San Juan, Puerto Rico is a truly fantastic city to visit. It’s full of culture, beautiful architecture, delicious food, and interesting sights to see. The gorgeous weather and beaches don’t hurt either! There are so many different sights to see in San Juan that you’ll most likely want multiple days to fully experience the city. Sightseeing in San Juan is an unmissable experience.

San Juan truly has something for everybody, making sightseeing in San Juan an extremely customizable activity. It has beautiful beaches and world-class luxury resorts both in the city and in neighboring towns. The heart of the city, Old San Juan, is a UNESCO world heritage site that blends traditional colonial architecture with contemporary Puerto Rican culture. Old San Juan has tons of delicious restaurants and great shopping.

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History of San Juan

Spanish colonists founded San Juan in 1521. They gave it the name Ciudad de Puerto Rico. Under Spanish rule, merchant and military ships often used it as a port when traveling to the Americas. Its use justified building an extensive network of barriers and forts to serve as protection.

Because of the city’s prominence and expensive cargoes in ships that would stop in San Juan, San Juan was often attacked by other foreign powers. One such famous attack occurred in 1595, led by Sir Francis Drake and George Clifford. Over the next 200 years, both the Dutch and the British attacked the city. Spanish soldiers were able to continuously repel any attacks.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, various events, such as colonial revolutions, liberalized commerce with Spain. The opening of Puerto Rico to immigrants greatly increased San Juan’s population.

In 1898, United States Navy ships attacked San Juan. This attack was extremely powerful, and the ultimate result was the Spaniards ceding control of Puerto Rico to the United States in the Treaty of Paris.

The United States used San Juan and Puerto Rico extensively as training camps for both World War I and World War II. Interestingly, the man who fired the first shot by the United States armed forces in World War I was a Puerto Rican native.

Modern History

In 1947, Felisa Rincon de Gautier was elected as mayor of San Juan.

This election gave Rincon de Gautier the honor of being the first woman to be elected as Mayor of any capital city in all of the Americas. 

In 1950, San Juan was the site of the San Juan uprising. In this uprising, insurrectionists attempted to attack the governor’s palace in a protest against the Puerto Rican and United States governments. The attack on the governor’s palace was short-lived, as police killed 4 of the 5 attackers.

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San Juan is currently the capital and largest city of Puerto Rico. The city has a population of around 400,000. It is a major source of Puerto Rico’s income and GDP. This is especially true as Puerto Rico transitions to a service-based economy, rather than manufacturing. The services sector, which includes things like trade, tourism, finance, and government work, has quickly become the leading industry in Puerto Rico, accounting for around half of its GDP and employing up to 75% of all workers on the island.

Top Tourist Attractions

San Juan is a very popular tourist destination, both for individual travelers and as a major cruise-ship stop. We’ve compiled a list of some of the best tourist destinations that you must visit when sightseeing in San Juan.

Old Town San Juan

Probably the best tourist attraction in San Juan, Old Town San Juan is a UNESCO world cultural heritage site. Viejo San Juan showcases 500 years of architecture and history. It hosts historic forts and traditional Spanish colonial architecture. The Old Town contains hundreds of beautifully restored colonial buildings, many of which house restaurants, shops, museums, and hotels. You can explore the whole area on foot, which makes for a great half-day walking tour.

San Juan Cemetery

The San Juan Cemetery consistently ranks among the most beautiful cemeteries in the world. The cemetery lies along the coast, right next to the famous fort El Morro, and has elaborate tombstones and statues. The centerpiece of the cemetery is a chapel with a red dome. The chapel is dedicated to Mary Magdalene. It is certainly a worthy stop for anybody sightseeing in San Juan.

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El Morro

El Morro is the name of the fort that has protected San Juan for hundreds of years. It was built in 1539 and has been continuously expanded and renovated for the following 200-300 years. El Morro is a National Historic Site and a UNESCO world heritage site, and both the fort itself and the lawn approaching the fort offer incredible views of the ocean and the city of San Juan.

Fort San Cristobal

Although El Morro is the more famous fort, you can’t miss San Cristobal. San Cristobal is not only a bigger fort but is actually the largest Spanish fort in the New World. It was built in the 17th and 18th centuries, and unlike El Morro, which was designed to protect San Juan from naval attacks, Fort San Cristobal was designed to protect San Juan from land attacks.

Museo De Las Americas

The Museo De Las Americas, located in Old San Juan, is a great way to learn about the history of Puerto Rico. The museum focuses on the art, ethnic groups, and colonization of the country, and is a great stop before you embark on any other cultural experiences.

Condado and Ocean Park Beach

The Condado district was developed as Puerto Rico’s first tourist district in the 1950s. Condado offers many different hotels and accommodations at every price point. The white-sand beach here is beautiful, soft, and very popular.

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Advertising in San Juan with bMedia

With so many tourists visiting, San Juan is a great place to advertise your business. Additionally, since the weather is warm and mild year-round, San Juan lends itself very nicely to outdoor advertising. bMedia has consistently been Puerto Rico’s Premier Outdoor Advertising Company, with hundreds of billboards island-wide.

bMedia leverages technology and advanced analytics to optimize billboard location and design, providing your company with an extremely high return on investment. If you’re interested in advertising in Puerto Rico, contact us today.