Self Guided Walking Tour of Old San Juan Part 2

In the Self Guided Tour of Old San Juan Part 1, we started down by the cruise ships and took the Paseo La Princesa Promenade to the San Juan Gate. From there we passed the Cathedral on our way to El Morro.

If you don’t have the time to do part 1 of the self-guided tour of Old San Juan. Then jump on the free trolley that will take you directly to El Morro.

Part 2 of the self guided walking tour of Old San starts at El Morro and heads back into the city towards La Fortaleza, the shopping district, San Cristobel Fort and back to the Tourist Information Center.

On leaving the fort you will have the San Juan Cemetery on your left. Again the views from around the cemetery are impressive. The San Juan Cemetery is the final resting place of several well known Puerto Ricans and is also known for its intricate gravestones, tombs and central round chapel dedicated to Mary Magdalen

From the grounds of El Morro go straight a head to the Plaza de Ballaja. The building here is the ‘old barracks’ which now houses several museums. These museums are definitely worth checking out if you have the time.

Casa Blanca

From here head across Plaza de Beneficial where you will see Casa Blanca to the right. This building was completed in 1521 for Ponce de Leon. Unfortunately, he died before seeing it completed. Today it is a National Historic Monument and home to the Museum of Period Furnishings. Casa Blanca is open daily 8:30am – 4pm (except Sunday and Monday). Admission to the house is $3, but you can tour the gardens for free.
Tel: 787-724-5052

From Casa Blanca, head along San Sebastian Street (famous for its amazing festival held every year in January). Once back on Cristo Street head downhill towards Fortazela Street. Here on Cristo Street, you will pass numerous shops (including outlet stores for Coach and Ralph Lauren), galleries and restaurants. As you walk downhill on Cristo Street, you will again pass the Hotel El Convento (a good stop for tapas) and the San Juan Cathedral. Both of these a well worth a visit if you did not do part 1 of the guided walk.

La Fortaleza

When you get to Fortaleza Street, turn right. The blue building in the distance is La Fortaleza (Governors Mansion). Built back in the 1500’s it is now home to the Governor of Puerto Rico and it is the oldest executive mansion in continuous use in the Americas.

The mansion and gardens are open to the public.

La Fortaleza is open Monday – Friday
9am – 3pm for tours in English and Spanish (these tours alternate).
Tel: 787-721-7000

Cristo Chapel

Head back the way you came and when you reach Cristo Street turn right. Here you will find the Cristo Chapel. This small chapel is not always open, but is definitely worth the short detour even when closed.

The small chapel was built in the 1700’s. and the story goes that it was built by a man whose life was saved, when his runaway horse just suddenly stopped at the top of the cliff before plunging over the edge. The man built the chapel to thank God for saving his life. The Chapel stands at the exact point where the horse stopped, so legend says…

Pigeon Park

Close to Cristo Chapel is the Parque de las Palomas (Pigeon Park). If you have an aversion to birds (pigeons) you might want to skip this part. Pigeon Park is the place to go to feed the pigeons, but you also get amazing views from the top of the city walls.

Return to Fortaleza Street and turn right. Continue along passing more shops, restaurants and jewelry stores. This is a great place to pick up local Puerto Rico crafts as well as Jewelry. As you walk along Fortezela street you will pass a building that holds the the Casa de la Familia and Museo de la Farmacia. Both museums are in the same building with the first floor housing the pharmacy museum and the top floor the family museum.. Here you will see how people lived back in the 1800’s.

Coqui note: As you come to the end of Fortaleza Street (south end, also known as SoFo) you will pass several great restaurants; Parrot Club, Tantra, AquaViva and Dragonfly to name a few.

Once at the end, turn left and head to Plaza de Colon. The plaza contains a statue commemorating Christopher Columbus. Cross the plaza to san Francisco Street, where you will be able to see Old San Juan’s second fort; San Cristobel.

San Cristobel Fort

Head across the road to the fort entrance. Admission is $3. San Cristobel was built in 1634 – 1771 and again was to protect San Juan from sea invasion. San Cristobel is actually bigger than El Morro and it is made up of smaller units that are connected by tunnels, with each unit being self sufficient. Aagin you can either do a self guided tour or see the fort with one of the organized ranger tours.

San Cristobel is also maintained by the US National Parks Service and is open daily from 9am – 5pm (June – November) and 9am – 6pm (December – May).

Coqui note: If you are able to visit San Cristobel Fort on a Tuesday, there is the Le Lo Lai show, which is a weekly local music and dance show that takes place at 6pm. The show lasts about 45 minutes and is a great way to experience part of the Puerto Rico culture.

From San Cristobel, head back down the hill on Calle del Recinto Sur towards the La Casita. Once back at La Casita (if you are a rum fan) turn left with the San Juan bay on your right and you will come to the Casa Don Q. Here you will see a brief history of rum making by the Serralles family.

Coqui bonus: You can also get a free tasting of rum at Casa Don Q.

That completes this two part self-guided walking tour of Old San Juan. If you are short of time you can skip some of the walking by jumping on the free trolley service that runs through the city. There are 3 different routes, so if you plan on seeing the two forts, make sure you jump on the trolley marked ‘El Morro’

Coqui note: The streets in Old San Juan can become congested at times and walking can in fact turn out to be the fasted way to see the sights.

Photo resources:
Totem_pole by joeguitar
San Juan Cemetery by crossfirecw
La Fortezela in Distabce by bitshaker
Cristo Cheapel by daquellamanera
Pigeon Park by coltharp
San Cristobel Fort entrance by daquellamanera


  1. says

    I have many memories (and pictures) of Parque de las Palomas. There used to be many artisans who would sit across the sit. I remember one who made little animals from the palm tree leaves. They still there?

  2. Coqui says

    There are still plenty of artisans around. Not sure about the palm leaf artsian though. The area down by the La casita (tourist info center) and Paseo La Princesa is also a good spot to find local artists; especially on a weekend

  3. Sherri says

    I’ve been to Old San Juan 4 times and you make me want to go back! Of all the many places I’ve been, it is certainly one of my favories. I’m actually considering moving there and relocating my retail business. Any helpful advice about where to look…and the possibility of even finding anything in the shopping district? I’m interested in retail space below and residence above.

  4. Jan says

    Hi–thanks for posting this valuable resource. Don’t know if anyone’s still monitoring the comments, but I’d love to get an email with the tour and map if they’re available. Thanks!

  5. Esther says

    Thanks for a great description for San Juan self guided tour part 1&2 will be trying both, if possible can you send a map that we can follow from port? or let me know where to get one?

    Thanks in advance

    PS. I would also love to know of some nice places to eat.

  6. Jack says

    I am in San Juan now. My wife and I walked there from the Condado area. It was about 4 miles. It was raining but the walk was wonderful. It is very easy and safe. After you pass the bridge ( Dos Hermanos) take a right and follow the street hanging to the right. Then you will take a sharp left ( same street) The name is Calle Rivas. You will pass a small stadium and a public beach. The side walk is very wide and just a nice walk. After the beach ( which is on your right) you begin walking up hill and you are getting into where it looks like a small city. You are on the street that takes you to San Cristabol. You can not get lost. If you are going to this Fort you will see the entrance. If you want to walk to Old San Juan just take a left on San Francisco and keep walking and you are in Old San Juan in about 2 minutes. This route would be fine in the day . I more than likely would not use it at night because it is not lighted very well and the traffic is a little heavy. It was pouring rain when we walked and we met a family from Chicago with two kids doing the same thing. Everything is cheaper in Old San Juan than in Conado. Have fun !!!!!


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