This is the colonial part San Juan. It's walled and colourful, and the ground is covered with cobblestones. It's worth walking along the Paseo de la Princesa, on Fortaleza Street and Parque de las Palomas, among other things. You can also go to the outlets between these streets to purchase good American brands at very good prices.
This gorgeous place is at the end of the El Morro peninsula in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. In fact, it's Puerto Rico's National Monument and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built by Spanish. It's very well preserved. It has many levels, which means there are many stairs to go up, and you can take them to see everthing, but you'll need no less than three hours. Before the entrance there is an esplanade that was the scene of a great battle with the English. It has been invaded several times, but always without success. You can reach the gate of the fort with the little train that runs through the city.
I loved Old San Juan. I can remember the castle with its cannons and the streets with their colourful houses. It's a nice place. The only thing I didn't like was a dish that a restaurant (whose name I don't remember) recommended. It was like a lobster stew. Uggg!! I didn't like it at all.
Although San Juan was one of the most important ports of America in times of conquest, it didn't have his first lighthouse until the year 1843 (the fortress which houses it is from the 16th century). It was destroyed by warships of the U.S. Navy in the year 1898 and they themselves rebuilt in the year 1908. If you like visiting lighthouses, I recommend lighthouse of Morrillos, which is in Cabo Rojo.
It seems a little strange touring cemeteries, but if you are walking around Old San Juan, you can not avoid taking a look at this old cemetery. It is next to Fort San Felipe del Morro, and its color and the fact that it stands on the edge of the cliff, make it quite unique.
The afternoon was rainy, and I didn't want to go out, but I knew there was something interesting to be seen, and it was. After a long walk by County and Ashford Avenue, I saw a small fort in the distance, by a road full of lanterns and surrounded by water. Already the path was very nice, leaving behind hotels and the bustling area, I walked through a small pedestrian street that led me to this fort, definitely a place to go to think, away from city noise of San Juan. This place is not a secret, there were a couple of people, but nothing loud, as the rain drove them off soon. I sat down to imagine the place over 300 years ago, with wooden boats going through it, and the guns pointing towards the sea, a bastion of protection over Fort San Felipe del Morro. I could only marvel, and hear the cannons roar again and again, while soldiers with their heavy coats ran from place to place, perhaps while fending off a pirate attack. No more than I could imagine. It is a small fort, a nice, quiet place to think about the past.
This huge beach, just 15 minutes from San Juan, is a favourite for surfers in the area, but you don't need to be a surfer to enjoy it. It's perfect for children who want to learn the sport, or for anyone who simply wants to take a dip in water that's almost always crystal clear. In the morning, you can spend a few hours watching the surfers and occasionally going into the water, then later wander around the kiosks and restaurants. Sunday is the day when you'll find the best ambiance, but also the biggest crowds. Just off the beach is Boriqua, a great spot where you can try freshly-made Puerto Rican specialties and quench your thirst with a coconut water (I recommended adding rum ...). You'll have to queue to order, especially at the weekend, but believe me, it's worth it. These are simple, no-frills kiosks, but it's a great experience.
The Cathedral of San Juan Bautista is a huge church that seems to be rise up out of the alleys of the old city. It has a long and eventful history beginning in 1509 when its construction started. Little remains of this first stage apart from a spiral staircase and four vaulted halls, as most of the original wooden church was devastated by a hurricane in 1526. The new cathedral, with its unmistakable neoclassical style, was built in 1529 and later restored in 1917. Inside are relics of St. Pius and the splendid tomb of Ponce de Leon. There are other important shrines within, containing images of the Virgin of Providence, Patroness of Puerto Rico, Jesus, and St. Bernard.
Its name and location are due to a curious story that began with an accident during the races held in honor of the apostle Santiago in 1753. Apparently, one of the riders who participated lost control of his horse, and was thrown from the top of the street, so to prevent and protect the people of these accidents, they erected a chapel. An alternative version says that in the same situation, a witness prayed to Christ to save the injured man, and as he was, they thanked him by building the chapel.
The chapel has a giant door leading to a small room containing a beautiful, embossed silver altar, and several works by the painter José Campeche. Votives, crucifixes, and holy virgins complete this little corner of piety and art that awaits us in Old San Juan. On one side, the chapel is connected to the Parque de las Palomas where people go to relax and watch the harbor from the wall, and feed the myriad of birds that inhabit this green space, and spectacular views.
If you love classical music, this is a place where you should go. The Museum is dedicated to the director and musician Pablo Casals. With a Catalan father and Puerto Rican mother from Mayagüez, he arrived on the island of Puerto Rico at the start of the the Civil War. Thanks to his arrival on this wonderful little island, we now have the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra and the Conservatory of Music. There´s also a video library of him directing.
It isn't a visitor's goal in Puerto Rico goal to participate in one of the many cultural events held in this complex. But taking advantage of returning our rental car to one of the hotels located right next to this architectural environment, we took a look and learnt a little more about the social concerns of the islanders.
The Convention Center of Puerto Rico is the Caribbean's largest and most technologically advanced in all Latin America. With a total space of 53,882 m2, the Center has capacity for 10,000 people, and stands in an ideal environment, amidst all that the island offers. Its considered an architectural homage to the many natural attributes of Puerto Rico, and the architects certainly gave it the "techno-tropical" touch announcing the natural beauty of the Star Island and its entry into the technological future. They succeeded, in large part, to include images of water and the ocean around the center, and infusing the colors and textures of flora and fauna in Puerto Rico.
As a final touch, the technicians took advantage of the solar orientation of the Island to design a spectacular space for outdoor functions preliminary, with panoramic views stretching from Old San Juan to the beaches and the ocean beyond the tourist and hotel district. Although you can't go inside, you should spend half an hour walking around and observing the different architectural aspects that integrate the complex with sea and land.
The small, shaded piazza that serves as a prelude to the Cathedral is, in itself, a special and welcoming place in the Old City of San Juan. It's intimate nature is surprising, but also full of personality and local flavor. This may be due to it's small size at the foot of the great cathedral, or its leafy trees that provide constant shade, or the detail of the houses painted in warm colours that surround it... The truth is that it's benched always welcome walkers or Puerto Ricans coming to relax here. In the square there's one of the flagship hotels in the city and it opened to the public in 1996, after a thorough restoration of the old palace that houses it. I'm talking about El Convento, one of the sources of pride for restaurateurs, and imitating the cathedral opposite, simple in its facade, but becomes impressive for its size between the streets that border it. Enjoy this corner, but don't rush.