The Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

History of Old San Juan

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, a city with rich diversity and a rich history. Founded in 1591 by Juan Ponce de Leon it was used as a military base by the Spanish for many years and Spanish ships with cargo would dock there for protection. In San Juan much of the colonial architecture still remains adding to the romantic feel of the city. The wall build in the 1630’s also remains to this present day. Its impressive sandstone architecture adds even more to the romantic atmosphere in the city.
Old San Juan was not always the beautiful tourist attraction that it is today. In the seventeen century the city survived many attacks and sieges thanks to the artillery at “El Morro”. The most tragic time in the city’s history was is by the 1940’s the city had fallen into disrepair and the authorities were considering tearing the city down and rebuilding. Fortunately one by the name of Ricardo Alegria talked the authorities into keeping and preserving the old city. The preservation and cleaning up of the city is what has made Old San Juan the popular tourist destination that it is today.

Modern San Juan

Modern day Old San Juan is a city filled with many attractions and activities. It boasts cobble stone streets, shops, open air cafes, museums, and tree-shaded plazas all easily accessible through a free tourist trolley. Part of the wall from the 1600’s is also preserved and many enjoy being able to experience this artifact from the seventeenth century. Another point of interest in Old San Juan is El Morro. This fortress’s construction began in 1540, though there were additions made well into the eighteenth century. With six stories and towering 140 feet above the see, El Morro is an impressive display of the cities rich history.
Other architectural masterpieces found in the city are the city gate and the cathedral. The city gate boasts an impressive massive wooden door. This used to be the only way to enter the city. Close by is the cathedral with its intricate Gothic design. Also, within the cathedral one can find the remains of the founder of the city, Juan Ponce de Leon. Another area of interest is the governor’s mansion. Originally this building was built to be used as a fortress but it ended up being used as the governor’s mansion for many of the governors. It is open to guided tours Monday through Friday and is an excellent way to get a glimpse at how a house in San Juan in colonial times would have looked and operated.
Not to be forgotten are the cities many museums. One of the oldest is the San Juan Museum of art and history. This museum was founded in 1855 and has many exhibits dealing with Puerto Rican art. Another noteworthy museum is the Pablo Casals museum. This museum was built for the Puerto Rican people by the late composer Pablo Casals. It features breathtaking displays of his work.

It is easy to see the draw of Old San Juan with its romantic atmosphere, rich history, and many attractions. That is why it continues to be one of the top tourist destination spots in the area. Why not visit it yourself on your next vacation?

Castillo San Cristóbal del Morro

During your vacation to San Juan, Puerto Rico, one of the best spots to visit is Castillo San Cristóbal del Morro. San Juan is very well known for its forts and this location is among the most popular and most visited of all the forts there. Castillo San Cristóbal del Morro is the largest fort that was built by the Spanish in the west hemisphere.

History of Castillo San Cristóbal del Morro

Forts are of significant importance in the history of San Juan and Puerto Rico. They were built to be a crucial line of defense in protecting the island against enemy attacks. Due to the immense wealth of the Caribbean islands, European ships often found their way to the San Juan harbor and would try to take it over. Spanish King Charles III ordered that San Juan become a “Defense of the First Order” and a large wall and smaller fort were made in addition to the fortifications of San Cristóbal and El Morrow.

Though El Morro guarded the bay, San Cristóbal protected the land east of Old San Juan. History showed that building a fortification that protected the city from a land invasion was a much needed security measure. In 1797, Sir Ralph Abercrombi led an invasion that was thwarted by the presence of San Cristóbal.

The San Juan Historical Site was established in 1949 and includes four of the major San Juan fortifications; Castillo San Felipe del Morro, San Cristobal Fort, San Juan de la Cruz Fort, and a majority of the large city wall. The United Nations declared the San Juan Historical Site as part of the World Heritage Site in 1983.

At approximately 150 feet above sea level, the Castillo de San Cristóbal is a large structure that spans across most of the northeast edge of Old San Juan. It was built in about two decades and is over two centuries newer than El Morro.


Because of its historical nature and significance, Castillo San Cristóbal del Morro provides tourists with a chance to experience both a lesson in architecture and history. Staring from the parapet of San Cristóbal, you will be able to see most of Old San Juan laid out before your eyes. Stepping inside one of the sentry boxes will even allow you to look out over the water.

Tourists are able to set up guided tours if they wish to learn more in depth information about the history of San Cristóbal and the San Juan forts. Admission for Castillo San Cristóbal del Morro is very inexpensive, making this an absolute must see attraction for history lovers and architecture enthusiasts alike.