Old San Juan has more that 400 carefully restored buildings dating back to Spain’s colonization of the Island. Each one displays the city’s rich architectural heritage and history. Below is just a sampling of the many historical places you will find to explore.
👨👩👧👦 Child Friendly Attraction 🆓 No Admission Fee
Catedral de San Juan 🆓
Originally built in 1521, a hurricane destroyed it in 1526.The Catholic church rebuilt it in 1540. In 1615 a hurricane damaged it yet again. The Church underwent major restorations 1917. The church houses the marble tomb of Ponce De León and the relic of San Pio.
Capilla de Cristo
The city built the Capilla de Cristo in 1753 after a rider participating in a race during San Juan Bautista festivities went over the cliffs at the end of Calle Cristo. Whether the church exists here to prevent another accident or to commemorate the miracle of the rider’s survival, is up for dispute. Many flock here every year to pray to the saints for miracle healings. Take a peak inside.
Escuela de Artes Plásticas
Now housing the Academy of Fine Arts, this building was originally home to an insane asylum. You can walk the grounds and see student art on exhibit at the end of each academic term.
La Princesa 🆓
Once an old prison built in 1837, this building is now the main offices of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company. This building also features rotating art exhibits.
Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña🆓
Built in the 1800’s as a poor house, this building now houses the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture. There are exhibits and galleries offering a collection of artifacts such as pottery and stone tools that predate European colonization. There is also a recreation of a Taíno village.
Built in 1919 and inaugurated in 1929, this building holds the offices of Puerto Rico’s legislature. El Capitolio has galleries, friezes, mosaics and a beautiful rotunda that houses an original copy of Puerto Rico’s constitution vacuum sealed and displayed in a bullet proof glass case. Read more about El Capitolio.
Cementario de San Juan🆓
One of the colony’s earliest burial sites, Cementario de San Juan is in the northern end of the city near El Morro. The cemetery boasts elaborate tombstones and a red-domed 19thcentury chapel.
La Casa Estrecha
On Calle Tetuán you will find the narrowest house in the world. On the inside it is only 5 feet wide, goes back 36 feet, and has 2 stories. People say that it was originally built as housing for slaves. Read more about La Casa Estrecha.
Iglesia de San José
This is the second oldest church in the Americas. It was the worship place of Ponce de Leon’s family and his original burial place before his remains were moved to the Catedral de San Juan. Renovation was recently completed in 2022. There is a bilingual exhibit detailing the archeological discoveries that have been made since the renovation process began.
It was originally a Spanish naval station, which housed offices, living quarters, kitchens, storage, the coast guard, and a chapel. It was the last stronghold of Spanish rule. It now hosts exhibits of fine and decorative arts periodically in its 3 galleries.
Casa de Ramón Power Y Giralt🆓
Originally built as the home of Puerto Rico’s first representative to the Spanish court, this house is now the headquarters for Puerto Rico’s Conservation Trust. There are interactive exhibits on the island’s environmental issues and a documentary that runs in both Spanish and English.