The Capitol Building In San Juan, Puerto Rico – All You Need To Know

Puerto Rico, like the US Federal Government, has a bicameral legislative assembly.

El Capitolio (Capitol Building), also known as El Palacio De Las Leyes (The Laws Palace), is home to Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives and Puerto Rico’s Senate.

As an Attorney, I am familiar El Capitolio.

In this article, I will cover everything that you need to know about the Capitol Building in San Juan:

What is the Capitol Building?
What is the history of the Capitol Building?
Where is it located?
Is it worth visiting?
Is there an entrance fee?

 

What is the Capitol Building?

The Capitol Building is a neo-classical white marble building that houses Puerto Rico’s bicameral legislative assembly.

image of Puerto Rico’s Capitol Building from the North
The Capitol building is located just outside of Old San Juan.

The House of Representatives and The Senate of Puerto Rico have used the building for over 90 years.

Below is a video of a visit to Puerto Rico’s Capitol Building:

 

What is the history of the Capitol Building?

Puerto Rico’s Capitol building has two histories: the history of the building and the one within the building.

Before the construction of El Capitolio, the Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico used the Provincial Delegation Building (that building is the Department of State Building now).

vintage photo of the construction of Puerto Rico’s Capitol Building
Construction on the Capital Building began in the 1920’s.

The former Resident Commissioner Luis Munoz Rivera introduced the idea of constructing a capitol building in 1907.

In September 1907, Commissioner of the Interior Laurence Grahame sent an official request for architects to submit plans for Puerto Rico’s Capitol building.

They chose Frank E Perkins’s proposal, and construction began in 1921. The Capitol building was inaugurated on February 11, 1929.

Since 1977, Puerto Rico’s Capitol Building has been on The US National Register Of Historic Places.

Check out our article about the History of Puerto Rico to learn more about the island.

 

Where is it located?

You will find the Capitol Building of Puerto Rico astride the Ponce de León and Muñoz Rivera avenues in Puerta de Tierra, just a short walk from the “heart” of Old San Juan.

image of John the Baptist statue in front of Puerto Rico’s Capitol Building
John the Baptist statue in front of Puerto Rico’s Capitol Building, with the ocean directly behind.

On the North Side of the Capitol (in front of the ocean) has a John the Baptist statue. 

image of the statues of US Presidents that visited Puerto Rico while in office front of the Capitol
Statues of US Presidents that visited Puerto Rico while in office can be found on the south side of the Capital.

On the South Side of the Capitol, you will find life-size statues of the United States Presidents that have visited Puerto Rico while in Office.

Below is a Google Map that shows the location of El Capitolio:

 

Is it worth visiting?

The Puerto Rico Capitol Building is worth visiting. 

If you like history and art, you will find both at El Capitolio.

There is the history of the Capitol and the one within the Capitol.

When you enter the building and go to the Rotunda, look up; eighty feet above the floor, you will see a glass mosaic of Puerto Rico’s Coat of Arms.

image showing the glass mosaic of Puerto Rico's Coat of Arms
A glass mosaic of Puerto Rico’s Coat of Arms surrounded by the twelve muses.

Surrounding the  coat of arms are mosaics of the twelve muses.

There are four mosaics on the Rotunda arcs depicting Puerto Rican history scenes. The Northwest mosaic represents the discovery of Puerto Rico. The North mosaic depicts the colonization of Puerto Rico by the Spaniards.

The Southwest mosaic represents the autonomist movement of 1857, and the South mosaic commemorates the abolition of slavery in Puerto Rico.

Twelve rose marble columns (four on each side) support the second floor. On the second floor of the Rotunda, they carved twelve friezes depicting scenes of Puerto Rican history.

image of the frieze depicting the Taino era of Puerto Rican history
Taino era of Puerto Rican history is depicted on the walls of the Capital’s interior.

The Northside has the Taino period of Puerto Rico.

Spanish Governors and the abolition of slavery are on the East side.

You will see the arrival of the United States troops in 1898 on the South side frieze.

And the political reforms that gave Puerto Ricans United States citizenship are on the west frieze.

image of Rotunda Hall
The Puerto Rican Constitution sits underneath the glass mosaic on the building’s ceiling.

In the middle of the Rotunda Hall is a Copy of The Puerto Rican constitution.

The Puerto Rico Coats of Arms glass mosaic on the roof of the Rotunda allows sunlight in, illuminating the copy of The Constitution.

The Capital Building is located near many attractions in the area, read up on them in our article covering the 40 Best Things To Do In San Juan.

 

Is there an entrance fee?

No, there is no entrance fee at El Capitolio.

image of tourists entering The Puerto Rico Capitol Building
You can visit the Capital Building during the weekdays with a free guided tour.

You can reserve a free guided tour by calling 787-721-5200, ext.301, or by email at [email protected] 

The tours are in Spanish or English. The Capitol is open Monday through Friday, from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm. The building is closed on weekends. 

On weekdays when the House of Representatives and the Senate are in session, people can be on the second floor and see the session.

 

 

FAQ section

Does Puerto Rico have a capitol building?

Yes, Puerto Rico has a Capitol Building (El Capitolio) that houses Puerto Rico's House of Representatives and Puerto Rico's Senate.

Are the Capitol Building and El Capitolio the same thing?

El Capitolio literally means Capitol Building; they are the same thing.

 

Final thoughts

If you like history, architecture, and art, you should visit El Capitolio in San Juan.

The marble building is breathtaking, and the Rotunda has art depicting different eras of Puerto Rico’s history.

For more about important historical buildings in San Juan, you can also check our article about Castillo San Felipe del Morro in Old San Juan.

If you are looking for things to do in the area, then check out our article 40 Best Things To Do In San Juan.

Article by

Carlos Cubero

Writer at PuertoRico.com. I was born in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. I’m passionate about Puerto Rican history and culture. I live on the west coast of Puerto Rico, and host an Airbnb for tourists. I also coordinate tours and concierge services for tourists. I authored “Eat Like A Local, Puerto Rico”, and have contributed to blogs and magazines with articles about discovering and enjoying what Puerto Rico has to offer.

About the author

Find the best things to do
by interest