Columbus and center stage is a statue of the explorer.
31. Le Lo Lai Music and Dance Show
This is a local music and dance show set in the grounds of San Cristobel fort. Every Tuesday at 6pm
San Cristobel Fort
Start of Norzagaray. Website: www.nps.gov/saju/ 787-729-6777
32. Pharmacy Museum and Museum of 19 Century Puerto Rican Family
Fortaleza Street, corner of Callejon de Capilla. Open daily (except Sunday / Monday)
33. SoFo District
South end of Fortaleza Street is know for its numerous fine restaurants and also a yearly food festival.
34. San Cristobel Fort
5 independent units connected by tunnels. Impressive structure that can be seen when you arrive in Old San Juan by car. Maintained by the National Parks Service.
Located at the start of Norzagaray Open daily: 9am – 5pm (June to November) and 9am – 6pm (December – May). Website: www.nps.gov/saju/. 787-729-6777
35. Tapia Theater
The theater is over 170 years old and is named after local playwright, Alejandro Tapia.
Located at Fortaleza Street, corner of O’Donnell
Other attractions:36. Captain Duck Tour
Take a land and water tour of San Juan with this amphibious bus tour
Webiste: www.captainduck.com/. 787-725-0077
37. Free WiFi in Plaza’s around Old San Juan
If you feel the need to be connected with the internet while wandering around Old San Juan, you should be able to pick up a wifi signal at most of the plazas in Old san Juan.
38. Horse and Carriage Rides
Tour the city on board a horse drawn carriage – tours of varying lengths are avilable and start close to the tourist information office at the La Casita.
39. Night Tales of Old San Juan with Legends of PR
Take a tour of Old San Juan after the sun goes down. Website: www.legendsofpr.com/nighttales.htm
40. Rumba Boat
Operates Thursday to Sunday evenings. Tour the San Juan bay to the sounds of Latin music
Tel: 787-375-5211 or 787-263-2962
41. Segway Tour of Old San Juan
Tour the major attractions of Old San Juan on a Segway. Website: www.segwaytourspr.com/