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Local Information

SAN JUAN HISTORY
 
Founded in 1521 by Ponce de León, the capital of Puerto Rico, San Juan, is the oldest city in US territory. Home to 1.6 million (more than a third of the island's citizens), it is also the heart of Puerto Rican tourism. What draws travelers here year-round are miles of smooth, clean beaches, a wide range of accommodation, fabulous restaurants and, of course, Old San Juan, whose beautifully restored historic sights surrounded by crashing turquoise surf are reason enough to make a trip to Puerto Rico.
 
Along with Old San Juan, resort-filled Condado is the most popular neighborhood for visitors thanks to its excellent beachfront and fine boutiques, and these two sections of the capital share the highest concentration of restaurants and lodging options. There's also much to explore as the city extends to the south and east, including the beachfront neighborhoods of Ocean Park and Isla Verde; up-and-coming Santurce with its numerous art galleries; the financial district of Hato Rey; and the college-town vibe in Rio Piedras.
 
Within just a couple hours' drive from San Juan are Puerto Rico's rarest natural resources and some of the best beaches and coral reefs in the Caribbean. The El Yunque Rainforest, Luquillo Beach and the Rio Camuy Cave Park all make excellent day trips.
 
OLD SAN JUAN
EL MORRO
With a history that dates 500 years, this stone structure truly deserves its place of honor in the National Historic Register. The English and the Dutch attacked the Morro repeatedly in its time. Located on the San Juan Bay, the six-story fort was originally constructed in 1540, although its exterior walls were not erected for another 200 years. Inside the walls is a veritable labyrinth of chambers, barracks, hallways and prison cells. The fort was given a complete facelift in 1992. Admission is $3.00
 
501 Calle Norzagaray                          
San Juan, PR 00901 Puerto Rico
+1 787-729-6777
Open Hours Dec-May: Daily 9am-6pm. Jun-Nov: Daily 9am-5pm
Click Here
 
PASEO LA PRINCESA
Located in the southern tip of Old San Juan, this stylish promenade hosted a former Spanish prison, which now houses the Puerto Rico Tourism Company. It offers breathtaking views of the San Juan Bay and is bordered by a huge colonial wall. Several cultural activities are held here throughout the year. Walking the full promenade also offers views of Isla de Cabras, a beautiful small island located in the bay. The Paseo is the place for an afternoon 'Piragua', a traditional Puerto Rican sweet concoction made from ice and tropical fruit syrups.
 
PARQUE DE LAS PALOMAS (PIGEON’S PARK)
Near the Paseo de la Princesa, families can take their kids to a fun place where they can interact with the local pigeons. Young children especially love this opportunity. The pigeons congregate here, always hungry, and for one dollar you can buy a bag of dried corn to feed them right from your hands. It's a great way to squeeze in a little rest without the kids knowing!
 
SAN JUAN BAY
The San Juan Bay is the busiest ocean port in the Caribbean bringing a good percentage of the region's trade and over one million visitors a year on cruise ships. The bayside shops carry everything from gold jewelry to island arts and crafts. It can best be viewed from the pier area in Old San Juan, or from the romantic Paseo de la Princesa, or from El Morro. This is a great spot for catching a glimpse of some of the huge cruise liners entering the harbor through El Morro.
 
FORT SAN CRISTOBAL
Located on the northeast corner of Old San Juan, Fort Cristobal is one of the largest fortresses ever built in the Americas. Construction commenced in 1634 and the fort was redesigned in the 19th century. With its impressive walls reaching over 100 feet above the crashing waves, its primary function was to guard San Juan against land attacks. San Cristobal is attached to El Morro by colossal walls filled with cannon-firing positions. Daily free tours are offered in English and in Spanish. Admission is $2.00
Calle Norzagaray
San Juan, PR 00901 Puerto Rico
+1 787-729-6960
Open Hours 9am-5pm 

MUSEO DE ARTE DE PUERTO RICO

The Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico is the island's newest addition, and the museum has quickly become one of San Juan's most beautiful landmarks. While the exterior boasts 1920s neoclassical architecture, once inside visitors find a center of learning, a computer laboratory and a family gallery. The facility houses a grand collection of Puerto Rican-made paintings and sculptures. It continuously features temporary exhibitions and has a 400-seat amphitheater. The Pikayo Restaurant provides dining facilities.
 
299 De Diego Ave
Santurce, PR 00907 Puerto Rico
+1-787-966-6277
info@mapr.org
Open Hours:10am-5pm Tues-Sat; 10am-6pm Sun; 10am-8pm
http://www.mapr.org 
 
BUTTERFLY ART GALLERY
You may never see butterflies so beautifully displayed as you will see them in this eclectic gallery. Here they specialize in exquisite creations that capture butterflies in a kaleidoscope of colors. And they do it so well that the lovely creatures seem to be still on the wing, frozen in a freeze frame. Every bit as intriguing is the restored mansion in which the butterfly gallery and the eclectic display of other gift items are displayed. Check out the cafe which offers international fare.
257 Calle De La Cruz
San Juan, PR 00901 Puerto Rico
+1-787-723-2432
sales@butterflypeople.com
http://www.butterflypeople.com
 
MUSEUM OF ARTS AND HISTORY
Come admire current works by the Puerto Rican contemporary art community here. Browse the historic exhibition area where you'll view old photographs and artifacts. The Museum showcases works of the top-rated local artists that are available to the viewing public during exhibitions throughout the year. Call ahead for information on current showings, as the museum constantly changes its venue. Admission is free.
Calle Norzagaray
San Juan, PR 00901 Puerto Rico
+1-787-724-1875
Open Hours: 10am-4pm Tues-Sun
 
MUSEUM OF ANTROPOLOGY, HISTORY AND ARTS
This small museum houses the pre-Colombian artifacts collection belonging to the Universidad de Puerto Rico (University of Puerto Rico, or UPR). In addition to the artifacts, you'll find historic documents and art. The space serves as an exposition hall for contemporary art from local artists as well. The museum, while minuscule, is well maintained and is constantly visited by students and faculty. The admission is free of charge.
The museum stands just in front of the University's main library.
Universidad de Puerto Rico
San Juan, PR 00925 Puerto Rico
+1-787-764-0000 x2452
Open Hours Call for times
 
MUSEO CASA DE LIBRO (BOOK’S HOUSE)
Love to read? Located on Cristo St., check out this tiny museum which offers exhibitions related to books and printing. The museum has a collection of vintage books from the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. Take in the history of book printing on the island and take note of the very curious and primitive printing tools discovered by local historians.
Admission is free.
End of Calle Cristo
San Juan, PR 00901 Puerto Rico
+1-787-723-0354
Open Hours: 11am -4:30pm Tues-Sat
 
MUSEO DE NUESTRA RAIZ AFRICANA
African heritage has played a strong role in influencing Puerto Rican culture. This adobe-styled museum chronicles the history of Africans in Puerto Rico from the early days of slavery to modern day. Here you will find African art, literature, sounds, and pictures. Browse through nine exhibition rooms. Admission is free.
Casa de los Contrafuertes
San Juan, PR 00901 Puerto Rico
+1-787-724-4294 / +1-787-724-4184
Open Hours: 9:30am-5pm Tues-Sat, 11am-5pm Sun
 
BALLAJA BARRACKS
Refurbished in 1992, in time for the celebration of Columbus' discovery of the Americas in 1492, the Cuartel de Ballajá was once a military barracks. Today, it houses the Museum of the Americas where crafts and other exhibits detail the cultures of the Americas. Exquisite colonial architecture provides a handsome backdrop for the cultural events often celebrated in the building's central patio. Admission is free.
Calles Norzagaray & San Jose
San Juan 00902 Puerto Rico
+1-787-724-5052
Open Hours: 10am-4pm Mon-Fri, 11am-5pm Sat-Sun
 
GALLERY NIGHTS
From February through May and from September through December, on the first Tuesday of the month, the old city's streets welcome lovers of fine art. During this time, San Juan's Museum of Art and History (located at 150 Calle Norzagaray) and eighteen other art galleries and exhibit halls open their doors to display the best works of Puerto Rican artists. If you are in San Juan during these months, be sure to include this venue on your 'must see' list.
Old San Juan
San Juan 00901 Puerto Rico
+1-787-723-6286
Open Hours: Feb-May & Sept-Dec: 6pm-9pm on the first Tues of the month
 
CRISTO STREET-OLD SAN JUAN
Do make a point of strolling the, 'Cristo'. And don't forget to bring your camera. The panoramic views are breathtaking, especially the intersection of Cristo St. and San Sebastián St. This street is host to several of the monuments of San Juan; such as the San Jose Church, and the Capilla de Cristo, not to mention its excellent selection of world-class restaurants such as Il Perugino and Chef Marisol. It's definitely one of the most important walks in the old city.
 
CATHEDRAL OF SAN JUAN-OLD SAN JUAN
A favorite stop for tourists, this marvelous cathedral was built in 1592, on the same site of the previous cathedral that was destroyed by a hurricane around 1584. Located on Cristo St., this gothic and neoclassical structure is situated in front of the historic Hotel El Convento in the heart of Old San Juan, and the Plazuela de Las Monjas. Besides the cathedral's religious significance, history buffs can view the relics of Ponce de León that are preserved here in a marble crypt.
153 Calle Cristo
San Juan, PR 00901 Puerto Rico
+1-787-722-0861
Open Hours: 8:30am-4pm Mon-Fri, Mass: 7pm Sat, 9am and 11am Sun
 
LA FORTALEZA
La Fortaleza is the Governor's mansion. It is located in the western part of the city at the end of the street, facing the bay. The mansion was built as a fortress in 1540 and has been re-restored several times. It was also the home to several governors since the Spanish and American colonialist rules. The autonomous government has delivered the modern era governors to the island. Dress properly. There are free tours in English and Spanish.
Calle Recinto Oeste
San Juan, PR 00901 Puerto Rico
Open Hours: Mon-Fri 9am-4pm
http://www.fortaleza.gobierno.pr/
 
ASHFORD AVENUE
This is definitely the place to be in downtown San Juan. Whether you are looking for fine dining with endless choices; shopping for fine goods or great bargains; travel related ticketing and information; financial institutions, upscale hotels; cultural events or just a pleasing stroll, the 'Ashford' is where you can find all this and more. It's the cosmopolitan hub of San Juan, day and night.
 

CONDADO BEACH

On Ashford Avenue, Condado Beach affords its visitors white sand beaches and its beautiful Laguna (Laguna Park from Condado). You will find this small beach near the Condado Beach Resort to be an excellent bathing place, but beware that this spot can get quite crowded with locals and their families on weekends. The beach in front of the Condado hotels is actually public, so services are pricey including towel and beach gear rentals. This strip of beach can get rough in the winter season, so take the usual precautions.

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