San JuanOld San Juan ⎮ Old San Juan Things to Do

Old San Juan Puerto Rico - Best Things to Do 2024

New Sky Dining Experience in San Juan

Old San Juan… called El Viejo San Juan by locals, is the most beloved place for every Puerto Rican.  If you’re visiting Puerto Rico for the first time, we invite you to start with a visit to Old San Juan, where history and culture come together like no other place on the island.

This page is dedicated to the top historic landmarks in Old San Juan; one day in the historic district will allow you to see much of the places on the list, since no place is too far, everything is within walking distance.  If you’re in Puerto Rico for a long weekend, explore more activities in San Juan and do at least one excursion to see the natural treasures of Puerto Rico.

Before you scroll down, we advise that you explore Old San Juan in a relaxed way, don’t try and fit it all in, enjoy each experience and take the time to sit down at a square, stay longer at a cafe to sip a great cafe con leche (cup of coffee with heated milk), watch the sunset, eat ice cream, take lots of photos, dance to the rhythms you hear… enjoy every moment with your loved one in Old San Juan, that’s how you’ll fall in love with this special place.  If you run out of time, come back again; Puerto Ricans never get tired of going to Old San Juan.  We think you’ll want to come back again and again; there’s always a festivity and something new to enjoy.

See the Top Landmarks in Old San Juan with a Guided Walking Tour

Paseo de la Princesa

A Romantic and Scenic Place to Start your Visit in Old San Juan

Paseo de la Princesa - Places to Visit in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Paseo de La Princesa is a very special place for locals and a welcoming place for visitors.  Paseo de la Princesa has been referred to as “One of the most scenic walkways in the world.”  We recommend visitors begin their walking tour of Old San Juan at Paseo de la Princesa, with 19th-century walkways outside the city walls along the San Juan Bay.  Paseo de La Princesa is a cultural hub on weekends, holidays, and especially during the Christmas festivities.  When cruise ships are scheduled to arrive in Old San Juan, artisans, musicians, and food line up at Paseo de La Princesa to welcome visitors.

Things to Do at Paseo de La Princesa: Take home a special hand-crafted souvenir, taste traditional treats such as Piragua and Mavi drinks and foods, and if there’s music playing, join locals and dance.  Walk through the gardens, let your children laugh and play on the playground, walk into the historic La Princesa building, and take a picture of the elegant Raices fountain.  Couples… hold hands, take in the views of the San Juan Bay, watch the sunset, and admire the historic city walls built to protect the city.

Castillo San Felipe del Morro

Castillo San Felipe del Morro - Best places and attractions to visit in San Juan Puerto Rico

Castillo San Felipe, locally known as “El Morro” is the most beloved landmark by locals and the most iconic and visited attraction on the island of Puerto Rico.  Step into the fort and take a five-hundred-year journey back into history, an experience the entire family will enjoy.  After exploring the fort, unleash your inner child, embrace laughter, and create memories with your loved ones… we invite you to buy a kite and let your imagination fly under the blue Puerto Rican sky.

Old San Juan Walking Tours with Fort Visit

Fly a Kite on the Grounds of El Morro

Fly a Kite at the Grounds of El Morro - Old San Juan Things to Do

Flying a kite on the grounds of El Morro is a quintessential Puerto Rican experience, and we invite you to join us.  During this activity, you’ll be reminded that some of the best things in life are free or don’t have to cost much, it will be one of the most memorable experiences of your visit to San Juan.   Release your inner child, allow all your worries to drift away with the wind, and embrace the joy of dreaming once more, just like a child.

Castillo San Cristobal

Largest Spanish fort in the New World

San Juan Puerto Rico - Best places to visit and attractions - Castillo San Cristobal

Discover the captivating history and architectural marvels of Castillo San Cristobal, part of the San Juan National Historic Site.  As the largest Spanish fort in the New World, encompassing 27 acres, this remarkable fortress offers a window into the past, allowing you to delve into the rich heritage of the New World.   Take advantage of guided tours led by friendly park rangers or explore at your own pace. For those with mobility challenges, Castillo San Cristobal presents a more accessible option compared to Castillo San Felipe del Morro.

Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery

Old San Juan Cemetery - Top Sights in Old San Juan Puerto Rico

The cemetery sits outside the 20-foot walls of fort El Morro – overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.  Puerto Ricans consider this cemetery the ultimate location as a final resting place.  Notable Puerto Ricans are buried here such as Jose Celso Barbosa, Pedro Albizu Campos, Jose de Diego, Rafael Hernandez, and the infamous real pirate of the Caribbean Roberto Cofresi, among others.  You can admire the cemetery from the grounds of El Morro.   If you wish to enter, you may ask a taxi driver to take you and negotiate a rate to wait as you have a quick look and give you a ride back.  , when open you’re welcome to enter to admire the ornate tombs.

Casa Blanca Museum – Juan Ponce de Leon’s Family Mansion

Casa Blanca Museum - Best places to visit in San Juan Puerto Rico

Visit the first fortification in San Juan, built to be the home of Juan Ponce de Leon, the first governor of Puerto Rico.  Casa Blanca is located on the corner of Calle Beneficiencia & San Sebastian.  Enjoy a self-guided tour of gardens, living spaces of the family’s mansion, and a small museum with exhibits of 16th and 17th-century artifacts.  Casa Blanca is an easy stop after touring El Morro.

Cuartel de Ballajá (The Ballajá Barracks)

Cuartel de Ballaja - Best places to visit in Old San Juan Puerto Rico

After touring the magnificent Fortress of El Morro, walk across to Cuartel de Ballaja, one of the most impressive buildings in Old San Juan.  On the second floor, you can visit Museo de Las Americas (see below).  On the first floor, you have a few dining options and a coffee shop. 

Museo de las Américas

Top attractions / museums in San Juan Puerto Rico - Museo de Las Americas

Museo de Las Americas (Museum of the Americas), located on the second floor of Cuartel de Ballaja in Old San Juan.  This museum is one of the most interesting, family-friendly, and educational places to visit.  The museum features permanent exhibitions about the history and culture of Puerto Rico and the Americas as well as art exhibitions.

Iglesia San Jose – The Second Oldest Church in the Americas

Iglesia San Jose - Historical Attractions / Landmark in San Juan Puerto Rico

“The Church of San José in San Juan was built in 1532 and is the second oldest church in the Americas; one of the few surviving examples of 16th-century Spanish Gothic architecture in the Western Hemisphere.” 

Catedral San Juan Bautista (Cathedral San Juan Bautista)

Puerto Rico best historic places to visit - Cathedral of San Juan Bautista

This Cathedral is one of the most important religious landmarks in Puerto Rico.  Catedral de San Juan Bautista is the seat of the Archdiocese of Puerto Rico.   This is the oldest church under the US Flag and the second oldest church in the Americas, dating back to 1521.  The Spanish sailors walked into the city through the San Juan Gate and had the tradition of stopping at this church to thank God for a safe voyage.  Famous celebrities choose the San Juan Cathedral to say “I do”.  If you happen to be here at Christmas, be sure to get here early to enjoy one of the most beautiful Christmas services on the island.  A tomb with the remains of Ponce de Leon and a mummified body of St. Pio are at the Cathedral.  Cathedral is open daily from 8 am – 4 pm and Sundays from 8 am – 2 pm.

Location: Calle del Cristo, across from El Convento Hotel.

Palacio Santa Catalina (La Fortaleza)

La Fortaleza - Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

La Fortaleza / Palacio Santa Catalina and Casa Blanca were the first fortifications built in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  Today, Palacio Santa Catalina is the official residence of Puerto Rico’s governor.  Although you may not visit the interior, Calle Fortaleza (Fortaleza Street) the street leading to the mansion is one of the most popular spots to take photos, the street is decorated in colorful themes to celebrate San Juan’s culture and bring awareness to important topics to the community.  Depending on security, you may or may not be allowed to pass by to take photos under the decorations. 

Enjoy the Sights from La Plazuela La Rogativa

One of The Most Scenic Spots in San Juan

La Rogativa - Landmark - Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

One of the most beautiful and meaningful statues in Old San Juan is centered at one of the top 5 most scenic spots of San Juan.  The statue celebrates a beautiful moment of history representing faith, hope, and unity.  This location is often chosen by couples to celebrate their wedding ceremony and take photos with sweeping views of the San Juan Bay.  Be sure to stop on your walking tour for great photos and inspiration.

Take a Walk Down Paseo del Morro

Paseo del Morro - Best places to visit in San Juan Puerto Rico

Watch the Sunset on the grounds of Castillo del Morro

Watch the sunset - Things to Do in Old San Juan Puerto Rico

By sunset, when the fort has closed for tours of the interior, the grounds become relaxed.  This is a wonderful time to sit down on the grounds and watch the sunset over San Juan Bay.  Bring a blanket, grab a piragua or ice cream nearby and a few snacks to hold you over until dinner, and enjoy the sunset on the most scenic and romantic spot in San Juan.  If you thought the fort was a magestic site during the day, wait just a little longer… when the sunset is over, the walls turn a golden glow for a mesmerizing sight few visitors stay long enough to enjoy. 

Museo de San Juan

Museo de Arte e Historia de San Juan- Puerto Rico

The Museum of San Juan is housed in an elegant mid-19th-century building.  The mission of Museo de San Juan is to “enrich, preserve and disseminate the history, artistic riches and cultural heritage of the Capital City of San Juan”.  The Museum includes a permanent exhibit about the history of San Juan, temporary exhibits & an amphitheater. This place used to be a popular meeting place where goods were sold and cafes where locals met.  Currently, various events are held in the center courtyard.  If you happen to be here on a Saturday, be sure to stop, a farmer’s market is held every week.

Visitor Information

  • Hours: Tuesday – Friday: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. & Saturday: 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
  • Tel: 787-480-3555
  • Address: 150 Norzagaray St., San Juan PR 00901

Take a Walk Down Bahia Urbana

Bahia Urbana - Promenade by the San Juan Bay - San Juan, Puerto Rico

Take a leisurely stroll along Bahia Urbana, where you’ll be treated to views of San Juan Bay, cruise ships, and local boats. On hot days, Bahia Urbana is typically cooler, with refreshing breezes from the trade winds. There are benches to sit down, relax, and take in the views. 

If you’re visiting during Christmas, Bahia Urbana is a hub for local festivities, and you’re cordially invited.  Every year, there’s a festive boat parade where local vessels compete in a spirited display of holiday decorations.  As you reach the end of Bahia Urbana, you’ll arrive at the park; in December, the park transforms into a Christmas Wonderland, complete with festive rides, dazzling decorations, live music, and food.  Check the events schedule at the Tourism Office for December festivities. 

El Capitolio / The Capitol Building

El Capitolio / Capitol Building - San Juan, Puerto Rico - Attractions

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the building is the meeting place for the Legislative Assembly.  El Capitolio is located in Puerta de Tierra district just outside the Old City Walls.  The constitution of Puerto Rico is exhibited on the first floor.

El Capitolio Hours:  Open to visitors Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5 pm.

See Fortín de San Gerónimo de Boqueron

Fortin de San Geronimo de Boqueron - Condado - Points of Interest

Although not officially part of Old San Juan, right in between Condado and Old San Juan, you can make a quick stop to see Fortín de San Gerónimo del Boquerón, one of the city’s fortifications. The small fortification’s location is unique.  You can observe the new city and a structure that has withstood the test of time for five centuries. 

You can observe Fortín de San Gerónimo del Boquerón from La Playita del Condado, and Dos Hermanos Bridge.   For a closer look, Fortin is located inside the Caribe Hilton, it is an easy walk through the seaside walkway behind the hotel (just ask a staff member for directions).  Entry to the fort is not allowed, because it is not safe.  If there is no guard, please do not attempt to enter for your own safety. 

Enjoy your visit, you’ll take some beautiful photos of where the Old and New City come together on the sea.

Photos of Old San Juan

San JuanOld San Juan ⎮ Old San Juan San Juan Things to Do