Self Guided Walking Tour of Old San Juan – Part 3

Don Q

Part 2 of our Old San Juan Self Guided Walking Tour series started at El Morro and ended back at La Casita. This article will pick up where the prior one left off.

This time we will go east from La Casita. With the Casita to your back, cross the street and continue along the waterfront (the bay will be on your right) just a little bit. On the corner is the Puerto Rico Tourism Company offices. They offer air conditioning and information . Stop in!

After you’ve cooled off, head back toward the La Casita and turn right at the corner onto San Justo Street. Go up 3 blocks and you will be on Fortaleza Street. This is one of the big shopping streets – stop in and treat yourselves to all sorts of "must-haves"! From jewelry to Puerto Rican crafts to clothes (famous maker and beach wear) to that last minute souvenir for Aunt Milly. If you want to shop, you can head left or right on Fortaleza. A neat store for vibrant PR art and crafts is “The Handcraft Store” , which is right here on the corner of San Justo and Fortaleza. Once you are done shopping and you want to continue on this tour, you will want to turn right onto Fortaleza (heading east).

Mueso de la Familia

As you walk down Fortaleza, you will come to two museums on your left – Casa de la Familia and Museo de la Farmacia. Both are in the same building and both are free. The first floor houses the Pharmacy museum, upstairs is furnished as a upper class Puerto Rican home from the 1800′s. These will give you an idea of what life was like back in the old days. The placards in the museums are only in Spanish, but the tour guide in the museum is bi-lingual and can explain things for you. Admission to both museums are free, but they are open (if you are lucky) Wednesday- Sunday 8:30am-4:20pm (closed 1 hr for lunch 12-1pm). Allow 15 to 30 minutes.

As you continue walking down Fortaleza Street to the east, you will also notice many great places to eat – you are in the "SoFo" (South Fortaleza) area. Check out the menus that are posted outside each of the restaurants. Any of these restaurants would be a good choice for lunch or dinner.

At the end of Fortaleza, bear to the left and walk through Plaza de Colon. Here you’ll find a statute of Christopher Columbus ("Cristobal Colon" in Spanish) . Walk diagonally the the left through the plaza so that you are on the next street (San Francisco). From this end of the plaza, you’ll be able to see the San Crisotbal Fort. You can get into the fort by walking up to the doors through the parking lot, or by walking up the hill on Norzagaray Street.

Fort San Cristobal

Castillo de San Cristobal (San Cristobal Fort) was built in 1634, and completed in 1771. It was built to protect the city from sea and land invasions. The for is 150 feet high, and is a great example of the strategic skills used to make these defenses. This fort is actually a number of different units connected by tunnels, each unit being self-sufficient if another part is invaded. This fort has a wonderful dungeon that you can visit and see the doodling of prisoners on the walls. You can also see some damage the fort sustained during some of the battles. This fort is a World Heritage Site, and National Historic Site, administered by the US National Park Service. The fort is open to the public daily (except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day) 9:00 am to 6:00 pm . There is a small admission fee ($7 adults).

After you’re finished at Fort San Cristobal, you can head back down into the city, or you can continue along the north edge of the city (with the ocean to your right) and head back toward El Morro. Or, check out our next installment….part 4 of our walking tour where you will go eastwards and see the newer sections of OSJ, including the Capitol Building (go inside- it is beautiful. It is open Mon- Fri 9m-5pm). Enjoy your visit Viejo San Juan!

Plan at least one full day to visit the streets and museums of Old San Juan.

PuertoRicoDayTrips.com assumes no responsibility regarding your safety when participating in the activities described in this article. Please use common sense! If your mother or that little voice in your head tells you that you are about to do something stupid … then don't do it! Read more about Safety →

Comments & Discussion Leave a Comment »

There are 10 comments on this article. Add to the Discussion »

Historic part of OSJ is not that large. It is on a hill- El Morro at the top and your ship will be at the bottom. You can't see the piers after a block because of the buildings. I don't worry much about safety there- I wear my jewelry there without thinking about it. It is a touristy area, lot of people and police. PR is the US, no passport needed, you only need to have what you need to get back on the ship. February is hot during the day- mid 80's and will cool to 70's at night. The trolley stops are marked with signs. They stop at dusk. You can pick up a map of town at the visitor's center, but maybe not the trolley (they run out a lot). Streets are generally well marked on the corners. Money- many places are free- the forts are $5 admission (good for both), food and gifts (as usual at home, maybe a little more and we have 11.5% tax).

Comment by Gwenn on 06 Feb 2017

Thank you for all your info. We will be in port (Royal Caribbean) from 1-9 pm. We want to see as much as possible but am concerned about getting lost and not back to the ship in time. Are the ships always in sight in OSJ? Safety factor is it true that i should NOT wear my wedding rings? Should we carry our passports at all times? What are the temps in February? Are the routes well marked with the free trolley, with signs? A map you pick up? The walking tour, are the streets and places well marked on a map? How much money will we need for getting into places on the tour, food, reasonable shopping (not art, expensive gifts). Sorry for all the questions, I just like to be prepared :)

Comment by Toni on 05 Feb 2017

Hi- thanks. No map, but you can print off a Google map or there are other maps online that even label the buildings.

Comment by Gwenn on 31 Dec 2016

Hello You have an excellent website and it is a great informational resource! I was looking for a map of the self-guided walking tour but I did not see one. Do you have a map? Thanks

Comment by jimmyp on 29 Dec 2016

El Morro is at the top west corner, so when walking, just don't go up there (though you will miss the nice walk around the Paseo El Morro). For San Cristobal...you won't really be near it with tours 1, or 2, but you can do rt 3 and then 4 and just not go into the fort.

Comment by Gwenn on 16 Mar 2016

Hello! We've already been to both forts the last time we visited San Juan - what path do you suggest to bypass the two forts? Thank you! Beth

Comment by Beth Becker on 15 Mar 2016

Yes, you will have time to see both forts and probably a few other things before dark. OSJ is really a pretty small place, so you will be able to see a lot of it. And it is safe to walk around at night too, so that is nice.

Comment by Gwenn on 29 Jan 2016

We are going to be in San Juan for the first time in April. Our ship will only be there from 2 to 9 pm. After reading about so many wonderful things to see, it is disappointing that our visit will be short. We like to walk so it would be preferable to see as much as we can on foot over the several hours we will be there. Is it doable to take in both Castillo San Cristobel and El Morro? If not, which one would you suggest. We also want to have time to explore Old Town on our way back to the ship. We know that we won't be able to walk at a slow pace, but we don't want to run from place to place either. I have never had so much trouble in planning! Your website has been the best of all I have read.

Comment by Jana Farley on 29 Jan 2016

You can start at part 1 and then do parts 2 and 3, even 4 if you still have energy! There is not too much overlap on them. There is a free trolley that runs around OSJ, you just can hop on and off at the stops (no ticket/stamp etc). But space is limited, especially when cruise ships are in port). Cafe Manolin or El Jibaro are good, inexpensive local food places- mainly for lunch. Enjoy!

Comment by Gwenn on 11 Nov 2015

We are going to visit your city in 2 weeks. celebrating 40 years of marriage. I was so excited to find your information. Thank you. we will dock at 8 am and leave at 11 pm. Would it be best to start with part 1 and go in order, or start with 3 and go backwards,, to get the most from the tour.. We love history. Also did I understand that the trolley in old town is free ? Do you need a ticket or hand stamp, can you catch it anywhere along the way... do you have any suggestions on authentic places to eat, not fancy , unless it would be a wow. Thanks Carolyn

Comment by CAROLYN on 07 Nov 2015

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