For Part 1 of the
Old San Juan Walking Tour, click here.
For Part 2 of the Old San Juan Walking Tour, click here.
After experiencing Old San Juan’s beauty through sites such as Paseo De La Princesa, La Rogativa and El Morro, you might ask yourself: “What else is there to see in Old San Juan?”. But the answer is simple: there’s plenty more for you to discover so keep on reading below! On this leg of the tour we will continue to explore the northern section of the city and begin our descent through Del Cristo Street. So, let’s not waste anymore time and continue with part three.
The Third Time’s the Charm (Leg 3 of 4)
After enjoying everything Calle San Sebastián has to offer we retrace our steps a bit, heading north on Del Cristo Street, past Iglesia San José, towards the Convento de los Dominicos (Walking Tour site #19). Located on Norzagaray Street, the structure dates back to the 1500′s when it served as a convent for . Through restoration efforts, the building maintains the characteristics of period Spanish architecture and serves as a space for art exhibits and a score of other cultural events.
19. Convento de los Dominicos
Although we’ve seen it from afar and walked alongside it, we still haven’t explored Plaza del Quinto Centenario (#20), located to the west of Convento de los Dominicos. The different levels of the plaza commemorate the 500 years since European contact with the New World. The fountain at the lower level not only adorns but also offers passers-by, especially children, a refreshing soak against the daytime heat. Going up the two flights of stairs we find the Totem Telurico, a 40-foot tall structure that stands at the city’s highest point and looks out towards El Morro and the Atlantic Ocean.
20. Plaza del Quinto Centenario
Continuing Norzagaray Street to the west, directly adjacent to Quincentennial Plaza, is the Cuartel de Ballaja, which contains our next two attractions: Museo de las Américas (#21) and Museo del Indio (#22). The three-storied building, which used to serve as barracks for Spanish soldiers, features an impressive interior plaza – a typical trait of Spanish architecture in the city. On the first floor of the building we find the Museo de las Américas. Boasting several exhibits focused on New World art, the museum is also home to a vast collection of “santos” – a Latin American tradition of carving saints out of wood and other materials. The second floor houses the Museo del Indio, which includes an extensive collection of artifacts pertaining to the Taíno culture and other pre-columbian inhabitants of the island and abroad.
21. Museo de las Américas
22. Museo del Indio
Further west on Norzagaray and across the street from the Plaza is the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña (#23). Constructed in the late 19th century, the two-storied building now serves as headquarters for the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture (ICP), the main government agency for promoting the arts on the island.
23. Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña
Walking south along Morro Street, with the ICP on the right-hand side, you will reach Parque de la Beneficencia (#24). A small, breezy plaza, you will normally see groups of local art students taking a break from their classes or skaters honing their skills on the steps and rails of the park. You may rest here and watch them practice or continue southward towards our next destination.
24. Parque de la Beneficencia
On the southwest corner of Parque de la Beneficencia we find the iron gate leading into Casa Blanca (#25). This residence would have been Juan Ponce de Leon‘s home, but he ended up a casualty – getting shot by an arrow – while searching for the Fountain of Youth in Florida before construction was completed. Instead, his lineage lived in the mansion for centuries after. The courtyard and gardens are incredibly well kept and serve as a respite from the hustle and bustle of city life; the foliage casts shadows that cool the area while the trickling harmony of the fountains adds to the serene and otherworldly atmosphere. Admission to the gardens is free of charge and you only have to pay a small fee if you want to browse around the refurbished mansion.
25. Casa Blanca
With a sense of rejuvenation, we leave Casa Blanca and head east on Calle San Sebastián until we reach Plaza San José once again. This time we head south, down Del Cristo Street. To your left you will find bars and restaurants, including one of our favorite dining places, El Burén. Further south is a lovely, small plaza with
benches, a huge tree providing shade and several strange and unique sculptures. This plaza, known as Plazuela or Caleta de Las Monjas, is surrounded by our next three sites.
Located at the intersection of Del Cristo with Calle Las Monjas is El Gran Hotel El Convento (#26). Formerly a Carmelite nun convent, the majestic building is now a first-rate hotel, attracting guests from all over the world. El Picoteo, located in the hotel, is a fine dining option.
26. Gran Hotel El Convento
Museo del Niño (#27) is situated on a three-story building to the west of Caleta de Las Monjas. The museum features interactive exhibits presented in a dynamic way, where children can have fun and learn with the very friendly staff. If a child is participating in this walking tour, the museum is a can’t-miss spot.
27. Museo del Niño
Directly in front of Museo del Niño – it’s kind of hard to miss – stands one of the island’s most significant religious structures, the Catedral de San Juan (#28). Construction of this imposing building began during the 16th century and some of its original components remain to this day. The cathedral’s main attraction is the marble tomb of explorer Juan Ponce de Leon.
28. Catedral de San Juan
As you walk down the cathedral steps, head north on Del Cristo St., we’re going to make a quick detour. Make a right at the first corner and walk towards San José Street. Right behind the cathedral is the Corralón de San José (#29). One of Puerto Rico’s oldest theatres, the historic site was recently re-opened after several years in disrepair. Continue to head south on San José Street to arrive at this leg’s final destination.
29. Corralón de San José
La Plaza de Armas (#30) is the expansive plaza located between San Francisco and Fortaleza Streets. Adorned with statues, fountains, benches and gazebos, the promenade is an popular meeting place because of its centric orientation in the city. Lots of pigeons meet here too. Across the street to the north of the plaza is San Juan’s City Hall, also an important historic building.
30. Plaza de Armas
Wow, 30 sites and still more to go. There’s a lot of walking left and Part 4 promises to be memorable. So save up some energy for our final stroll and let’s meet up again for the conclusion to our walking tour of Old San Juan.
On to Part 4 of EyeTour.com’s Old San Juan Walking Tour.