Puerto Rico – the rich port. Did you know that originally San Juan was the name of the country and Puerto Rico the name of the city? At some point in history, when a map was made of the country, the guy who drew it made a mistake and mixed the two names up and since then, we call the capital city of Puerto Rico San Juan. Not that it really matters, but an interesting fact. To me, San Juan is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It has the charme of a modern city with its architecture reminding of its rich history. During the times where Gold and Silver were transported from the New World to Europe, this city was a target of foreign powers of that time. The city had to be protected and nowadays those beautiful and impressive fortresses, San Cristobal and Felipe Morro Castle, are reminders of the former Spanish Empire in the Caribbean.
When you are in San Juan, make sure you visit at least one of the forts. I visited both and if I had to recommend one over the other, I would prefer El Morro. In my opinion it is in a much more scenic setting than St. Cristobal fort, but they are very similar, with the guard towers and their strong protecting walls. Check out the webpage of the National Park Service http://www.nps.gov for more information on the forts.
When you arrive by cruise ship, the San Cristobal fort is the one which is closer to the ship terminal, only 10 to 15 minutes walk. You can get to Felipe Morro Castle by taking the free Trolley Bus that goes around the city for free.
I loved to walk through the city since this beautiful city offers interesting architecture in every street you choose to go. You see interesting bars, shops, houses and restaurants.
Beautiful building in San Juan
There is one area of the city you should avoid though / it is called La Perla. You already notice that it is a dodgy area, it is the stretch at the waterfront between the San Cristobal fort and the El Morro Fort. But overall, I always felt secure walking through the city at day and at night.
Puerto Ricans refer to themselves as “boricuas”, in case you wonder what the t-shirts mean … 🙂 So on your shopping tour in this amazing city, what should you buy? A Puerto Rican hat? Some coffee? Some spicy salsa, that will remind you of the taste of Puerto Rico? So much to choose from, so much to enjoy.
You should definitely drink coffee at my favorite places: the Café Colao (only a five minutes walk from the cruise ship terminal) http://prcafecolao.com and Caficultura. Caficultura is located at 401 Calle San Francisco, that is right at the square where the Columbus Statue is located. I loved having breakfast in Caficultura. Your coffee will be prepared with love, every cappuccino has a different design .. which is why service might be slow sometimes. There is an amazingly tasty selection of pancakes, eggs and mallorcas (a Puerto Rican Specialty, similar to a sweet bread which they toast with ham and cheese for example, yummie).