San Juan is the capital and most populous city in Puerto Rico. Founded in 1521 by Juan Ponce de León, who named it City of Puerto Rico (Rich Port). The capital of Puerto Rico is the oldest city under U.S. jurisdiction, but some people argue than St. Augustine, Florida, founded in 1565 is the oldest city in the continental United States. Today, San Juan is known as La Ciudad Amurallada (the walled city) and is one of the biggest and best natural harbors in the Caribbean and is the second oldest European-founded city in theAmericas (after Santo Domingo, which was officially founded on August 5, 1498.)
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Puerto Rico is from mid-April to June, right after the busy winter season and just before the rainy summer. Spring weather is also very pleasant
Top places to Visit in San Juan
1. Old San Juan
This is a 500-year-old neighborhood originally conceived as a military stronghold. Its 7-square-block area has evolved into a charming residential and commercial district. The streets here are paved with cobbles of adoquine, a blue stone cast from furnace slag; they were brought over a ballast on Spanish ships and time and moisture have lent them their characteristic color. The city includes more than 400 carefully restored 16th- and 17th-century Spanish colonial buildings. More tourists visit San Juan each year than any other spot in the Caribbean. A leisurely foot tour is advisable for those who really want to experience this bit of the Old World, especially given the narrow, steep streets and frequently heavy traffic. To really do justice to these wonderful old sites, you’ll need two mornings or a full day. Old San Juan provides a free trolley service to get you around the city. The trolley runs every day Monday through Friday from 7am until 6pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 9am until 7pm every 15 minutes.
2. Castillo de San Cristóbal
Considered the Gibraltar of the West Indies, San Cristóbal was supported by a massive system of outworks which provided defense in depth and is is one of the largest defenses ever built in the Americas. It rose 150 feet, covering 27 acres of land. A strategic masterpiece, it features five independent units, each connected by moat and tunnel; each fully self-sufficient should the others fall. It’s a World Heritage and National Historic Site, administered by the U.S. National Park Service. Open daily from 9am to 6pm.
3. San Juan Museum of Art and History
Built in 1855 as a market and restored in 1979 as a cultural center, showcases Puerto Rico art and music, including concerts and festivals. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10am – 4pm, 1-787-724-1875.
4. Puerta de San Juan
The Puerta de San Juan (San Juan Gate) was built in the late 1700s, is one of six heavy wooden doors in the wall which for centuries were closed at sundown to cut off access to the city and protect the city from invaders. The wall is up to 20 feet thick and up to 40 feet tall.
5. San Juan Cemetery
Cementerio de San Juan (San Juan Cemetery) is located between El Morro and the rocky cliffs above the Atlantic is considered one of the most picturesque of burial grounds anywhere. The cemetery is particularly noteworthy for its elaborate tombstones and the circular neoclassical chapel dedicated to Mary Magdalen. The most notable piece is a circular, red-domed chapel, which dates back to the late 19th century.
6. Luis Muñoz Rivera Park
The Luis Muñoz Rivera Park is an spacious ocean side park with large trees, landscape gardens and wide walks, located on Jesús T. Piñero Avenue. Open Tues-Sun 9:00am – 5:00pm.