San Juan In Puerto Rico – What to do in San Juan San Juan, the colorful capital of Puerto Rico – the oldest city in the US and its territory – sits proudly on the island’s Atlantic coast and is full of places to see, eat and salsa into the wee hours.
View of Paseo de la Princesa in Old San Juan. The capital of Puerto Rico turned 500 years old in 2019.
San Juan In Puerto Rico
San Juan is a vibrant cocktail of Taino Indian, African and European heritage. The Spanish-era, UNESCO-listed Old Town is just over 500 years old and Boricua is full of character, architecture and great places to eat and drink. Also, Calle Loiza, a working-class, predominantly Afro-Boricua area, is experiencing a cultural renaissance with new businesses and eye-catching street art. El Distrito, a five-acre entertainment complex in the heart of the city, will open this spring, followed by the Steven Spielberg remake in December.
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Brings the story of Puerto Rican immigrants back to the silver screen. Whatever your reason for visiting, there’s never been a better time to explore this Latin American capital and its iconic neighborhoods.
Stroll the cobbled streets of Viejo San Juan (Old Town), a kaleidoscope of candy-colored buildings and cultural treasures such as the San Juan Cathedral and the colonial fortress of Castillo San Felipe del Moro. It’s easy to get around on foot and there’s plenty to do; Grab a drink at one of the many cool cocktail bars like Baracina, where bartender Don Ramon Portas Mingot invented the piña colada in 1963; Stroll along El Paseo de la Princesa lined with restaurants, street vendors and views of the city’s historic bay; And take in the unique artworks of local artists in and around the lively Calle de la Fortaleza neighborhood.
Puerto Ricans love to eat out and the Calle Sol area in Old San Juan is a great place for authentic Puerto Rican/Caribbean cuisine. Around the corner is Deverdura, a hole-in-the-wall style cafe run by Virna Brühl, where the menu features local favourites.
, the island’s national dish, locally grown rice with pigeon peas. If you’re not sure, opt for the Puerto Rico sampler, which offers a taste of each and wash it down with one of the fresh juices, such as tamarind or sour Caribbean cherry.
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Built on a wall in the erstwhile “Bidi” sub-barrio of Santurce, Calle Loiza is a culturally and historically important street that connects San Juan and Loiza, home to the island’s largest Afro-Boricua population. African slaves began to settle here in the 16th century, and today the traditional working-class neighborhood is dotted with lively bars, restaurants and some of the city’s best street art. For the best cafe con leche in the area, stop at local favorite Tostado for breakfast. Outside, the stone walls are graffitied with the words of Luis Palaes Matos, a Puerto Rican poet known for creating the Afro-Antillano style.
For a real Boricua party, head to the bars around Old San Juan’s bustling Calle San Sebastian, where the sounds of salsa and reggaeton, native to Puerto Rico, reverberate until dawn. If you’re only going to swing by one place, make it to La Factoria, which doesn’t look like much from the outside (in fact, it looks deserted) but has an eclectic maze inside. There are seven bars where locals dance salsa until dawn. In late 2017, part of the Despacito music video by Puerto Rican singers Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee was shot here; It is the most viewed YouTube video of all time with 6.6 billion views.
San Juan has everything from hotel giants to humble hostels, but you’ll find character in Old San Juan. Hotel El Convento, a charming convent-turned-hotel housed in a 1651 building, overlooks the historic Plaza de las Monzas and San Juan Cathedral, and is a few kilometers from many attractions and nightlife. Inspired by the island’s Spanish colonial era, the yellow hotel has a rooftop terrace overlooking the walled city and five floors of comfortable rooms. Better yet, order a cocktail at the patio bar and listen to their unique antics.
La Puerta de la Bandera in Old San Juan is painted black and white in protest of Puerto Rico’s independence.
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The wooden door, painted with the ubiquitous Puerto Rican flag, was a prominent sign and symbol of Boricua pride. The door of an abandoned building on Calle San Jose in Old San Juan was painted by muralist Rosenda Alvarez and is the backdrop for countless tourist photos and selfies. In 2016, an anonymous group called “La Puerta” painted it black and white to protest the island’s independence from the United States (Puerto Rico is an unincorporated US territory). Why do Puerto Ricans love their flag so much? Between 1948 and 1957, Act 53, also known as the “Gag Law”, made it illegal to fly the Puerto Rican flag and display any symbols of patriotism. So, you could say they make up for lost time.
The colorful barrio, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, once known as a dangerous and forbidden area, lies just outside the old city walls and was traditionally home to the island’s slaves and non-white servants. Today, La Perla is rebuilding its identity, and as part of that, civic art is prevalent in and around this bustling neighborhood. The most impressive mural is the Memorial Wall, where 12 artists from around the world came together to create a wall commemorating those who died in Hurricane Maria. The wall includes portraits, wildlife and of course the Puerto Rican flag.
Santours is characterized by eye-catching graffiti painted on the side of abandoned buildings during the annual Santours Es Ley arts, music and culture festival. Renowned Puerto Rican artist Abi Charon of Rio Piedras has been transforming the walls around the island for more than two decades. Stroll around Santurce’s Calle Serra neighborhood to see many of his works, including “Children Working in Puerto Rico” on Calle Ernesto Serra, a moving image of a young boy reaching for the single white star on the island’s flag.
Travel to Berlin’s Best Museums Walking Tour From Paris to Berlin: Seven Cultural Experiences Across Europe This Summer Seven Reasons to Visit Birmingham in 2022 From the Commonwealth Games to the Cocktail Festival to Hamburg Travel to Germany City Guide Travel to Stuttgart and South Germany, a city half an hour after Hurricane Maria As Puerto Rico begins to bloom again, stories of hope and progress emerge. There is still much work to be done and some rural areas may not fully recover for years, but the capital, San Juan, has been buzzing for months. With few exceptions, shops, hotels and restaurants are open as usual and have made some notable additions to the city’s vibrant dining scene. The cultural landscape is also buoyant: Lin-Manuel Miranda made headlines last month for his return as the title role in the musical Hamilton, which played at San Juan’s main performing arts center and is appearing in galleries in Santurce and Old San Juan. Thought-provoking works by local artists. As always, you’ll find phenomenally picturesque beaches, great cocktails, infectious music and locals to welcome visitors to this sunny corner of the Caribbean.
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Start your trip with a real taste of the city. Bakeries in San Juan sell a favorite pastry called Mallorca, a spiral dough-shaped sweet bun. It comes from a Spanish specialty called ensaymada that originated in the Balearic Islands. The Puerto Rican version is a testament to Spain’s strong influence on the local cuisine (Puerto Rico was a Spanish colony from the early 1500s to the late 1800s), but is primarily a form of indulgence. At Casalta, a popular cafe and restaurant near the Ocean Park residential area, regulars order a Mallorcan filled with ham and cheese. The chef slices the bread, assembles the sandwich, presses it on the griddle until the cheese melts, and then sprinkles everything liberally with confectioners’ sugar. This is the snack to end all snacks ($7.95).
At Casalta, a popular cafe and restaurant near the Ocean Park residential area, regulars order the ham and cheese Mallorca. Credit… Dennis M. for the New York Times. Rivera Pichardo
East Island Excursions offers sunset tours of San Juan Bay on classic sailboats. Credit… Dennis M. for the New York Times. Rivera Pichardo
Enjoy the gentle evening sun and warm Caribbean breeze as you take in the scenic and historic overview of San Juan Bay on a classic sailboat. Centuries-old stone forts in the Gulf in the New World (British and British and
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