San Juan Gate and City Wall, San Juan

San Juan Gate and City Wall, San Juan (must see)

Built in the late 1700s, San Juan Gate is a giant (40 feet) doorway, the last remaining of the original five gates carved into the three-mile wall that once surrounded the city. Presently, the wall wraps around Old San Juan from the cruise-ship piers on San Juan Harbor to the capitol on the Atlantic.

Originally, each gate had a designated function. This red gate of San Juan played a symbolic role of main entrance to the city, and was named in honor of Saint John the Baptist. The first thing you notice approaching it is the inscription of The Sanctus (“Holy”) hymn from Catholic liturgy.

The city wall is the most enduring symbol of Puerto Rico, built by the Spanish between 1539 and 1782. Made of sandstone, rubble, and mortar blocks 20 feet thick, the wall measures 45 feet wide and 40 feet high in some spots, and was meant to protect San Juan from invaders, notably the English, the Dutch, and the Americans. Its iconic sentry boxes now symbolize the island’s Spanish heritage and resilience in an ever-changing world.

Nearly impenetrable to foreign attack, the city wall has proved defenseless against modern automobile traffic, pollution, and misguided attempts to preserve it that have seriously endangered the wall, leaving it crumbling in some places.

Currently a National Historic Site, the city wall is maintained by the National Park Service attempting to recreate the magic mixture of sand, water, and limestone used to stucco the wall. Along with the adjoining fortresses of El Morro and San Cristóbal, the city wall attracts 1.2 million visitors annually.

Tip:
As you walk through the gate, pause and notice how thick the city walls are. As soon as you pass, look out for street vendors on the corner offering refreshments including Puerto Ricans’ favorite, piragua.

Want to visit this sight? Check out these Self-Guided Walking Tours in San Juan. Alternatively, you can download the mobile app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from iTunes App Store or Google Play. The app turns your mobile device to a personal tour guide and it works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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San Juan Gate and City Wall on Map

Sight Name: San Juan Gate and City Wall
Sight Location: San Juan, Puerto Rico (See walking tours in San Juan)
Sight Type: Attraction/Landmark
Guide(s) Containing This Sight:

Walking Tours in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Create Your Own Walk in San Juan

Create Your Own Walk in San Juan

Creating your own self-guided walk in San Juan is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Old San Juan Squares

Old San Juan Squares

A distinctive feature of Old San Juan is the number of quaint historic squares. Many of them are adorned with beautiful fountains, prominent monuments and intricate sculptures recounting rich history of this amazing city. Check out San Juan’s most popular squares on this self-guided walking tour!

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.8 Km or 1.1 Miles
Souvenir Shopping

Souvenir Shopping

Puerto Rico was colonized by Spain following the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1493. Among the crafts that followed the Spanish to the island was mundillo, a kind of decorative lace made of wooden bobbins. Over the next few centuries, the mundillo craft flourished on the island and today is one of the most popular local products sought after by visitors.

Being Caribbean, the country also...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.9 Km or 0.6 Miles
San Juan Historical Buildings

San Juan Historical Buildings

San Juan was founded by the Spanish in 1521, which makes it the third oldest European-established capital city on the American continent. Owning to its long history, the old town of San Juan is filled to the brim with heritage colonial buildings.

Chief among them, La Fortaleza is the longest-standing executive mansion in continuous use in America, whereas the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista is...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.4 Km or 1.5 Miles
Old San Juan Walking Tour

Old San Juan Walking Tour

Founded by Spanish colonists in 1521, who called it "Rich Port City", San Juan is the third oldest European-established capital city in the Americas and the oldest one in the U.S. territories.

During the Spanish colonial times, most of the city population resided in what is now known as Old San Juan. Today, this part of the town is a lovely historical area renowned for its narrow...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.1 Km or 1.9 Miles

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip


13 Distinctively Puerto Rican Goods to Bring Home from San Juan

13 Distinctively Puerto Rican Goods to Bring Home from San Juan

The uniqueness of Puerto Rico is partially associated with its political status - part of the United States yet with a Latin twist. Other than their widely-acknowledged musical talents, e.g. Carlos Santana and Ricky Martin, Puerto Rico is just as rich in many other good things. When you're in...