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Old San Juan, Puerto Rico Travel Guide

Old San Juan Summary


  • Largest and best-preserved complex of Spanish colonial architecture in the region, with original 16th and 17th century buildings
  • Home to art galleries and museums
  • Beautifully restored colonial buildings
  • Lots of cafes and shops
  • Charming squares and cobblestone streets
  • Perfectly walkable (though there are some steep streets)
  • 15-minute drive to Luis Munoz Marin International Airport


  • Not within easy walking distance of the beaches
  • Crowds all year round
  • Some steep climbs
  • Crooked, winding streets make orientation difficult sometimes

What It's Like

Old San Juan was built in 1521, and it still feels a bit like going back in time if you can see past the cars and the storefronts. You won't find skyscrapers or modern buildings here, but perfectly restored centuries-old colonial buildings, and colorful low-rise homes on narrow cobblestone streets. El Morro, on the far northwestern side of the old city, is a rocky promontory home to the fortress, an imposing stone construction dating back to the 16th century. It's quite a walk up, but the views and the complex itself (the largest and best-preserved in the region) is worth the trek.

This historic neighborhood is full of art galleries, sidewalk cafes, and beautiful colonial architecture. Its proximity to the cruise port means there are crowds all year round, and you won't find many beaches immediately nearby (you'll have to head to Condado or Isla Verde) -- but most attractions are within walking distance, and there are wonderful tree-shaded squares where you can take a break halfway up the climb to the old fort.

Where To Stay

The neighborhood is perfectly walkable, but hotels west of the Capitolio are closer to cafes, shops and the main attractions. Just bear in mind that the closer to El Morro, the steeper the streets are.

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