It was not until Columbus’s second voyage to the Americas that he would make landfall on what would later be Puerto Rico. One of the oldest European colonized cities in the Americas itself, the city is steeped in history. But do you know the best way to take in its fascinating past?
We think a walking tour of its spectacular sites is the perfect solution. Read on as we tell you the sites to see on a San Juan Puerto Rico Free Walking Tour.
The Plaza Colón
Formerly known as Santiago Square, this plaza is the beating heart of San Juan. It was formerly the site of the cities main gate and was an important transport and social area. Since then, the people have changed but its purpose is much the same with many of the city’s bars and restaurants dotted around.
As a central point, it is a great place to start your walk. Most tour guides and excellent free walking tours will begin here as it lies in close proximity to many of the city’s sights. Most of the all-inclusive resorts in San Juan will be happy to drop you off here for a day trip.
The Old City Wall
Nothing defines San Juan more than its Old City Wall. It was started by Spanish colonists in the 1600s. Taking 200 years to complete, it has withstood attacks by the Dutch, English, and Americans.
The wall now belongs to the National Park Service. It is in various states of repair, as skilled masonry workers use traditional techniques to preserve it. Walking along it will bring you across its characteristic sentry boxes posted at regular intervals.
San Cristóbal Fort
San Cristobal took 150 years to complete and was finished in 1793. It is the largest European fort in the Americas, built with the intention of protecting the city from attack by land.
Built over three levels, each floor oozes history. The top-level is where you will find the most breathtaking panoramic vista of Puerto Rico. There are currently plans to link it with a continuous trail to its sister, Castillo del Morro.
The Facades of the Alejandro Theatre
Alejandro Theatre is the oldest playhouse in Puerto Rico. Constructed in 1832, it has a traditional European three-tier, opera house shape. It has been the center of cultural life in the city for over 100 years.
The facades of the theatre are beautifully decorated, as is this whole area of the city. A cultural quarter of sorts, it is a short walk from the Carnegie library, and YMCA.
The Old Casino
The Antiguo Casino de Puerto Rico is one of the most striking buildings in the whole city. Originally conceived as a social club, this beautiful Beaux-Arts structure almost never came to fruition. Construction started in 1913 but due to lack of funds, was halted and restarted many times.
During World War II, the building was repurposed as a US Army officers club. At the end of the war, it was then changed into a music school and was later turned into a government building.
The Narrowest House in America
The streets of Old San Juan have a plethora of curiosities. However, one is extremely easy to miss.
Known as La Casa Estrecha, it is the narrowest house in America. Luckily, many of the hotels in San Juan Puerto Rico offer slightly more spacious accommodation.
Formerly an alleyway, the house has everything you would expect. This includes a bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom. Now used as a gallery, it is distinguishable by its bright yellow facade and green door.
The Famous Calle del Cristo
Calle del Cristo is a shoppers paradise. A lively cobblestone street, it houses boutiques, restaurants, galleries, and high street shops. It is the place to get all your trip souvenirs and pick up a tasty bite to eat along the way.
However, the tourist nature of the street should not put you off. It also houses some of the most interesting sites in the whole city. The San Jose Church and the Capilla De Cristo are just off the street.
Don’t forget to rest at Pigeon Park and take a photo. If you carry on down the street, you will arrive at the famous El Morro.
The Chapel of Cristo de San Juan
The Chapel of Cristo de San Juan is a small chapel and museum. It is in a beautiful, secluded area at the end of the Calle del Cristo. The church stands upon a spot where a young man once plummeted off the cliffs on horseback, yet managed to survive.
Inside, a small altar of gold and silver stands. Around it are beautiful oil paintings from the artist Jose Campeche. More amazing are the tiny silver ornaments, added by the visitors to the chapel over its history.
The Totem is a work of public contemporary art by artist Jaime Suarez. It is constructed of black granite sourced from across the Americas. The sculpture stands 12 meters tall, but seems taller due to its position at the top of a staircase.
Erected in 1992, it was created to celebrate Columbus’s discovery of the New World. It is surrounded by water fountains in a beautiful square.
El Morro has a huge legacy as a former Spanish fort. While it now greets cruise ships, it once defended the port from naval enemies. It has now been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Construction began in 1539 on the order of King Charles V of Spain. It was not until 1634 that the additions, and the bigger wall we know today, was created. Later improvements would see the thickness of the wall increased and cisterns added below the walls.
San Juan Puerto Rico
As well as these amazing sites, San Juan Puerto Rico has all the amenities you would expect. Restaurants serving delicious food and luxurious hotels are on offer. All you need to do is book your trip.
World Free Tours is your first sightseeing stop in San Juan. We can show you all the sites, and fill your tour with informative history. Click here for our whole list of world tours in San Juan and across the globe.