San Juan Historic Buildings Self-Guided Tour (Self Guided), San Juan

San Juan proudly features the country’s oldest quarters and historic buildings. In addition to containing the oldest occupied residence in the Western Hemisphere, visitors can also admire the old City Hall, the Cristo Chapel, Convento de los Dominicos, historic El Arsenal and many other fascinating attractions. Take the following tour to see the most popular and famous historic buildings in San Juan!
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San Juan Historic Buildings Self-Guided Tour Map

Guide Name: San Juan Historic Buildings Self-Guided Tour
Guide Location: Puerto Rico » San Juan (See other walking tours in San Juan)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.5 Km or 1.6 Miles
Author: leticia
1
El Arsenal

1) El Arsenal

Located on La Puntilla Street, El Arsenal was built in 1791 as a Spanish naval station. Later the building became a citadel, which contained a storage room, offices, living sectors, workshops, a coast guard, kitchens and its own chapel. It features a combination of architectural styles and is now home to three exposition galleries.
2
Capilla Del Santo Cristo de la Salud (Cristo Chapel)

2) Capilla Del Santo Cristo de la Salud (Cristo Chapel) (must see)

Capilla Del Santo Cristo de la Salud is small chapel dating back to 1753. Over the centuries this beautiful chapel was a lovely place of worship to thousands of people. As a legend tells, this historical structure was built to commemorate a miracle.
3
Alcaldía (San Juan City Hall)

3) Alcaldía (San Juan City Hall) (must see)

Alcaldía, or San Juan City Hall, located at Plaza de Armas, is a prominent local landmark and historical building. It was built at the end of the 18th century and is an exact replica of the one in Madrid. The building now houses a tourism information center and a small art gallery, which displays periodic exhibitions.
4
Cathedral of San Juan Bautista

4) Cathedral of San Juan Bautista (must see)

The Cathedral of San Juan Bautista is the Roman Catholic cathedral of the Archdiocese of San Juan de Puerto Rico. The cathedral is one of the oldest buildings in San Juan, located in Old San Juan, and is the second oldest cathedral in the Americas. The Cathedral of Santa María la Menor in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, is the oldest. The original cathedral in what was the city of Puerto Rico (changed to San Juan after the Spanish-American War) was constructed from wood in 1521. It was destroyed by a hurricane and the current structure constructed in 1540, being reshaped in later centuries, the last time being in 1917.

The first school in Puerto Rico (and the oldest school in the United States after Puerto Rico became a territory of the United States) was the Escuela de gramática (Grammar School). The school was established by Bishop Alonso Manso in 1513, in the area where the cathedral would later be constructed. The school was free of charge and the courses taught were Latin language, literature, history, science, art, philosophy and theology.

The cathedral contains the tomb of the Spanish explorer and settlement founder Juan Ponce de León. It also has a shrine to the Blessed Carlos Manuel Rodríguez Santiago, the first Puerto Rican, the first Caribbean-born layperson and the first layperson in the history of the United States to be beatified.
Sight description based on wikipedia
5
Convento de los Dominicos

5) Convento de los Dominicos

Convento de los Dominicos, located on Norzagaray Street, dates back to 1523. Founded by Dominican priests, it initially served as their monastery and was later used as barracks for the Spanish military. Now it serves as a small chapel museum and occasionally offers concerts and art exhibits.

Operation hours: Wednesday - Sunday: 9 am - 4:30 pm
6
Cuartel de Ballajá

6) Cuartel de Ballajá

Cuartel de Ballajá is also known as Ballajá Barracks or Ballajá Quarters. The construction of this historical building began in 1854 and was completed in 1863. This three-story building features huge gates, several balconies and a number of fine arches. It could accommodate over 1,000 citizens, originally Spanish soldiers and their families. Its vast interior patio is one of the best examples of 19th-century Spanish architecture. Today, the Ballajá Barracks houses several educational and cultural organizations, namely the Museo de Las Américas, on the second floor of the building since 1992. On the first floor, there are music and dance schools, a library, among other things.

The Museo de Las Américas has three permanent collections: African Heritage, the Indian in America, and Popular Arts in America.
Sight description based on wikipedia
7
Casa Blanca

7) Casa Blanca (must see)

Casa Blanca is a house museum located in Old San Juan within the historic colonial section of the capital of Puerto Rico. Built in 1521 it served as the first fortification of the San Juan islet and residence for Juan Ponce de Leon and his family, although de Leon died in an expedition to Florida without ever getting to occupy the structure. It was used as the residence of his descendants, until the mid-18th century. As a fortification it served mostly as a refuge in times of attack from Taino rebels.

The house was built in wood but was destroyed by fire and rebuilt in stone and masonry. It subsequently was occupied by members of the Spanish army and later by American army commanders. The surrounding gardens were planted by the first American governor of the island in the 19th century. In 1967 the complex was transferred to the government of Puerto Rico and declared a historical monument. In 1981, it was recorded in the Historic American Buildings Survey. The house is a museum of 16th and 17th century artifacts managed by the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture.

Operation hours: Wednesday -Monday: 9 am - 4:30 pm

"(The above description is based on Wikipedia under Creative Common License)"
Sight description based on wikipedia
8
Casa Rosa

8) Casa Rosa

Casa Rosa or Casa Rosada, also known as the Pink House, is a historic house located in Old San Juan. The house was built in 1812 as a barrack for the troops assigned to the San Agustin Bastion. It was converted to an officers quarters in 1881 by the Spanish Army. The building was later converted to a museum for Puerto Rican crafts. Today it operates as a day care center for the children of employees of the Government of Puerto Rico.

"(The above description is based on Wikipedia under Creative Common License)"
Sight description based on wikipedia
9
Puerta de San Juan (San Juan Gate)

9) Puerta de San Juan (San Juan Gate) (must see)

Puerta de San Juan is a famous city gate built in the late 1700s. This 40 feet high red gate, built to protect the city from invaders, is one of six impressive wooden doors which were closed at sundown for centuries. If you turn right after passing through the gate, you will find the way to Fort del Morro.

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 Orientation Walk

Old San Juan Orientation Walk

San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico, is a lovely historic city with a wealth of colorful Spanish colonial architecture. The most notable landmarks include 16th-century El Morro and La Fortaleza fortresses, rising above the ocean, and the Paseo de la Princesa bayside promenade. To explore San Juan's most prominent sights, follow this orientation walk.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.7 Km or 2.9 Miles
San Juan Art Museums And Galleries Walking Tour

San Juan Art Museums And Galleries Walking Tour

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

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.1 Km or 1.3 Miles
East Old San Juan Walking Tour

East Old San Juan Walking Tour

East Old San Juan is a popular tourist area that 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 end!

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.5 Km or 0.9 Miles
Old San Juan Squares Self-Guided Tour

Old San Juan Squares Self-Guided Tour

Old San Juan is packed with historical places, among which are the city’s old squares. Many of them house beautiful fountains, prominent monuments and wonderful sculptures which depict the rich history of this amazing city. Check out San Juan’s most popular historical squares in the next self-guided tour!

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.1 Km or 1.3 Miles
East San Juan Walking Tour

East San Juan Walking Tour

East San Juan contains many great attractions, including San Gerónimo Fort, Parque Luis Muñoz Rivera, beautiful statues and the best art galleries and museums. Take the following tour to discover the most interesting places in San Juan's east end!

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.8 Km or 3 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: 1.5 Km or 0.9 Miles

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