Visiting Puerto Rico and wanting to know the best things to do in Old San Juan? Well, we have a pretty fantastic travel guide waiting for you below. From nightlife to tours to free things and the must-see attractions, Old San Juan has something to offer for every type of traveler!
Get our complete list of fun and unique things to do in Old San Juan below.
Old San Juan Visitors Guide
After you arrive, you’ll soon realize why this city remains one of the best places to visit in Puerto Rico. Colorful houses, colorful culture and colorful food.
This place will pack a punch to your senses. You’ll instantly fall in love with its rich history and charm. Regardless if you only have one day in Old San Juan or a few, our below list of Old San Juan attractions offer up some of the best things there are to do in Old San Juan.
Free Things To Do in San Juan, Puerto Rico
Regardless if your a budget traveler or consider yourself the luxury type, everyone likes to save a dollar or two, right?! Well, one of the best parts about visiting Puerto Rico is that there actually has a lot of free things to do in Old San Juan.
We see your smiles from here 🙂 Go on, keep reading…
Check Out: Puerto Rico Vacation Planning and Travel Guide to get great travel tips to plan your ultimate Puerto Rico vacation.
Old San Juan’s Puerto Rican Flag Door
The first free thing on our list is the famous Puerto Rican Flag door or known as “La Puerta de la Bandera” by Puerto Ricans.
Painted by local artist Rosenda Álvarez, you can find the street mural La Puerta de la Bandera on a 10ft, dilapidated door right on Calle San Jose. Originally painted in full color, it wasn’t until 2016 that the artist painted the Puerto Rican flag black and white as a sign of somber protest to the social and economic situation happening in Puerto Rico.
Watch Kites Fly at The Old San Juan Fortress
One of the most popular things to do in Old San Juan is visit the iconic fort of Castillo San Felipe del Morro or “El Morro” for short. Built in the 16th century, El Morro has that touch of history you’ve been looking for. Oh, and the sweeping views of Puerto Rico’s coastline isn’t half bad either.
While the fort itself has an entry fee, the grounds around the fort do not. Let us paint a picture for you….a sweeping grass field where you can find locals flying kites and having picnics as El Morro sits in the background. Walk around San Juans Fort and see where the cannons used to be place, or explore the guard towers.
Separately, if you’re looking for the best place in Old San Juan for sunset, the grounds of El Morro is the perfect spot. If you’d like to enter El Morro, you can expect to pay an entrance fee of $7 USD for adult where kids 15 & under are free. The operating hours of the fort are 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m
Stop By La Casa Estrecha (The Narrow House)
Originally a narrow alleyway, the now converted home is the true definition of a tiny living. Measuring five feet wide, La Casa Estrecha is wedged ever so nicely between two buildings.
Don’t let the size of the house fool you. Believe it or not, the Narrow House comes fully equipped with all the functions of a normal home. You can find the two-story, bright yellow house at 101 Calle Tetuan. Pictures outside are free but if you wish to take a tour, tours are offered between 4:00pm – 6:00pm and a $5 suggested donation for touring the house is recommended.
Walk Down Umbrella Street – Fortaleza Street
Located on Calle de la Fortaleza, you’ll find the famous umbrella street. However, when we were here, the street known for it’s strung umbrellas changed to a massive Puerto Rican Flag. We certainly did not mind 🙂
Spend a few minutes getting your free photo opp before you continue down the street towards the Blue Mansion. Known as “La Fortaleza”, or the Governor’s Mansion, the house is a pretty shade of blue that will only add to your already extensive photo gallery of “Old San Juan Colorful Houses.”
Visit a Old San Juan Cemetery
So, you’re telling me to visit a cemetery? Yes, yes we are.
Located on the grounds of Fort El Morro, Santa María Magdalena Cemetery is an 1863 stark-white graveyard overlooking one epic ocean scene. While not many people set foot on the cemetery grounds themselves, the views alone are worth the stop.
Stroll The Promenade of Paseo de la Princesa
Considered one of the most scenic walkways in the world, Paseo de la Princesa is a beautiful promenade that dates back to the 1800’s. During the week, take a peaceful stroll. However, during the weekends, things change up a bit. Paseo de la Princesa turns into a local hot spot! Enjoy live music, eat tasty food, and shop for souvenirs from the local street vendors. It’s a great way to experience a bit of local Puerto Rican flare.
Walk To Raíces Fountain
Located at the end of Paseo de la Princesa, you’ll find Raíces Fountain. Completed in 1992, the fountain is an ode to Puerto Rican culture. Raíces Fountain pays homage to the influence African, Spanish and Taino/Amerindian had on shaping what the country of Puerto Rico is today.
Visit A Church – San Juan Bautista Cathedral
The cathedral of San Juan Bautista is one of the oldest buildings in Old San Juan and takes the prize as the oldest church in America. It’s stood strong since 1540 and continues to do so.
Located on Calle del Cristo, across the street from the fabulous El Convento Hotel, San Juan Bautista is a beautiful Roman Catholic church. If you are interested in attending service, you can attend mass on Saturdays at 7pm, Sundays at 9am and 11am, and during the week at 7:25am and 12:15pm.
If you’d like to skip mass, the church is open daily from 8am to 4pm except on Sunday’s were it closes at 2pm.
Relax On The San Juan Beaches
Who doesn’t love a good beach vacation? (Crickets, crickets). That’s right, EVERYONE loves a beach vacation or at least a few hours of beach time. Unfortunately, Old San Juan is not located on a beach….BUT, Old San Juan is located near a few beaches. Fantastic news, right?!
Located a short drive from the charming city, you can find white sand, sprawling coastlines that lay waiting for you. Perfect for snorkeling or just catching a tan, there are plenty of beaches for you to choose from. Get the complete list of beaches close to Old San Juan below
- Playa El Escambrón
- Candado Beach
- Ocean Park
- Isla Verde
NOTE: The above are in order from closets beaches to Old San Juan to the furthest. The closest beach is about a 10 minute drive where the furtherest beach is about 20 minutes.
Wander The Cobblestone & Pastel Streets
Last but certainly not least is city itself. The charm that oozes from this place is hypnotic. Pastel color houses stacked next to each other line the blue tinted cobblestone streets. Mosey your way from street to street and be sure to have your camera out and ready. The vibe of Old San Juan is one to be appreciated. It’s unlike anywhere else so give yourself time to appreciate her.
Wander aimlessly and see what beauty you find.
Must-Have Experiences in Old San Juan
Now that you have our list of must-see attractions, we’re going to give you a list of must-have experiences while in Old San Juan. Excited?! Go on then, keep reading!
Take A Cooking Class in San Juan
One of our absolute favorite things to do when we go to a new place is do a cooking class! It a great way to spend a morning or afternoon learning about the culture of a place through its flavor profiles.
Old San Juan has an amazing cooking class that allows you to visit a farmers market and spend the afternoon cooking with a Puerto Rican Chef at her home. You’ll whip up authentic Puerto Rican meals and learn about the food that has made it’s way into the hearts of so many.
Drink A Pina Colado
Puerto Rico is the birthplace of the Pina Colada. Before we go on, let’s all take a minute to thank Puerto Rico – “Thank you, Puerto Rico!”
While we really don’t enjoy spending time in touristy establishments, as it lacks the vibe we like and crave for when we travel, buuuut for a delicious Pina Colada, it’s a sacrifice we gladly make.
La Barrachina is home to the original Pina Colada and it really is something you need to do in Old San Juan. Belly up to the bar and order a round of the drinks that is known around the world.
Oh, and don’t be bashful to order another – Cheers!
Get Your Chinchorreo On
What is “Chinchorreo” you ask? Oh, our fine friend, let us tell you.
Chinchorreo is the lovely art of hopping from bar-to-bar and eating establishment-to-eating establishment. It’s similar to what we in the United States call a “bar crawl” or “food crawl”, except in the case of Chinchorreo, both are combined. How lovely, right?
So how do you “Chinchorreo” you may be wondering? The idea is simple. Get a Mojito here, go up the street for a Medalla, split some mofongo at the next place, devour an empanada as you head to the next bar – so on and so forth. A day or afternoon spent “Chinchorreo’ing” is a day well spent if you ask us!
TIP: This city loves a happy hour. To save a buck or two, head to places during happy hour where drinks and appetizers are a few dollars off normal price.
Old San Juan Tours & Excursions
If you’re looking for a unique experience, then an Old San Juan excursion or tour is a great way to check that box. Old San Juan is full of amazing-ness (yes, that’s a word). Let one of the below tours help you make an unforgettable memory.
Love rum? Well, then a visit to the world famous and historic Bacardi Run Factory is right up your alley. Take a 90-minute rum tasting tour to learn more about rum and it’s taste profiles.
Experience Old San Juan with a local. Take a guided tour of Old San Juan while learning about the history and culture that made this beautiful city what it is today.
Looking for that once in a lifetime experience? Then this tour is it. There are few bioluminescent bays that exists in the world but in Puerto Rico, you’ll find a few!
As you swim in the dark, with every stroke, watch the water illuminate around you.
Set sail at sunset for a 2-hour catamaran cruise. Sail past the scenic coastline of Puerto Rico as the sun sets with a cocktail in hand.
Explore the lush ecosystem that is El Yunque with an off the beaten path excursion that will get you up close and personal with the flora and fauna of Puerto Rico’s rainforest.
For a full list of other fun day trips, check out our “9 Can’t Miss Day Trips from San Juan“. Or, If you wanna get away from the city, we suggest making your way to Culebra Island. Get our complete guide in Culebra right here!
Old San Juan Shopping
Old San Juan offers plenty of shopping for those looking for it. From jewelry to ceramics to paintings and cigars, you’ll find plenty of shops offering one-of-a-kind souvenirs for you to take home.
For authentic souvenirs, try The Artisan Corner or The Poet’s Passage. However, don’t feel like these two places are your only options to buy authentic souvenirs. There are loads of shops around Old San Juan for you to wander into.
TIP: Be careful to not stumble into a “tourist trap” souvenir shop. You know the kind that sells t-shirts, magnets, shot glasses, etc. as these pieces are more than likely imported from overseas. When you’re able to, please support local.
- The Luxury Inclined: Hotel El Convento is located in the heart of Old San Juan in a restored 350 year old building. Enjoy the pool and hot tube as you overlook San Juan Bay. Luxury at it’s finest.
- The Budget Conscious: Navona Studios is located right across from La Bombonera. Enjoy a balcony new of the bustle streets of San Juan below.
- Something in Between: La Terraza de San Juan is a boutique hotel that will have you swooning with it’s 19th-century Colonial style decor and vibe. A great location and roof top, it’s not wonder why so many people love staying here.
For more accommodation choices and places to stay in and near Old San Juan, you can check the latest place and prices here to secure an unforgettable Puerto Rican accommodation.
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– Lauren & Jesse Stuart (The Stüs)