Visit the Museums of Old San Juan
The typical visitor to Old San Juan visits the major "touristy" historical sites in the old city, including the forts (El Morro and San Cristobal), La Princesa, La Forteleza, and the Cathedral, to name a few. In fact, our 3-part walking tour will guide you past all of these places.
But there are a number of smaller museums in Old San Juan that are really enjoyable, and I think are definitely worth making time in your schedule to visit. Two that we really like are the National Gallery and the Museum of the Americas. You’ll find information on these, and many others, in the following article.
Many guide books and websites describe the Museo del Indio at Casa de los Dos Zaguanes (Museum of the Indian at the House of the Two Foyers) , Museum at the Instituto de Cultura Puerrtoiquena at the Asilo de Beneficencia (Museum at the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture at the Home for the Poor), and Casa Rosada. Those museums no longer exist.
Museo del Nino (The Children’s Museum)
This museum is a fun, air-conditioned stop for kids. It has 3 floors full of all sorts of interactive exhibits, from TV reporting, to caring for animals, to space exhibits — there is something for everyone. It is geared toward children under 15 years old. The information is bilingual , and there are personnel there to help you enjoy the exhibits.
Admission fee is $7 for children ages 1 to 14, and $5 for adults.
Open Tuesday – Thursday 9:00am to 3:30pm, Friday 9:00am to 5:00pm, and Saturday & Sunday 12:30pm-5:00pm. Closed Mondays. Ticket window closes about 1-1.5 hrs before closing time.
Call 787-722-3791 for more info.
Located at 150 Calle del Cristo, behind the park across the street from the Cathedral.
Galeria Nacional (National Gallery)
This museum, located in an old Dominican Convent that was built in the 16th century, contains a gallery of paintings from Puerto Rican masters such as Jose Campeche y Francisco Oller . There are a number of rooms of paintings and other works of art (paintings and decorative) from Puerto Rican artisans of the 18th – 21st centuries.
Admission fee is $2.00 for children and $3.00 for adults.
Open Tuesday to Saturday 9:30am to 5:00pm, closed from 12noon -1pm for lunch.
Call 787-725-2670 for more info
Guided tours are sometimes available. Just ask when you get there.
Located in the old Convento de los Dominicos (Dominican Convent) at San Jose Plaza
Museo de las Americas (Museum of the Americas)
This museum houses a number of exhibits, some permanent, and some temporary. The permanent exhibits include artifacts and samples of the arts and crafts pertaining to daily life, things like clothes, tools, musical instruments, religious objects, etc. There is a room dedicated to Santos de Puerto Rico, and another on The African Heritage. Also featured is a wonderful special exhibit on the Indian in the Americas. The temporary exhibits change throughout the year. Bi-lingual.
Admission$3.00 per person, children under 12 years and seniors $2.00.
Open Tuesday – Saturday 9:00am-12 noon, 1pm- 4:00pm, Sunday 12am – 5pm and Closed Monday.
Call 787-724-5052 for more info.
Located on the second floor of the El Cuartel Ballaja, which is just across from El Morro.
El Arsenal (The Arsenal)
This structure built in 1800, was a naval station and then home to the Spanish military following the Spanish-American War. Visitors will find a few galleries with paintings and decorative arts. The exhibits change throughout the year, and they do close between exhibits.
Admission to the museum is free
Hours of operation vary based on the exhibit
El Arsenal is located on Puntill Street, behind the Customs House.
Casa Blanca (White House)
Casa Blanca was built in 1521 as the first "fort" in Old San Juan. This "strong-house" was lived in by the descendants of Ponce de Leon. It was used by the Spanish military, then later by the United States as a residence for military commanders until 1966. Today the mansion is a National Historic Monument. Part of the building has been refurnished with a valuable collection of furniture and decorative objects from the 16th -18th centuries. It depicts domestic life of a well-to-do family. One of the best parts of the facility is the large, cool gardens. It has many water features and lovely lush greens and beautiful views of the bay.
Admission Free for both the tour and the gardens.
The museum is open, with guided tours, Wednesday – Sunday 8:30am to 12:00 and 1:00-4:00pm. The gardens are open 7 day a week 8:30am- 4:30pm.
Call 787-725-1454 for more info
Located at the west end of San Sebastian Street
Museo de Nuestra Raiz Africana (African Heritage Museum)
The museum is closed. Parts of it are being incorporated in the Museo de Las Americas.
Casa del Libro (House of the Book)
This museum contains a rare collection of early manuscripts and books (over 4000 works), some dating back to the 15th century. There are two royal mandates signed by Ferdinand and Isabella in 1493 concerning provisioning Columbus’ fleet for his second voyage. It also teaches about printing and book making.
Admission is free
Open Tuesday – Saturday (except holidays) 11:00am to 4:30pm
Call 787-723-0354 for more info
Located on the last block of Cristo Street, across from Pigeon Park.
As of the date of this article, the building housing this museum is being renovated. They have temporarily relocated the museum to the ground floor of El Cuartel Ballaja, which is across from El Morro. That’s the same building as the Museum of the Americas. It is a very limited museum right now, but on display are some botanical pages from books that date back 500 years.
Museo de San Juan (San Jaun Museum)
Formerly known as Museo de Arte y Historia de San Juan (Museum of Art and History of San Juan), this building was built as a public market in 1855, and restored in 1979 as a cultural center. This museum has one wing that showcases the history of Puerto Rico. The other wing will house rotating exhibits. Beginning on December 15, 2007 the exhibit with give the history of the building as the Market Center in San Juan. Information is presented in Spanish, but a bi-lingual guide will help you interpret the pictures and information. Many concerts and festivals occur in the massive courtyard of this building through out the year.
Admission is free
Open Tuesday – Friday 9:00am to 4:00pm, and Saturday & Sunday 10:00am to 4:00pm. Closed from 12noon to 1:00pm every day
Call 787-724-1875 or 787-723-4317 for more info
Located at 150 Norzagaray Street, facing the Atlantic Ocean, between the two forts.
Pablo Casals Museum
This museum showcases the life of this Spanish master. The museum includes a collection of his manuscripts, memorabilia, photographs, his cello and a library of videotapes of concerts from the Festival Casals (that are played upon request). Bilingual placards provide information.
Admission fee is $1.00 for adults and $0.50 for children
Open Tuesday – Saturday 9:30am to 4:30pm
Call 787-723-9185 for more info
Moved to its new location 1/13- now located on the first level of the Cuartel Ballaja.
Museum of Coffee, Tobacco and Rum- Tienda y Museo de Café, Tabaco y Ron-
This museum describes the importance and history of the production and continued use of coffee, tobacco and rum in Puerto Rico. Bilingual placards provide information. A cafe with fresh roasted coffee and other beverages and treats are available.
Open Tuesday – Thursday 8am- 5pm, Friday, Saturday 8am -8pm and Sunday 11am to 5pm
on the first level of the Cuartel Ballaja.
Casa de la Familia Puertorriqueno del Siglo XIX y Museo de la Farmacia (House of the Puerto Rican Family and Pharmacy Museum)
These two museums are located in the same building. It is one of the oldest buildings in Old San Juan, built in the 18th century. It depicts the usual set-up for a family run business, with the store being located beneath the living quarters of the family. The first floor houses a pharmacy museum, which is a reconstruction of an apothecary shop complete with bottles and scales. It is air conditioned. The upper floors are set up as the home as you may have seen it in the 19th century, complete with furniture and other household objects of an upper middle class home. Tours available in English and Spanish.
Admission is free
8:30-4:20pm, closed for lunch 12-1pm. Wednesday- Sunday.
Call 787-723-1762 for more info
Located at 319 Calle Fortaleza, at the corner of Capilla Alley
Museo de Felisa Rincon de Gautier (Museum of Feliza Rincon de Gautier)
More commonly referred to as the Museo de Dona Fela, this museum was the home of the first female mayor of San Juan. It is packed with photos, keys to various cities, and other memorabilia. There are a number of great dolls in her likeness around the upstairs rooms too (along with furniture and some of her outfits).
Admission is free
Open Monday – Friday 9:00am to 4:00pm
Located at 51 Calle de San Juan, just across from the San Juan Gate.
Use this map to locate places mentioned in this article. You can click on a placemark to view the GPS coordinates for that place.