Take a Walk Through Old San Juan
Covering an area of seven blocks, Old San Juan features up to four hundred superbly restored 16th and 17th-century Spanish colonial buildings. Those who have done so, agree that one of the best ways to explore this historical treasure is on foot, giving yourself time to take in the details you may otherwise miss. Information on the various attractions of Old San Juan can be obtained from the Puerto Rico Tourism Company’s Visitor Center located opposite Plaza de la Darsena, which is a good place to start a walking tour.
After enjoying the spectacular view of the San Juan Bay, you can turn left past the landmark yellow Casita, stopping off at the outdoors craft market which is open all day on weekends. Continuing left along the tree-lined Paseo de la Princesa with its gardens, benches and refreshment vendors, you will have the colossal city wall on your right-hand side. Built to protect the city from sea-faring invaders, the wall is up to 60 feet tall and 20 feet thick in some places. The construction of the fortified wall was started in the early 1500s and as the city grew, the wall was extended, with construction finally coming to an end in 1782.
Further along the Paseo de la Princesa is a building that once served as the jail for San Juan, keeping the criminals outside the city walls. Referred to as La Princesa, the building is the head office of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company and usually features a display of Puerto Rican art. Visitors can take a short tour through the jail cells pm week days.
The next feature along the Paseo de la Princesa is the Raices fountain, with the sculpture by Luis Sanguino symbolizing the cultural roots of Puerto Ricans. Looking across the bay toward Catano, you will see the Bacardi Rum Factory, and walking along the promenade to the right you’ll come across a sculpture of Queen Isabella, before arriving at the City Gate. At this point you can either enter the gate into the city or continue walking on the outside of the wall below the historic El Morro fort – an attraction that deserves a couple of hours to explore.
For visitors who are not able to spend the whole day on their feet, there is a free trolley service that runs from 7am to 7pm during the week and from 9am to 7pm on the weekend. There are three trolley routes, and visitors can get on and off the trolley at any of the clearly marked trolley stops.