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May 23 2024


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Explore the Old San Juan: Exciting Things To Do!

Imagine yourself strolling through the vibrant, cobblestone streets of Old San Juan, surrounded by colorful buildings, historic forts, and the sound of salsa music echoing through the air. This charming Puerto Rican city is a treasure trove of history, culture, and cuisine - a true paradise for any traveler. Ready to embark on an unforgettable journey and explore Old San Juan, discovering fun and exciting things to do? Let’s dive in!

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Short Summary

  • Discover the wonders of Old San Juan: explore El Morro, stroll through cobblestone streets, uncover history at Castillo San Cristóbal and marvel at La Fortaleza’s beauty.
  • Indulge in local cuisine, sip on a piña colada where it all began and visit intriguing attractions such as the cemetery and colorful La Perla community.
  • Take day trips to El Yunque National Forest or Condado & Isla Verde for stunning beaches & nightlife, learn about Puerto Rican art at Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, capture memories with photography!

Discover the Wonders of El Morro

Step back in time as you visit El Morro, a 16th-century citadel perched on the edge of San Juan Bay. With its impressive Spanish architecture and panoramic views of the azure waters, El Morro is a must-visit attraction in Old San Juan. Wander through its six levels, featuring dungeons, storerooms, barracks, ramps, and towers, and imagine the fort’s role in defending San Juan’s harbor.

Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the old garitas, or sentry boxes, that dot El Morro’s walls. These iconic symbols of Puerto Rico’s history once served as lookout points for soldiers guarding the city.

And if you’re up for a leisurely stroll, follow the Paseo del Morro, a scenic walking trail along the city walls, offering refreshing ocean breezes and stunning views.

Stroll Through the Charming Cobblestone Streets

As you wander through the charming cobblestone streets of Old San Juan, you’ll be captivated by the lively squares, beautiful Spanish tile work, and the kaleidoscope of colorful buildings. Take a walking tour to discover hidden gems and local cafes, or simply meander at your own pace, soaking in the unique atmosphere and architecture of this historic city.

While you explore, keep an eye out for the blue cobblestone streets that are a signature of Old San Juan. These distinctive stones, known as adoquines, were brought over as ballast from ships sailing from Europe in the 18th century. The streets are a photographer’s dream, so be sure to capture the essence of Old San Juan through your lens as you stroll.

Uncover the History of Castillo San Cristóbal

Delve into the history of Castillo San Cristóbal, a UNESCO World Heritage site and National Historic Site that once played a crucial role in protecting Old San Juan from land invasions. This massive fortress, the largest built by the Spanish in the Americas, offers stunning views and a chance to learn about the city’s past.

As you explore the impressive Castillo San Cristóbal, also known as the Castillo san Cristobal, traverse the dark tunnels below the fort, and imagine the soldiers retreating from adversaries or launching surprise attacks. Don’t forget to take a moment to admire the breathtaking views from the top level, where you can gaze out across the ocean and the cityscape.

Marvel at La Fortaleza's Beauty

Nestled within the historic walls of Old San Juan, La Fortaleza stands as a symbol of power and elegance. Serving as the official residence of the Governor of Puerto Rico, this powder blue fortress is a must-see attraction. To fully appreciate its beauty, make your way to the city walls along Calle de Rafael Cordero, where you’ll find the perfect vantage point to admire La Fortaleza and its intricate architectural detail.

While you’re in the area, be sure to visit the nearby Umbrella Street, a vibrant street adorned with colorful umbrellas that form a whimsical canopy above. This photogenic spot is located just a few steps away from La Fortaleza, making it the perfect place for a quick photo op before continuing your exploration of Old San Juan.

Step Inside the Majestic San Juan Cathedral

Step inside the majestic San Juan Cathedral, the second oldest church in the Americas, and immerse yourself in its rich history and breathtaking beauty. As you walk through the hallowed halls, take a moment to admire the stunning stained glass windows and the tomb of Juan Ponce de León, the renowned Spanish explorer who once called Puerto Rico home.

The San Juan Cathedral holds a special place in the hearts of locals and visitors alike. Whether you’re attending a mass, lighting a candle, or simply marveling at the architectural details, this sacred space offers a serene sanctuary amidst the bustling streets of Old San Juan.

Capture the Vibrant Colors of Calle de la Fortaleza

Calle de la Fortaleza, also known as Fortaleza Street, is a lively and colorful street in the heart of Old San Juan. Lined with charming boutiques, trendy cafes, and historic sites, this bustling thoroughfare is a photographer’s paradise.

As evening falls, Calle de la Fortaleza comes alive with music, dancing, and performances that fill the air with infectious energy. Join the locals as they dance the night away and immerse yourself in the vibrant Puerto Rican culture. Don’t forget to capture the essence of this lively street through your lens, preserving the memories of your unforgettable Old San Juan adventure.

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Explore Casa Blanca: The Home of Juan Ponce de León

Discover the 16th-century fortification and former residence of Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León at Casa Blanca. Nestled in the heart of Old San Juan, this historic site offers a glimpse into the life of one of Puerto Rico’s most famous figures. As you explore the house, take note of the beautiful gardens and breathtaking views of the waterfront.

Casa Blanca is not just a historic site, it’s also a testament to the enduring legacy of Juan Ponce de León and the Spanish colonization of Puerto Rico. As you wander through the rooms and gardens, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the rich history that shaped this Caribbean island and its people.

Indulge in Old San Juan's Culinary Scene

Food is an integral part of Puerto Rican culture, and there’s no better place to indulge your taste buds than in Old San Juan. Join a food tour to sample traditional dishes like mofongo, ceviche, and skirt steak, or venture off the beaten path and discover local favorites at street vendors and hidden cafes.

For a truly unforgettable dining experience, book a table at one of Old San Juan’s fine restaurants, where you’ll savor exquisite cuisine while soaking in the romantic ambiance of this historic city. With its rich culinary heritage and diverse flavors, Old San Juan offers a gastronomic adventure that is sure to delight your palate.

Sip on a Piña Colada Where it All Began

No visit to Puerto Rico would be complete without sipping on a pina colada, the island’s iconic cocktail. Made with rum, coconut cream, and pineapple juice, this refreshing drink is said to have been first created in 1963 at Barrachina restaurant in Old San Juan.

Visit the birthplace of the pina colada and enjoy this tropical concoction in its original setting. As you sip on your drink, take a moment to appreciate the rich history and vibrant culture that has shaped Puerto Rico and its world-famous cocktail.

Visit the Intriguing Old San Juan Cemetery

Venture just outside the walls of El Morro to explore the intriguing Old San Juan Cemetery, a historic site with a unique tunnel entrance and a stunning view of the ocean. The cemetery is the final resting place for many famous citizens of San Juan, making it a fascinating place to learn about the city’s past.

As you stroll among the tombstones and visit the quaint chapel, take a moment to appreciate the serene atmosphere and reflect on the lives of those who came before you. The Old San Juan Cemetery is a testament to the enduring spirit of the people who have shaped this vibrant city.

Immerse Yourself in the Colorful La Perla Community

Just beyond the city walls of Old San Juan lies La Perla, a vibrant neighborhood known for its street art and lively atmosphere. This colorful community is a stark contrast to the historic sites of Old San Juan, offering a glimpse into the lives of the people who call this Caribbean island home.

As you stroll through the streets of La Perla, take note of the unique murals and street art that adorn the walls of the neighborhood’s buildings. These works of art serve as a powerful expression of the community’s spirit and resilience, making La Perla a must-visit destination for anyone interested in experiencing the true essence of Puerto Rico.

Admire the Elegant Casa Rosa

Take a moment to admire the elegant Casa Rosa, a pink villa that once served as barracks for Spanish soldiers and now houses a museum for Puerto Rican artists’ crafts. This charming building, with its distinctive pink-painted walls, is a testament to the Spanish influence on Puerto Rican architecture and a captivating sight to behold.

Casa Rosa is a symbol of the rich history of Puerto Rico, and its unique design is sure to leave a lasting impression on all who visit. Its vibrant colors and intricate details make it a must-see for anyone interested in the culture and history of the island.

Walk Through the Historic San Juan Gate

As you explore the streets of Old San Juan, be sure to walk through the historic San Juan Gate, the only surviving gate of the city. This deep red entrance once served as the main access point to the walled city and is a perfect example of the Spanish colonial architecture that defines Old San Juan.

After passing through the gate, take a moment to visit the nearby Rogativa Plaza, which offers a stunning view of La Fortaleza, the Governor’s mansion. This picturesque spot is the perfect place to capture a photo or simply take a moment to appreciate the beauty of Old San Juan, before continuing your journey to Paseo de la Princesa.

Feed the Pigeons at Parque de las Palomas

For a truly unique experience, pay a visit to Parque de las Palomas, a peaceful park located on Calle de Tetuan. This charming spot is home to hundreds of friendly pigeons that will happily eat from your hand as you feed them.

As you interact with the birds, take a moment to enjoy the beautiful water views and the serene atmosphere of this charming park. It’s the perfect place to take a break from the bustling streets of Old San Juan and enjoy a moment of tranquility amidst the vibrant city.

Relax at the Plaza de Armas

Situated in the heart of Old San Juan, Plaza de Armas is a lively square surrounded by restaurants, cafes, and shops. With its beautiful fountain depicting the four seasons and plenty of seating, it’s the perfect place to relax, people watch, and soak in the vibrant atmosphere of the city.

As you enjoy the sights and sounds of the bustling square, take a moment to admire the statue of Puerto Rican salsa composer Tite Curet Alonso, a beloved figure in the local music scene. Plaza de Armas is a testament to the rich culture and history of Old San Juan, making it a must-visit destination for any traveler seeking San Juan attractions.

Visit the Unique Totem Pole at Plaza del Quinto Centenario

Commemorating the 500-year anniversary of the discovery of the New World, the unique totem pole at Plaza del Quinto Centenario is a striking monument that’s worth a visit. Designed by renowned artist Jaime Suarez, this 40-foot tall totem pole symbolizes the beginnings of the inhabitants of the New World and the rich history that shaped the Americas.

As you explore the plaza, take a moment to admire the majestic staircases and the stunning views of Old San Juan. Plaza del Quinto Centenario offers a fascinating glimpse into the city’s past, making it an essential stop on your journey through Old San Juan.

Experience the Nightlife in Old San Juan

Old San Juan truly comes alive after dark, offering a wealth of nightlife options for visitors to enjoy. Join a night walking tour to discover the city’s dimly lit bars and cafes, where laughter and conversation fill the air. Or, if you prefer, simply follow the sound of live music and dancing performances, immersing yourself in the vibrant Puerto Rican culture.

From lively salsa clubs to intimate jazz bars, Old San Juan’s nightlife caters to a wide range of tastes and preferences. So whether you’re looking to dance the night away or simply enjoy a quiet drink with friends, you’ll find the perfect spot to unwind and experience the city’s unique charm.

Shop for Authentic Puerto Rican Souvenirs

Shopping for souvenirs is a great way to bring home a piece of your Old San Juan adventure. The city is filled with local shops and markets offering authentic Puerto Rican gifts and mementos, from traditional lace and vejigante masks to handcrafted jewelry and ceramics.

To ensure you’re purchasing genuine Puerto Rican souvenirs, be sure to explore the charming boutiques and artisan markets scattered throughout Old San Juan. As you browse, you’ll discover unique treasures that capture the essence of this vibrant city, creating lasting memories of your unforgettable journey.

Cool Off with a Local Ice Cream Treat

After a day of exploring the sights and sounds of Old San Juan, there’s nothing quite like cooling off with a local ice cream treat. Head to Senor Paleta, a popular spot known for its unique and refreshing flavors, including Dulce De Leche, Strawberry Cheesecake, Tembleque, Mango Nutella, and Oreo.

Enjoy your frozen delight as you stroll through the colorful streets, savoring the perfect end to a perfect day in Old San Juan.

Enjoy a Sunset Boat Ride Around San Juan Bay

As the sun begins to set, there’s no better way to experience the beauty of Old San Juan than by taking a sunset boat ride around San Juan Bay. With stunning views of El Morro and La Fortaleza as the sun dips below the horizon, this magical experience is one you’ll never forget.

As the sky turns brilliant shades of orange and pink, you’ll be captivated by the reflection of the setting sun on the water and the historic cityscape. This unforgettable boat ride offers a unique perspective on Old San Juan, allowing you to fully appreciate the city’s enchanting beauty as day turns to night.

Take a Day Trip to El Yunque National Forest

Just a short drive from Old San Juan, El Yunque National Forest beckons with its lush rainforest, cascading waterfalls, and breathtaking views. As the only tropical rainforest in the US national forest system, El Yunque is a must-visit destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike.

Whether you choose to hike the forest trails, swim beneath a waterfall, or simply take in the stunning views from an observation tower, El Yunque offers a wealth of activities for all skill levels and interests.

Spend a day exploring this natural wonder, and you’ll leave with a deeper appreciation for the diverse beauty of Puerto Rico.

Venture Beyond Old San Juan: Condado and Isla Verde

While Viejo San Juan is filled with historic charm and captivating sights, venture beyond the city to explore the nearby areas of Condado and Isla Verde. Known for their beautiful San Juan beaches and vibrant nightlife, these destinations offer a different perspective on Puerto Rican life, just a short distance from Old San Juan Puerto. Experience the diverse beauty of San Juan Puerto Rico by exploring these unique neighborhoods.

Spend a day lounging on the sandy shores of Isla Verde Beach, or try your luck at one of Condado’s bustling casinos. With so much to see and do, you’ll find that there’s always something new and exciting to discover just beyond the walls of Old San Juan.

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Learn about Puerto Rican Art at Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico

Take a break from the historic sites and immerse yourself in the world of Puerto Rican art at the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico and the Museo de San Juan. Featuring a diverse collection of works from local and international artists, these museums offer a fascinating glimpse into the island’s rich artistic heritage.

As you wander through the galleries, you’ll encounter pieces that span a range of styles and periods, reflecting the unique blend of influences that have shaped Puerto Rican art over the centuries. From traditional folk art to cutting-edge contemporary pieces, there’s something for everyone at the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico.

Capture the Essence of Old San Juan Through Photography

As you explore the streets and sites of Old San Juan, don’t forget to capture the essence of this vibrant city through photography. Snap pictures of the colorful buildings, historic sites, and charming streets that make this city so unique and unforgettable.

Whether you’re an amateur photographer or seasoned pro, Old San Juan offers endless opportunities for stunning images that will transport you back to this magical place long after your trip has ended. So grab your camera and let the beauty of Old San Juan inspire your creativity.


From historic forts and charming cobblestone streets to vibrant neighborhoods and lush rainforests, Old San Juan is a treasure trove of experiences just waiting to be discovered. Whether you’re a history buff, a food lover, or simply in search of a unique and unforgettable adventure, this enchanting city has something for everyone. So pack your bags, grab your camera, and embark on a journey through time and culture that will leave you with memories to last a lifetime.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to explore Old San Juan?

Exploring Old San Juan doesn’t have to take long - you can see the main sites in just a few hours, but if you want to take your time and fully immerse yourself in its culture and history, then a two-day visit is recommended.

What is so special about Old San Juan?

Old San Juan is a unique and wonderful destination that offers something special for everyone. Its enchanting streets lined with colonial buildings, forts with views of the sea, and cobblestone plazas combine to make it one of the most beautiful places in the Caribbean.

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What is the most beautiful street in Old San Juan?

Calle Fortaleza is undoubtedly the most beautiful street in Old San Juan. With its colorful buildings, cozy shops, and lush greenery contrasted against cobblestone pavement and vintage street lamps, Calle Fortaleza transports visitors to a time past while still maintaining modern amenities.

Moreover, its now iconic row of umbrellas makes it an even more idyllic spot.

What is the best way to explore Old San Juan?

A fantastic way to explore Old San Juan is to wander around and immerse yourself in the local culture, marveling at the colorful buildings and enjoying the vibrant atmosphere. The best way to explore Old San Juan is to join a guided tour to learn about the rich history of the city while taking in all the sights and sounds.

Are there any unique souvenirs I can purchase in Old San Juan?

If you’re looking for something unique to take home from Old San Juan, there are plenty of locally made products to choose from - such as traditional lace, vejigante masks, and handcrafted jewelry.

These items are all made with great care and attention to detail, and they make for great souvenirs. You can find these items in many of the local shops and markets, or you can even find them online.

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