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, but they are both now closed.. 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 ($10 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 (if it is open, go inside- it is beautiful.). Enjoy your visit Viejo San Juan!

Plan at least one full day to visit the streets and museums of Old San Juan. 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 â€Ļ then don't do it! Read more about Safety →

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