There are so many things to do in Old San Juan in Puerto Rico – where does one begin? There are infinite possibilities to fit every mood and interest, but the crew here at Caribbean Trading Company have some personal favorites. Here’s some of the local spots that we return to time and again in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico…
1. Visit the Forts
There are two forts located in Old San Juan: San Cristobal and El Morro. Each has its own personality and feel and are worth a look. Start at San Cristobal Fort, which was in use through WWII; making sure to visit the dungeon area where you can still see prisoners’ wall carvings hundreds of years later. Then take the walk to El Morro – on this stroll you will see evidence of the extensive walls built that once completely surrounded Old San Juan and was part of the city’s primary defenses. You will also see the La Perla neighborhood (although best viewed from afar) where the servants and slaves of the colony once lived. As you approach EL Morro you will see a large field before it that is perfect for flying kites. There are vendors nearby selling kites for those interested, but really it’s just a great field to take a breather in and do some people watching before continuing onto El Morro.
2. Dine out on Fortaleza Street
In recent years, the gastronomic scene in Puerto Rico has really exploded, and has become renowned for it’s innovative fusion cuisines. Well, the restaurants on Fortaleza Street (aka SoFO, or South Fortaleza) are leading the charge. Some of Puerto Rico’s favorite chefs and long-standing restaurants are there, including: Parrot Club, Aquaviva, Marmalades, 311, and more. You will find innovative Puerto Rican, Caribbean, and fusion cuisines, and bi-annually SoFO hosts a culinary festival whereby you can taste test all of the local restaurants. There are many other great restuarants off of SoFo as well – something to appeal to every palate. If you are a beer drinker, be sure to check out Old Harbor Brewery- the only microbrewer on the island.
3. Souvenir Shopping
Old San Juan is the mecca of souvenir and art shopping. While there are some quality souvenir stores outside of Old San Juan, you will find a concentration of stores here, and a lot of great jewelry stores as well. To see a listing of some of our favorite stores in Old San Juan, click Here. From cigars to pamama hats to vejigante masks and larimar jewelry, options abound.
4. Artist & Art Gallery Hopping
There are a large number of art galleries and art schools in Old San Juan and artisan fair areas, so be sure to enjoy the local art scene. First up, visit (stay or eat) at Gallery Inn San Juan. This is a small inn owned by a local artist, and the Inn itself is peppered with her artwork. Also, many artists have their own shops in Old San Juan and galleries abound. Here is a link to a listing of some more popular ones. The Tourism Company building located at the Old Prison at the start to Paseo la Princesa offers a nice art gallery of Puerto Rican artists as well.
5. Monuments, Plazas, and Walkways
One of the best things about Old San Juan are the public spaces- plazas, monuments, courtyards and walkways abound; so spend some time just walking around. First up is taking a walk along Paseo de la Princesa that run the edge of the bay and will take you to the San Juan Gate. Vist Parque de Paloma where you can feed the pigeons near Capilla de Cristo. Enjoy the sights and sounds in Colon Plaza or Plaza de Armas. Many of our favorite places are courtyards or steps that are off the beaten path and nameless… so enjoy the search for your very own favorites!
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