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A quick trip around San Juan

The capital of Puerto Rico – San Juan, lies on the shore of one of the best natural harbours of the Caribbean. Nowadays it is an energetic and modern city, the political and economic centre of the island where beaches are adorned with walls of tall houses and commercial centre, which is so traditional for all the capitals of the world, adjoins colonial Old City. Founded in 1521, it is one of the oldest American cities (after Cusco in Peru). However, despite its age San Juan may seem rather a modern place as you are not likely to find any shabby houses and narrow side streets here – all the historical buildings have been well preserved and are restored regularly whereas ancient pavements are framed with modern benches and cafes that add new “sound” to them.

Old San Juan, or Viejo San Juan, rich in XVI-XVII-century buildings and erections, is nowadays the National Historic Site and the main point of attraction for numerous tourists. The Old City looks more like a museum under the sky, with darkened buildings of the Spanish Colonial epoch exhibited in it. Many of them, especially the district around Placa del Quinto Centenario, are considered to be the best-preserved example of this style in the Western hemisphere. What the Old City is famous for is its system of forts, the most important of which are Fort San Felipe del Morro (in the north-west) and Fort San Cristóbal (in the north-east) – national historical monuments included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

In the centre of the Old City you will find Placa de San Jose where lots of little museums and nice cafes are located. You’ll find a large statue of Ponce de Leon here who was the Spanish conquistador who traveled to the new world and discovered the fountain of youth! The northern part of the square is the place for the Iglesia de San José church (built in 1530) – the first church on the island and one of the oldest in the western hemisphere. It is no surprise that there are also numerous museums found here: Museo del Niño, Casa Blanca Museum, Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, Museum of Contemporary Art and many others.

San Juan’s modern part is spread over the island’s “continental” district that adjoins the Old City. Condado is the district located most close to the historical part of the city, which was initially projected as the resort place. The development of the district started in the middle of the 20th century. Nowadays its broad sidewalks framed with palms, shops, trendy restaurants and luxury Puerto Rico hotels make it the liveliest part of the city. Only one block away from Avenida Ashford there stretches a two-mile line of Condado Beach – the best capital’s beach, though not the best on the island. Here you will also find numerous sports and entertainment venues, night clubs and dance schools as well as the city’s most expensive shops. In the eastern part of the region there is Ocean Park, a rich microdistrict situated, which boasts its calm and quiet atmosphere.

South from Condado there is Santurce district, which was in past a luxurious business and prestigious residential area. The district has lost its previous charm because of many political and social problems of the 20th century, but still, this part of San Juan is considered to be the most “Puerto-Rican” one, and it is here that best national food restaurants and splendid museums can be found.

The capital’s financial centre Hato Rey consists of many kilometers of skyscrapers, offices, hotels and restaurants. It’s also rich in expensive shops and modern art galleries. But what might interest you most is San Juan Bay – the largest and the most active ocean port in the Caribbean. Here great amount of shops offer various goods for the whole “army” of tourists.

The new part of the city also offers lots of museums worth visiting.

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