Given its rich colonial past, Old San Juan is the most intriguing site in Puerto Rico. Along with being a US National Historic Site, Viejo San Juan, or Old San Juan, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Old San Juan’s streets were designed for strolls. If you put up in hotels in the heart of Old San Juan in Puerto Rico, you’ll be a step closer to exploring the quaint colonial town on foot.
You’re sure to experience at least a few awe-inspiring moments during your journey, thanks to the city’s vibrant Spanish colonial architecture, picturesque nooks, and captivating Caribbean Sea views.
You can create your own Old San Juan walking tour using the information in this blog, so read on!
What You Need for Your Walking Tour
Since Old San Juan is a small area, you could complete this tour in less than 45 minutes if you walked straight to each destination. But if you have the time, allow yourself at least three hours to explore the sights and history and savor the cuisine.
You need to carry the following items for a comfortable walk:
Proper attire – Comfortable tennis shoes or sneakers, shorts or pants for girls (in case it gets windy), and a cap or scarf to protect from the sun.
Water – Stay hydrated!
Map or GPS – Google maps, Apple maps, or whatever works best for you. Enable roaming for internet access or purchase a local number with data plans. If you’re staying at Fortaleza Suites in Old San Juan, request a map from the concierge.
Camera – Juice up the battery in your phone to capture those picturesque streets. Or carry your DSLR with a neck strap so you don’t get tired of hauling a camera.
Places to Explore
The city has layers of history dating back hundreds of years, evident in its forts, monuments, museums, and regional cuisine. Fully immerse in Old San Juan’s history, culture, and scenic splendor on this walking tour. Here are some must-see places:
Castillo San Cristobal
The largest fortress that the Spanish built in the New World, Castillo San Cristobal, was built in 1783 to defend the city from invaders attempting to seize control.
To visit the fortress’s interior, you need a ticket that has a two-day expiration date. This three-level stronghold features tunnels, plaques that provide background information, dungeons, and beautiful city views.
A shopping street in Old San Juan with tons of little shops and restaurants, this street is an Instagram hotspot.
Also known as Palacio de Santa Catalina, it’s situated on a fortress along the Caribbean Sea and serves as the residence of Puerto Rico’s governor. Every weekday from 9 am to 4 pm, you can enjoy a free tour of the interior, courtyards, and gardens.
La Placita de Santurce
You can buy fruits, vegetables, and meat and even indulge in local delicacies to relish at this market square, established more than 100 years ago. Locals swarm here to chill out, drink, and dance salsa.
Castillo Felipe del Morro
One of the original Spanish strongholds constructed to defend San Juan from outside invaders, this castle is located farther west of Castillo San Cristobal. It was constructed over 200 years ago, commencing in the 1500s, and includes six stories.
Things to Look Out For
While walking, you’ll stumble upon sights you might have missed if you weren’t on foot. Here’s a quick round-up of things you must notice while strolling through Old San Juan:
Bust of Eugenio María de Hostos: The bust sits along Plaza de Hostos and commemorates his life as an avid supporter of the independence movement, women’s rights, and educational causes.
Blue Stones: As you walk through the street, you’ll notice blue stones. They are adoquin, cast from furnace slag, and were brought over on Spanish ships where they were used as ballast.
La Puerta de San Juan: Built between 1634 and 1638, the massive red gate’s 15-foot-thick walls transformed San Juan into an invincible stronghold.
Cathedral de San Juan Bautista: The Cathedral houses the mummified remains of Saint Pius, a soldier, and Christian martyr. You’ll also see the tomb of Spanish conquistador Ponce de Leon, who gave Puerto Rico its name and was the city’s first governor.
The Best Old San Juan Accommodation
Make sure to get a room at Fortaleza Suites when you visit San Juan. We provide an unrivaled colonial experience, snug and comfortable rooms, and access to a fantastic self-walking tour on foot as we’re centrally positioned in the city. Book now!