San Juan ⏐ Old San Juan Puerto Rico

Old San Juan / El Viejo San Juan - San Juan, Puerto Rico - Tourism Guide

Experience The Happiest City in the Caribbean

Save a Spot - Most Popular Walking Tour

Old San Juan “San Juan Antiguo“, is one of the most popular cruise destinations in the Caribbean and the most visited place in Puerto Rico.  Old San Juan is special in every way, known for its Old World elegance, rich history, vibrant culture, five-century-old forts, romantic ambiance, exquisite food, and festive atmosphere.  “El Viejo San Juan” is no ordinary tourist spot, it is a real living place where locals and visitors come together to experience a place that pulsates with rhythm, bursts with color, and encapsulates the warmth and energy of Puerto Ricans, often called the Happiest People on Earth. 

Top Rated Walking Tours in Old San Juan

Celebrating 500 Years of History

Old San Juan - 500 years of History - Puerto Rico

We are so excited to have you visit during such a special time… our celebration of 500 years of history.  Old San Juan is the epicenter of Puerto Rican history and culture and we are so delighted to share our past and celebrate our love for the island with you.

Following is our guide to Old San Juan, but before we do, we’d like to share this beautiful video with scenes of places around Old San Juan, and heartfelt songs that speak of our history by our beloved Hermes Croatto, capturing 500 years of History and culture.  The video is in Spanish, but the melodies and images will warm your heart.  We hope you enjoy it!  Receive a warm welcome to our Beloved Old San Juan and thanks for being here. 

Tourism in Old San Juan

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Old San Juan Puerto Rico - Tourism Guide - Things to Do

Old San Juan is an islet connected by three bridges to the main island of Puerto Rico, framed by the azure colors of the Atlantic Ocean and San Juan Bay.  What Paris is to Europe, Old San Juan is to the Caribbean… a romantic city with Old World charm, warmed with tropical sunshine… inhabited by some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet.

Those planning a long weekend getaway, or visiting as part of their cruise itinerary will find Old San Juan an easy and enjoyable destination since all major attractions, restaurants, and shops are easily accessible by foot.  Although Old San Juan is a tourist destination, it doesn’t feel like a montage to tourists, it is an authentic community where locals come regularly to celebrate cultural events … it is truly one of the happiest places in the world.  You’re warmly invited to mingle with locals to experience the joys of San Juan.

Explore on your own, or allow friendly local guides to bring history to life and show you what makes Old San Juan such a special place… then kick your feet the rest of your visit and allow the sights, scents, and sounds to lead the way…

The Attractions & Things To Do

Old San Juan Puerto Rico - Things to Do & Attractions Tourism Guide

Old San Juan is the home of the most attractive landmarks and historic places in Puerto Rico and among the most significant in the Caribbean.  The most popular attractions are the two forts of San Cristobal and San Felipe del Morro, built to protect the city from invaders, they are UNESCO sites that are part of San Juan National Historic Site.  As you walk around the charming colorful streets, you can stop at museums such as Casa Blanca and Museo de Las Americas.  If you enjoy visiting cathedrals don’t miss Catedral San Juan Bautista and Iglesia San Jose.  If you’re a cocktail connoisseur, Old San Juan is famous for having the best and coolest cocktails bars on the island.  If you’re a romantic, don’t miss taking a walk along the scenic promenade of Paseo de La Princesa, the perfect place to begin exploring the city.  For relaxation, you’ll find squares around the city where you can sit down to relax, enjoy the views, admire the architecture of the city, and participate in the many cultural events held throughout the year.  As we say throughout our guides, please don’t leave without flying a kite on the grounds of El Morro.

If you’re staying in Old San Juan for a few days, you can rent a car and enjoy fantastic day trips to explore Puerto Rico’s natural wonders.  Be sure to take an afternoon nap at your hotel so you can re-energize in order to enjoy the vibrant nightlife of Old San Juan.

The Culture of Old San Juan

Old San Juan Culture - Dancing Salsa at Paseo de La Princesa

Old San Juan is the cultural hub of Puerto Rico and the most culturally rich destination in the Caribbean.   Old San Juan is a very family-friendly place, with happy cultural experiences for the young and less young.   

As you walk around the colorful city, your body will want to move to the sounds of salsa or relax to the sounds of jazz played by local musicians, when the sun goes down.  Hundreds of events are held in Old San Juan and throughout the island to celebrate culture, we invite you to enjoy them if you happen to be visiting.   Try the food, learn to dance, attend the events, and just have a good time. 

Top Rated Cultural Tours in San Juan Puerto Rico

The Streets of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Old San Juan Puerto Rico - The Streets - Beautiful Calle Cristo

Just walking the streets of Old San Juan is a joyous experience sure to satisfy your wanderlust.  Everywhere you walk, there’s something beautiful and interesting to see from elegant cathedrals to decorated balconies, to intimate cafes for a romantic time with your loved one, to colorful wall art for those shareable posts with friends and family back home.  There’s a plaza about every few blocks, a place locals enjoy from morning till night, we invite you to sit down and relax as you cool off with a piragua, ice cream or enjoy a delicious traditional cafe con leche (coffee) with a quesito (traditional Puerto Rican pastry filled with cream cheese).  The weather is always at a comfortable mid-’80s, and once you get to the seaside by the forts, the cooling trade winds offer a wonderful refreshing touch.  Among the most visited streets are Calle Norzagaray, where the forts are located, Calle Beneficiencia, where you can visit great museums and landmarks, and Calle Cristo and Calle Fortaleza where some of the most popular shops and restaurants are located.

The History of Old San Juan

Old San Juan Puerto Rico - Historic Treasures

San Juan is the second oldest city established in the New World, one of the most historically significant destinations in the Caribbean & the Western Hemisphere.  Walk through 500-year-old forts with breathtaking views of the Atlantic, tour the second oldest cathedral in the Americas, visit museums, step foot into Ponce de Leon’s mansion, and so much more.  

Top Rated Historical Tours of Old San Juan

The Romance of Old San Juan

Old San Juan Puerto Rico - Romance

Old San Juan is a popular wedding/honeymoon destination.  You’ll feel the love spark from couples holding hands, as they explore this romantic city.   While Old San Juan may be the most popular cruise port in the Caribbean, yet you’ll find it surprisingly relaxed, with many intimate romantic spots to escape from the crowds.   Couples wishing to remain active will enjoy a variety of romantic places to visit during the day, exquisite dining choices, and vibrant nightlife if they wish to extend the evening.

Great Tours for Romantics in San Juan

The Colors of Old San Juan

Old San Juan Colorful Streets - San Juan, Puerto Rico

Visually Old San Juan brings on feelings of happiness, with its perfectly coordinated candy and bright pastel-colored buildings.  You’ll be walking on blue-toned cobblestones, you’ll be looking up at decorated balconies with bright pink bougainvillea flowers that dance to the trade winds that move through the street blocks.  Families with children will find that the whole family will be mesmerized by the color of the city, it is truly a chromotherapy experience. 

The Architecture of Old San Juan

Old San Juan Puerto Rico - Architecture - San Juan, Puerto Rico

Old San Juan feels more like a living gallery, it’s like stepping into a rich exhibit of colorful, elegant paintings of Spanish colonial architecture.  Puerto Ricans respect and celebrate the island’s past, evident with carefully restored buildings painted in colors that represent the vibrant and diverse culture of the island.  In the 1940s, Old San Juan went through the restoration of buildings, setting new standards for other countries in Latin America and islands in the Caribbean.  Visitors are captivated by the balconies, elegant doors, and Colonial details.  These buildings house residents, businesses, and government executive offices.

The UNESCO Heritage Site of San Juan National Historic Site

San Juan National Historic Site - Best Places to Visit in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Step back in time and immerse yourself in the rich history of San Juan National Historic Site.  Discover the majestic forts of Castillo San Felipe del Morro and Castillo San Cristobal.  Uncover the secrets of these remarkable fortifications as you explore their tunnels, dungeons, ramps, and barracks.  As you explore the forts, you’ll be cooled by the trade winds and enchanted by the breathtaking backdrop of the Atlantic and San Juan Bay for stunning photo opportunities.   Romantics… take a walk along Paseo de La Princesa and Paseo del MorroSan Juan National Historic Site also includes the forts of San Juan de la Cruz (El Cañuelo) and the city walls.

The Nightlife in Old San Juan

Old San Juan Puerto Rico - The Nightlife

Old San Juan is wonderful at night… elegant lanterns light up the city with a golden glow.  Those that long for a romantic relaxed vibe can enjoy that, you can dine at elegant restaurants and later take a walk on the streets, relax on squares, or choose from a number of experiences at night.   For those that wish to experience a lively night, dance clubs lure people in with the rhythmic sounds of salsa, merengue, and popular modern genres born in Puerto Rico.  Visitors can feel safe walking the streets, police presence remains strong at night.

Top Rated Night Tours in San Juan, Puerto Rico

The Events in Old San Juan

As we’ve mentioned, Old San Juan is the cultural hub of Puerto Rico, celebrating many events throughout the year that both residents and visitors can enjoy.  Check the tourist office when you arrive for a calendar of events.

Places to Stay in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Right in the heart of Old San Juan, historic buildings have been restored into luxury boutique hotels, charming small inns for every budget, and vacation rentals to enjoy all to yourselves, giving you access to everything within walking distance. 

Visiting Guide

Getting Around Old San Juan

Old San Juan is best enjoyed on foot.  From south to north, the historic town runs uphill.  Visitors with average physical fitness will walk comfortably.  Wear good walking shoes or comfortable sandals, you’ll be walking in five-century-old cobblestone with uneven surfaces and areas with broken stones.  

Exploring Old San Juan on Your Own

You may start your tour at the Tourist office, they have a number of pamphlets and maps to help you plan your visit.  You can explore Old San Juan on your own with our self-guided tour guide.

Exploring Old San Juan with a Guide

You may also book a number of walking tours, the tour guides do an excellent job, and you will visit places, and hear stories with historical details you would miss with a self-guided tour.

Travel to Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

By Taxi or Private Airport Transfers

Airport Transfers from San Juan

Taxis from the airport, Puerto Rico Convention Center, or cruise ship terminals, are managed by the Puerto Rico Tourism Company.  At the San Juan airport, you’ll find a bilingual representative if you need a receipt.

Fees are set to and from certain tourist areas with an additional charge of $1 for each piece of luggage and a $1 surcharge for trips at night. The price from the airport should be approximately $23 with luggage – slightly less from the convention center.  Trips from cruise ship piers are much less and depend on which pier your ship uses.  Trips from New San Juan hotels, resorts, and beaches, are metered fares.  More information on taxi rates in San Juan.

From Cruise Ship Piers to Old San Juan

When you arrive in San Juan by cruise, there will be plenty of taxis available to offer transport into Old San Juan.

There are several cruise ship piers in San Juan.

Piers in Old San Juan are just a few blocks from attractions and hotels in Old San Juan.  You can take the free trolley (when in service), walk a few blocks, book a transfer or take a taxi.

The Pan American Pier is located about a mile away near the Puerto Rico Convention Center.  From there, you will need transportation to Old San Juan.  Check with your cruise ship to see which pier they will use while in San Juan and if they have made arrangements for a shuttle bus or transfer service into the old city.  If not, you’ll need to book a transfer or take a taxi.

Driving from the Airport if Renting a Car

All rental car agencies at the San Juan International Airport are on the 1st level of the parking garage.

Your trip to Old San Juan from SJU is about 8 miles.

  • Take Route 17 out of the airport for 1 mile.
  • Follow signs to get on Route 26 toward San Juan.
  • Continue on PR 26 for 4.5 miles.
  • After passing the Condado Lagoon on your right, follow signs for Route 25 into Viejo (Old) San Juan and continue 2 miles and past the Capitol Building on the left.
  • You will see the old fort, San Cristobal, on your right as you enter Old San Juan.

You may also want to read about Parking in Old San Juan.

Everthing You Need to Know Before Visiting

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Cost of Visiting Old San Juan

You don’t have to spend much to enjoy Old San Juan, part of the magic is simply observing the architecture and most historical buildings are free to enter.  Entry to the forts is just $10 for ages 15 and older, you can see both for the entry fee.  There are plenty of restaurants for every budget.  Food trucks along Princesa offer great food at local prices.  Some museums charge a small fee to enter.

Crowds in Old San Juan

Old San Juan is the most popular cruise stop in the Caribbean, during cruise days, there are many people walking around the city, and it becomes more vibrant due to the special events that the Puerto Rico Tourism office holds to welcome and entertain visitors.  Somehow, Old San Juan does not lose its magic, the streets are busier with people, yet it feels relaxed.  Along Paseo Princesa, artisans showcase their crafts, there’s live music and great food.

Safety in Old San Juan

Old San Juan is a safe residential and tourist area, the police presence is very strong, more than any other tourist destination in Puerto Rico.  Police presence is strong primarily because Old San Juan is home to La Fortaleza, the governor’s mansion/residence as well as governmental offices; second, it is the most visited tourist destination in Puerto Rico and police are there to keep visitors comfortable. Policemen are friendly and specifically trained to help tourists in the Old San Juan area, they’re happy to answer any questions and direct you if you need to find a particular place. Don’t hesitate to ask for help in a medical or personal emergency.

Staying Healthy while Exploring Old San Juan

You’re in Puerto Rico with tropical warm weather all year round, hotter and more humid in the summer.  You’ll be walking most of the time, it is very important to do the following to stay healthy during your visit:

Stay hydrated, and drink plenty of water often throughout the day, even when you think you don’t need it.  There are various pharmacies where you can buy cold water, as well as street vendors every few other blocks.  

Protect your skin:  Avoid sunburn and sun poisoning, by wearing sunscreen often throughout the day.

Having a backpack makes travel much easier when walking the city.  

Time Needed to Explore Old San Juan

It depends on what type of traveler/tourist you are… If you’re a history buff, a foodie, or love shopping, you can easily spend a week in the city. The average visitor will need about two days to visit the top attractions and one day to see San Juan National Historic Site, eat and find a scenic spot to relax.

Map of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Old San Juan is a district of San Juan, Puerto Rico, an islet, connected to the rest of (San Juan Metro) by 3 bridges at the southeast corner.  It consists of historical Old San Juan to the west and the community of Puerta de Tierra to the east. 

See Fullscreen map of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

San Juan Puerto Rico - Old San Juan

The Architecture - Old San Juan

The Streets of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

The History - Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

El Convento Hotel - Romantic Vacation in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Tourism / Vacations in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

The Colors of Old San Juan

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