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Spending the Day in San Juan

by Angelique Platas

Jan 3, 2020

Ivan Kokoulin | Dreamstime.com

Destinations / North America

If you’re touring Puerto Rico and have just one day to spend in the capital city, San Juan, this list should help your family get the most out of the quick visit.

 

Old San Juan

First things first, your family is going to want to see Old San Juan. Walk along the city streets viewing 16th– and 17th-century Spanish colonial buildings, complete with pastel colors and intricate designs. Stop in locally owned shops and restaurants, getting a feel for this quaint part of town before heading to the San Juan Bautista Cathedral. Dating back to the 1500s, this Medieval structure has survived, been restored and withstood many a hurricane. This history here is remarkable and definitely worth a few hours’ stroll. Take a free tour of the Palacio de Santa Catalina, also known as the La Fortaleza, and walk through the pristine gardens or pose for a picture beside the baby blue exterior.

 

A Touch of Strange

For stunning views and history, head to the Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery. Sure, it can be a bit strange wandering around ancient tombs with the kids, but the views are worthy of the trek and the cemetery plots are true masterpieces.

 

If You Like Piña Coladas …

Head to Barrachina, known as the birthplace of the famous drink. A bit touristy, sure, but this place is the real deal. You’ll spot the vibrant building from down the block and feel lured in by the tropical oasis in the courtyard. That, and the famous drinks readily available at 9:30 a.m. Fill up on authentic Puerto Rican cuisine and get a taste for the local culture.

 

Old San Juan. Photo: Donald Barone | Dreamstime.com

 

Pablo Casals Museum (Museo de Casals)

Music is synonymous with San Juan and a must while in the city. If your stay doesn’t allow for live music, dancing and quintessential San Juan nightlife, a museum visit should suffice. The Pablo Casals Museum honors Spanish cellist Pablo Casala with a small exhibit of memorabilia and local history. Guests enjoy this small museum for just $1 a person.

 

Views for Miles

Commonly known as El Morro, Castillo San Felipe del Morro is a 16th-century fortress with some of the best views in the city. Dating back to 1540, this six-story structure is not only historic and an architectural wonder, it’s also positioned 140 feet above sea level with views for miles. Enter the twisting, turning, maze-like walls and explore ancient dungeons.

 

Pro tip: While San Juan is easily walkable (and it’s one of the best ways to see the city) save some time and hope on the free trolley system to maximize time in the city. The trolley runs daily 7 a.m.– 6 p.m., (Monday–Friday) and 9 a.m.–7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday.

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