Old San Juan is this magical little slice of history found on a gorgeous island in the Caribbean. Part of it is like walking through an episode of Game of Thrones (minus all the murder and dragons and well… less fun stuff, ha), while the other parts of it are like walking through South America. It’s honestly a fun little dichotomy that makes this place even more special. But before you get to planning your full Puerto Rico trip, I’m sure you’re looking to answer the Google search “what to do Old San Juan” so I’ve got you covered.
I spent two days wandering this area of the city and found lots of fun things to do. So if you’re looking to answer the question, “what to do in Old San Juan” then keep reading. Also, definitely take a look at my Puerto Rico packing list; I’ve got recommendations specifically for city days spent walking around.
The Short Version
- Explore El Morro
- Visit Fort San Cristóbal
- Walk the city walls
- Visit the famous Fortaleza Street
- Eat your weight in mofongo
- Find the Instagram-worthy photo spots
- View the Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery
- Shopping, religious sites, and more
Excursions to Consider
If you’re the type of traveler who enjoys a guided tour, check out these Old San Juan tour options:
The Long Version of What to Do in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
Visit Fuerte San Felipe del Morro (aka El Morro)
Objectively, some of the coolest, most unique parts of Old San Juan are the old Spanish fort. The history of El Morro is fascinating, but its truly a gorgeous place to visit as well. Whether you’re there with your family flying kites on the lawn or wandering through the fort’s walls, it’s a very, very cool place. Every article “what to do Old San Juan” article will recommend this national monument, and for good reason.
Go to Castillo de San Cristóbal (aka Fort San Cristóbal)
Another gorgeous relic of the interesting Spanish history of Puerto Rico is Fort San Cristóbal. There is so much to see and wander around here as well, that I’d highly recommend continuing your walking tour around Old San Juan to see it.
Walk the City Walls
Puerto Rico is a tropical island with some high temperatures depending on the time of year, and one of the best ways to cool down is to walk the walls of Old San Juan. You’ll see the gorgeous, blue water crash against the old Spanish architecture of the walls and it will impress you I promise. Even though I never really saw this activity on many “what to do Old San Juan” lists, I’d highly recommend this stroll.
Walking the walls will land you at many famous monuments throughout Old San Juan, in addition to the Spanish forts. You’ll end up strolling through places such as El Paseo de La Princesa, passing by the back of La Fortaleza (the Governor’s mansion), and more. This is a great way to see Old San Juan, and as long as you have comfortable walking shoes I promise you’ll enjoy yourself.
Visit Fortaleza Street
Ah, this word again; Fortaleza. Aka Governor. To non-residents, this street is famous for having either umbrellas or kites seemingly floating above it, depending on when you visit. When I went, there were bright pink kites. I personally loved the kites because it reminded me of what I’d seen on El Morro earlier in the day; tons of families flying more kites than I’d ever seen in my life. This street leads up to the Governor’s mansion, so it may be closed off when you visit Old San Juan, but you can still go up and see it in all its colorful glory.
Eat Mofongo & Grab a Medalla
Any “what to do Old San Juan” – or frankly Puerto Rico – list would be incomplete without including eating mofongo. It is the classic Puerto Rican dish made of smashed plantains and whatever protein or other ingredients you want. It’s fantastic and you definitely need to get yourself a dish of it while you’re in Old San Juan. And if you’re a beer lover like me, grab a bottle of Medalla to wash it down with.
Find the Most Instagram-Worthy Spots on the Streets
Is this a somewhat cheesy headline? Of course. But are there tons of little adorable spots throughout Old San Juan that are super insta-worthy? Also yes. Even if you’re no slave to the photo social platform like the rest of us, there are still tons of spots you and see just by walking up and down the streets of the island. Sometimes they’re simply adorable doorways, sometimes they’re street art turned historical site (like the Puerto Rican flag door), and sometimes they’re plazas. But almost everywhere you turn is a photo op.
Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery
If you’re into the creepier side of things, or have any interest in colonial cemeteries, a stroll down to this unique seaside cemetery might be up your alley.
Other Sites and Activities to Consider
While it’s a small portion of town, there really is a ton to do in Old San Juan. If you’re interested in the following, here are some other great things you could do:
- Visit the religious sites such as El Cathedral de San Juan Bautista, the second oldest cathedral in the Americas, and Capilla del Christo, a small chapel known for answering visitors’ prayers. You can also feed the birds there as well.
- Visit La Casa Blanca, the original home of Ponce de Leon.
- Go jewelry and art shopping in one of the many shops throughout Old San Juan.
So there you have it, my favorite things I did while spending about two afternoons in Old San Juan. As always, for a ground-level view of my trip, check out my Instagram story highlights for Puerto Rico. And feel free to shoot me a question on my Contact page – happy to help you plan the trip of your dreams!