Not packed in a bus. Not herded with a group. Self guided walk is the SAFEST way to sightsee while observing SOCIAL DISTANCING!

Old San Juan East Side Walking Tour (Self Guided), San Juan

The east side of Old San Juan is home to several interesting historical sites, including Castillo de San Cristóbal, El Capitolio, Casa De España and Monumento de la Recordación. Take the following tour to discover the fascinating attractions located in Old San Juan’s east side!
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Old San Juan East Side Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Old San Juan East Side Walking Tour
Guide Location: Puerto Rico » San Juan (See other walking tours in San Juan)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.1 Km or 0.7 Miles
Author: leticia
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Fort San Cristobal
  • Plaza Colon (Columbus Square)
  • Museo del Mar (Maritime Museum)
  • Haitian Gallery
  • Casa de España (The Spain House)
  • El Capitolio (The Capitol)
  • Monumento de la Recordación
1
Fort San Cristobal

1) Fort San Cristobal (must see)

Standing guard at the eastern gate, north of Plaza Colón, is an imposing 18th century fortress, called Castillo San Cristóbal. Contrary to her sister, El Morro, designed to protect from attacks by sea, the San Cristóbal guarded the city from enemy approaches by land, creating a crossfire with Del Morro over the bay. Meant to strengthen Spanish position in the face of imminent English and Dutch invasion, construction of the citadel began in 1634 on a hill originally known as Cerro de la Horca or Cerro del Quemadero. Later it was renamed Cerro de San Cristóbal in celebration of the Spanish victories ejecting English and Dutch interlopers from the island of this name in the Lesser Antilles, which was then part of the insular territorial glacis of Puerto Rico.

When finished in 1783, the Castillo San Cristóbal covered nearly 27 acres of land and practically wrapped around the whole of San Juan, with the entry to the city sealed by the San Cristóbal's double gates. After almost 100 years of relative peace, about a third of the fortification was demolished in 1897 to help ease the flow of traffic in and out of the walled city.

The Castillo de San Cristóbal is now a listed National Historic Site.

Why You Should Visit:
To see a) the largest fortification ever built by the Spanish in the New World, where the first shots of the Spanish-American War were fired; b) the historic weapons firing drill, cannons and real 200-pound mortar shells; c) the famous Garita (sentry boxes on the walls – a symbol of strength and national pride of Puerto Rico) where half a millennium ago Spanish soldiers stood watch; d) the artillery observation post built by the U.S. Army during World War II; e) to peer through cannon embrasures.
If you're a keen photographer, San Cristobal is a goldmine of panoramic views of the coast, from Old San Juan to Condado and beyond.

Tip:
Guided tours by local rangers visit the extensive tunnel system connecting various sections of the fort.
There is an exhibition of military clothing.
Be sure to visit the overlook for the Devil's Sentry Box or the "Garita del Diablo", from which, according to legends, soldiers mysteriously disappeared.
Tickets to San Cristobal or Del Morro can be used to enter either of the forts.

Operation Hours:
Everyday from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm.
Sight description based on wikipedia
2
Plaza Colon (Columbus Square)

2) Plaza Colon (Columbus Square)

Plaza Colón is one of the most important squares in San Juan. Originally known as Plaza Santiago, back in the 17th century this square literally marked the doorstep to the old town. Encircled by stone walls in 1635-1641, the only way into the city was then through five gates, the centermost of which was Puerta de Santiago or Puerta de Tierra (the Land Gate), straddling the sole highway linking the walled San Juan islet to the rest of Puerto Rico by land.

By 1772 the urban tapestry of San Juan had become more or less apparent, and the open space adjacent to the city's most important doorway had taken the shape of Plaza Santiago, albeit still unpaved at that time and long afterwards. From 1862, several projects had been undertaken to refurbish the square until in 1870 it finally started to take its current shape; in 1890 the statue of Ponce de León was installed. The latter was replaced in 1893 by the statue of Christopher Columbus, to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the discovery of Puerto Rico, upon which the plaza was renamed Colón, or Columbus Square.

In 1897, under new urban development plan, the eastern portion of the city wall, along with the Puerta de San Juan, was demolished to allow further expansion of the city. In 1917, on the former site of the gate was built a casino, called the Antiguo Casino de Puerto Rico (the "Old Casino of Puerto Rico"). In the course of the 20th century it hosted some of the most ostentatious celebrations by Sanjuanera elite. Recently restored to its original splendor, this Beaux Arts building now operates as a social center of the Government of Puerto Rico for special events.

To the south of the plaza is another gem of Puerto Rican entertainment culture, the Teatro Tapia. Inaugurated in 1824, this lovely piece of neoclassical architecture was initially known as the San Juan Municipal Theater. Over the years, many notable performers have graced its stage, including the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. Outside the theater, along Calle Fortaleza, are a number of quaint restaurants and cute little cafes. Overlooking the square, in good weather, they are absolutely wonderful to sip some iced coffee outside whilst enjoying the sight of Plaza Colón, the symbol of progress and testament of new and old San Juan!
3
Museo del Mar (Maritime Museum)

3) Museo del Mar (Maritime Museum)

Maritime Museum, dedicated to Puerto Rico’s maritime history, contains various interesting exhibits, including maps, a wide collection of maritime tools (such as life rings) and other naval items. You will learn about the various countries and ships that have used the San Juan harbor. It gives a history lesson of Puerto Rico from an interesting angle. It is a small museum so it does not take much time to see it but it is well worth a visit if you are in the area.

Opening Hours: Tuesday-Sunday: 10:00 - 17:00; Monday: closed.
4
Haitian Gallery

4) Haitian Gallery

The Haitian Gallery is a great place to find fine souvenirs, excellent gifts and original collectibles. This pleasant two-story shop offers vast array of items, including handmade chess sets, beautiful ceramic dolls, decorated photo albums, wooden sculptures and paintings. Price varies greatly depending on the item. If you looking to bring something home from San Juan, this place is worth a visit.

Operation Hours: Monday-Saturday: 10:00 - 20:00: Sunday: closed.
5
Casa de España (The Spain House)

5) Casa de España (The Spain House)

Casa de España is a beautiful historic building located on Ponce de León Avenue, near El Capitolio. Built in 1932 and designed by the famous Puerto Rican architect, Pedro de Castro, it serves as a private civic and cultural association dedicated to Puerto Rico’s Spanish heritage. Although it is named "Casa", it has never been a dwelling place for a family; rather it is a "house" whose members claim common ancestry. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. It is not open to the public, but that should not stop anyone from appreciating its beauty from the outside.
Sight description based on wikipedia
6
El Capitolio (The Capitol)

6) El Capitolio (The Capitol)

The Capitol of Puerto Rico is located on the Islet of San Juan just outside the walls of Old San Juan. The building is home to the bicameral Legislative Assembly, composed of the House of Representatives and Senate. Its architecture is reminiscent of the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. Construction began in 1921 and it was completed in 1929. Guided tours are available for touring the building.
Sight description based on wikipedia
7
Monumento de la Recordación

7) Monumento de la Recordación

In front of the beautiful El Capitolio you will see Monumento de la Recordación. El Monumento de la Recordación is a memorial monument and monolith erected in San Juan, Puerto Rico that honors Puerto Ricans who have fallen in combat in service of the United States armed forces. The monument was unveiled on May 19, 1996 as a granite wall in semicircular shape engraved with the names of those Puerto Rican soldiers that have fallen in war. As of today the monument is etched with the names of more than 2,000 service members
Sight description based on wikipedia

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 Walking Tour

Old San Juan Walking Tour

The old town of San Juan, capital of Puerto Rico, is a lovely historic area with a wealth of colorful Spanish colonial architecture. The most notable landmarks include 16th-century El Morro and La Fortaleza fortresses, towering over the Atlantic, and the Paseo de la Princesa bayside promenade, to mention but a few. To explore Old San Juan's most prominent sights, follow this self-guided walk.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.1 Km or 1.9 Miles
San Juan Art Museums And Galleries Tour

San Juan Art Museums And Galleries Tour

San Juan is a great place to learn more about Caribbean, Latin American and Puerto Rican art. It has many interesting museums and excellent galleries, featuring fine works by talented international and local artists. Check out San Juan’s most popular art museums and galleries on this self walking tour!

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.2 Km or 1.4 Miles
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 tour!

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.8 Km or 1.1 Miles
San Juan Historic Buildings

San Juan Historic Buildings

San Juan proudly features the country’s oldest quarters and historic buildings. In addition to having the oldest occupied residence in the Western Hemisphere, visitors can also admire the old City Hall, the Cristo Chapel, the historic El Arsenal and many other fascinating attractions. Take this self guided tour to see the most popular and famous historic buildings in San Juan!

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.4 Km or 1.5 Miles
Souvenir Shopping

Souvenir Shopping

It would be a pity to leave San Juan without having explored its specialty shops and bringing home something truly original. We've compiled a list of gifts and souvenirs, which are unique to San Juan, that a visitor might like to purchase to reflect their visit.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.9 Km or 0.6 Miles

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