This walking tour is great for first time visitors, Calle Norzagaray is the location for both forts and many interesting stops in between. What appeal to some may not to others, so we included a little bit of everything to satisfy the interest of tourists (visitors that typically prefer to simply visit the main attractions) and travelers (visitors that wish to see tourist attractions, experience the local culture and visit places locals love).
If you’re in Old San Juan for a full day, you’ll have time to do all the stops and tour more streets. Visitors and cruisers visiting for half a day, please see the entire page and choose the attractions and stops that most appeal to you and fit your travel itinerary.
We understand you have time constraints, you may want to walk and take the trolley in between in order to save time, however if you see long lines during cruise days, you may get to places faster by walking than waiting for a trolley stop. There are many trolley stops along the way, so you can hop on any time you see a chance.
What you’ll see on this Old San Juan walking tour:
This self guided walking tour will cover the San Juan National Historic Site (both forts), quick stops along colorful alleyways, cafes, two museums, nearby restaurants and many photo-ops along the way. Playful children and adults alike will have a chance to stop at Plaza del Quinto Centenario for a fun refreshing stop at the water feature, go kite flying on the grounds of El Morro Fort, explore tunnels througout the forts…and of course tropical ice cream and piragua stops along the way.
- from cruise terminal to San Cristobal is about a 10 – 15 minute walk from the Old San Juan Pier. Easy walk, mostly flat and some slight up hill.
- from San Cristobal Fort to El Morro Fort (end of Norzagaray) is about a 20 minute walk without stopping. Mostly flat walk.
- Feel free to mix it up by walking and using the free trolley to do this tour. Depending on the number of tourists on the islet of Old San Juan, you may be waiting to get a spot on the trolley.
Keep in mind
Remember that you’re on vacation, relax, take your time and don’t focus on the amount of attractions, make stops along the way, enjoy the sights and the ocean breeze, it will help create more memorable experiences. If you wish to see more, just come back to Puerto Rico.
The following tour is designed for walking. We have included a full map of places mentioned for your convenience. Feel free to print this page and review the attractions in more detail ahead of time so you can make the most of your time in Old San Juan.
Top Attractions in Calle Norzagaray – Old San Juan
As you begin walking towards Calle Norzagaray, you’ll see Castillo San Cristobal at the top of the hill overlooking the city. On the other end of Calle Norzagaray, you’ll get to Castillo San Felipe del Morro (El Morro Fort), many visitors wish to see both forts, if you’re short on time and only have one day in Old San Juan, you may want to consider visiting one of them. You may also opt to visit San Cristobal a shorter amount of time touring the main areas, leave through the north exit ramp and continue down Norzagaray Street. If you choose to skip visiting San Cristobal, at the upper east corner of Norzagaray, you’ll there’s a nice stop where you can appreciate the walls of the fort, and take a beautiful photo at one of the most popular Garitas of San Juan overlooking the Atlantic. Keep in mind that the entrance fee gives visitors access to both forts. If you’re visiting with children or individuals with a physical disability, El Morro is easier to navigate and more family friendly.
La Garita del Diablo
La Perla Neighborhood
La Garita del Diablo – As you begin walking away from San Cristobal, be sure to look back to get another point of view of La Garita del Diablo (The Devil’s Sentry Box), sitting right on the water.
La Perla Neighborhood
Walking west, you’ll pass La Perla, a neighborhood that became infamous for its share of drug related crimes in the past and thanks to the world hit song Despacito is now the newest tourist hot spot in Old San Juan. The colorful homes, history and rugged qualities gave the video Despacito a vibe that is literally making people from all over the world take an interest in visiting Old San Juan to see La Perla. You may read stories and comments about not going into La Perla, but that infamous reputation is quickly fading. Many tourists are heading down the steps to see where Despacito was filmed and residents are warmly welcoming them.
The majority of the homes are not occupied, but in the past few years the community is seeing a positive revival. Homes are getting a fresh coat of paint, and some getting repaired thanks to private donors and its residents. La Perla has a new bakery and gardens, the community is gaining energy to change the neighborhood reputation.
Soon, there may be guided tours of La Perla. Keep in mind that police does not patrol the neighborhood of La Perla like the main tourists areas. You can easily see La Perla from Norzagaray, we recommend you keep going, there’s much to see on this street and beyond.
Calle Tanca Refreshment Stop
Quick Photo-op at Calle Imperial
Calle Tanca – Your next stop is at Calle Tanca & Norzagaray, a picturesque alley with various casual cafes locals love and attracts travelers that wish to experience the casual and laid back San Juan culture. It is a good stop to get some refreshments, try traditional Puerto Rican food favorites to enjoy on the outdoor tables overlooking the sea. The restaurant on the corner – Antojitos de la Calle Tanca sells traditional fried treats and drinks at reasonable prices. The restaurant on the other corner also sells traditional Puerto Rican food and bar drinks. At night, the vibe is very festive with music playing and people dancing. On weekends you may find live entertainment and a happy local crowd, a great place to immerse yourself in the warm Puerto Rican culture. Don’t miss taking a photograph on the colorful mural.
Flag photo-op at Calle Imperial – Old San has a brand new gorgeous flag at the end of Calle Imperial. This is an excellent photo-op spot.
Museo de San Juan
Museo de Arte e Historia de San Juan +
Museum of San Juan is a beautiful mid-19th century landmark. This used to be a popular meeting place where goods were sold and cafes where people met. The mission of Museo de San Juan is to "enrich, preserve an disseminate the history, artistic riches an cultural heritage of the Capital City of San Juan".
Many events are held at the center courtyard. If you happen to be here on a Saturday, be sure to stop, a farmer’s market is held every week. Inside the museum you can enjoy art exhibits rotated regularly. You’ll always find something new and interesting happening at the San Juan Museum.
Museum includes: Permanent exhibits about the history of San Juan, temporary exhibits & amphitheater.
- 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
Plaza del Quinto Centenario
+ Plaza del Quinto Centenario
Museo de San Juan – If you wish to learn about the history and cultural heritage of the Capital City of San Juan, you may want to stop at Museo de San Juan.
Plaza del Quinto Centenario – Next stop is great for the kids, give them a few minutes to run around the circular water feature at Plaza del Quinto Centenario…parents, let loose and join them…you’re in Puerto Rico!
Castillo San Felipe del Morro +
Castillo San Felipe del Morro is one of the top tourist attractions in Puerto Rico and the most visited fort. Although much smaller than San Cristobal, many visitors tend to elongate their time visiting, all six levels offer interesting historical facts, scenic vantage points, romantic corners and architectural wonders.
Fly at Kite on the Grounds of El Morro
One of the top things to do for families and lovers is flying a kite on the grounds of El Morro. The grounds of El Morro is a place for visitors to observe and immerse themselves in the culture of Puerto Ricans; remaining playful at any age, laughing their way through life with family and friends while enjoying the simple things…are some of the qualities that describe what it means to be a Puerto Rican. We invite you to participate on this joyful tradition.
Where to buy kites: Cheap kites and refreshments are sold across the street from Plaza del Quinto Centenario, if you want to wait flying the kite after touring El Morro, you can find better quality kites at El Morro’s Gift Shop (when available) so you can keep it as souvenier and remember the experience in other places you go.
Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery: On your way to or from El Morro, you can stop by the city walls to see Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery, commonly known as The Old San Juan Cemetery. Here you’ll find the resting place of many prominent Puerto Ricans. The cemetery dates back to early 1863. The oceanfront location of the cemetery is symbolic of the journey over to the afterlife, a belief originating from Spanish superstition and fear of death.
Watch the Sunset: If you love to watch the sunset, we encourage you to stay on the grounds of El Morro and to watch it from there, the sun comes down right behind Isla de Cabras.
Old San Juan Cemetery
Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery +
Most people don’t connect visiting a cemetery with a Caribbean vacation, but it is definitely worth visiting this Puerto Rican landmark. The cemetery sits outside the 20 foot walls of fort El Morro – overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Many notable Puerto Ricans are buried here. Once you come in, you may find yourself wishing for your remains to be buried in this place. Many Puerto Ricans are dying to get a burial lot here (no pun intended). More about Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery
Dinner Time: From here you can head back to Plaza del Quinto Centenario, up the steps towards Calle San Sebastian, or down to Calle del Cristo or Calle Fortaleza, where you’ll find a great variety of restaurants for a great dinner. The walk to these streets is downhill, making it much easier after. If you’re tired of walking, be sure to have your hotel concierge / front desk available phone number ready, they will be happy to call a taxi so it can pick you up and take you back to your hotel or restaurant of your choice.
El Morro at Night: Sadly, very few people get to enjoy one of the most breathtaking sights in San Juan at night. When the sun goes down and the sky becomes dark, the walls of El Morro are lit with a golden glow. Crowds are gone, the grounds are quiet, becoming one of the most romantic settings in Old San Juan. If you are eager to have dinner or get back to your hotel, then be sure to get a taxi ride to El Morro at night so you can take a look.