If you’re headed to San Juan on your vacation, make sure you don’t miss out on a trip to the old town. This historic area is famous for its eye-catching architecture, with bold, colorful buildings lining the streets as well as the ancient forts and castles that tell the fascinating story of the city. The district is home to UNESCO World Heritage Sites – and, with a quick wander around the area, it’s not hard to see why. To help you get to know the local area, we’ve put together a list of some of the must-see Old San Juan attractions.
Unmissable things to do in Old San Juan
- Fortaleza Street aka Restaurant Row
- Paseo de la Princesa
- La Casa Blanca
- Plaza La Rogativa
- Galería Botello
- Natural Historic Site
Ready to explore some more? Dive in and discover more about the things to do in Old San Juan.
Fortaleza Street aka Restaurant Row
First things first, food. Any foodies looking to explore the culinary side of San Juan will be happy to know that the city has made it even easier by gathering a ton of its top restaurants in one bustling area. Fortaleza Street is known locally as Restaurant Row because of all the eateries along it. Seek out a fresh and tasty dish of arroz con pollo or a super-sweet bowl of arroz con dulce to get the flavor of the local area. And you’ll have a great time working up an appetite with a wander along the street, which is now famous for its colorful umbrella exhibition that’s just begging to be added to your Instagram. Eat until you’re full, and then request a ride through the Uber app to head back to your hotel.
Paseo de la Princesa
Top of many people’s list of things to do in Old San Juan, Paseo de la Princesa is a historic promenade that was first built in 1853. It’s a beautiful walkway that will see you pass a number of Old San Juan attractions, from the picturesque fountain at the top to the surrounding city walls that give a nod to its storied past. You’ll often find vendors setting up stalls along the street, offering everything from art to food as well as performers playing live music. It’s a favorite haunt for both visitors and locals, so it’s a great place to go when you want to get a feel for the city.
La Casa Blanca
If you really want a glimpse into the city’s rich history, La Casa Blanca is one of the things to see in Old San Juan. It’s lived through some of the area’s most turbulent times, having been built back in 1521. It was built for Juan Ponce de León and was declared a historical monument by the government in 1967. Inside, you’ll find a number of artifacts from the 16th and 17th centuries and typical furniture from times gone by. It’s worth a wander around the outside too, where you’ll find the picturesque city walls and the white structure nestled among bright greenery.
Plaza La Rogativa
If you want to soak in the sights of the city, Plaza La Rogativa is a great place to start. This scenic square is one of the area’s most attractive viewing points, and you can see many of the city’s most famous landmarks from the center. Take in the sight of San Juan bay in the distance, the famous La Fortaleza governor’s building, and even the stunning greenery of Isla de Cabras national park. In the square itself, you’ll find one of the city’s most famous sculptures, The Procession, which tells the legend of the Catholic bishop who led a procession during the British invasion of 1797 and scared the opposing army, who believed they were Spanish army reinforcements, away.
Art-lovers should definitely put Galería Botello at the top of their list of things to do in Old San Juan. Not only is the building itself well worth seeing, dating back 350 years, the interior is filled with work by some of the world’s most prestigious artists. There are, of course, bronze sculptures from Ángel Botello’s collection as well as oils, lithographs and linocuts. It’s a great place to discover more about the life and work of this legendary creator. You’ll also find a number of exhibitions and pieces by many talented Latin American artists.
National Historic Site
You can’t visit Old San Juan without taking a trip to the famous San Juan National Historic Site. This World Heritage Site is one of just 12 in the United States, and it’s not hard to see how it earned that title. The site combines a number of colonial-era forts, with some of the most famous including Castillo San Felipe del Morro and La Fortaleza. Take a stroll along the ancient city walls and look out at the rocky San Juan coastline before paying a visit to the many forts, castles and bastions that together make up the site. It’s a great place to learn about the colonial history of San Juan as well as to take in some of the awe-inspiring scenery of the area.
From art and architecture to food and street performers, there’s no shortage of things to see and do in Old San Juan. Request a ride through the Uber app and make the most of your time in the historic city by moving between attractions with ease. And don’t forget to wind down the window and take in all the stunning scenery along the way!