San Juan - The City

San Juan is a bustling metropolis that has evolved from its nearly 500 year-old colonial roots to one of the most important cities in the Americas. Spanish colonists, who called it Ciudad Puerto Rico (or “Rich Port City”), founded the 77 square-mile city in 1521. The names were later switched, and the entire island became Puerto Rico.

The city is divided into neighborhoods such as Old San Juan, Puerta de Tierra, Miramar, Santurce and Río Piedras, where most of the cultural attractions are concentrated. The Condado and Ocean Park neighborhoods are ideal destinations for beach lovers, who will enjoy their spectacular turquoise-blue waters and white, sandy shores. The two neighborhoods are also known for their world-class hotels and late-night entertainment.

At the heart of the city is Old San Juan, a magnificent 47 square-mile islet that is connected to the rest of the town via two bridges. The walled city is host to Spanish-era architectural sites, such as La Fortaleza, the oldest executive mansion that is in continuous use in the Americas. In the area, you will also find residential neighborhoods, historic forts like San Felipe del Morro and the Fuerte San Cristóbal, and inviting public plazas. Tours of the historic sites are available all day, every day, and offered in both Spanish and English.

Visitors who don’t come just in search of history are often attracted by the bustling nightlife and shopping. It is said that the arrival of some of the world’s most fashionable designers – Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Salvatore Ferragamo –has transformed Ashford Avenue (in the Condado district) into a mini replica of Miami’s South Beach. And speaking of shopping, San Juan is also home to the Caribbean’s largest shopping center, Plaza Las Américas.